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Bindings of a Hero

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Harry woke up inside a ritual circle. He was starkers, wandless, and freezing as the runes etched into the stone floor beneath him did not provide any heat. This was not a new experience. 

Lord Voldemort standing outside of the circle looking startlingly sane and human instead of the usual Order of the Phoenix suspects, however? This was very new. 

Harry unsteadily stood up, not bothering to cover anything. Who knew how long he'd been lying there anyways? He was careful not to come near any of the runes that still had just a bit of a glow left in them from the nearly finished ritual. 

Voldemort--or Riddle maybe? Harry wasn't sure how to refer to this Dark Lord with a nose--raised his wand and chanted a gutteral phrase, repeating the same sounds three different times. From the end of his wand dripped a line of silver liquid that trickled across the flat ground directly at Harry, as if the entire room was actually tilted at a steep angle. When the liquid entered the runic circle, Harry felt himself forcibly pulled back down to the ground by a force that invisibly grabbed at his wrists. Harry didn't resist, kneeling down with his hands pressed flat to the ground. 

Unobstructed by the circle, the liquid divided and flowed to his hands and up, circling both of his wrists several times. It felt cold, but not wet, like he was rubbing against a smooth metal railing. Voldemort stopped chanting and the metal/liquid rippled and then hardened into cuffs, embellished with unfamiliar runes. 

The pressure that had brought him to his knees was gone, but Harry stayed kneeling, peering curiously at the cuffs on his wrists. Despite his attempts at studying and the many runic circles that had been used against him, Ancient Runes was by far his weakest area. One repeated rune looked like an X with an extra line, like stylized snowflakes Harry saw stickers of in a muggle storefront window once. Another looked like a flying flag and one like his lightning bolt scar which he recognized as sowulo. Honestly, it was all nonsense to him. But it'd probably be best not to mess with the cuffs until he knew more about the intended effects of the runes. 

He looked up at the sound of Voldemort's approach. His robes brushed the ground behind him, sweeping away the remains of the circle, the carvings having turned to dust at the conclusion of the ritual. Voldemort put the tip of his wand under Harry's chin to tilt his face up. 

“With those eyes, there's no doubt which prophecy child you were. Dumbledore's Order wanted a hero and here you are, bound to me.” Voldemort's voice was deeper than Harry was used to, less sibilant. 

“Bound?” Harry asked. He had figured something of the sort based on the cuffs, but he wouldn't mind more details from a Voldemort in a sharing mood. 

Voldemort smirked, content in his victory. “I heard rumors about a summoned hero of prophecy, the only one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. And now here you are, kneeling at my feet, bound so that you can never harm me. The last hope of the resistance, vanquished.” He leaned down close enough that Harry could see lighter flecks of amber in his brown eyes, his wand still digging into Harry's throat. “How does that make you feel, little hero?” 

He felt the cuffs, skintight and without any hinges or breaks in the metal for them to be removed. Even without knowing the details about that whole ritual, he doubted the cuffs ever could be removed at all. His hands trembled a bit, which he didn't bother to hide. Harry leaned away from the jabbing wand, which this Dark Lord allowed with a smirk, coming to, no doubt, all the wrong conclusions. 

“Are you immortal here too? Did you add that I cannot harm any form of you? Because harming you and harming a horcrux could look very different.” Harry asked. 

Voldemort tilted his head. “Horcrux…is that the method I used in your world? I did consider it, however soul magic can have drastic effects on a person's sanity.”

Harry snorted. “You can say that again.”

“You seem remarkably unafraid of me, little hero. And yes, your bindings have many more…stipulations that I will let you uncover. You will find, though, that any attempts to harm me will have consequences.”

Harry laughed, bordering between hysteria and a release of tension that felt like dropping an unspelled bag full of Hermione's books after carrying it for a decade. “Why a binding? Why not just kill me?”

Voldemort retracted his wand into a wrist holster, apparently no longer concerned with threatening Harry. "You obviously don't understand the rules prophecies must follow." He stared down at Harry's kneeling form for a moment longer. 

Back inside the diary horcrux, Harry remembered thinking Tom Riddle was attractive, a picture perfect prefect. After his third or fourth horcrux, he was a bit too pale and gaunt to be called traditionally handsome, though he still had the charisma to charm anyone to do what he wanted. But Voldemort only got less and less human every time Harry met him, whether he chose to become more like a snake, wraith, dementor, or something else entirely.

Looking up at this form of Voldemort, Harry realized this is what his original Tom Riddle would have grown up to be if he had remained human. His jawline was sharper, his shoulders broader, and his hair with just a hint of grey at the temples. 

Voldemort reached down a hand and automatically Harry put his own hand in it, as if the Dark Lord was about to help him to his feet. Instead he flipped Harry's hand over to examine the silver cuff on his wrist, smoothing a thumb over the line of runes. He met Harry's eyes once more, smirked, and then swept past him without another word. 

“Would you mind giving me a robe? Or a blanket even? It's quite chilly here," Harry called out to his back. 

Voldemort didn't even bother looking back before leaving, the door shutting firmly behind him. 

Harry sighed and just sat there for a few minutes, despite the cold stone on his naked skin. Every time he hopes…every time that he thinks for a second that maybe this time it will be different . And he still can't help but feel the inflating bubble in his chest of maybe this time...

He shook himself physically to change his train of thought which had the additional benefit of shaking his chilled limbs back to life, pins and needles a welcome relief from brooding. 

(Ron had always smacked him when Harry started brooding too deeply, saying, "You don't look enough like the covers of Erika Erotika's books to pull off the brooding, mate.") 

He looked around the cell to further distract himself. The walls were grey stone, with one candle lit sconce in the center of each except for the wall with the door, which had a sconce on either side of it. Harry stood, brushing off the ritual dust clinging to his knees. Starting at the sconce directly to the right of the door, Harry examined it closer. 

It looked like a standard sconce, black painted metal curved up to cradle a heatless flame. Harry tugged at it, not actually hoping to find a hidden passageway but it seemed like the thing to do. Nothing happened. He circled the room, tugging and pulling at each of the sconces, just in case. He ended back up in front of the doorway. With nothing else to do, he tried the doorknob. 

It turned easily, well oiled and unlocked. Harry pulled and the door opened to an unguarded hallway. He gaped at the open doorway for a few seconds before shaking his head. He hadn't even tried the handle before checking for secret passageways. 

He cautiously edged into the hallway, extending his senses to feel for any magical trip wires. Without his wand, he wouldn't have the precision needed to undo any wards or traps, but he has had enough experience to develop a magical sensitivity so he could avoid stepping straight into anything awful. Other than the lingering effect of house elf cleaning magic-- which felt like soap bubbles popping in his nostrils-- Harry couldn't sense anything malignant. 

He didn't see any doorways in either direction, just the hallway that stretched for a few meters before turning. He stepped fully into the hallway, which was startlingly narrow, with grey and black checkered carpeting and forest themed wallpaper. A doe peeked out him from behind a printed tree before galloping down the hallway to the right. That was as good a sign as anything. He followed it, keeping close to the wall on his right. Not that it made much difference as he could probably touch both walls if he spread out his arms, even with his short wingspan. 

Inside the cell (or ritual room, he supposed as it probably wasn't actually a cell if it was unlocked), his nakedness just meant he had no protection from the cold. But walking down a carpeted hallway without even a pair of boxers to protect his modesty felt much more obscene. Usually by this point in a summoning, he'd be clothed at the very least. In one instance, he'd been armored in dragon hide, supplied with a powerful wand, and shoved into a bloodbath within the first minute of being summoned. 

He fought the impulse to use one hand to cover himself. The memory of Moody's stinging hexes at anything less than constant vigilance was too strong. 

At the corner, the hallway widened into more normal proportions and had windows evenly spaced to the left, thankfully curtained, and a wooden door framed with potted plants on the right. He approached the closest window and twitched the curtain enough to see outside, but not reveal more than he was comfortable with to the world at large. 

It was night, which was unsettling as it had just been noon before being summoned. The street outside was empty and presumably magical given the cobblestone streets with no muggle cars lining either side and street lamps that flickered with candlelight, though he could also just be in the past. Not seeing anything else of interest, he shut the curtain and turned to the door. 

Herbology classes were long ago and Neville's musings on his dream greenhouse even longer, but he thought he recognized the plants that grew from pots, vine-like, up and over the door frame as the Hibbertia… something. Because of the leaves tipped in fangs it earned the nickname for the plant--snake vine. If he remembered correctly, it provided intent based protection. It would only attack people trying to approach with harmful intentions to what it protected. 

He closed his eyes and cleared his mind of everything but his desire for clothes. Despite the ruthless lessons on Occlumency by Snape (multiple versions of him), Harry couldn't clear his mind for more than a couple minutes at a time. So with the chant of clothes, clothes, clothes running through his head, he stepped forward quickly and grabbed the doorknob. 

A vine darted down from the top of the doorway and wrapped around his wrist cuff, so he froze. All I want are clothes, he thought at the vine. The fangs on the leaves dragged against the metal of his cuff, leaving trails of neon green venom behind. After a couple heart-pounding seconds, the vine retracted. Harry let out a breath that he didn't realize he was holding. 

He quickly pushed open the door, not wanting to push his luck anymore. The first thing he noticed was the crackling fireplace which sent a glorious wave of heat across his body as soon as he entered the room. He took a couple steps towards the fireplace, warmth winning out over finding clothes for the moment, before freezing again at the sound of rustling paper.

The realization that he was standing in the middle of a richly furnished office sent a chill down his spine that negated the warmth of the fireplace. A couch littered with scrolls took up one side of the room, bookcases bulging at the seams another, and in the middle sat Voldemort behind a large wooden desk. Stacks of books were piled precariously high all around him, reading from a particularly large tome and marking notes in the margins with a white feathered quill. 

"There is an extra pair of robes in the closet next to the bookcase," he said, without looking up from his writing. A blush rose to Harry's cheeks and he turned robotically towards the far wall with a small door tucked in beside a bulging bookcase. Somehow standing naked in this furnished office, combined with the casual dismissal, was far more mortifying than kneeling in front of Voldemort in the ritual room.

Inside the closet, sure enough, was a set of black robes with silver trim. Traditional robes worn by purebloods were floor length with no form of trousers worn underneath. Thankfully, these were the more modern style, cut short in the front and long in the back with a pair of matching trousers. He slipped it all on quickly, fully conscious of Voldemort's inattention at his back. 

Once dressed, with the hem of the trousers rolled up a few times to accommodate his shorter height and the sleeves of the robes falling far past the edge of his fingers, Harry turned back to the studiously working Voldemort. 

"The door wasn't locked," Harry said, redundantly as Voldemort was obviously unsurprised at his presence in his office. 

"I did not think it necessary," Voldemort replied. He did not look up.

Harry shifted his weight from one bare foot to the other, feeling uncomfortably like a student getting detention from a professor. Though he couldn't remember being anything but angry during any of his actual detentions, not this odd lost feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

"I am going to leave. I need a wand."

The Dark Lord did not reply, so Harry took that to mean that just as he had not been locked in a cell, neither would he be stopped from leaving the house entirely. He turned stiffly to the door he had entered from, fighting his impulse to run. He closed the door softly behind him and rested against it for a long second. 

He pointedly ignored the trembling in his hands and the flimsy soap bubble of maybe in his chest. The snake vines ignored him this time, so he allowed himself a moment and a couple deep breaths before pushing himself upright. 

"Right. Off to Diagon Alley, I suppose." Or whatever form Diagon Alley took in this world.