Harry wasn´t exactly sure what he had imagined the cell at Azkaban would look like, but for some reason he was still surprised at the emptiness of it. It was literally just a square room about 20 x 20 feet long. A wooden table and chair were the only furniture in the room, and they looked like they were past their prime and still hadn´t decided if they were going to remain standing or crumble to the floor.
There was no window and therefor no way to tell if it was night or day, and the cell itself was lit by spheres of light high up under the celling. It gave of a soft glow that wasn´t to bright and stood in contrast to the dark stonewalls. The door was made of some sort of metal; Harry guessed iron, with a window in the middle to allow someone to look into the cell.
An array of hay was pilled in one corner to act as a bed, or so Harry assumed, and the figure sitting with his back towards the wall, watching as Harry and the Warden entered was a familiar one. The black hair, which was sticking up everywhere, sharp features and dark brown eyes that almost seemed black in the dim light. It had been 10 years since Harry had seen this version of Lord Voldemort, or Tom Riddle, in the Chamber of Secrets. He looked slightly older now, perhaps somewhere around twenty.
“What happened to his appearance?” Harry asked the Warden as they entered the cell. Last time Harry had seen Voldemort had been at the final battle, where he had looked like the man who came out of the cauldron several years earlier.
The Warden, Harry couldn´t remember his name, shrugged. “Happened when we put the collar on. Seemed like he was wearing a glamour that was cancelled when we blocked his magic. Not that we are complaining, he is easier on the eyes this way.” There was a tone in the man´s voice Harry couldn´t quite place.
Voldemort looked up as they entered. Eyes moving from the Warden to Harry and Harry could see surprise flutter over his face before he schooled it into a neutral mask. It seemed Azkaban hadn´t been kind the last three years, or perhaps more accurately the guards. Voldemort had a dark bruise on his left cheek, split lip, a cut above his left eyebrow that seemed to just have stopped bleeding. The collar around his neck that supressed his magic barely covered the bruises around his neck. He was cradling his left arm in his lap and from the look of it the hand, or arm, or perhaps both was broken and bloody. A chain went from the collar to the wall and Harry assumed it was to protect those who entered the cell fro being ambushed. Although Voldemort hardly looked like he was capable of standing at the moment.
The Warden put the tray he had been carrying on the table, it groaned and Harry tore his eyes away from Voldemort to see of it would keep standing or finally give in and collapse. Interesting enough it held it´s ground. A flask followed the tray and then the Warden turned towards Voldemort and crossed his arms over his chest. Harry guessed the Warden was waiting for something to happen as the man kept staring at the former dark lord, all though what that something was he had no clue about.
Voldemort seemed to be debating something while staring back at the Warden, but in the end he dropped his eyes to the floor. The submissive gesture was so unlike Voldemort that Harry had to blink and wonder if he had hallucinated the whole thing. Looking closer however he could see that the pitiful looking boy (man?) on the floor seemed to lack the demeanour that had always surrounded Voldemort, which had radiated power and authority
Finally Voldemort seemed to come to a conclusion on what ever he had been thinking about and slowly moved so that instead of sitting with his back against the wall he was now kneeling. His left arm still cradled in his lap, and his right that he had used to change position was still on the floor, supporting his weight. From the way he moved ever so carefully, Harry assumed he had several cracked or broken ribs and his right ankle looked swollen and bruised as well.
The sight of Voldemort kneeling on the floor was enough for Harry to start to wonder if he was dreaming or if the Warden and the guards had managed to, quite literally, beat the dark lord into submission. The arrogance and pride that had always surrounded the man was nowhere to be seen, and when Harry looked closer he could see a faint tremble in the posture.
“Good.” The Warden said and turned towards Harry who probably looked like someone had just told him the moon was actually a big cheese.
“The guards have managed to learn him some manners.”
Harry nodded on reflex. Yes, that was one way of defining what they had done. Torture was of course another fitting word, but he saw no reason to tell the Warden that.
“He´ll behave,” this was said with a look towards the kneeling figure, who was busy staring at the floor and didn´t notice. “If he behaves and give you want there are some food and water on the table you can give him as a reward. I´m not sure when he was last given anything to eat or drink, so that should be a good incentive for him to comply and give you what you want. If you have any trouble then let guard outside know.”
“Thank you.” Harry said.
The Warden nodded and left, closing the door behind him. Harry turned and looked at Voldemort. He expected that whatever game Voldemort was playing at to drop the moment the door closed and for the man to turn back into his usual annoying self, but nothing happened.
For a couple of minutes nothing happened. Harry pushed a hand through his hair, messing it even more up, and looked around the room. His eyes landed on the table and the tray and flask of water. He took them both and set them down in front of Voldemort. The brown eyes stayed glued to the floor and he made no move to touch either thing.
“Go on,” Harry said when it became apparent that Voldemort wasn´t going to touch the food or water. Brown eyes met his for a moment before dropping, but long enough for Harry to see the uncertainty in them.
With a sigh Harry dragged the chair over and sat down, praying the bloody thing wouldn´t fall together the moment he sat on it. Not sure what he was doing he picked up a piece of the bread that was on the tray and held it out for Voldemort to take. He was starting to get a feeling that the guards had been using food as a part of their “training”. Voldemort looked to be half the weight he had been last time Harry saw him and he hadn´t exactly been overweight back then.
Brown eyes looked up from the floor to the piece of bread in front of him and Harry got the distinct feeling Voldemort was battling with himself whether to take it or not.
He decided to take a chance and popped the bread into his own mouth. “Look, it´s not poisoned.” At least he hoped it wasn´t. He held out another piece of bread towards Voldemort who kept staring at it as if it contained all the answers to the world’s questions. Carefully Voldemort leaned forward and took the piece of bread from Harry´s hand with his mouth. Harry almost dropped the bread when cold lips came into contact with his fingers.
Damn, he thought. He hadn´t meant for Voldemort to humiliate himself further by eating from Harry´s hand, but apparently Voldemort had interpreted that as Harry´s intention. The food disappeared quickly and Harry waited to see of Voldemort would continue to eat by himself now that he had gotten him to eat the first piece.
Harry sighed and nudged the tray towards Voldemort again. “Eat. I´m assuming you would rather feed yourself than to have me feed you?”
Again the brown eyes rose briefly to met green ones before returning to the tray. Still he didn´t touch it and Harry was starting to get a bad feeling that Voldemort was convinced it was a trap of some kind. Presumably the guards might have played similar games before. This was ridiculous, Harry thought. He was starting to feel like he needed an instruction manual on ´how-to-get-the-ex-dark-lord-to-eat´.
“Voldemort, I´m not playing or trying to trick you or anything. I need your help with something and you look like you need to get some food down so that you don´t pass out half through my explanation.”
This time the brown eyes held his gaze for a couple of minutes. They seemed to be searching for some sort of sign that Harry was lying. Harry waited patiently. After what felt like en eternity Voldemort slowly reached out and took a piece of bread from the tray. His eyes was trained on Harry the whole time and he seemed to be waiting for the other shoe to drop and Harry to tell him he´d messed up.
When nothing happened he pulled the tray closer and slowly started to pick through the food. It was noting grand, just bread, cheese and some fruit.
“Don´t eat too much if you haven´t eaten in a while,” Harry cautioned. Last thing he needed was for the ex dark lord to get sick. He bent down and picked up the flask. There was no way Voldemort was going to be able to unscrew the cap with one hand. He took of the cap and held the flask out. Voldemort carefully took it and drank slowly before handing it back.
Slowly the tray was emptied and the water disappeared. Harry levitated the whole thing over to the table and turned towards Voldemort who was carefully moving himself back to a sitting position, his back against the wall. Harry could see him flinch slightly as his back made contact with the wall and frowned. There was probably more damages and bruises under the prison uniform Voldemort was wearing.
Voldemort was looking at him. Brown eyes weary and he looked completely exhausted. The calculating gleam that spoke of someone who was used to manipulate, trick and lie his way to what he wanted was no where to be seen.
“So,” Harry began, pulling a picture out of his pocket. It was a polaroid picture he had taken on the job. He loved to bring it to work because it gave him the possibility to capture moments and study them further back at the office. Of course it was muggle technology but that mattered less, although his colleagues and boss didn´t understand how the camera worked and was sceptical to the whole thing.
He handed the picture over to Voldemort who took it and looked at it.
“Do you know what that is?”
Voldemort studied the picture before nodding.
“Great.” Harry beamed. This was at least a good start. “What is it?”
Voldemort looked up from the picture to Harry. “Egyptian hieroglyphic.” The voice was raw as if he hadn´t used it in a long time.
“What does it mean?”
“Reversed, or opposite, depends on how it is used.”
Harry leaned forward. He was getting excited. They had been stuck on this case for what seemed like forever and no one had been able to figure out how the hieroglyphic fit into the mix. He had come to Azkaban on a whim, not actually expecting Voldemort to help, but they where out of other options and time was running out.
“What if I told you it was used as a rune to strengthen a ward?”
Voldemort studied the picture before handing it back to Harry. “I would say you are out of your depth if your last resort it to ask me for help.” The voice seemed to grow stronger with use. The moment the words were out, Harry could see a fleeting look of panic cross the handsome face before disappearing when Harry did nothing.
“Fine. We have no clue what to do.” Harry stood and started wandering around in the cell. He had no problem admitting they were at a loss if that would please the dark lord enough to help.
“The last year there has been an increasing amount of Chimaera eggs that have been smuggled into the UK. They are a class A non-tradeable materials as you well know. We have been able to track one of the smugglers for the last year and a couple of weeks ago he brought a shipment to the UK using a muggle shipping company, Transsea LLC.
The crates arrived by boat from the fare East to the port in Dover. The papers claimed it was ostrich eggs meant for a restaurant in London, but we got a tip that that the paperwork was fake and that the eggs were meant for the dark wizarding marked. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, the crates was not detained at the port in Dover, but was brought to London. By the time we realised this we arrested the smuggler, who refuses to answer any questions and apparently doesn´t know where the eggs went.
We managed to track the delivery to a warehouse on the outskirt of London but when we tried to enter we encountered wards. Our wardbreakers have been working on disabling the wards but they keep coming up empty. The wards themselves seem to be nothing out of the ordinary, except from the rune stone on the picture. I´m assuming that the rune stone gives a clue on how to disable the wards, but so far we have no idea what it means.”
Voldemort watched him as he paced back and forth explaining the situation.
“And so, yes, here I am.” Harry sat back down on the chair.
“And why should I help?”
Harry shrugged. “Karma points?”
A shadow of a smile actually appeared on Voldemort´s face before disappearing.
“Fine, bloody slytherins.” Harry threw his hands up. “What do you want?”
Voldemort seemed to consider the question for a little while before answering. “A chess set.”
Harry did a double take. “What?”
Voldemort rolled his eyes. The gesture was as surprising as the answer and Harry waited for an explanation.
“I´ll give you the answers you want, if you return with a chess set and a promise to play with me ever so often.”
Of all things to ask, this had to be the last thing Harry had expected. He hesitated, but saw no traps in the request. If anything it would be an opportunity to pick the former dark lord´s brain on other topics beside the one he was currently perusing. He wasn´t a good chess player, but he could hold his own. Then again, against Voldemort he would probably loose spectacularly.
“I´m not a very good chess player,” he admitted.
Again that ghost of a smile past over Voldemort´s lips. “Everything can be learned.”
“Fine. I´ll return in fortnight with a chess set, and I´ll promise to play with you every now and then.”
Voldemort nodded, and seemed to accept the answer and the promise. “The rune stone does give a clue on how to disable the wards. It´s rare to mix hieroglyphs with runes, but if you know what you are doing then it´s quite useful. Tell your wardbreakers to do the disablement charms backwards and in the reversed order than one would normally do them. That will bring the wards down. A word of caution though, it seems like you are up against something more than just a common smuggler. ”