That morning, Mr Malfoy rather peremptorily ordered him into a parlour where an emaciated old wizard was waiting. The man's silvery beard nearly touched the floor and his eyes were glazed and rheumy. He peered over his round little spectacles at Harry.
With a wave of his wand, the little wizard had a tape measure fluttering around Harry's head, measuring with a surprising degree of aggression. "Er," said Harry, and then his brain caught up with his body: obviously, the man was a tailor.
Just as obviously, your insane idea to tell everybody about the muggles means you can't leave the manor, Voldemort said, heaving a sigh.
This seemed like a little bit of an exaggeration to Harry, but Voldemort's voice wasn't to be swayed. The whole world knows what you look like now, even aside from the scar. You'll never be able to walk down the street again.
Maybe I can dye my hair or something, Harry thought.
The tailor clucked his tongue at Harry's measurements, murmuring, "A sorry business... yes, a sorry business indeed!" but since he seemed more interested in talking to Mr Malfoy than in addressing Harry himself, Harry ignored him.
"Nothing for Master Malfoy, sir?" he asked finally, when the tape measure came back to hand with a snap, and Mr Malfoy shook his head.
"No, that was all sorted in September. Mr Potter will need dress robes, too," he added, and this produced a delighted little smile in the old man's face, and the renewed attack of the tape measure.
When he was finally released, he found Draco waiting resentfully for him. "Come on," he yelled, pulling Harry along.
"Where are we going?" Harry asked.
Draco didn't answer, but he found out soon enough when the manor opened up onto a huge, beautifully-maintained stretch of garden, and Draco shoved a broom into his hand. "Come on, then," he said, grinning. "Oh, but we can't go past the wards," he added, frowning. "There's people at the gate."
Harry didn't have to be told twice, and he swung a leg over the broomstick and pushed off into the air, leaving thoughts of 'people at the gate,' for a great deal later.
The wind was hard and freezing, and by the time they finally landed - only at the call for lunch - both boys were smiling and red-cheeked with the bitter cold.
Finally, muttered Voldemort darkly, once their feet were on solid ground again.
Flying is great, Harry said reproachfully, and Voldemort did not deign to respond to this comment.
"You fly very well, Mr Potter," said Mr Malfoy, who was available to eat lunch with them that day. Through Draco's chatter, Harry understood that Narcissa Malfoy spent most of her time at other people's homes and offices at meetings and soirees, heavily punctuated by long and boring Wizengamot sessions, and that she was rarely available.
Mr Malfoy, on the other hand, Harry couldn't quite pin down. He knew he was on the Hogwarts Board of Governors, but that body only met once a month.
"Thanks," he said, smiling shyly.
"You might consider trying out for Slytherin house next year with Draco," he murmured, and went back to whatever it was he was doing with a pile of different papers and magazines at the table.
Probably, Harry thought after a second, he was keeping abreast of his own public relations. Reading between the lines, Harry understood that the Malfoy family's reputation was a delicate thing after the war. They'd ended up on the wrong side, supporting what Voldemort called 'freedom of magic' and 'muggle mitigation', and it was only their deep roots and weighty Gringotts vault that had kept them afloat in the Wizarding world's small, tight-knit society afterwards.
That was, Harry understood with a faintly queasy feeling, mostly his fault.
There was no way Voldemort would have lost if not for him.
Don't flatter yourself, said Voldemort. I'm not entirely sure what happened that night, but I can safely assure you that any credit you give yourself is pure egotism.
Harry rubbed his scar where it had begun to ache with Voldemort's sourness, and only when Mr Malfoy looked up did he realise he was still staring at the papers.
"Was there something?" the man asked. He lifted an eyebrow, just a hint, and the combination of his expression and the hauteur in his posh voice made Harry feel very, very... common.
Inside his head, he could feel Voldemort's sneer in Malfoy's direction. "No," he said quickly, sitting down. "Sorry. I, er, I think I'd like to try out for the team. I mean... next year, obviously."
"You should," said Draco cheerfully, from where he was either oblivious to or ignoring Harry's lapse. Harry would have bet on the latter; Draco didn't miss very much, as a rule. "You'd be a good seeker, and ours is graduating."
Harry glanced sideways at him. "What position would you want?" he wondered.
Draco tilted his head. "Maybe a chaser," he said thoughtfully. Then his lips twitched. "Or a seeker."
"Uhuh," Harry said, eyeing Draco. Mr Malfoy may have been reading the papers, but Harry felt sure his attention was at least partially focused on them - so he chose not to pursue that any further.
There were letters waiting for Harry over lunch, seven of them that had passed through the Malfoys' admittedly paranoid redirection and detection charms.
"Dear Mr Potter..." Harry mumbled, flicking through the first, "... be delighted to interview..." he put it down and moved onto the next, which was soliciting his letters to be published by a lesser-known paper called the Alley Arm. The third, forth and fifth were short, perfunctory notes requesting interviews, all sent by different subsidiaries of the Prophet.
Keep them, said Voldemort thoughtfully, gears churning in his mind.
Harry stopped halfway through the motion of putting them away when he caught the tail-end of that thought. I'm not going to call for muggles to be put on trial under wizarding laws, he said pointedly. It's ridiculous. And who would even pay attention to me saying that?
Are you saying you wouldn't like to see those muggles spend a few years in Azkaban? Voldemort asked in his softest and most reasonable voice. It wasn't a very innocent question: as ever, there came with the voice a series of thoughts and images and insidious feelings. He saw the black stone of Azkaban, a hulking prison on a bleak rock. Voldemort shared, too, the crushing chill of its dementors: all hope of happiness lost, all comfort fled. It was a terrible place.
Harry couldn't deny his feelings, either. He wanted the Dursleys to feel that chill and horror, and to regret the decisions that had led them there. He did want them to suffer. He wanted to scream and hurt them.
He knew it, and Voldemort knew it. Harry could feel the trickle of triumph in Voldemort's thoughts.
There, you see? He said. It's no worse than the punishment of any other criminal. It's not even really unfair, is it? It's a perfectly natural feeling, he assured him.
It probably was, but Harry had enough experience with disappointment to know that even if he could, somehow, have the Dursleys put into Azkaban, they'd never come around to thinking they'd done wrong. He swallowed down the bitterness of the thought.
I'm not writing any letters telling people what a great pity it is that we can't send muggles to Azkaban, he muttered crossly. For one, not all muggles are the Dursleys.
Voldemort heaved a sigh, as though it was Harry who was being terribly unreasonable. It wouldn't be the last time they had that discussion, or others like it, but for now Harry shoved those letters away and moved on to the remaining two.
One was a Christmas card from Pansy, which was made of thick creamy card and which emitted the smell of cloves and pine when opened. The writing inside was brief: We read that you're staying with Draco now. Good choice. Happy Christmas!
Harry peered at it, pleased and somehow uncertain. Obviously she meant that she'd read Skeeter's article (or any of the several that no doubt followed in its wake), but there wasn't even a hint as to how it had been received. He chewed his bottom lip. 'We,' if he remembered correctly, was Pansy and Theodore Nott, who was staying nearby.
He decided to think about the meaning behind that later and flipped to the last letter.
You should have hexed her on the train, Voldemort advised when Harry stared in puzzlement at a letter from Hermione Granger.
"What on earth could she want?" he wondered, opening the envelope. It was written on muggle stationary - nice muggle stationary, but it was still a shock to see chemically treated paper against his modest pile of parchment.
Dear Harry, she wrote, which was actually a great deal more familiar than Harry had ever remembered them being. Last he saw her he was fairly certain she'd called him Potter and then also accused him of trying to sacrifice a cat.
He skimmed the letter. I read about you in the Daily Prophet, and I'm just writing to say that I'm sorry that happened to you, it started. Harry sighed and tried to bank the queasy heat in his stomach. He never wanted to hear about this again, and it was only the first day. She went on for some time with various platitudes: she hoped he was doing better, she hoped he would have a good Christmas anyway. I expect even staying with the Malfoys is a lot better than that, she went on at one point, causing Harry to snort softly. Tact and subtlety weren't her strong suits. I know there are probably plenty of people you can talk to, but if you need to talk to somebody who understands muggles, you can always write to me. Your friends might not be very understanding.
The letter finished with an uncertain curve in her cursive and the phrase, not all muggles are awful like your guardians obviously were.
"Is that from Granger?" Draco asked, peering over his shoulder.
Harry sighed, debated for a second, and then handed the letter over. "I suppose she means well," he said, rubbing his scar.
You suppose wrongly, Voldemort said. Her purpose in writing was so she might congratulate herself on her kind altruism. Pitying you makes her feel like a better person.
Draco lifted an eyebrow. "Maybe," he said, setting it aside and rubbing his fingers together as though the feel of the paper had personally offended him, "or maybe she has no friends and she's desperate for somebody to need her."
Harry thought that they were both being unkind, but he had the presence of mind not to say it to either of them. "Maybe," he said instead, feeling very diplomatic, and tucked his letters away.
It was an unfortunate fact of Harry's life that he seemed to forever be getting out of bed in the middle of the night to sneak around at Voldemort's behest.
Harry was painfully aware that Malfoy manor was not like Hogwarts, and he had terrible suspicions about what might befall him were he to be caught sneaking about in the house of a family of Dark wizards and witches after dark. The portraits were mostly asleep, the corridors filled with the gentle sounds of their breathing, and nothing moved out in the dark.
Voldemort had woken him with his usual friendliness and a hiss: Get up. You can sleep when you're dead.
When he explained what he wanted - the reason, in his mind, that Harry was at the Malfoys' house to begin with - they'd argued rather badly.
"I am not going to steal from the Malfoys," Harry hissed angrily, feeling offended down to his bones. "It's - " he stopped, unable to find a way to explain it that Voldemort would accept. "No," he said. "It's wrong."
The speed with which Voldemort's patience waned was in direct proportion to the vehemence of Harry's refusal, and the boy could soon feel his own pulse in his head, a grinding pain with every deliberate thump. I assure you, Voldemort said in a sulky hiss, their kindness is not altruistic. In fact, it's barely kindness - only you're not bright enough to tell the difference.
"So?" Harry said stubbornly. In Harry's mind, the simple fact was that motivations aside, the Malfoys had done right by him.
You're very loyal, said Voldemort, shelving his frustration and gracefully switching tactics, which is not necessarily a bad thing, provided it's aimed properly, he reflected, and it did not take a genius to read the subtext in that comment. But you're thinking about this all wrong.
"Really," said Harry, unconvinced. He heaved a sigh and shut his eyes, thinking about how nice it would be to have a night of uninterrupted sleep.
The book in question belongs to me, Voldemort pointed out, quite logically. I left it in the care of the Malfoys. You would be reclaiming it for its rightful owner, and what's wrong with that?
Well, nothing, theoretically, but -
They would give it over to me directly, if I revealed myself and I asked.
"Well," said Harry, "why don't you? Then nobody has to steal anything."
Unfortunately I am in the unenviable position of using you as an intermediary, said Voldemort, quiet and waspish, as though he could hardly stand to be reminded. You may have noticed that you are famous for the sole reason of being my enemy. If you were to go to Malfoy and tell him how a piece of the Dark Lord lives in your head, he would very likely assume it to be some kind of trap.
Harry frowned. Probably. "Maybe," he said reluctantly.
And then he'd probably curse you into gibbering madness and inform the Wizarding world that your relatives' abuse has left you tragically insane.
"Er," said Harry.
It's what I'd do, Voldemort said thoughtfully.
"Uh," said Harry.
So get up, he went on, and let's go get my book. If we're lucky it will be right where Lucius used to keep it.
With a groan, Harry rolled out of bed and pulled his socks on. Shoes would be loud, but it was too cold for bare feet.
He crept out of his room and followed Voldemort's educated guesses as to where in the manor house he should be looking, but he couldn't help but feel like he was betraying the Malfoys. He didn't much like the feeling.
Voldemort was smug and content, a cool shadow in the back of Harry's mind. There's no reason we can't return the book when we're done, he said finally.
Whatever his motivation, this offer made Harry feel several times better. A slightly-unauthorised borrowing of a book from Mr Malfoy's study was definitely less wrong than a theft, in Harry's eyes.
The office itself was easy to find: a dark wooden door with a brass handle at the end of a broad corridor. It was heavily carved, very decorative - but not protected by anything that Voldemort could sense with Harry's senses.
Little wonder, Voldemort decided eventually. This whole manor is warded to the hilt over the outside. What would be the point? Draco's not old enough to be much of a worry about his father's business.
Harry unlocked the door with a muttered alohamora.
The inside of Mr Malfoy's office was inviting, for a place of business. There were heavy dark bookcases lining the walls, shelves of records and paper files. The desk was a heavy Victorian-looking affair, and on its green leather inlay rested an eagle-feather quill and silver inkpot. Where a portrait might have been hung was a broad, gilt-edged mirror.
Harry caught his own reflection's eye. He looked skinny, white and startled, and his scar stood out starkly in the light of his lumos spell.
Impatiently, Voldemort drew Harry's attention back to more important things. At the back, behind that enormous copy of Bagshot's "The Decline of Pagan Magic".
Didn't she write our history text? Harry wondered, sliding his fingers in to pull out the slender volume tucked in the big book's shadow.
She writes a lot of history. Ah, said Voldemort, and Harry could feel a sharp pang in his scar that sunk into his teeth. He made a face and nearly dropped the book. Yes, that's the one. Excellent.
Voldemort sounded so smug and pleased that Harry thought it probably boded ill for somebody.
Suddenly, new light flared through the room. This was the ruddy glow of candle light. "Couldn't sleep, Mr Potter?"
Harry flinched. That was Mr Malfoy's voice.
He swallowed, put the book down and turned. "Er... yeah," he said, giving his best blank face. "Sorry, I was looking for the library, but then..." he looked around the study.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, hissed Voldemort. It was an equal-opportunity comment: he was angry at both of them. Harry rubbed his scar.
"Well, you've more than enough reason for a few nightmares." Lucius smiled. It was a smile that made Harry very aware that the tall man was between him and the door.
Harry concentrated on not looking guilty.
"Strange you should pick that book, Mr Potter," Mr Malfoy said, ghosting into the room on feet that made no noise. He picked up the book that Voldemort had selected. "I think you'll find it's the only one in this room that's actually empty."
He opened it and flipped through the pages, showing Harry that none of them had anything written on them.
You made me get up in the middle of the night to steal a blank book? Harry demanded.
Yes, said Voldemort, in a voice dripping with contempt. Your critical thinking skills are top-notch.
"What made you pick this book, Mr Potter?"
Distracted, Harry licked his lips, rummaging through his brain for a lie. "The date. It has 1943 on it." He pointed. "Nobody here is that old. I'm sorry," he said again. "I knew I shouldn't have, but..."
Mr Malfoy perched on the edge of the desk. "Curiosity isn't a sin," he pointed out gently. "Although you're lucky you chose this book in particular, in some ways," he added, glancing around at the other journals and records in the room. "Many of these books would not have let you open them, and might have hurt you... or worse."
Harry kept his eyes on the diary in Malfoy's hands.
Somewhere, a clock was ticking.
"We don't want you getting hurt, do we, Mr Potter?" he asked in a carefully measured voice.
Harry dragged his eyes up to that face. Instinct and practise kept him looking at his mouth, well below accidental eye contact. His lips were curled into a smile. "No, sir," he said.
There was a long, agonising silence. Harry's heart beat furiously. Internally he scrambled for something to say, but there was basically nothing to explain his presence in Malfoy's study in the middle of the night. His mind was blank.
And now Mr Malfoy was examining him with a smile that looked a great deal kinder than it was.
For a second, Harry was more terrified than he had been when facing down the basilisk.
The clock he could distantly hear chimed once. Mr Malfoy looked down at the book again. Harry felt like a weight had been lifted from him. "Well, no harm done, anyway," he said, tucking his hair behind one ear absently. "Here," he added, handing Harry the book.
Harry blinked. "You're... giving it to me?"
"Why not?" said Lucius. "The dates will be wrong, but it's perfectly serviceable. Take it. Write in it." He smiled again, and some deep, atavistic instinct inside Harry shied away from the look in his cool grey eyes. "Every boy needs a journal."
Harry took the book from him. It felt like a book: leatherbound, papery-smelling, old... but a book. Magic made his scar throb. He wrapped his hands around it. "Er," he said. "Thank you?"
"Not at all," said Mr Malfoy, sliding off the desk. He took Harry by the shoulder, fingers long and firm. Harry's muscles jumped under his grip. "I'm going to lock this room, I think. I wouldn't want any more accidents, and Merlin knows Draco's at least as curious," he said, guiding him out the door and down the corridor.
They were not going toward Harry's room. His heart sped up. Where was he taking him?
Calm down, said Voldemort, but there was a thread of uncertainty in his voice, too.
They stopped outside a huge wooden door banded with iron. "This is the library," said Malfoy, pushing one door open. It was, indeed, a library.
"Oh," said Harry, voice coming out dull with relief. "Thank you."
He headed nervously inside, barely remembering to respond to Malfoy's polite "Good night, Mr Potter," and quickly made himself scarce behind a shelf.
His heart was hammering. He gave me the book, he said to Voldemort, feeling bewildered and nervous. His fingers shook a little.
He couldn't for a second believe that Mr Malfoy had believed him. He could hardly think of how he might have managed to look more suspicious.
He probably thinks you've gotten your just deserts for rummaging through his things, Voldemort said. And one day soon I will have to have a discussion with him about the flippancy with which he treats my belongings.
Harry touched the leather cover of the book gently. It felt warm in his hands, and there was an answering throb in his head. It's important, then?
Very important, Voldemort agreed. His voice was a satisfied hum in Harry's skull now. It caused no pain, and felt a little like a purr. Now take a seat, open the book and let's get to work. You may, he added absently, experience some discomfort during the process.
Oh, comrades, I'm so sorry this has been as long in coming as it has. This chapter is jerky, messy, poorly paced, interminable in places and full of imprecise phrasing and I have been dithering over it for months (nearly literally, ugh). I absolutely loathe it, but if I don't post it I will never continue the bloody narrative, and then you won't get to read any more story! And presumably that is not what we want. So here it is, for better or for worse. (So try not to be too harsh when you write to tell me that nothing happened and you got bored halfway through. I know, okay, I know. I hope to be more interesting soon.)
Thank you ever so much for your comments. I have been lax in replying to the ones that require response, but I'll get there - hopefully sooner rather than later. I'm flattered and excited that so many of them are thoughtful and interesting. (Some of them are also hilarious, so good work keeping me entertained.)
Merry Christmas, if you celebrate Christmas. If you do not celebrate Christmas then I hope nobody made it too awkward for you this year. THAT IS ALL.