Disclaimer: Everything familiar belongs to J.K. Rowling, and this story will have some similarities to the original books.

I have written a few stories before, but this is by far the longest and the first story I'm posting. I hope you like it, and any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Note: The first few chapters are pretty dark, but the story does lighten up and become more balanced as it goes on.

Edit: I had thought what I was using for page breaks worked, but when I checked again, it didn't. So now I added lines to break up the areas of transitions. I hope no one was too confused by this before. Thanks.

Chapter 1: The Prisoner

"Potter," a stern, distasteful voice called from another room and commanded, "come out here."

Harry Potter felt his stomach tighten and rose to his feet without a second thought for the woman before him who had been teaching him a new spell. If his lessons were being interrupted, it was important. And it was never something good. As Harry emerged from the back study into the darkly decorated hall of the basement, he wondered briefly what he would be asked to do this time. He walked through the doorway of a spacious room with little furniture and a large, ornate chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

"Potter," the man with long blonde hair addressed him, "we have another job for you."

Harry looked up at him with an expressionless face, waiting for his instructions. He liked to think that over the years he had become rather good at hiding his emotions, especially fear, nervousness, and anger. All three were warring inside him as he regarded the man blankly.

"We have a new prisoner," the man continued.

This got Harry's attention. They hadn't had a new prisoner in quite a while who they actually kept around. Normally their prisoners only lasted a day or two. Harry fought off the reflex to flinch as memories flashed in his mind, all filled screams and bright green light. Two years ago, he wouldn't have been able to.

"She's a mudblood. I can't stand the thought of that filth in my home, but the Dark Lord insists that she is kept here until Bellatrix can interrogate her." The knots twisting in Harry's stomach dropped like a rock and his whole body tensed. Bellatrix? She was the most brutal, and certainly the least predictable. Harry felt dread spreading through him. He remembered the lessons she had taught him most vividly. He had to; her punishments ensured it.

"You will be in charge of bringing food to her. Unfortunately, we don't know how long it will be before Bellatrix decides to show up, so we can't just let her starve. She is supposed to have important information about Dumbledore and his disgraceful, muggle-loving followers."

Dumbledore? Harry felt anger flare in him in addition to his anxiety. Dumbledore knew things about his parents. But as of last year, Dumbledore was dead. Without noticing it, Harry had clenched his fists. Dumbledore had been friends with aurors. The man smirked somewhat at Harry's response to the information.

"I will call for you when the mudblood gets here. We should at least give her a warm welcome, don't you think, Potter?"

His anger drained quickly and was replaced by a sick feeling in his stomach. He knew what that meant, all too well, but his face remained stoic.

"Yes, Mr. Malfoy."

"Now get back to your lesson. My wife is waiting."

Harry did as he was told, and continued the lesson, only half there, as he waited for the prisoner's arrival.

About an hour later, Harry heard his name called once again. He picked himself up from the table and walked mechanically back to the large room, trying to steel himself for whatever would happen. When he walked into the room, his eyes immediately fell on the newcomer. A girl, probably around his age, though he wasn't a good judge. This surprised him. No one around his age was ever here, except occasionally Draco. Her hands were bound behind her back, and she was blind-folded. Harry looked her over to assess her condition. She was trembling slightly and the sleeve on one of her shoulders was ripped, but otherwise he found she looked relatively unharmed.

His eyes slid over to her captor, and her lack of injuries made a bit more sense. Snape was standing next to her, in a thick black winter cloak, holding the girl by her upper arm tightly. The greasy-haired wizard was usually one of the least violent with the people he abducted. His eyes met Harry's and he was reminded of just how much Snape loathed him. Harry never knew what to make of him. When he first met him, he hated him, and he had thought the feeling was mutual. But once, when he was fifteen, he had heard Snape talk Malfoy and Bellatrix out of trying to force him to kill their prisoner at the time. It had shocked him, and he had immediately known that he was certainly not supposed to have overheard that conversation. He had watched Snape very closely for the following weeks, but if anything he had only treated Harry more coldly than the years before.

He looked back to the girl. It had been about seven years since he had seen a girl his own age. Seven years, since he had attended a normal public school with his cousin, Dudley. Harry had not been fond of his cousin, or his aunt and uncle, who had raised him since he was a year old. They had made it clear that they wished he wasn't there, and used him for chores and rotten jobs. He worked hours in the yard, cleaned, was taught to cook, and at the end of the day he returned to his small cupboard under the stairs. Harry had never been given presents or taken on family trips if it could be helped or treated like a member of the family. Compared to life with the Death Eaters, that seemed like a nice, quiet place to live.

He followed Snape and Malfoy to the dungeons, as instructed, his mind still far away. He had to keep it that way. Otherwise, his thoughts might drift over to how she fought not to scream. How her body trembled as the curse hollowly left his lips. The punishment he knew was lurking around the corner for failing to cause enough pain, again, would be waiting for him later.

When he was ten years old, the Dursleys had taken him with them on vacation. Normally, they left him with a neighbor, Mrs. Figg, but she was away, and Dudley had demanded the trip tirelessly. Begrudgingly, they had been forced to bring him along. And one night during their stay at the hotel, a man in a black cloak had broken into the room and taken Harry. He was then brought to this house, the Malfoy residence, where he had spent the last seven years of his life. The Malfoys and other Death Eaters had taught him magic. Charms, hexes, and curses, they had taught him all sorts of magic over the years, and he could tell by some of their reactions that he picked some things up quicker than they anticipated. Harry had particularly hated potions, though, which Snape had usually been his mentor for. He remembered summers full of potions lessons, day after day, complete with essays and homework which were sometimes due the very next day's lesson. Most of his other subjects were put on hold in the summer, with his overload of potions, but they would still test him sometimes.

Mr. Malfoy went back upstairs and Snape held Harry back for a moment, pulling him aside and telling him quietly, but intensely, that he would do well to remember he is not to talk to the prisoners. He also pulled out a wand, which he handed to Harry.

"This is hers. I have no use for it, nor do I want it around. Hold on to it. And if they dispose of her, you can keep it for all I care. Maybe a different wand will improve your pitiful spellwork." Snape sneered at him. Harry held his tongue and pocketed the wand, following the man away from the dungeon.

One particularly awful memory came to his mind of a time when Bellatrix had visited unexpectedly and asked Harry before she left to turn her knife into a crow. Although he remembered the spell she had taught him several months before, he had only managed to give the handle two black, bird-like feet and the blade some black feathers. The punishment she dictated for the incomplete transfiguration had been harsh. The Death Eaters who visited Malfoy Manor would often quiz him on something they had taught him before, and if he answered incorrectly or could not perform the spell properly, would see to it that he didn't forget their teachings again. He always remembered Bellatrix's lessons best.

The Malfoys sent him to his room, saying they were done with him for now and he should leave them until he was needed again. He walked up another set of stairs and down the hallway.

Once the Dark Lord had returned to full power, by completing a ritual with Wormtail that required Harry's blood for reasons unknown to him, he had been given a slightly more active role in Death Eater business, though he rarely knew what was going on. The Dark Lord spoke to him as if he was his apprentice and had talked to him about things that others never had, like his parents. He told Harry that they were a lot alike and that he would one day brand Harry as a Death Eater like his parents had been. Harry lay down on his bed, staring at the ceiling.

Harry remembered the conversation vividly.

"I know you feel alone. I did when I was your age, too. Like no one really understands you," The Dark Lord had told him. "I was an orphan, too. I knew your parents, Harry." Harry always felt the need to look when he used his first name. He was the only one who did. His eyes rose to meet Voldemort's snakelike ones. "They were Death Eaters. They knew that I could change the world for the better." Harry's insides flipped and his world stopped. His parents were Death Eaters? They were like the people that had surrounded him the last few years of his life? They tortured and killed and hated like them? They obeyed the Dark Lord, as he himself had to now? Something about it didn't sit right with Harry. He found it so hard to believe.

"You are young, Harry. I know you don't like everything you see from my followers. But one day you will understand, as they did, that this is the best way. Sometimes we must do things we do not wish to in order to achieve our ultimate goals. Your parents knew this. You are young now, but one day, you will see."

Harry was shaking, trembling, and fighting hard to compose himself in front of his master. His parents were like this? Maybe this was how he was supposed to be. Maybe he was just too young to understand. Normally, asking questions out of turn could get him a severe punishment, but this time he couldn't hold his tongue.

"Who killed my parents?"

Voldemort almost smiled, and it chilled Harry's blood and raised the hairs on the back of his neck.

"You are not ready to know that yet, Harry. Once you prove yourself to me, once you become one of us, the answer will be yours." Harry thought he was going to leave it at that, but as Voldemort turned to leave, he looked back at Harry and said, "I will tell you this. It was an old friend of Albus Dumbledore."

Surprised that he had been given any information, Harry latched onto it with all he had. Albus Dumbledore. He knew who killed his parents. If it was a friend of his, he had to. Anger burned inside him until Voldemort left and he was sent back to his room. Then he remembered what he had found out about his parents. They had been Death Eaters. Lying in his bed that night, looking out at the moon and the stars, he couldn't stop the tears from streaming down his face. He hadn't thought about his parents often since he had been taken here, but somehow this was not the image he had of them. It broke him in a way that he had not expected to think that his parents may have been one of these people. One of the people he is expected to become. He was thirteen at the time.

A few hours later, now in the evening, he found himself walking a small plate of food he would hardly call appetizing down to the dungeons at Mrs. Malfoy's direction. It was often his job to slip the prisoners their rations and check on them, especially if they were blood-traitors or muggle-borns, as the Death Eaters wanted to see them as little as possible. However, for some reason he couldn't place, Harry felt more nervous descending the stone stairs into the darkness that night.

He was still shaking from the result of another curse they thought too weak, too spineless. He needed to mean it. They told him that every time. He could feel the bruise forming on his cheek, under his left eye, but found that he couldn't bring himself to care.