19 Years Later
"Why don't you go over there and speak with her?"
"Because I don't want to."
"Why not? She's plenty attractive."
"Would you please stop?"
Harry gritted his teeth as he looked away from his mentor and was relieved to see Draco Malfoy striding towards him through the crowd.
"Minister," the blonde man said with a slight bow to Voldemort before doing the same to Harry. "My Lord."
Voldemort spoke first, "Draco, welcome, glad you could come."
"Oh of course, Sir. I wouldn't miss this for anything," he said with a hardly contained smirk, knowing how much Harry hated being the center of attention at these types of gatherings.
"So are you still liking the teaching position at Hogwarts?"
"It's going quite well as always, Sir, I have no complaints."
"And how is Alecto performing as Headmistress? Satisfactory, I presume?"
"Yes, My Lord, very much so. If I may be candid, she's quite an improvement from Rowle."
Voldemort chuckled lightly, "Oh I have no doubt, he certainly turned that place upside down in a hurry, and not for the better might I add."
"Also, the training program you set in place to train the students as future Ministry officials is going particularly well."
"Glad to hear it," Voldemort said distractedly as something across the room caught his eye. "Pardon me for a moment, gentlemen."
Voldemort made his way towards a graying Peter Pettigrew and Harry watched as The Dark Lord berated the poor man for what Harry could only assume was one faux pas or another.
"Happy birthday, My Lord."
Harry turned back to his companion, "You know you don't have to call me that when no one's around. Thank you for coming, Draco."
"Of course, My Lord," Draco said, ignoring the instruction as he always did. "I didn't mean to interrupt your conversation with The Dark Lord, but it did look as though you were in desperate need of some help."
"You cannot imagine. That man is hell bent on marrying me off."
"Ah, I see."
"I don't know who drives me more mad, he or Nagini."
Draco cleared his throat, instantly uncomfortable at the mention of the overgrown snake. With the way her beady eyes watched him during Inner Circle meetings, he was certain she visualized him to be the perfect snack. He had seen her finish off enough human bodies to last him a lifetime.
"I, um, I haven't seen her in a while."
"Who? Nagini? Oh she actually just had a litter of eggs, she's been resting and attending to them for the past couple of days."
"She- she had babies?"
Harry smirked at Draco's discomfort, "Yes, but they haven't hatched so you have nothing to fear… yet."
"Oh, I wasn't- I didn't mean…" Draco let his words trail off at the thought of even more snakes roaming around the manor.
Moments passed in silence as Harry swirled his glass of firewhiskey and watched the other guests converse, "So how's your father doing?"
Draco was pulled from his thoughts, "Oh, he and Mother are perfectly content. They live on the outskirts of Ireland now. He goes on raids on occasion, as you well know, but I believe he was rather relieved when you took over as The Dark Lord's right-hand man."
"I don't doubt it," Harry watched as Death Eaters parted and allowed their Lord to pass. "Oh Merlin, here he comes again."
"One day I will feed that man to Nagini, I swear on it," Voldemort said and watched amusedly as Draco's face paled. "Now, where were we?"
"Well, your protégé was telling me of your desire to see him married."
Harry almost choked on his drink and when he recovered he eyed Draco crossly.
"Ah yes, it certainly is a concern of mine. How is married life treating you?"
"Oh excellent, My Lord. Astoria and I are quite happy."
"Hm, see Harry? Marriage isn't all hassle and responsibility."
Through gritted teeth Harry said, "I simply think it would take away from my duties in the Ministry."
"Nonsense. I still believe keeping you out of school and training you myself did you a disservice when it comes to the fairer sex," Voldemort turned to Draco. "I swear he's terrified to speak to women."
Harry wanted to melt through the floor as he watched Draco struggle to control his laughter.
"Ok, I'm done. Goodnight, Draco," Harry said as he slammed his glass down harshly. He quickly stood and made his way out of the hall, weaving through the party goers as he went.
He marched up the stairs and instead of turning into Voldemort's rooms as he had done so many years ago he walked further down the hallway to his own quarters. He flopped down onto the leather couch, thoroughly relieved to be away from the masses of well wishers. Although he had grown accustomed to the numerous gatherings over the years, Harry much preferred when the Death Eaters were absent from the manor. He closed his eyes but it didn't take long before he heard the doorknob turn.
"Was it really necessary to storm out of the room?"
Harry opened his eyes, "Yes, it was. Do you always have to do that? Can't you just leave it alone?"
"No, I cannot," Voldemort said.
"Why the bloody hell not?"
The Dark Lord was now standing beside the couch, "Because I think it would make you happy."
"I'm happy where I am now."
"I think being married would make you happier."
"Well I don't," Harry snapped. "I'm 32 years old, Voldemort, I can make my own choices. I'm not a little boy you can boss around."
"Nonsense, you're still my little snake," he teased.
A few moments passed before Voldemort motioned for Harry to move his legs and took a seat on the couch.
"I know," The Dark Lord acknowledged. "I'm aware you are not a child. If you insist on this, then I'll let it be for now."
Harry sighed and leaned his head back and closed his eyes once again.
"Since we're already away from the others, I suppose now is as good a time as any. I have a gift for you if you're not too distraught by my actions to accept it," Voldemort said with his classic sarcasm that few aside from Harry ever got to hear.
Harry raised his head, "Yeah?"
"Yes," Voldemort waved his hand and a small lidless box appeared in the palm of his hand. "Happy birthday, Harry."
Harry sat up and took the box from the man and peered inside. A pair of shining green eyes looked up at him.
"What? I didn't think they had hatched yet?"
"They did this morning."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Harry demanded as he stared at the little creature.
"Why ruin the surprise?"
Harry was shocked at the size of the little black snake, "It's so small."
'Master?' a small high pitched voice hissed as he raised his tiny head curiously towards Harry.
"I chose this one especially for you. It's the strongest of the group, and I couldn't ignore the resemblance in eye color."
Voldemort was right, the bright green eyes that blinked up at Harry were the same color as his own, not to mention the black scales which much resembled his still unruly hair. He extended his index finger and slowly brushed it along the dark black scales, careful not to startle the creature.
"I know you were upset when Hedwig died, so I thought you may appreciate a new familiar."
"And you thought a snake would be my preference?"
"Well, that may have been partly my own choosing."
Harry smirked at the man before slowly sliding the dark creature from its box to rest on his palm.
"Thank you very much."
"Don't thank me yet, this one is quite talkative."
"Well it did come from Nagini, so I'm not surprised in the least. Where is she anyway?"
"Resting in my chambers with the others."
Harry stood, "Let's go see them."
As they made their way back down the hall Harry held his new companion closely to his chest. The little snake was so tiny he was half afraid he'd harm it by accident.
Nagini and about ten other much smaller snakes were lying by the fire. She had her long thick body wrapped protectively around them and the size difference was almost amusing.
'Hello, Nagini. How are you feeling?' Harry asked as he kneeled down beside her.
'Nagini is feeling better than earlier.'
'Good. So Voldemort said this little one is going to be my new companion, like Hedwig was.'
'Nagini doesn't miss that bird.'
'I know you don't.'
'Bird looked tasty but Nagini wasn't allowed to eat it.'
'I know I know, but is it okay with you if I keep one of your babies? Like Voldemort keeps you?'
"Careful, Harry. You know she doesn't like being referred to as a pet."
'Of course! Nagini wants Master's snakeling to have Nagini's hatchling!'
'For the thousandth time, I am not his snakeling.'
'Yes you are.'
Harry huffed agitatedly as he heard Voldemort chuckle from behind him. He ignored the man and continued, 'Well is this little one a boy or a girl?' He asked as he held the tiny black snake up.
'He's a boy of course! Doesn't snakeling have eyes?'
Harry shook his head, "How come I keep getting picked on today? I feel like I'm thirteen again."
"Some things will never change, little one."
Harry gently placed his new companion with the other tiny snakes and stood.
It wasn't long before the little black snake with the green eyes grew in size and began tagging along with Harry wherever he went, following him hopelessly around as Harry had once followed Voldemort as a young boy, one never too far from the other. The snake, who Harry decided to name Oro*, was in awe of the powerful wizard he now called Master.
The little snake was not the only one who marveled at Voldemort's liege. Once he became of appropriate age, Harry began working under Voldemort within the Ministry of Magic. Although he grew more accustomed to Voldemort's sadistic methods, Harry never agreed with the man's brash approach to non-Purebloods. After many heated arguments, Harry and Voldemort had compromised on how to appropriately handle the Muggle and Muggle-born populations. Harry became the head of the Department of Muggle and Muggle-born Control, one of the numerous new departments within the Ministry of Magic. Harry now oversaw the control of, as opposed to the extinction of, the Muggle-born population. He was also in charge of assuring the obliviation of any Muggles who became aware of the Wizarding World.
It wasn't long after Voldemort had conceded and created this new department that he began to persuade Harry in another area. Harry had been surprised when the man brought up the idea of Harry creating his own horcrux. Immortality was something Harry had never considered, and although he knew it would be many years before he acted upon it, if he ever did, he was touched at Voldemort's unconventional show of affection. He knew the man cared for him, but the simple idea that Voldemort wished for Harry to evade death touched him in a way that affectionate physical gestures could not.
As per the redheaded boy's request, Harry never did see Ron again after the Battle of Hogwarts. It was about five years after the battle that Harry received a letter from the boy who had once been his best friend. Although Voldemort didn't approve, Harry and Ron kept up correspondence with one another over the years. Harry knew Ron would never fully forgive him for betraying Dumbledore and The Order, but Harry was thankful to have his friend in his life, even if only through the occasional post. Although he never laid eyes on Ron again aside from family portraits in yearly Christmas cards, Harry had seen Hermione a handful of times. He was about fifteen at the time he received the girl's first request, and after enduring much whining Voldemort had reluctantly agreed to allow Harry to meet Hermione. Under the guise of polyjuice potion, The Dark Lord had accompanied Harry into Hogsmeade to meet the girl. Voldemort kept a watchful eye as the two teenagers eagerly embraced and spoke as if little had changed. Hermione was good like that, never too judgmental and always understanding, and Harry couldn't have been more grateful. Feeling particularly pleasant after the success of a significant raid, Voldemort had even allowed her to join them for Christmas one year.
Harry Potter had grown into exactly what Voldemort had molded him to be, a successfully talented and influential wizard far above any of those around him. Although he didn't relish in the power as Voldemort did, Harry had authority and status both within and outside of the Wizarding government which was rivaled only by The Dark Lord himself. As Voldemort's most trusted he had established loyalty, and had he desired he could have rebelled against The Dark Lord and torn the Wizarding World in two. But Harry Potter had never forgotten The Boy Who Lived and never once wanted to willingly return to a life where the masses were dependant on him. He had fought and won against that existence many years ago and had no desire to ever return. Harry was more than happy with his role in Voldemort's shadow, and all was well.
* Oro, short for Ouroboros, is often depicted as a snake or dragon eating its own tail and is at times used as a symbol of rebirth. Kudos to bwineylion on finding the name!
A/N: Wow. What a bittersweet moment this is. I am more than honored to have had you all as readers, and my gratefulness of your views, favorites, follows, kudos, comments, and reviews knows no bounds. Although I had always planned on finishing this story with an epilogue which took place in the future, there is a part of me which wants to continue to explore these characters as Harry grows through his teenage years and into young adulthood. I have ideas, but there are these pesky things called 'plot' and 'free time' that are evading me at the moment. I find it difficult to leave these characters behind (as oddly enough I feel as if they are my own, and not borrowed from the Great J.K. Rowling), so if I ever do capture the elusive plot and free time I will update this story with a link to the next part of this series. Therefore, I would recommend keeping this on your alerts list if you wish to hear more from these characters. Once again, it was an absolute blast writing this story.
Thank you all very, very much.
- Using Magic to Your Advantage