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Last Resort

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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.

Apparently not.

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. ”

Chapter Text

“I can´t believe you went to him for help!”

Harry sighed. This was the third time at least that Draco Malfoy had spoken the same sentence. “So you have mentioned,” he said. He cast a glance at Neville who just rolled his eyes and turned to watch their wardbreaker Angelica Tyson work.

Angelica was standing in front of the warehouse with a concentrated look on her face. She wasn´t someone you would consider exceptionally beautiful but she was good at her job and pleasant to be around. At the moment she was trying to take down the muggle repellent ward, as that was one of the easiest wards to take down. Since it was meant for muggles it didn´t have the same strength behind it as muggles couldn´t disable it anyway. After humming in concentration she suddenly sighed and turned towards the three people behind her.

“What did he mean? Am I to speak the words backwards, or do the wand movements backwards or what?” She waved a hand in the air to illustrate her confusion.

“He said to do the charm backwards.” Harry hesitated. “Try to use the same words, but do the wand movements backwards.”

She nodded and turned back towards the wards and started speaking and moving her wand.

Harry pulled the red Auror cloak tighter around himself to ward of some of the November cold. It wasn´t all that cold really too be honest, but it was still nippy. They had decided to give the wards another go after Harry´s little visit to Azkaban. He hadn´t dared to tell his boss where he had gotten his information from, just vaguely talked about a source with dark magic experience. He had however told Draco and Neville and Ron about his little trip. Draco apparently still hadn´t gotten over just how much of a bad idea he thought it had been.

“What did you have to give for this information?” Malfoy hissed just low enough to be sure Angelica didn´t hear him. “Your first born? Half your soul?”

“Stop it,” Harry snapped. “He just wanted an item, nothing dangerous.” Perhaps it would be smart not to tell them what kind of item and that he promise to visit. He still wasn´t sure why he had agreed to come and play.

Probably my bleeding heart, he thought with a snort. There was something wrong about seeing Voldemort so broken and beaten down. Harry had debated about whether to report the abuse or not, but he was pretty sure no one would lift a finger because the dark lord was being tortured. After all, how many people hadn´t the man killed, tortured and raped? Including Harry´s own parents.

If it had been possible to kill him, he would have been executed, but with the bloody horcruxes still in play that wasn´t possible. They were still looking for them, but as time passed and it became clear Voldemort was safely contained in Azkaban the hunt had lost it´s priority.

“Yes!”

Harry was torn from his thoughts at the sound of the ward breaking. Angelica turned around a wide grin on her face. “It worked! Whomever your source is Harry, keep him around.” She turned around and went to work on the rest of the wards.

He could hear Neville try to disguise a laugh as a cough behind him and Draco muttering a curse under his breath. Good to know Voldemort actually could be useful and tell the truth.

Now that she had gotten the hang of it the wards came down fast and 30 minutes later they were making their way into the building. They spread out, everyone had their wands out and they were moving quietly. Reports from the Aurors who had been assigned to watch the building said that no one had entered or left the building and the wards they had placed to notice anyone appareting onto the property had not been disturbed.

The warehouse was like any other. One large room, piles of crates stabled along the walls, a couple of containers in the middle of the room. A truck stood abandoned near the gate. The amount of dust on it told Harry it hadn´t been used in a while. Another truck loaded with crates was parked just inside the gate leading to the parking lot outside. A quick search revealed that they were alone and that the warehouse was empty.

They gathered at the middle and looked around.

“Well, it doesn´t look like someone has been here in a while,” Draco commented looking around yet again. “Do we know which crates we are looking for?

Harry withdrew a folder from the bag he was wearing over his shoulder. He flipped it open and searched for the security footage from the Dover harbour.

“Here,” he pulled out a picture showing a stack of crates being lifted of a container ship. The crates where made from wood, square, about 3x3 feet long. One of the sides was marked with Chinese or Japanese words in red.

“Shouldn´t be to difficult to find,” Neville commented. “I´ll start over there, you two take the containers and that wall,” he nodded at Harry and Draco, “and you can check out the truck.” The last was directed at Angelica.

“What in the name of Merlin gave you the idea it was okay to ask Him for help?!”

“Draco, calm down. Nothing happened. I asked, he answered and here we are!” Harry made a sweeping gesture with his hand to include the warehouse. Draco stopped and shoved him against one of the stack of crates.

“Listen, Harry. He always has an agenda, a plan, an angel or what not. You think you know what you are getting into, but you don’t!” The blonde’s face was serious and Harry got the impression Draco was actually worried about him. “Just, be careful, okay?” Draco backed away and pushed a hand through his hair.

Harry nodded. “I will.”

After the final war Lucius Malfoy had been up for trial. Draco had escaped any charges and had pleaded with Harry to speak for his father. Harry had agreed only if Draco joined the Aurors, which the blond had agreed to. He had managed to get Lucius released without any jail time by speaking at his trial and confirming that Lucius had not participated in the last war, but instead fled to protect his family. That combined with an excellent lawyer had seen that Lucius had been sentenced to house arrest for two years, but that was that. He had managed to keep his fortune and somewhat his name, and with Draco joining the Aurors and working along side Harry, the family name had survived the scandal, yet again.

“Good. Let´s find those crates.”

Turned out they didn´t find the crates.

“How,” Neville was moaning as they came back to the Aurors offices at the east wing of the Ministry. “No one entered after they was delivered and no one left. How did the crates just disappear?”

Harry let himself fall into his office chair and rested his head against the top of the chair. Draco was pacing back and forth, seemingly agitated. Angelica had disappeared to her next assignment. Wardbreakers shifted between departments depending on where they were needed.

“They can´t just have walked out on their own.”

Harry laughed. “No kidding, Draco.” The comment earned him a mild stinging hex. He glared at the Malfoy heir and sat up in the chair. “Fine. Let´s see what we have.”

“No crates,” Neville said from his desk across from Harry´s.

“No clue,” Draco sneered from where he was pacing between them.

Harry sighed. Great.

 

***

“You´re back.” It wasn´t a question, more of a statement.

Harry tried to give the warden a polite smile. “Yes. I did promise him something if he gave me what I needed.”

The Warden, Andrews, didn´t look convinced. “He is not allowed anything. That is why I suggested you use the food as leverage. What did you agree to bring him?”

Harry placed the box he was carrying on the Wardens desk and opened it. It contained a chess sett in black and white wood. It was nothing fancy, but also nothing that could be used as a weapon.

“A chess set?”

Harry shrugged. “He asked for it. It can´t possible do any harm for him to have it?”

The Warden sighed and waved a hand in the air. “Fine. Give it to him. If he chokes on the pieces it will be a relief I guess. You remember the way?”

The cell was the same as before. Voldemort seemed to be asleep, curled up on the pile of hay in the corner, when Harry entered. He set the box with the chess set down on the table and moved a bit closer to the sleeping, or unconscious (?), figure.

It had been eight days since his last visit. After the disappointing raid at the warehouse they had tried to find another lead, but no luck. The smuggler hadn´t talked and they were back to square one. It had been Neville who suggested that perhaps another visit to Harry´s “source” could be helpful. Draco had voted no. Harry figured it couldn´t harm.

“Voldemort?”

The reaction was almost funny. The figure bolted awake and sat up, wincing in what Harry assumed was pain. Voldemort blinked a couple of times before moving into a kneeling position, which made it clear he was not in better shape than the last time Harry had been there.

“Easy.”

Voldemort dragged his right hand over his face and finally his eyes seemed to focus and met Harry´s. He bowed his head. “My Lord.”

Harry took a step back, confusion and surprise battling in his head. Yes, he was Lord Harry Potter, Lord of the Potter estate, and the Black estate, but he didn´t think Voldemort was aware of that. And why would the former dark lord even address him by the title?

Unsure he retreated to the wobbling chair and sat down.

“It worked.”

Voldemort glanced up but didn´t comment.

“Your advice regarding the wards. We managed to bring them down.” Harry let his voice die out before lifting the box with the chess set and putting it down on the floor in front of Voldemort. “It´s nothing special. Just a set made from wood. I wasn´t even sure the Warden would let be bring that in,” he explained as he pulled out the board and the pieces.

Acting on a whim, Harry went to the door and demanded the guard bring some food and water. Sometimes it did help to be the saviour of the wizarding world, he thought as the guard almost ran to find what he asked for.

Turning back he could see Voldemort had set up the pieces for a game. Placing the chair back towards the table he sat down on the floor and saw Voldemort had given him the black pieces and himself the white ones.

His left hand, Harry noted, was about as damaged as the last time he had seen it, although the damages to his face had healed somewhat.

Voldemort moved one of the pieces across the board.

They were about half through the game (with Harry loosing) when the guard returned with a tray with food and water. He placed it on the table and bowed towards Harry before retreating outside. Harry couldn´t help but notice that Voldemort had tensed up when the guard entered.

Summoning the tray he placed it beside the chess game and pushed it towards Voldemort who looked from the tray to Harry and then back down to the board. He moved his bishop, capturing one of Harry´s knights.

“Check mate.”

Harry laughed. “Of course.” He shook his head.

“What did I do wrong?”

Voldemort glanced up before concentrating on packing the chess game away in it´s case. “You are predictable, you are also easy to lead.”

“Great thanks. I still managed to beat you though.” The words slipped out before Harry could think better of it.

Voldemort froze, a panicked expression crossing over his face.

“Don´t,” Harry began and pushed the tray towards the dark haired wizard. “I didn´t mean it like that. Eat.”

Like last time, Voldemort just stared at the food.

For the love of everything, Harry thought and picked up a piece of cheese and held it out. Just like last time Voldemort seemed to debate something with himself before taking the food from Harry´s hand using his lips.

This time Harry picked up another piece of cheese on top of a piece of bread and held out towards him. Again Voldemort accepted the food, this time faster.

“What, you can eat if I feed you but not on your own?” Harry finally asked, holding out a third piece of food, a bit of chicken.

The chicken disappeared and Harry once more pushed the tray towards the former dark lord. “Eat.” This time Voldemort slowly started to pick at the food, just like last time.

“We broke through the wards, but the warehouse was empty.”

Voldemort looked up from the food.

Harry continued. “We have had the place under alert wards and observation since the crates arrived there, but when we entered the crates were gone without a trace. It looked like no one had been there for a long time judging from the dust and lack of magical signature.”

Voldemort finished a piece of bread and chicken. “What else was in the warehouse?”

Harry shrugged. “Crates, two trucks, a couple of containers. Nothing special.”

“Did you look into the containers?”

Tilting his head slightly to the side Harry answered. “Yes…”

“And?”

“One was empty, the other two filled with farming equipment. What are you getting at?”

Voldemort smiled slightly. “What if I told you the empty container wasn´t empty at all?”

“That´s not possible. We used spells and walked into it to check it out. There was nothing in there.” Despite his words Harry found himself leaning forward. Apparently Voldemort had some insight into this.
“Would you come back to play again if I told you it was and how?”

Harry smiled.

Chapter Text

The whip managed to hit the exact same place it had before and Voldemort bit back a scream as he could feel the skin tear open even more and the blood flow even more. He fought to get air into his lungs before the next lash landed, this time across the small of his back, sending him lurking forward and into the wall he was chained to. Before he could manage a breath the next one landed across his shoulders then over his ribs, which were already bruised, cracked and broken, and he howled in pain as he could feel one of the ribs on his right side move with the hit.

The guard, Stanley, chuckled behind him somewhere before the next lash landed, this time across the sole of his right foot, reopening several of the healing wounds that was already there.

You should think the guards would get tired of the meaningless beating after a couple of years, but for some reason they seemed to find a never ending pleasure in beating him with in an inch of his, although immortal, life.

The next lash landed over the sole of his left foot, before the right one and then back on the left. Voldemort managed to refrain from screaming, but he couldn´t stop a groan of pain. It was clear he wasn´t going to be able to stand, nor walk for a while longer. He could hear Stanley getting short breathed behind him, which normally signalled that there would be a break in the never ending lashes while the man got his breathing back.

Predictably he could hear the guard move over the floor and the sound of him sitting down into one of the two chairs in the room. The other was occupied but the second guard, who´s name Voldemort couldn’t remember. Taking the break for what it was he let his forehead fall against the wall in front of him and tried to calm his racing pulse and his breathing. He had been through this more times than he could count by now and knew the guards were far from finished.

The stonewall was cool and helped ground him as his thoughts started to wander and his body complained in high tones about it´s condition. His knees were starting to ach from the kneeling position he had been chained in.

Behind him he could hear the guards talking about the weekend, the children (Stanley had two, a boy and a girl) and their wives. Voldemort knew that Stanley had a bad relationship with his wife, because every time they fought or he couldn´t get her to sleep with him, he took it out on Voldemort one way or another.

Stanley had a sister also, but she had been killed during one of the Death Eaters raids a not long before the final battle, and Stanley still felt the need to punish him for that particular death.

After three years one actually got used to being in constant pain. The first year they had done some real interrogations. Asking questions about his organisation, names of Death Eaters, safe houses and so on. Now it was just for fun.

Not that it mattered. He could survive the pain, the humiliation, the rapes and forced sexual encounters, but he couldn´t ignore that they did affect him. He had been fine the first year and a half, but there was a limit to how strong even his mind was, and he had started to notice that piece by piece the warden and the guards had actually managed to somewhat break him. It would have been nice if they could have been content with that, and left him alone to serve out his sentence in peace, but no of course not.

Too lost in thought he didn´t notice Stanley had moved back behind him until the whip came down over his back, catching him of guard. He screamed and sucked in a breath, while Stanley laughed.

“Didn´t notice I was back?” he heard the man goad.

Pulling another shaking breath into his lunges he waited for the next hit to land. A part of him hoping he could pass out soon.

Several hits later Stanley stopped. Voldemort swore. It was too early for the man to stop. He normally continued until Voldemort passed out. That could only mean Stanley had either been grieving his sister again, or he had been in a fight with his wife, either way it wasn´t a good thing.

The ropes keeping his wrists tied to the wall loosened and Voldemort crumpled to the floor in an ungracious manner. Before he could push him self up with his good arm Stanley grabbed his collar and dragged him over to the table in the middle of the room, slamming him face first down on it.

“You think this hurts you bastard? Think of what your pathetic followers did to my lovely Everlyn.”

His right arm was forced behind his back and twisted upwards, making him groan in pain and whatever speech Stanley was giving was lost in the pain. He considered kicking the man, but the last time he did Stanley had broken his ankle in retaliation.

“By all means, do fight me, and I´ll break your other arm.”

Yes Voldemort thought. Lashing out at the man hadn´t been the best idea either.

The first times Stanley had tried to rape him he had fought tooth and nail to get the other man of him. Unfortunately with no magic and a body weak from pain, injuries and hunger he hadn´t been much of a challenge for the man when he had gotten help from his colleague. After a good while he figured it didn´t matter much what he did, said or threatened with, but the less he fought the quicker Stanley finished and they could get on with the day.

Unfortunately the Warden was waiting in the cell when Stanley and the other guard dragged/carried him back after Stanley had managed to reduce his sexual frustration by taking it out on Voldemort.

He couldn´t stand on his own even if he wanted to. The wounds underneath his feet made it impossible to stand. The moment the bare feet touched the stone, his brain decided that the pain was too great and he would crumble to the floor.

They let go of him near where the Warden was sitting on the chair that seemed to refuse to die. Voldemort had waited three years for the chair to finally give in, but it seemed to be more stubborn than he was for it kept standing there. Almost mocking him.

He landed in a heap and for a moment he considered just staying there. He wanted to close his eyes and just sleep, sleep for a year and let his body heal and pray the Warden and his goons would leave him alone to serve out his sentence.

Just as the black nothingness was starting to creep into his vision, a sharp kick to his stomach brought him back to reality all too quickly. He gasped and coughed, curling in on himself.

“Thank you Stanley. You can go. Check on the new prisoners that was delivered today please.” The voice was as always calm and collected, confident that he was in charge and in no danger from the ex dark lord on the floor before him. Unfortunately he was quite right about that last thing.

While he spoke, Voldemort managed to push himself to his knees and bow his head. His body was shaking in exhaustion and both his shirt and trousers, that he had managed to get back on somehow, was bloodied and torn.

A hand was placed under his chin and the Warden lifted his head. Voldemort allowed his eyes to briefly meet the cold steel blue eyes of the warden before dropping them to the floor. He was too tired and hurt too much to piss the Warden off as well.

“Think we need to clean you up a bit before Lord Potter shows up the next time. What are you giving him since he keeps coming back, mhm?”

Harry yes. Voldemort had been surprised to see Harry in his cells a couple of weeks back. Even more surprised that the boy had come for information on a case he was working on. He had given the boy the information he was looking for in a fit of desperation for some human interaction that didn´t end in pain and suffering.

It had been… nice to have someone to talk to, even more to play a small game of chess with. He didn’t know if Harry was coming back again. He loaded to admit that he hoped he did.

“He had some questions, sir.” Voldemort managed not to choke on the sir.

The blond man before him hummed thoughtfully. “About?”

Voldemort swallowed and tried not to pull his head from the man´s grip. He didn´t want to tell him that he had helped Harry on a case. It wasn´t a big deal, just small pieces of information the Aurors would have figured out by themselves eventually.

“Information about a rune they hadn´t seen before.” That was partially the truth at least.

The Warden sighed and finally let go of his chin. “Fine.” He turned towards the table and pulled something towards him.

Voldemort couldn´t help but hope that it was food. He hadn´t eaten in a couple of days and he was starving. His body was having a hard time healing itself also with so little nourishment.

The Warden looked down and caught Voldemort looking towards the table, and probably the hungry look he didn´t manage to conceal properly.

“Hungry, pet?”

He dropped his eyes. It was tempting to let his pride take over and say no, but he knew that if he did then the Warden would leave the food just out of reach and leave and he would be left to starve a couple of more days. He had tried that a few times over the years after all.

“Well?”

Not answering was not an option either, because it would result in the same thing, plus another beating for being impolite. He bit his tongue, tasting blood before forcing the words out like he had done a couple of hundred times over the years.

“Yes, sir.” He kept his eyes firmly on the hands in his lap. The question now was whether or not the Warden decided to put a price on the food. The Warden wasn´t one for physically hurting someone, but the man did love the mind games. Games Voldemort was a champion at and had managed to hold his own against just fine the first years, but as his body weakened his mind couldn´t keep it up and once he had started slipping downwards there had been no way back. Andrews preferred humiliation to violence. He wanted the mind to break, not the body.

He swayed for a moment, darkness creeping into his vision again. A loud buzzing sound took over in his head, and he blinked and tried to focus. A thug on the collar made him shuffle slightly forward until he kneeling between Andrews´ legs. A hand cupped the left side of his face and he got the impression perhaps Andrews was speaking, but he couldn´t hear anything over the loud buzzing. Again he swayed and he could feel the darkness closing in. Blinking several times he put a hand out to steady himself. Slowly the world came back into focus and the buzzing sound slowly died down before disappearing completely.

The hand on his face moved up and into his hair tugging him slightly more forward. Blinking the world back into focus it became clear that there was a price on the food, apparently Stanley wasn´t the only one who was sexually frustrated that day.

“Well, do you want the food?” the tone was playful as Andrews pulled on his hair again to get his attention.

Voldemort closed his eyes for a moment. His stomach was protesting against the thought, and for a moment he thought he was going to throw up. Swallowing he nodded and moved closer. Luckily the man was quite aroused already so getting him off wouldn´t be too difficult.

It wasn´t either, but the humiliation of the act and the condescending “good boy” at the end while Voldemort tried to get his breath back on the floor and Andrews was cleaning himself, was always the worst part. For some reason it was easier with Stanley who threatened him with violence to get his way. With Andrews it always felt like he had a choice, and that he was choosing this. Which was a lie as he didn´t have a choice, the Warden simply set the situation up to create the feeling.

After the Warden was finished putting his clothes back in place he pulled the tray over to the edge of the table and first offered Voldemort a cup of water that he gulped down to get ride of the taste in his mouth and throat.

“Easy now, or you just throw it back up.”

He slowed down slightly but finished the cup faster than he normally would. From experience he knew the Warden would refill it and offer him more during the meal. Taking the cup from him Andrews held out bread with cheese on and Voldemort accepted the food. It tasted good. To be honest at the moment everything would probably taste good. It was followed by egg, bacon and fruits and all in all Voldemort wondered if it was his last meal or something. Normally the Warden would just give him some old bread and cheese. He wondered why the sudden change in quality.

He didn´t ask however he simply ate the food he was given, trying not to feel too much like a dog begging for scraps at his masters table. As the hunger was sated the pain in his feet and back started coming into focus. The clothes were sticking to his body because of the blood and it would be hell to remove them once the blood dried. He didn´t expect the Warden to do anything about it though. If he were lucky then Stanley would drag him to the washroom and wash him down in cold water the next day.

The collar blocked his magic, but it also blocked any magic from being used on him, a problem since they couldn´t use healing spells or cleaning spells on him, but a good thing seeing as it put several dark curses of limits.

As the last of the food disappeared and Voldemort took the last piece of apple from the man´s hand, he could feel the last of his strength bleeding out as well. The Warden seemed to notice to because he wiped his hand on his thigh and more or less dragged Voldemort over to the pile of hay where he attached the chain to his collar. Voldemort let himself collapse and just before he could feel himself falling into the darkness he wondered if he could talk Harry into giving him a blanket the next time in exchange for information.

Chapter Text

“How does it work again?” Neville was eyeing the flashlight in Harry´s hand with a sceptical look.

Harry turned the flashlight over in his hands and pushed the button on the end. A blue light hit the concrete floor of the warehouse.

“I´m not entirely sure how, but the blue light somehow picks up something in the blood and turns it white.” He shone the flashlight over the ground in front of the container before moving to the right side and checking both the inside and outside of the doors that were standing wide open.

At first there was nothing to be seen and Harry suddenly remembered that he had to use the glasses he had been given along with the flashlight. He pullet out the glasses from his pocket and exchanged them for his usual once.

“Can you kill the light?” He asked Neville, pushing the glasses in place. A wave of a wand later the warehouse was completely dark except from the small bluish light that travelled up and down the container. Finding nothing on the outside Harry moved in and started checking the walls inside.

“You sure about this?” Neville asked.

Harry shrugged but then remembered Neville couldn´t see anything in the dark.

“No, but it´s worth a try.”

“Isn´t there a spell that can do the same thing?”

“Probably, but he said it would be better to do it the muggle way because cleaning spells can block detections spells, but most wizards and witches doesn´t know a lot about muggle technology and doesn´t guard themselves from it. If we find the runes then it might give us a clue about where the crates disappeared too.”

He could hear Neville enter the container behind him. When he finally reached the back wall of the container he found what he was looking for. The wall gleamed with white runes, six in a circle and the last one in the middle of it, all painted in blood.

Harry grinned.

“Found it. Look.” He handed the glasses to Neville who put them on and stared at the wall.

“I´ve never seen runes like these,” Neville muttered. He leaned in closer to take a better look, trailing his hand over the invisible ink.

“Me neither, but I assume Voldemort will be able to tell us more.”

Neville leaned back and pulled out a pen and paper and began to sketch down the runes.

“How was it, seeing him again?” The tone was casual, but Harry could hear the careful way he asked.

They hadn´t talked much about Harry´s two visits at Azkaban.

“You mean the first time?”

“Yes.”

Harry stared at the wall and the runes. “Strange. I didn´t think I´d ever see him again. Although he doesn´t exactly look like himself.”

“Oh? Worse than he did at the battle?”

Harry smiled. “No,” he laughed. “Much better.”

Neville turned towards him and pushed the glasses back up on his nose. “Better? Has he grown a nose or something?”

“Or something,” Harry smirked. “He looks like Tom Riddle in the beginning of his twenties.”

“What? How´s that possible even? And what does Tom Riddle look like anyway?”

“Tall, black hair, brown eyes. All straight lines and angles.”

“Handsome?” Neville teased.

Harry laughed. “Very.”

“Still the same arrogant prick?”

“No.” Harry remembered the defeated look on Voldemort´s face, the exhaustion and the bruises and marks. “He´s a bit more subdued.”

Neville went back to sketching down the runes. “Why is he helping?”

“I don´t know. Perhaps he is bored. There isn´t much to do in a cell except being used as a punching bag by the guards.”

“Plenty of people who would love to kick him around for everyone he´s killed, tortured and destroyed the lives of.” There was a dark edge to Neville´s voice and Harry knew he was thinking of his parents that Bellatrix had tortured into insanity.

“Yes. He was right though, again.” Harry waved a hand towards the runes that Neville had finished sketching. Neville waved his wand and the light came back on. The runes disappeared and Harry pocketed the flashlight and the glasses.

“Yeah, he was. Let´s get back to the office. I really would like to go home for the night.”

***

He waved to Neville who was heading home. The clock was well past eight in the evening and the Auror´s office was deserted except from him. It was Friday evening and he didn´t have any planes. Instead he spread the sketch out on his desk and was leafing through a book on runes in hopes of perhaps being able to figure out what the runes meant by himself.

The coffee had gotten cold again and he reheated it with a wave of his wand. Sipping he flipped another page and was suddenly staring at one of the runes from the container, or half of it at least.

The location rune is a necessary rune when making

a ritual of travel. The proto-Germanic name is

“raidô” and the rune itself looks like an R.

The rune is normally appears together with

another rune that marks the location from

which one is travelling and then again

to mark where one is going.  

Harry looked over at the sketch. On the top of the circle there was an R with another rune attached, and the same at the bottom. That would be the to and from then. It would mean that the rune at the top was indicating the container and the one on the bottom the location of where the crates had disappeared too.

“Getting somewhere?”

Harry jumped and turned. “Merlin´s sake, sir. You scared me.”

Gawain Robards, Head of the Auror Office, smiled and pushed a hand through his salt and pepper coloured hair.

“Sorry, lad. I was just leaving and saw that the light was still on here. Still working on those crates?”

“Yeah, we found another lead tonight.” Harry turned and picked up the sketch with the runes on. “These were painted in blood at the back of the container.”

Robards pulled over a chair from the neighbouring desk and sat down. He looked at the runs with a frown. “I´ve never seen runes like these.”

“Me neither, but that,” Harry pointed to the R on the top, “indicates where one is travelling from, and that,” he pointed to the one the bottom, “indicates where one is travelling too.”

“Travelling? Isn´t this that container that was empty?”

Harry nodded, his voice becoming excited as he explained. “It is a vanishing cabinet, or it was. It isn´t anymore.”

Robards looked sceptically. “Okay?”

“The runes, sir, they make the container into a temporary vanishing cabinet, along with a spell I can´t pronounce. The crates were brought into the warehouse as we saw, placed into the vanishing cabinet/container, and then transported to somewhere. After the blood of the runes was removed and off they simply left and we were none the wiser.”

The older man nodded. “Impressive. How did you figure out they had used it as a vanishing cabinet?”

Harry hesitated. “A source gave me a tip.”

Roabards raised and eyebrow. “The same source that helped with the runestone on how to take the wards down?”

“Yes.”

“I see. And just who is this source? He seems to have a lot of insight into the criminal world.”

“I´ll rather not say,” Harry muttered, turning to close the book on runes and shuffling some papers around on his desk.

Robards placed a hand on his arm. “Harry. Sources can be both useful and dangerous. There is a fine line between a trustworthy source and a source that will use fake information to trick you into a dangerous situation. I´m not judging, but I need to know that my employees are safe on the job. “

“I know, sir, but I don´t think you´ll approve of the source.” Actually Harry knew his boss would not approve.

“Try me.”

Harry almost smiled. “Voldemort.”

Robards managed to not flinch at the name. “What?” He asked and looked like he was hoping and praying he had heard wrong.

“The source is Voldemort.”

The man looked like he was considering getting his hearing checked. “I see. So, he is the reason we are making headway in this case?”

This time Harry did smile. “Yes.”

“And you went to see him?”

“Yes.”

“To ask him for help on a case?”

“Yes.”

“And he volunteered the information?”

“Yes.”

“I see.”

Then after a couple of seconds he added, “and why did he help?”

Harry shrugged. “I don´t know. But, it was information that wouldn´t be dangerous to check out. Worst thing that would have happened was that we couldn´t take down the wards, or that we found nothing in the container,” he hurried to add before Robards could ask why it seemed like a good idea to test theories given from a mass murder and terrorist.

“And I assume you are planning to go back to Azkaban and ask him to translate those runes for you?”

Harry nodded and he picked up the sketch, staring once more at the runes.

“We do have a team of codebreakers on staff you know?”

Harry smiled. “I know, but Voldemort is like a living, walking encyclopaedia of information.”

“He has also tried to kill you multiple times.”

Yes, that was true. Voldemort had tried to kill him more times than he would like to count, but in the end he had lost and Harry didn´t have the will to hate him. If anything he felt sorry for him. If Albus and the other grownups had been a little more attentive in the earlier days then perhaps Tom wouldn´t have turned into Voldemort. Perhaps he would have stayed as Tom and gone on to do something remarkable.

For all the things one could say about Voldemort he was still smart as a whip and had an impressive knowledge of everything magical. He also seemed to have some sort of photographic memory.

“Yes, the prophecy seemed to have scared him into becoming desperate.”

Robardos nodded. “Fine. If you think the information is good and reliable, then by all means ask him.”

“Thank you, sir. I´ll go back tomorrow.”

 

***

 

The cell was empty when Harry entered. The Warden had just waved him of when he had popped in to say hi. He was apparently getting used to Harry´s frequent visits so Harry had just made his way to Voldemort´s cell by himself. To find it empty however was a surprise.

Unsure he figured he´d wait, which he did. He waited nearly two hours at the wobbly table before the door to the cell opened and two guards carried a soaking wet dark lord in and let him fall into a heap on the straws. The guards gave Harry a nod and a polite “My Lord” before vanishing out the door.

The soaking wet form on the hay curled in on him self and was shivering like a leaf in a tornado.

Harry swore and stood. It was the middle of November and the cell was freezing. He walked over to the trembling form and tried to get Voldemort´s attention. It didn´t work as the dark lord curled in on himself even tighter.

Giving up Harry cast a drying charm on the clothes the man was wearing. He couldn´t use magic one the man himself because of the collar, but he could dry the clothes. That done he withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and transfigured it into a fluffy, dark blue wool blanket. He draped the blanket around the former dark lord.

He carefully rubbed at the shoulders and back to help the warmth to settle back in.

“What was it this time?” he asked when he thought Voldemort could hear him

“Waterboarding,” came the rasped response eventually.

That would explain why he looked like a drowned rat. Harry noted how Voldemort actually leaned into his touch and kept rubbing at his shoulders and back until Voldemort seemed to come to his senses and pulled away. Harry let him go and moved to the chair.

“You back with me?”

Voldemort was still shaking, but nodded and pulled the blanket closer.

The way he was curled gave Harry a view of his feet and he suddenly understood why Voldemort never stood. A crisscross of welts and open wounds was visible under the sole of his feet and Harry could only imagine how painful it would be to try and stand and walk on them.

“Do you want me to ask for some warm soup or something?” He felt like an idiot for asking.

Voldemort shook his head.

“We found the runes at the back of the container. Drawn in blood as you said.” He eyed Voldemort carefully. The man was still shaking badly and Harry wasn´t sure he was listening.

“Saints,” he swore and walked back over to the curled up figure. He cast a warming charm on the blanket and used his hands to rub over the shoulders and back to help the raise the temperature of Voldemort´s body. Voldemort seemed to be too far-gone again to notice and in the end Harry ended up sitting on the hay, with Voldemort more or less curled up in his lap.

It had to be the strangest position Harry had ever been in. He was sitting in a cell in Azkaban, with his parents killer curled up beside him, with his head and arms in his lap. He was pretty sure that if Voldemort had been more alert he wouldn´t have allowed the touching, but he seemed to be too far-gone in his own mind. The trembling stopped after a while, and several warming charms later and as the breathing became less erratic Harry assumed Voldemort had either passed out or fallen asleep.

Chapter Text

It was strange to feel the raise and fall over Voldemort´s chest underneath his hand as the other man slept. Harry couldn´t help to think how innocent he looked while sleeping. Thick black eyelashes flushed against pale skin. His left, injured arm curled protectively against his chest, while his right was curled just underneath his chin. His head was resting on a pillow against Harrys left thigh. The pillow had been an afterthought that Harry had conjured up when it became clear that Voldemort was either unconscious or fast asleep.

The black hair had dried somewhat during the time Harry had been sitting on the floor. He didn´t know how long he had been sitting there, but from the ach in his body, probably too long. The question was what to do. He really wanted answers about the runes, but he didn´t have the conscience to wake Voldemort from what seemed like a much needed sleep. He could leave of course, but he had the feeling that his presence might be the only thing that kept the guards from continuing their little games.

He sighed and pushed a hand through his hair. When had all this become so damned complicated? He just needed help with the runes. Now he was sitting with a tortured ex dark lord asleep in his lap. Considering all the things Voldemort had done during both the first and the second war, he did deserve what he got. Why should he care if the guards thought it fun to torture and humiliate Voldemort? Didn´t the man really deserve everything they put him through?

His thoughts strayed to his parents. What would they think if they had seen him sitting there, their killer in his lap? He showed the thought away. It wouldn´t do anything good to go down that road.

Voldemort moved slightly in his sleep, muttering something that sounded very close to please. Unsure, Harry ran his hand through the dark hair watching as Voldemort settled back down. A small frown visible on his forehead, but it disappeared as he seemed to fall back into a peaceful sleep.

It might have been easier if Voldemort still looked like the half snakelike monster that had come out of the cauldron that horrible day at the graveyard. The Tom in his lap looked like he wasn´t much older than Harry himself. Looking at him sleeping, it was hard to reconcile the fact that the handsome youth in his lap was a cold-blooded killer that had killed and tortured so many.

What had the Warden said again “made him easier on the eyes”? Harry had a sneaking suspicion that the abuse Voldemort had been subjected to did go further than just beatings and torture. If it had been like this for the last three years then Harry had no problem believing that they somewhere along the way had managed to somewhat break Voldemort. There had to be a limit to what even a Dark Lord could handle before the mind started to unravel. From the way Voldemort had kneelt and the submissive behaviour, Harry was pretty sure the Warden and his employees had done a thorough job in teaching him some manners as the Warden had put it.

To be honest he didn´t mind a slightly more subdued Voldemort, rather than the arrogant monster he had fought so many times. And if he was to keep being honest, this version of Tom Riddle did look a bit too good on his knees.

He blushed at his own thoughts. There was no denying that Voldemort was handsome, incredible so, but he was still the ex Dark Lord. A killer with no conscience, who had no qualms about using threats and torture to get what he wanted. A beautiful killer, but still a monster. The thought made Harry think of cats. Beautiful creatures, but they killed for fun and without care. And then they curled up in your lap and slept peacefully without a care in the world for their victims.

Harry could tell the moment Voldemort woke. The breathing changed and the whole body tensed. Curious he waited to see what Voldemort would do. Waking up in Harry´s lap was probably the last thing he had been expecting. Just because he could, Harry let his hand rake through the dark hair and felt Voldemort tense up even more. He was probably trying to make sense of the predicament he found himself in.

***

Voldemort woke slowly from what had for once, been a deep sleep. The first thing he noticed was that he was warm. There was a blanket wrapped around him and a pillow under his head. From what he could tell, he was still in his cell, but he was curled up against someone. Blinking slowly to try and get the last of the sleepiness to let go, he tried to figure out how and who.

The last thing he remembered clearly was the water being poured on his face, the feeling of drowning, without actually drowning gripping him tightly and making him panic even though he knew he was in no danger of being killed. He lost count after a while how many times he had ´died´, but he could feel his mind shutting down and awareness bleeding out of him like blood from a cut main artery.                                                                                                     

The cell was freezing when they brought him back, but someone had conjured up a blanket and draped around him. His memory went blank as he tried to remember the details.

A hand in his hair made him tense. He didn´t like being touched, but he couldn´t bring himself to move either. He was warm for the first time in ages and comfortable. The pain in his body lingered in the back of his head, but at least waterboarding didn´t physical hurt him, if you didn´t count the amount of water he had swallowed.

In a flash the rest came to him. Harry of course. The bloody saviour of the wizarding world had been in the cell when they had brought him back. He remembered the worried look on Harry´s face, the questions and how he had tried to help Voldemort get the temperature in his body back up. It was Harry he was curled up against. If he had managed to find the strength he might have laughed at the absurdity of the situation. The boy he had tried to kill so many times, the one who´s parents he had killed, along with several close friends and other family members. The same boy who had been filled with concern that his sworn enemy was shaking and freezing after being tortured. Not that the experience was a new one. He had been subjected to waterboarding before and left to freeze in the cell until he dried up somewhat.

The physical torture was still to be preferred over the Wardens mind games and unwanted sexual attention. In a flash he wondered what Harry would demand in return for his kindness. He wasn´t blind, although his mind was working slower than he liked, and he had noticed Harry´s reaction to his new looks. The same one the guards and the Warden had shown back when he first arrived at Azkaban.

In hindsight he really regretted absorbing the Huffelpuff cup and the Gaunt ring horcruxes, but it had been necessary to undo some of the mental damage he had done to himself when splitting his soul so many times. It had left him a lot more stable and sane. The constant need to hurt and torture had gone away, together with the bloodlust. He had kept using a glamour around his followers though. Voldemort knew his snakelike appearance would help gain fear of his name, and that the handsome appearance of Tom Riddle wouldn´t have had the same effect, especially not a twenty something looking Tom Riddle.

“Voldemort?”

The voice made him flinch and all pretence of still being asleep went out the window. With a sigh he pushed himself to his knees, pulling the navy blue blanket close around him as he settled on his knees a meter or so from the sitting Gryffindor in his cell. Harry was leaning against the wall, his left leg stretched out, the pillow resting against his thigh and his right leg bent at the knee. His right arm was slung over the bent leg and green eyes were carefully watching him.

He was dressed in muggle clothes. Jeans, a thick black sweater, a thick black winter coat and a black scarf around his neck. His hands were bare, but there was a pair of gloves on the floor beside him. He looked like a poster boy for one of the muggle shops that catered to young adults.

The glasses was gone, and Voldemort suspected he either was using lenses or had gotten his eyesight fixed in the muggle world. There was after all no spell, legal at least, that could fix ones eyesight. The lack of glasses made his green eyes stand out even more against the dark hair and scarf. He had grown out of the boyish looks Voldemort remembered from the final battle and had settled into the body of a young adult. He radiated a lot more confidence and authority now than he could remember from the battle where it had seemed like half the things Harry had managed to pull of was based on pure luck rather than skill and planning.

“My Lord,” Voldemort carefully muttered, keeping his eyes on the floor. He didn´t think Harry cared much about ´manners´ as the Warden liked to call it, but seeing as he was stuck in Azkaban it was better to just keep to the rules set so that he didn´t forget around the Warden or the guards. Not that there was much chance he would forget after having the rules beaten into him for three years. He vaguely remember rebelling against them the first year, until he at some point realized he was going to be locked up in Azkaban for a very long time, unless of course Harry made headway with the horcruxes and they could execute him. That thought made his stomach rebel and he could feel the white hot panic starting to gather in the pit of his stomach. His breathing increased and he had to force himself to calm down before the panic took over.

Death. The concept terrified him. The unknown of what would happen after death, the finality of it. One could not beat death everyone said, but he had done it with the horcruxes. Reabsorbing two of them had been a necessary evil, but as far as he knew Harry didn´t know how many horcruxes he had made, nor where or what they were. Except from the diary of course. The one he had entrusted to Lucius Malfoy, which the idiot had managed to let fall into Harry´s hands. He really hadn´t punished Lucius enough for that mistake.

He had gotten the impression that Harry perhaps wasn´t that actively looking for the horcruxes as none had been found the last three years. That didn´t mean that he wouldn´t start up again if Voldemort managed to make him angry enough to remember just why Voldemort was still alive. In other words, a good incentive to keep the Gryffindor happy.

Harry got to his feet, carefully stretching his limbs and Voldemort assumed he was feeling the pain from sitting so long on the thin bedding of straw. He watched through his lashes as Harry stiffly walked over to the ever so unsteady chair and sat down. The gloves were placed on the table and Harry seemed to be searching for something in his inside pocket. After a little while he pulled out a sheet of paper. He held it out towards Voldemort who shuffled a bit closer and took the paper while trying to keep his grip on the blanket. His left arm was still useless.

Stanley had not taken it well when Voldemort had tried to push him of by lashing out at him. The arm was broken at the wrist, although Voldemort suspected it might be broken further up as well. His hand was a mangled mess of broken bones after Stanley had made sure to stamp on it hard a couple of times. Without medical care or a healer the bones had not set right, or at all, and the hand remained completely useless.

“We found these at the back of the container. Painted in blood as you said.”

Voldemort stared at the paper he was holding, six runes in a circle with a seventh in the middle. Seemed Harry´s smuggler wasn´t an ordinary smuggler at all. They normally didn´t turn containers into temporary vanishing cabinets as the spellwork and knowledge on how to do it wasn´t exactly something you found in a how-to book in Knockturn Alley. This type of work required a powerful wizard or witch. Voldemort was starting to doubt that this was about the eggs at all. Why go through all this trouble for Chimaera eggs? They were rare, and expensive and sold well on the black marked, but there were easier ways to get them into the country.

He studied the runes closer. Noting that the vanishing cabinet was tied between two containers from the look of it. The bottom rune identified the object, but not the location as vanishing cabinets could be moved around. The runes on the right specified when the vanishing cabinet where to activate, and the ones on the left when it stopped being active. From the looks of it the cabinet had been active from sunset until sunrise on the day the runes had been drawn.

“Well?”

Voldemort handed the paper back but kept his eyes on the floor. “It does not specify where the other cabinet is located.” His voice sounded like gravel and he desperately wanted something to drink, although the thought of water made his mind race back to the painful experience just a couple of hours earlier. “It does look like it´s a container from the fact that the rune on the top and bottom are identical.”

Harry accepted the paper, looking down at it with a frown. “And the runes on the sides?” he inquired.

“They specify when the cabinet becomes active, and when it stops working. This one worked from sunset until sunrise on the day the runes were drawn.”

He could se the Gryffindor nod through his lashes, seemingly lost in thought.

“And the one in the middle,” Harry asked after a minute of silence, tilting the paper towards Voldemort and pointing to the rather detailed rune in the middle.

At least the boy wasn´t stupid, Voldemort thought wryly. He seemed to be a quick study and eager to learn. He wondered for a moment what kind of grades the young man had acquired in his O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts.

“It grants access to a specific person, but it´s not possible to read who. The person would have to have carved the same rune into his skin and used the blood to draw these runes. The cabinet will then only allow the person with the right blood and the rune to use it.”

This was why temporary vanishing cabinets were illegal. It was considered blood magic, and of course all blood magic was considered dark in the eyes of the Ministry.

Harry seemed to deflate some at the last bit of info. “Great. I admit I had hoped it would be possible to track this guy further, but it doesn´t look like it.”

Voldemort debated a bit whether or not he should help him further, but found himself suggesting a course of action before his brain seemed to have made up it´s mind. “These kind of temporary vanishing cabinets are often used several times unless there are signs that the Aurors are on the trail. If you didn´t disturb anything at the warehouse your smuggler might use it again. It´s not easy to lock two places up against each other so that they can be used as a vanishing cabinet, it takes time, planning and it´s not your everyday spell work either.”

“Wouldn´t the smuggler notice wards being placed on the warehouse? And that the previous wards are taken down?”

The Dark Lord sighed; perhaps he had been a bit too quick to deem the boy intelligent. He stared down at his hands, trying to ignore the pain in his left.

“If you close the container and put the wards on the doors, so that you are alerted if they are opened, and then put back up the outer wards they should be none the wiser. Unless they check the container, which there would be no reason to do if the outer wards are intact. You know of to disable the outer wards now, so that shouldn´t take long and you might catch them in the act as the process of putting up the runes and the ritual and spellwork to activate the cabinets takes about an hour to finish.”

Harry smiled. “Thank you.”

Voldemort nodded. “You are welcome,” he managed to say even though the words seemed to stick in his mouth.

Business now out of the way, Voldemort expected Harry to get up and leave, hopefully not taking the blanket and the pillow with him. He knew the Warden would eventually take them away when he discovered them, but he would like to keep them as long as possible. Perhaps he could manage to convince the Warden to let him keep them if he played good.

Lost in thought he didn´t catch the fact that Harry had asked him something until the young man was snapping his fingers right in front of his face.

“Voldemort?”

He flinched and looked up, meeting the green eyes before lowering his eyes to the floor. Damn, he should have learned to pay attention by now.

“I´m sorry, My Lord,” he mumbled, wincing slightly at the ´my lord´. “I wasn´t paying attention.”

“I asked if you wanted to play a round of chess?”

Voldemort nodded before he even processed the question. He really wasn´t mentally up for a game, but anything was better than his own thoughts and memories at the moment.

A tickle in his throat made him cough as he watched Harry bring the chess set over from the table and set it up on the floor. Setting the pieces in their place and then sitting down on the stone floor with his legs crossed.

“White or black?”

Voldemort managed to stop coughing. “White.”

Harry turned the board so the white pieces were in front of the Dark Lord, and the black in front of himself.

“Your move,” he smiled.

Voldemort studied the board in front of him, considering strategies before settling on a Bird´s Opening move.

Chapter Text

Another round of coughing left him gasping for air and his chest felt like it had been trampled on by a herd of Hippogriffs the way it hurt. Even drawing in a breath felt like trying to swallow a hedgehog. He shivered at the same time as it felt like he was going to burn up. Merlin, how he missed the blanket and the pillow. The Warden had taken both away the same day he noticed them, proclaiming that Voldemort might get them back if he behaved. If he behaved, he thought annoyed. Like he was some sort of pet to be trained. Then again, they had managed to ´train´ him somewhat with the rules. Saints, he was tired.

He was half aware of someone leaning over him and a cool hand on his forehead before the darkness closed in and he allowed himself to drift off.

When he came to in a coughing fit he thought he was going to cough up a lung the way each cough raked through his body. Finally able to breath he suddenly felt something pressed against his lips and an order to swallow. Something warm slid down his throat, easing the soreness and leaving behind a distinct taste of ginger. It felt good, and he couldn´t remember the last time he had something to eat or drink that he had managed to keep down.

It had started as a simple cough that had developed into a worse one, and then his chest had started to ach, as well as his throat. His head and rest of his body was pounding and he kept switching between being too warm and too cold. The last day he had been coughing up blood as well.

Stanley had dismissed the coughing as nothing and continued on with the days as always, but that morning Voldemort hadn´t manage to get to his knees without keeling over and the coughing had been worse than ever. When Stanley had seen the blood on Voldemort´s palm he had left and Voldemort hadn´t seen him since.

Now someone was in the cell. More than one from what little Voldemort managed to gather around him. Trying to think was like trying to push through a heavy fog that wouldn´t yield. Deciding that he couldn´t be bothered to care he simply curled up on his side once the cup was taken away. Something cold and long was pushed into his mouth and he belatedly realized it was a thermometer. It was left there for a little while before it was removed.

“The fever is far too high!”

The voice sounded angry and pissed of, and familiar although Voldemort couldn´t place it. He blinked and tried to focus on the conversation that was taking place over him, but all he could see was black spots dancing in front of his eyes and a buzzing sound in his ears. He started coughing again and someone moved him up into a sitting position. A cold cloth or something was placed on his neck and a pair of arms supported him as he coughed into his hand. It was shaking by the time he removed it, and he saw that there was a fair amount of blood on it before someone used a cloth to wash his hand.

Breathing was hard as it felt like he was breathing through a straw. He couldn´t get enough air down and ended up heaving, panic setting in as he didn´t get enough to breath.

“Easy,” he heard a voice mutter beside his ear as something, a blanket he thought, was draped around him. “Lay down.” He was carefully placed back down on the floor, this time a pillow was placed under his head before he could feel the person standing up and moving a way. He wanted to ask what they were arguing about, but his mouth felt like cotton.

The darkness moved at the edge of his vision and as it moved inwards he allowed himself to be sucked under.

 

***

He woke slowly. His eyelids were heavy as stones and his body felt sluggish. He lifted his hand to rub at his eyes and was surprised at the feeling of a mattress underneath him and a duvet over him. Forcing his eyes up he was met with the sight of a white ceiling with a lamp in the middle. Confused he let his eyes fall down and was surprised to see he was in a bedroom.

Using his right hand he pushed himself up into a sitting position and looked around. He was in a double bed that was covered in a navy blue duvet and pillow. On each side there was a dark brown nightstand with lamps on, the type with a metal foot and a white top. One was on and he was surprised to notice it was running on electricity. Not many wizarding homes at electricity, they preferred candles or enchanted sources of light.

The floor was a dark brown wall-to-wall carpet that worked well with the cream coloured walls. There were two windows, one on each side of the bed. On the opposite wall there was a fireplace, a wardrobe and a dresser, with a mirror on top. A desk and chair, and an empty bookshelf were against the right wall along with a door, and on the left wall there was another door.

He assumed one led into a bathroom and one into a hallway. A green, gigantic plant was standing between the door and the desk and helped to give the room a more homely feel.

Two bottles of pills on the nightstand caught his attention and he reached out and picked one of them up. Doxycyclline 50mg. He frowned as he looked at the label. According to it a Doctor Percival had issued the pills to one Tom M. Riddle a week earlier. He looked at the name of the drug again. He thought it was an antibiotic if he remembered correctly. The instructions read one pill every 12 hours.

He picked up the second bottle. Apparently sleeping pills from the information on the label. These were also issued to one Tom M. Riddle a week earlier. Might explain why he felt a bit groggy.

Where in the world was he? It wasn´t a hospital, that much was clear. Nor was it Azkaban or the Ministry. It simply looked a guestroom in some house.

He wasn’t restrained in anyway but to his surprise he found that his left arm was in a cast from the elbow and down to his fingers. He tried to wiggle the fingers a little and was rewarded with a sharp pain that radiated up his arm. He hissed and made a mental note not to do that again.

A quick inventory told him that he was mostly uninjured and that most of his previous injuries had nearly healed. His back felt better than it had in ages, and his ribs were wrapped in bandages under the t-skirt he was wearing. Pulling one of his legs up to his chest he noticed that they were wrapped in bandages and as he swung his legs out from the bed and carefully tried to stand he found that he could actually stand on his own. He couldn´t help but smile as he took a couple of careful steps. How long had it been since he had been standing and walking on his own? He could feel the lack of muscles in his legs, but the feeling of being able to move around was giving him a real thrill. He stumbled and probably looked like a new-born colt trying to walk for the first time, but he didn´t care.

Slowly he made his way over to the window and looked out. He was staring out into a street and a park that was across from the house. On the ground he could see muggles and cars moving back and forth in the snow that was falling quietly, painting the world white once more.

Curious he tried to open the window and it swung open easily, letting in the cold air and the smell of winter. He took a deep breath as he breathed in fresh air for the first time in years. The smell was wonderful and the feeling of air against his face even more so. For a moment he just stood there enjoying the feeling of peace and the fact that he seemed to have quit coughing and felt more or less in good form. A bit groggy, but that was nothing the fresh air couldn´t cure.

In the end the cold started to seep into his body and he shivered. Closing the window he made his way over to the fireplace. He stumbled slightly and had to put a hand on the dresser to support himself. A quick search made it clear the fireplace wasn´t connected to the Floo.

Opening the wardrobe he found some clothes, all in dark colours, same with the dresser. Unsure he looked between the two doors before choosing the one on the left side of the bed. It led, not surprisingly, to a bathroom. The room contained a toilet, a shower and a counter with sink and a mirror, all in a cream colour, with grey tiles on the walls and dark grey tiles on the floor. He looked at the shower. A hot shower would be heavenly. He hadn´t had one in several years. Normally Stanley brought him to a washroom, which more or less just was a room with a hose and a drain in the middle. He was normally chained kneeling up with his arms out to each side as Stanley used cold water to wash him down and then dry him with the coarsest towel imaginable.

Voldemort stared down at the cast on his arm and swore. He couldn´t take the cast into the shower. It would have to be covered with something and he had nothing to use.

Slowly he closed the door and headed for the one on the right side. He expected it to be locked. After all, who would be insane enough to leave him alone in a bedroom and not lock the door?

To his surprise the door was unlocked. The handled turning easily as he twisted it and pulled the door towards him. Frowning he stepped out onto the landing and glanced over the banister. A long elaborate stairwell led down to the ground floor four floors down. One the landing where he was standing there was one other door. He assumed it was another bedroom and ignored it.

Using the banister for support he slowly made his way down to the third floor. He noticed the elegant carvings of snakes that twisted and made up the banister. The walls where however mostly empty. No portraits or pictures. Just smooth cream coloured walls that was a contrast to the dark wooden stairs and banister. A couple of lamps that was mounted on the walls gave of a warm glow.

Reaching the third floor he was met with a hallway with several doors. One was opened enough for the light to shine out and soft music from what Voldemort assumed to be a radio could be heard. Glancing downwards towards the second and first floor, he decided to check the room on the third floor before going further down. Ideally he should probably bolt down the stairs and run for the exit, but in his condition and in this weather that would be just plain stupid.

Apparently whoever had bought him to the house had no intention of hurting him, at least not at the moment.

He stopped outside the door and peered in. It looked like a study of some kind. The music was playing a slow tune, by the sound of it Voldemort thought it was a wizarding radio. He was proven right when the music was interrupted by a voice reminding everyone to listen to the Minister speech later that night a 9 o´clock.

Slowly he reached out and pushed the door open, before walking in.

The study was small. There was a desk at the other end of the room, several bookcases along the left wall and windows against the right with bookcases in between. On the short wall to the right there was a large fireplace with a couch and two armchairs in front, a coffee table in the middle. The room was done in a light shade of wood, with brown walls and a darker brown wooden floor. Under the desk and the couch and armchairs there were identically looking carpets in a light brown colour.

The figure at the desk seemed to be engrossed in the paper he was writing on because he didn´t look up until one of the floorboards creaked as Voldemort stepped on it.

Green eyes looked up and smiled.

“Hey. You´re up.”

Voldemort couldn´t figure out what to say. Why was he in Harry Potter´s home? Was this some sort of new form for torture they had devised or something worse?

“How are you feeling?” Harry rose from the chair and came around the desk. He quickly approached and when he reached out a hand Voldemort instantly flinched back and dropped to his knees. He closed his eyes and swore. The reaction was so ingrained in him after all the years that he had reacted automatically. Harry probably wasn´t approaching to punish him for not kneeling, he most likely wanted checking for a fever or something. His thoughts was proven correctly as Harry simply put a hand on his forehead and looking pleased when it felt cool to the touch.

“I see the fever has broken. How´s the cough?”

Voldemort glanced up for a moment before focusing on his hands instead.

“Better,” he said, his throat feeling like sandpaper. Harry most have noticed because he went back to the desk and returned with a goblet in his hand. He held it out and not knowing if he should take it or not Voldemort ended up staring at it like he had never seen a goblet before. The rational part of his mind knew Harry wanted him to take the goblet and drink from it, but the more traumatized part of his brain kept reminding him of all the times he had tried to take a goblet from the Warden and all the painful ways the man had found to punish him for the act.

In the end Harry lifted the goblet to Voldemort´s lip and held it as the Dark Lord drank deeply. He tilted it so that Voldemort didn´t drink too much too fast, and took the goblet away once Voldemort indicated that he had enough. He swallowed the last of the water and cast a glance upwards.

“Thank you, My Lord.” The words came easy for some reason. Merlin, he was pathetic, he thought, closing his eyes. Three years of torture and abuse had managed to reduce him to an obedient pet. He hated himself in that moment, but he couldn´t find the will to stand back up either. The fear of what could happen kept him firmly grounded on his knees.

“Your welcome.” Harry sounded thoughtful.

Voldemort watched as Harry turned the nearest armchair around so that it was facing Voldemort and sat down. Pivoting on the spot Voldemort turned 45 degrees so that he was facing the Lord of the House. He assumed Harry was going to give him some sort of explanation on why he was currently in what he assumed was Harry´s house and not in Azkaban.

Again the thought about standing and sitting down in the other armchair occurred to him, but again the fear kept him from acting. He assumed Harry would have invited him to stand if he wanted Voldemort off his knees.

He sighed soundless. Well, apparently Harry appreciated his new, forced, manners. That was fine. He was long beyond caring about any humiliation the boy could put him through anyway. If it would keep the Gryffindor happy and away from any thoughts about horcrux hunting and Voldemort from being in pain, he would happily oblige.

“This is Grimmauld Place nr. 12. It belonged to the Black family and I inherited it when Sirius died at the Ministry several years ago. I have to admit it took a couple of years to actually make this place liveable. Took forever to get the old portraits out, not to mention all the cursed objects they had stored around. Anyway,” Harry waved a hand to dismiss the train of thought.

“It seems like waterboarding isn´t good for ones health. You developed bronchitis and pneumonia. Not to mention your fever was skyrocketing and you had trouble breathing. Because of the collar a magical healer was out of the question. Taking of the collar was also out of the question. In the end I got a special dispensation from the Wizengamot and the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to take you to a muggle doctor.”

What? Voldemort assumed he looked about as confused as he felt. Well, that explained the pills.

Harry smiled. “Yeah, I know. Not something you would approve of, but you were in such a bad condition we really didn´t have much of a choice. Seeing as the Warden isn´t one to be trusted with your health I also got permission to bring you here. Just to mention it before you get any stupid ideas about running, the house is warded and the collar is fixed with a perimeter spell, which will choke you if you try to step outside this house. The Floo is disconnected and there are no vanishing cabinets in this house. The dispensation lasts until your fever breaks and you can be returned to Azkaban, which would be now then.”

The thought of returning to that hellhole of a place made his pulse racing. He opened his mouth, but had no idea what to say. Please don’t send me back? No, he hadn´t fallen so far that he was going to beg Potter to let him stay. And on what grounds should the argument be made that he should be allowed to stay? He was a convicted criminal who was serving a lifetime sentence.

He settled for nodding. The thoughts running around in his head like a herd of wild horses.

“Why?” he finally asked.

Harry looked confused. “Why what?”

“Why did you help?”

“You were sick. The fever might have broken on it´s own, but it could also have killed the vessel your currently in, and since I don´t know how the horcruxes work exactly, I wasn’t going to risk you being turned into a wraith again or what ever happened last time. I would prefer for you to be able to continue to help me with my case.”

Purely selfish reasons then. Voldemort could accept that. He looked down at his hands and the cast. Harry seemed to notice because he continued.

“Ah, yes. The doctor took care of some of your other injuries. The arm had to be broken and set correctly before the cast could be fitted. Your back was in a horrible state of infections and open wounds. That´s mostly healed somewhat. The soles of your feet will need a little longer, but as long as the bandages stay on you should be able to stand on your own. You have two broken ribs on your right side and two cracked, as well as three bruised on the left side. The bandage around you middle should help keep them in place as they heal. The various bruises on your hips, neck and arms will fade in time. Your ankle was in a bad shape, but only sprained and has mostly healed on it´s own by now. We have kept you more or less asleep for a week only waking you to get you to eat and drink. You were hardly lucid during any of it so I don´t expect you to remember.”

Perfect. He was as good as new and in good shape to be tortured all over again. The Warden would be so pleased, so would the guards.

“I´m assuming you might be hungry?”

What, a last meal before he was ushered back to Azkaban? Nevertheless he wasn´t exactly fed regularly in Azkaban so he should take the chance to eat when he could. Still the question made his mind jump back to all the previous times the Warden had asked that same question.

Are you hungry, pet?

Would you like to eat today?

I assume you want to eat?

The voice sounded so real at Voldemort for a moment thought the Warden was in the house and felt himself freeze. The blood was pounding in his ears, and his vision blackened. He remembered the rules however and nodded. “Yes, My Lord.”

Well, you know the price, pet. The voice was teasing as the man leaned back in his chair, opening his legs. Voldemort closed his eyes. Of course, the bloody price for the food was always the same. Get the man off and he got to eat. Refuse and he would not eat that day and Stanley would beat him into submission for disobeying. Damned if you do, damned if you don´t as the muggle proverb went.

He shuffled forward and put a hand on the mans´ knees pushing his legs apart. As he settled between the legs he heard a sharp intake of breath somewhere over him. Strange, his mind thought. He couldn´t remember the Warden ever being anything other than eager. Unsure about the unusual situation he reached for the belt with his good hand, wondering slightly how he was going to get it open with just one hand.

Before he could ponder on the problem a hand grasped his wrist, stopping him. A hand lifted his chin and through the blood pounding in his ears he could hear a voice that was distinctly not the Wardens.

“-mort? Tom?”

The sound of his given name made him slam back into reality. Everything shifted into focus and he found himself kneeling before Harry, his wrist held in the younger man´s grasp and Harry´s other hand was under his chin lifting it. He blinked and tried to make sense of the situation.

“Hey, you with me, Tom?”

He wanted to snap and tell Potter his name wasn´t Tom, but he couldn´t find the words. Instead he just nodded slowly. His thoughts felt like a jumbled mess. He closed his eyes and felt the whole world tilt slightly and himself falling against something solid.

“Easy,” he heard a voice over him and a hand was pushed through his hair. “Perhaps we should get you back into bed.” 

Voldemort just kept his eyes closed and waited for the vertigo to tilt into a normal position. He opened his eyes again and stared into the fireplace. He was still sitting between Harry´s legs, this time leaning against his right thigh. His body was shaking slightly and for a moment he wondered what was wrong with him. He wasn´t used to having so little control over himself. He would have been embarrassed if it hadn´t been for everything he had been through over the last couple of years.

A flashback he realised. Harry´s words had brought forward a flashback and his mind had thought he was back in Azkaban and with the Warden, instead of in Harry´s house with Harry asking him if he wanted something to eat.

Harry was still pushing his hand through his hair and muttering nonsense. It was comforting in a way he didn´t want to identify. His breathing slowed, as did his pulse. The world came back into focus and he looked up and met the green eyes over him.

“Hey,” Harry smiled. “Back with me?”

Voldemort swallowed and nodded. Looking down he saw that Harry was still holding his wrist. He tugged slightly and the younger man let go and allowed Voldemort to pull his hand to his chest.

“I take it you had a flashback?”

He nodded again. “I´m sorry, My Lord,” he muttered, dragging a hand over his face and trying to figure out what to do.

Over him Harry laughed. “To be honest I was tempted to take you up on your offer there.”

Why didn´t you then? Voldemort thought but didn´t ask. Probably some moral conscience that got in the way he assumed.

“Do you want to go back to bed?”

“Thought you were returning med to Azkaban, My Lord?” he croaked, his voice cracking at the end.

The silence was answer enough.

He sighed. Better just get it over with and go back. “Just take me back. It won´t get any better if I go back now or after a meal.” Behind him Harry rose from the chair, leaving Voldemort on the ground, trying to compose himself enough to stand without falling down. At the moment he wasn´t sure if his legs would hold him.

“Actually, I had planed to show you this after you ate, but perhaps you should take a look at it first.” Harry walked towards his desk and picked up something. As he turned around he called out. “Kreacher.”

A pop later and an old house elf appeared in the middle of the room. It looked vaguely familiar but Voldemort couldn´t place it. Harry quickly asked him to bring up food and water and after bowing the creature disappeared.

“Here.” Harry sat back down in the chair and handed Voldemort a sealed envelope.

Confused he looked at the wax seal on the back that bore the seal of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement before turning it over. The front only said Tom M. Riddle.

“Go on.” Harry looked strangely pleased.

He broke the seal and opened the letter, quickly scanning the content. After reading the letter once he looked up at Harry before reading it once more, this time more closely. Somewhere in the middle of the letter the house elf returned with a tray with food and water that was placed on the coffee table. Voldemort hardly noticed, he was too engrossed in the letter.

Chapter Text

Harry watched from the armchair as Voldemort read through the letter once, then once more. His forehead wrinkled in what Harry assumed was confusion. Harry didn´t know what the exact wording in the letter was, but he knew some of what it contained. The question was how Voldemort would react to it. At the moment it seemed like the content didn´t quite register with the dark haired man. He was staring at the letter as if he had forgotten how to read.

Kreacher appeared with a tray of food and a bowl of porridge that was sprinkled with brown sugar and small pieces of fruit. He put it on the coffee table beside Harry´s chair and poured him a cup of tea, before disappearing with out a sound when Harry had thanked him. Voldemort didn´t seem to notice.

He blew on his tea a couple of times before carefully taking a sip from the cup. Ginger. Not his favourite, but it would be good for the sick ex Dark Lord on the floor. Ginger would help to clean up the airways and help ease the breathing when one was sick. Kreacher had made it just on the wrong side of strong for Harry´s taste, but he swallowed it down anyway. Looking up over the cup he noticed that Voldemort was no longer staring at the letter, but out into the room. He was still close enough that his clothes brushed against Harry´s right leg if he moved it slightly.

Voldemort looked better at least. A lot better than when Harry had found him in his cell with a fever of a 104 OF. The doctor had assumed the fever would break around now and it was a relief to see that the man apparently knew what he was talking about. As soon as Voldemort was completely recovered he would need to Oblivate the man unfortunately, but he would be left with a pretty handsome amount of money that good doctor would think he had won at lottery. It hadn´t been that easy to find a doctor that wouldn´t report Harry to the police after seeing the state of Voldemort.

Harry had considered just removing the collar, but the risk was too great that Voldemort would be well enough to actually use his magic before they managed to get it back on. And then there was the potential of accidental magic since the magic in him had been supressed for three years, more if one counted the time between the battle and the trial.

Luckily he had found a down on his luck doctor with a small practise at the outskirt of London who didn´t mind making a house call and keep questions to himself.

After taking another sip of the cup he placed it down on the tray and picked up the bowl of porridge and the spoon. He considered trying to get Voldemort to eat the meal by himself, but after his reaction to the question about food Harry wasn´t so sure it would be the best idea.

Three years of torture and conditioning was bound to have set a mark on the previous Dark Lord as Harry had experienced several times over the last weeks when he had visited Azkaban, and this evening. He had considered trying to get Voldemort back up on his feet when he first knelt that evening, but he figured that it would be simpler to let him act as he would normally instead of trying to force new rules through his head at that moment.

He also had to admit it was somewhat of a turn on to have Tom Riddle on his knees for once, obedient and quiet. He remembered the graveyard. How Voldemort had taunted him, made him bow before torturing him. For a moment anger flared in his mind, but he pushed it away. The anger wouldn´t help, and torturing Voldemort more wouldn´t do any good either. That didn´t mean he couldn´t let the man show a bit of humility.

“Tom,” Harry said, using his given name to be sure he gained his attention. He filled the spoon with porridge and held it out. Voldemort seemed to come back to himself and turned his head slightly, accepting the spoon without looking at what he was eating. He swallowed and looked slightly eager for more, which Harry took as a good sign. It wasn´t much he had gotten Voldemort to eat the last week and he had lost even more weight.

After a couple of more spoonful’s Harry held out the cup of tea after checking with the back of his hand over it that it wasn´t too warm to drink. Voldemort grimaced slightly at the strong taste of ginger, but didn´t comment.

“I know,” Harry laughed. “Kreacher did go a bit overboard with the ginger, but it should help with your breathing.”

Voldemort didn´t look too convinced. He still had the letter in his right and, and kept glancing down at it as if he thought it would suddenly combust and disappear. He was sitting on his side, his left arm curled in his lap. The white cast clearly visible.

The arm had actually required surgery to get the bones set correctly. Whoever that had broken it had done a good job, and when it hadn´t been healed it had set the wrong way, making the arm useless. Fortunately Harry managed to find an alcoholised surgeon who also needed money and they smuggled Voldemort into one of the small local hospitals late one night. Harry oblivated the guards and nurses, as well as the surgeon. That bit had taken a bit of convincing to get the Ministry to agree with. The Head of the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes had not been pleased, but had relented after the Minister himself had called him to his office for a meeting.

He managed to get Voldemort to eat a couple of more spoons before he became clear that he couldn´t get down more of the food. Harry glanced into the bowl and was pleased to see that at least 2/3 of the food was gone. It was more than he thought the man would eat.

Voldemort had gone back to looking at the letter and Harry ate one of the sandwiches Kreacher had made for him with ham and cheese.

“Well?” he inquired after a couple of bites.

Voldemort moved slightly, looking uncomfortable. He looked up for a moment, brown eyes looking into Harry´s green ones - they seemed to be searching for something.

“If you don´t want to consider it at all, that´s fine and I´ll return you to Azkaban tomorrow morning. If you want to consider it, then I´ll set a meeting tomorrow morning.” He finished the sandwich and called for Kreacher to come and clear away the tray.

He couldn´t help wonder what was going through the other man´s head at that moment. Confusion sure. Uncertainty perhaps. Well, this wasn´t a decision Harry could make for him.

After a long silence Voldemort finally spoke. “I will take the meeting.”

Harry smiled. “Great. I´ll send them an owl straight away.” He jumped to his feet and made his way over to the desk, sitting down and finding a blank sheet of paper and a quill. He did prefer a muggle ballpoint pen for his own notes, but to avoid confusing the wizards and witches he used a quill for correspondences. He looked up as he wrote and noticed Voldemort had moved so that he was in front of the fireplace. He had his legs drawn up to his chest, arms resting on top of his knees. He stared into the flames and seemed to be lost in his own thoughts.

Pulling out his wand Harry levitated one of the wool blankets that were sitting on one of the shelves in the bookcase closest to the windows. He let it land more or less on top of Voldemort, who seemed to startle as the fabric landed on him. Harry watched as he pulled it around himself and almost over his head. He cast a warming charm on the blanket as well before returning to his letter.

When finished he went downstairs to try and locate his owl. After Hedwige he purchased a black and brown barn owl by the name of Vince. He wasn´t nearly as special as Hedwige had been, but Vince was reliable and good at his job. He normally preferred to hang out in the drawing room on the first floor where he could look out the window from his place in one of the corners.

When Harry entered he saw that the owl was sleeping, nothing unusual at that time of day. He gently coaxed it awake and asked it to take the letter to the Ministry. After giving him a treat he opened the window and watched as Vince disappeared into the sunset. Closing the window he returned back up on the third floor and his study.

Looking at Voldemort as he entered he saw that the man had fallen asleep against the armchair. He was probably exhausted, Harry thought. He went over and carefully tried to wake him.

“Tom,” he called, slowly reaching out to touch his shoulder. He knew the man hated the name, but it was getting difficult to think of him as Voldemort, when he looked like Tom Riddle, and if this was going to work he couldn´t keep calling him Voldemort either.

Voldemort´s eyes flew open and as expected he flinched back from the hand on his shoulder, a panicked expression blooming on his face once he realized he had flinched away from the touch. Brown eyes watched him carefully. Probably waiting for some sort of reprimand, Harry thought.

“Come. You are exhausted and you´ll sleep better in a bedroom.”

The brown eyes were still wary, but Voldemort-Tom nodded his head and managed to get to his feet without assistance. For a moment Harry thought he was going to fall back down, but he only swayed for a couple of seconds before moving to follow Harry back up to the fourth floor.

The door to the guest bedroom was open and Harry gestured for Tom to enter before following him inside. He noticed the look Tom gave the bathroom door and a thought occurred to him. Tom had probably not had a decent shower during time he had spent in Azkaban. Harry couldn´t see weekly, warm showers as something being offered by the Warden or the guards.

“You want to take a warm shower before bed?” He asked.

Tom looked like he had been given a trick question and Harry sighed.

“I´m not trying to trick you.” This was getting old. “I´ll put a water repellent charm on the cast and you should be fine. There are shampoo and conditioner in the shower along with soap. Towels are under the counter. I assume you remember how to change the setting on the water? You´ll have to remove the bandages around your middle and feet.”

He walked over to the dresser and pulled out a fresh set of clothes and underwear that he handed to Tom. He lifted his wand and quickly muttered, “Impervius”, tapping his wand against the cast. That done he then placed a hand on the small of Tom´s back and more or less shoved him into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

For a moment he thought Tom wouldn´t do anything, but after a couple of minutes he heard the shower turn on and sighed. Good. He sat down on the bed and buried his head in his hand. Why had he gotten involved again? It would have been better if he never had visited Azkaban that day. Then he would have been happily ignorant of everything. Instead he had a traumatized ex Dark Lord in his house who looked like he was expecting Harry to either hurt him or abuse him most of the time.

Suddenly tired he let himself fall backwards onto the bed and closed his eyes. He really was a bloody fool with a saviour complex.

Neville, Draco, Ron and Hermione were going to give him hell for this. Of all the stupid ideas he had managed to come up with, this absolutely had to be the worst. They didn´t know anything yet, though. As far as they knew he had been home sick for a week with the flue. The flue wasn´t serious, but it was enough to keep them from trying to visit, especially Hermione who was three months pregnant. He had talked to them over the Floo however, assuring them that he was fine and that Kreacher was looking after him. He had to fake a cough and sniffles, but as far as he knew they had bought the act.

Telling them he was home nursing Voldemort back to health would probably not have gone over as well. They would most likely have brought him to St. Mungo’s before he could open his mouth to explain.

A pop announced the arrival of Kreacher who bowed and held out a letter. Apparently Vance had returned. Harry thanked him and broke the seal on the letter folding it out. He smiled. Good, they had a meeting at 10 o´clock the next morning at the Ministry. The letter was signed Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic.

He needed to find a winter cloak for Tom to wear. It was freezing outside with the temperature dropping to 5OF. And shoes, and some warm clothes. Harry frowned. Getting up from the bed he returned to his own bedroom next door and pulled out some clothes he thought would fit the dark wizard. It didn´t matter if they weren´t Tom´s exact size, he could use magic to make them fit. Returning to the guest bedroom he put the clothes on the desk.

Casting a quick Incendio spell at the fireplace he watched as the flames took hold of the wood and started to burn. He sat back on the bed and twirled his wand between his fingers.

The shower was still running and Harry assumed Tom was enjoying his first warm shower in three and a half year. It took a good while before he could hear the water getting turned off. A little while later the door opened and Tom emerged. He seemed to hesitate before coming into the room and before Harry could open his mouth to tell him to get into bed he had knelt down. Great, absolutely fabulous. Harry sighed. He rose from the bed and made a gestured towards it with his hand.

“Come on, get into bed. We have a meeting at the Ministry at 10 o´clock and you look like you need a good nights sleep.” He waited as Tom slowly crawled under the covers.

Was it his imagination or was Tom actually getting more and more submissive and obedient? He would have thought it to be the other way around. Harry had more or less expected Tom to jump back into his arrogant, annoying self once he realized he was out of the Wardens grasp. Apparently he had been gravely mistaken.

Instead of pondering on the question he went over to the nightstand and took a pill from each of the boxes. He handed them to Tom before walking into the bathroom and filling a glass with water that he handed to Tom when he came back. Tom swallowed the pills without commenting and placed the glass on the nightstand before curling up on his side and closing his eyes.

“Sleep well,” Harry said before flipping the switch to turn of the light on his way out. He closed the door and wondered for a moment if he should lock it, but decided against it. His own room was heavily warded and the charm on the collar would make it impossible for Tom to enter without permission.

 

***

 

Harry wasn´t sure what Tom was feeling once they arrived at the Atrium on level 8 at the Ministry of Magic. Tom hadn´t been there for years as far as Harry knew. At his trial he had been taken directly from one of the holding cells at the Ministry and to Courtroom ten on level 10, just below the Department of Mystery. It was the same courtroom they would be going to this time, but the whole of Wizengamot wouldn´t be in session.

They came out from one of the fireplaces furthest down on the left side. Tom stumbled a bit, mostly due to the fact that he wasn´t used to standing on his feet for longer period of times. He was dressed in a black winter cloak, grey scarf and grey gloves and looked like any other visitor to the Ministry. The collar was hidden beneath his scarf and since the papers had never printed a picture of his new looks, at least not as far as Harry knew, there was no reason to fear that he would be recognized.

He had warned Tom against doing anything stupid while they were outside, and reminded him that the proximity spell was still active. Tom had simply nodded without saying anything and Harry got the distinct feeling Tom was looking forward to getting out into fresh air, even if they were only going to the Ministry.

The floor sparkled in polished dark wood as they passed between the people moving back and forth. Tom drew his fair amount of looks too, but Harry knew that was because of his handsome looks, and not because someone suspected Lord Voldemort to be strolling through the Atrium along side the Saviour of the Wizarding World.

They moved past the Fountain of Magical Brethren that was standing halfway down the room. It had been restored after the final battle, having been completely destroyed by Voldemort during the duel in Harry´s fifth year. He could see Tom looking at the fountain with an unreadable expression as they went past it.

Eric Munch was sitting at the security stand as usual. He had worked at the Ministry for most of his life and was responsible for registering the wands of every visitor who arrived at the Ministry as well as issuing Visitor’s passes. He glanced up as Harry approached him and smiled.

“Harry! How are you doing mate?”

“Well, thank you, and you? How are the kids?”

Eric beamed and started telling him about his oldest daughter who had just gotten her third child, a girl, which was doing just fine. Harry nodded as he spoke and regretted asking. As the tale came to an end he nodded and smiled at the appropriate places. Tom looked to have lost interest in the conversation a long time ago and was quietly studying the people walking back and forth. Harry assumed this was the first time Tom had been out in public looking like himself.

“But, I´m wasting your time, Harry. You and your – friend, have an appointment at 10 o´clock if I remember correctly? If you could just hand over your wand for registration, Mr. Riddle, then you can get going.” Eric smiled at Tom.

Harry had to bit the inside of his chin before he burst out laughing at the surprised look on Tom´s face upon being addressed as Mr. Riddle. It took a couple of seconds before Tom seemingly understood that Eric was waiting for a response.

“I don´t have one with me,” Tom finally said, glancing over at Harry.

“Oh, of course. That´s fine. I´ll just need a drop of your blood then to verify your identity.”

It wasn´t until the three drops of blood hit the paper that it suddenly dawned on Harry how much of a bad idea that had been. For a fleeting moment he expected the security alarm to go off and for the Aurors to come storming from all sides ready to apprehend the Dark Lord Voldemort. But, to his surprise, nothing happened. Craning his neck slightly he saw that the blood had spread out over the paper identifying Tom as Tom Marvolo Riddle, born 31th of Decemeber 1926. He could see Eric frown a bit at the birthdate looking between the paper and Tom, before apparently dismissing the whole thing as a filing error.

“Great! Here.” He handed over a white card with red letters that showed a large V in the middle and the words Visiting pass underneath. Tom clipped it to his cloak and Eric waved them past the golden gates. The gates automatically recognized Harry as an employee of the Ministry and let them both pass with out problem.

“Where are we going?” Tom asked as they entered the elevator.

“Courtroom ten on level ten, but we have to take the stairs from level 9 as the elevator doesn´t go down to level 10,” Harry explained, pushing the button for level 9. The elevator doors closed and they were yanked backwards and the downwards. It didn´t take many seconds for them to arrive at level 9.

“Level 9 – The Department of Mysteries,” the voice announced as the door opened and they stepped out into the dark corridor.

“This way,” Harry nodded and walked down the hallway. He pushed open the door on the left side of the one that led to the Department of Mysteries. They moved down the stairs and came into the long corridor that opened up into courtroom ten.

Up ahead they could hear two voices talking and Harry could see Tom tense slightly from the corner of his eyes. The last time Tom had been in courtroom ten had been his trial. A trial, which had been rather swift, as Tom had refused a lawyer and the evidence against him, was overwhelming. Harry hadn´t attended. He saw no reason to. He had done what everyone had expected of him and defeated the man in a duel. The rest was of no interest to him. He had hoped at that time that the battle had been the last time he had seen Voldemort, but fate didn´t seem to want it like that.

They entered the open floor of the courtroom and were greeted by two wizards. One was the Minister himself, Kingsley Shacklebolt. The other was an older man, who looked to be about Dumbledore’s age. Harry recognized him as Marcus Sommerseth, the current Chief Warlock who was also the Head of the Department for Magical Law Enforcement and had been the one to lead Tom´s trial.

Kingsley smiled and came forward to shake Harry´s hand. He gave Tom a nod but didn´t hold out his hand. Tom gave an incline of his head and muttered a polite “Minister”.

Marcus came also shook Harry´s hand before turning towards Tom.

“Hello, Mr. Riddle.”

“Your Honour,” Tom replied, looking tense and somewhat uncomfortable.

Not sure how this was supposed to unfold, Harry leaned against one of the walls and waited to see if either of the two men in front of him would take the lead.

“Well, we know why we are here and I assume, seeing as you are her Mr. Riddle, that you might be interested?” Sommerseth crossed his arms over his chest. “But, before we go into the details I would like a word alone with Mr. Riddle.” He looked from Kingsley to Harry. “Gentlemen, if you would please wait in hallway.”

Somewhat surprised Harry and Kingsley shared a look before moving down the corridor and into the stairwell, shutting the door behind them.

***

Marcus looked at the twenty-something looking youth in front of him, and had to remind himself yet again that this actually was the Dark Lord. The boy in front of him looked like nothing more than another Hogwart´s student that had come to the Ministry to apply for a job or to take a meeting.

“It´s been a couple of years, Mr. Riddle.” He smiled gently at the boy noting the tense shoulders and the eyes that didn´t seem to leave the floor. Well, something had changed at least.

“Yes, sir.”

Marcus nodded. “We have questioned Warden Andrews and the Auror Stanley and found Lord Potter´s claims to be true. Although an apology from the Ministry won´t do much good, I still want to express that this kind of behaviour from Aurors guarding the prisoners at Azkaban is not tolerated, not matter the crimes they might have committed.” He had been astonished to learn how the guards and the Warden had threated one of the prisoners in their care, and had promptly dismissed every one of them, and they were currently awaiting trial for their crimes.

That got a reaction. Riddle looked up, seemingly surprised, before he managed to school his features into a neutral mask. He simply nodded.

“We have appointed a new Warden and replaced several of the guards. Unfortunately I can´t guarantee that similar crimes won´t happen again during your imprisonment, as you are well aware your crimes against our society are sever and by all rights you should have been executed.”

He could see Riddle pale slightly at that statement, but it was true. The sentence he had passed had been one of execution, but after being informed by Lord Potter about the horcruxes it had been overturned for one of life in prison. They had talked about hunting down the horcruxes, but as Voldemort seemed to be safe and sound in Azkaban they had not bother too much with the search.

“Alas, Lord Potter informs me you have been great help on one of his cases. Before we proceed I´m bound by law to inform you of your right to have a lawyer present in these proceedings if you want. It that something you want?”

“No, sir.”

Good, Marcus thought. That would speed things up. The boy was intelligent enough anyway to hold his own. Marcus could still remember the copies of the results from the O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts that had been a part of the documents during the trial. To this date no one had come close to beating Riddle´s scores.

“Well, let´s begin.” Marcus waved his wand and a blue quill and a parchment rose from the banister between the open courtroom and the rows of seats along the wall. He also made a gesture towards the chair in the middle of the room, indicating that Riddle were to sit. The quill darted back and fort for a moment before it started to scribble. After a minute or so it stopped and peered over the top of the parchment. The black dots in the blue feathers almost made it look like it had eyes.

“This is an official hearing to consider changing the verdict permanently or temporary for one Tom Marvolo Riddle after a petition from Lord Harry James Potter, with the support of The Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt.

Mr. Riddle was on October the 4th 1998 sentenced to be executed, a verdict that was changed on October the 10th to a life sentence in Azkaban with his magic bound. The honourable judge and Chief Warlock Marcus Sommerseth is preceding.

According to the Wizarding Penal Code taken into effect on the 3rd of March 1780 the Chief Warlock can alter a verdict if the reasons behind the petition give grounds. In this case Mr. Riddle has suffered abuse at the hands of the Aurors set to guard him at Azkaban, this in direct contradiction with the Fair treatment of Prisoners Code.

The verdict cannot be changed if the convicted himself refuses. Therefore, I ask, Mr. Riddle, are you here willingly and of your own free will to follow these proceedings with hopes that they will lead to a change in your verdict as described in the court documents you have been given before these proceedings began?”

Marcus stopped and waited for Riddle to answer. He couldn´t do anything unless the boy actually wanted him to, no matter how insistent Lord Potter had been.

“Yes, I am, Your Honour.”

“And you have the right to have a lawyer present for these proceedings, to represent your interest. Do you wave your right to have an attorney present?”

“Yes, Your Honour.”

Marcus nodded. Good.

“Lord Potter has petitioned that you be released on a temporary rehabilitation program working with the Aurors for a year. If this arrangement seems to be beneficial for everyone involved, the contract can be extended with five years the first time, then for 10 years at the time. Should you at anytime want to terminate the contract you can do so, which will result in your original verdict of life in prison will take effect and you will be transported to Azkaban or another prison specified by the Ministry of Magic. You will be in Lord Potters care for the duration of the rehabilitation program. Do you have something to add regarding the petition?”

Riddle shook his head. Marcus nodded and signalled that the quill was to stop writing for the moment. Instead he walked down the corridor and told Lord Potter and the Minister they could come back. He was ready to rule on the petition.

Once they were back he nodded to the quill, which promptly started to write again.

“I have heard the petition set forth by Lord Potter, with the backing of the Minister of Magic. After deliberation I find that I cannot accept the petition as it has been set forth.

Out of the corner of his eyes he could see the disappointment on Lord Potters face.

“However, it is the Wizengamot’s right to make a new suggestion for an alternative verdict that the convicted can choose to accept or decline.” Three sets for eyes were watching him closely now.

“Mr. Riddle, you have been convicted for treason against the British Wizarding World, for murder and torture of both witches, wizards and muggles. For the full list I here refer to the court documents of case 98/35187-CR. I cannot in good faith simply let you go free on a work release program, even if it is to help our Aurors. The public expects the Ministry to uphold the law and to let a convicted mass murder simply off with something akin to community service is just not possible. I do however recognize that you have been ill treated by our government, for which we are at fault. However the severity of your crimes cannot be overlooked.

I am willing however to respect the right of Conquest should Lord Potter make such a claim. In which case I´ll accept that you are stripped of name and citizenship in the magical world and turned over to Lord Potter as his property to work for him in any way he sees fit to make up for your crimes. If Lord Potter then wishes to let you accompany him at work and that is all right with the Department Head, then the court will have no objections as long as the Code of Conquest and the Code of Indenture Slaves are followed.

If Lord Potter decides not to claim his right, or you decline to accept, you will be returned to Azkaban as soon as these proceedings are over.”

Lord Potter looked like question mark. Riddle on the other hand looked like someone had suddenly poured a bucket of ice cold water over his head. The only one not affected was Kingsley as the two of them had discussed this outcome before Lord Potter had arrived with Riddle in tow.

“Lord Potter?” He inquired.                                                   

Chapter Text

Azkaban really hadn´t changed over the years, Harry thought as he followed an Auror he didn´t know thorough the stone corridors of the triangular shaped building. Or, one thing had changed. The Dementors were no longer guarding the prison. The first thing Kinglsey had done as Minister had been to terminate the contract with the Dementor Lord, who hadn´t been too happy about it. Free access to souls of the prisoners had been a sweet deal for a race of creatures that thrived on the happy memories of poor humans. Not so ideal for the prisoners, seeing as they normally went completely mental after a year or two. Fine and all if they were serving lifetime sentences, but a bit more impractical for those who were supposed to return to the society after serving out their time.

Harry wasn´t sure exactly where the Dementors had relocated to, and Kingsley had been rather tight-lipped about it, but from the gossip Harry had heard around the office it seemed like the Dementor Lord had gotten a similar deal with the Chinese Ministry of Magic, as they enjoyed with the British. If that was true, then Harry was more than happy. Better to have the foul creatures half way around the globe, than just outside the Isle.

They reached the correct cell and the Auror murmured a quick unlocking spell, and opened the door for Harry. “I´ll be just outside.”

This one was apparently new, Harry thought. Normally the guards didn´t bother with escorting him to the cell, or waiting outside. Well, he assumed this one was just following protocol. He thanked him and entered.

The cell looked exactly like last time, with the exception that the hay had been removed and someone had put in a cot with blankets and pillows. Other than that it looked the same with the wobbly table and the chair that apparently still was alive. Harry was starting to wonder if it wouldn´t be better to either repair it or put it out of it´s misery. At the moment it was kind of neither here nor there and it was like playing Russian roulette every time you sat down on it.

Dismissing the thoughts about the chair, Harry´s eyes landed on the kneeling figure in front of the bed. He sighed. Still kneeling then it seemed. He debated trying to explain to the dark haired youth that he wasn’t expected to kneel, but thought better of it. One, Tom looked very good on his knees (Harry hated to admit it, even to himself), and two, it didn´t hurt Tom to show some humility. A therapist would probably disagree with that logic, but Harry wasn´t planning on asking one.

The low voice was soft and familiar. “My Lord.”

“Tom,” Harry greeted, eying the chair with suspicion before slowly sitting on it. For a moment both he and Tom seemed to be holding their breath waiting to see if it would hold up for another day.

Apparently it would, Harry thought, placing his wand and a folder on the table. Looking up he saw Tom slowly change position so that he was no sitting with his back against the frame of the cot. Still staying on the floor then. He did how ever look much better. There was a fresh bruise on his right cheek, but other than that he seemed unmarked and his movements didn´t suggest that there was any damaged under the clothes.

He noticed a tray on the cot with an empty plate on it and goblet. On the floor there was a jug that Harry hadn´t seen right away as it was almost the same colour as the floor, and was partly hidden behind the corner of the cot. Apparently he had eaten. That was good. It seemed like the Minister had managed to clear up the corruption and problems among the employees then.

Tom was fidgeting with the cast on his arm, using his right to pick at the end of it, fingers scraping along the top as if he was trying to pull of one of the layers. Eyes firmly fixed on his fingers. The cast would stay on for 4 more weeks according to the doctor. Ideally they should then get an x-ray to se how it was progressing and decide whether or not to take the cast of. Then he would need some physiotherapy to build up the strength in his arm again. Harry wasn´t completely sure how that was going to be accomplished, especially since the patient in question was severing a lifetime sentence in a prison in the magical world.

The silence stretched out for a few more seconds, both Harry and Tom wondering which of them would be the first to speak.

“Why did you say no?”

***

The shadows danced in the light as the sun slowly sank down behind the horizon, signalling the end of another winter day. As the sun disappeared so did the shadows as they flickered once more before fading from existent, only a few stayed, wavering in the light from the streetlights in Diagon Alley.

One shadow stood out as it moved along side the buildings, keeping to the darkness just outside the reach of the streetlights. The hour wasn´t late. There were plenty of wizards and witches of all ages out in the streets. Looking in the windows, buying food and drink from the street carts and generally just enjoying the beautiful winter evening. Christmas was approaching, as was Yule. Some celebrated Yule, mostly the purebloods as it was a tradition they had grown up with. The halfbloods and muggleborns seemed to prefer Christmas as the muggle tradition was stronger in those families. Some mixed the two together and made something new.

The moving shadowed sneered under his hood. Mixing them together was as close to blasphemy one could get. Yule was an old tradition, kept intact by those who knew how. Christmas was something Christianity had made up to try and incorporate old traditions with the Christian ones, to make the transition from believing in heathen gods to God and Jesus easier. They even managed to proclaim that the son of God was born on Christmas Eve. Quite a feat considering the man wasn’t born at all that month. Muggles seemed to believe everything you told them if you just repeated it many enough times and sprinkled some sort of reward on top. It was like watching sheep.

Stepping out of the path of a running child he made his way down the main street. Ideally he would have preferred not to be here at this time of day, or at all for that matter, but this time he didn´t have much choice.

Turning of the main street, he entered the small access path to Knockturn Alley, leaving behind the lofty, carefree Christmas shoppers and entering the more quiet and darker Alley. There were no shops in Knockturn Alley that was decorated with Christmas décor. Had there been he was sure the owner of said establishment wouldn´t have lasted long.

Quickly side steeping a vampire that was lurking just outside The White Wyvern, he pushed the heavy, brown oak door open and entered. Vampires, he frowned. Awful creatures. They where slaves to their own desires and their constant need and hunger for blood made them completely unreliable as an ally. Or, the more established families like the Dragons in Transylvania and Løwenborg family in Sweden where large enough and old enough, not to mention sane enough, to be worth talking to. There were a couple of other families in Greece and Italy too if he remembered correctly.

The pub was half full when he entered. Good. It was just enough people. And they were from the looks of things, just drunk and loud enough. Keeping his hood up, he slid past them. At a table near the back he found who he was looking for: a bald, short man with too much around his middle and too little in his head. He seemed to be engrossed in his half full glass of firewhiskey and didn´t hear him approach. The watered-down useless excuse for whiskey they served at the place didn´t seem to be to the man´s liking though.

“Mr. Tassler,” the Shadowed greeted, finally removing his hood.

“Oh, there you are. I didn´t see you there,” Mr. Tassler looked confused for a moment. Apparently surprised that the empty seat across from him suddenly wasn´t empty anymore. “Can I get you anything?” He made a gesture with his glass towards the bar.

If I want to get poisoned, sure, the man thought. Still, he answered. “Same as you,” he said with a tight smile nodding towards the glass. There wasn´t a chance in seven hells that he was drinking that, but it would look suspicious to be sitting in a bar of this calibre, and not having a drink in front of you. He could always spill it at some point or another, accidently of course.

Just another drunk wizard drowning his sorrows in alcohol, he thought looking around the room. Unfortunately these places were the best to conduct meetings and conversations one didn´t want others to overhear. The room was filled with just enough drunk and loud people, and creatures he conceded noting that the vampire had entered and was no sitting at the bar, that it was near on impossible to overhear something.

A far from clean glass was put in front of him and for a moment he just stared down at the amber liquid wondering for the second time how anyone who cared for their health would dare to drink anything the bar served.

“What happened?” He tore his eyes from the drink and looked up to meet the blue ones across the table. Tassler shifted in his seat and cleared his throat.

“Ay, yes,” he muttered, picking up his glass and taking an unhealthy swallow of the brewage. The Shadow managed not to flinch at the sight. “They broke through the wards. I´m not sure how.”

The Shadow frowned. “I was assured that the wards were well beyond the wardbreakers of the Ministry´s capacity. How is that possible? And with four junior Aurors working the case. Well, fair enough to mention that one of them is your British lot’s Golden Boy, but still.” ´

Tassler emptied his glass and mumbled something incoherently.

“Well?” He could feel anger bleeding into his voice and made an effort to contain it. It wouldn´t do to get angry with Tassler. He was just the messenger, and he was too easy to scare if the Shadow did loose his temper. And at this point in time he really didn´t have time to find a new one. One the other hand, he might have to if the man managed to kill himself by drinking the whiskey.

“It would seem as they might have gotten some outside help.” The words seemed to be forced out in a rush and the Shadow barely managed to understand the tangled together sentence.

A thought occurred to him. “What about the container. Do they know what it is?” That would be a problem. If they had just entered the warehouse without finding anything, then that was fine. He could fix that. If they had discovered the container and it´s use however, then that was a whole other problem. A big problem.

Tassler looked uncertain. “I don´t see how they could have figured that out.”

“You also told me they couldn´t break through the wards because of the precautions we took, and look – here we are.” The Shadow hissed, nearly managing not to slam his fist into the table to underline his point. It landed on the table, but softer than intended. Tassler still flinched. “Who is this source then? It can´t be a run of the mill criminal. Lucius Malfoy? He flipped on all his brothers and sisters after the war, but as far as I know this I magic beyond what he is capable of.”

“Not exactly.” Tassler seemed to be trying to become smaller, fiddling with his empty glass, shoulders hunched over and his head bent almost down to the glass.

Annoyed, the Shadow reached over and exchanged the empty glass for his full one. If he had to get the man drunk to get the words out of him then so be it. The glass was shaking so badly when Tassler lifted it to take a drink that the Shadow was happy it was only half full or the whiskey would have been all over the table, and Tassler. The urge to strangle the man was back.

He watched as Tassler gulped down half the whiskey and put the glass back down. He used the back of his hand to wipe over his mouth, then seemed to think again and gulped down the rest of the whiskey. The Shadow felt his eyebrows go up. The man seemed scared, actually genuinely afraid. He could see the whiskey working however as the trembling stopped and a glazed look was directed at him.

“The Dark Lord.”

The Shadow flinched. Damn it. “What about him?” He forced out, trying to disguise the flinch as him just leaning back into the chair. He wasn´t too sure he succeeded.

Tassler just stared at him and the Shadow put two and two together and managed to come up with the correct answer. Oh, damn.

“The source is the Dark Lord? How do you know that?” He demanded, leaning across the table and grasping Tassler´s right wrist.

“I, he – you see,” the man was stuttering and the Shadow closed his grip more tightly around the wrist, making Tassler shake even more and trying to get his hand free from the iron grip. Coming to the conclusion that perhaps this wasn´t the way to go, the Shadow released the wrist and sat back.

“Go on,” he encouraged.

“I, my wife,” he began stuttering. “She saw, at work you understand, she saw him. Apparently several times. And, I, well, seeing as they broke through the wards – one could assume – it seems logical. Ehm…” he stopped. The Shadow stared. He had no idea where Tassler´s wife worked, or even that he had a wife.

“And your wife works where?”

“A, eh, ah – she´s a secretary.”

The Shadow sighed. Did he really need Tassler? It couldn´t be that hard to find another, perhaps more competent messenger? “How nice. And she works where?” He tried again.

“Az-Azkaban.” At least they were getting somewhere.

He dragged a hand over his eyes and hair. Closing his eyes he tried yet again. “And she saw who visiting whom?” Actually he could guess the answer to that question, but asked anyway.

“Potter, he, he visited Him. Several times.”

He had to agree with Tassler that it seemed plausible that Potter had gotten help from the Dark Lord. The wards wouldn´t have been a match for the dark wizard, nor would finding out about the container. That complicated things, a lot of things. He hated complications. A better question however was why would the Dark Lord help Potter in the first place? As far as the Shadow knew there was no lost love between them, and the Dark Lord was serving a lifetime sentence in prison. What could Potter have offered to get him to help. Why had he gone to Him in the first place to ask for help?

So many questions, and absolutely no answers.

“This complicates things. I need to you to find out exactly what your wife knows, and I need you to reach out to Van der Hoest and tell him to delay the next shipment.”

Tassler nodded, probably eager to get home to his wife. He rose from the chair and the Shadow followed, bringing his hood back up as they pressed between the other patrons to reach the door. Outside the temperature had dropped even more and the wind had picked up sending snow flying all over. The cold had driven most of the people indoors and the street outside was more or less deserted.

“And, Tassler, either you get your wife to tell the whole story, or I´ll personally come by to ask her.”

***

(A week earlier.)

“Lord Potter?” Marcus asked again. The young lord seemed to have become frozen in thoughts and Marcus had to restrain the urge to wave a hand in front of his face to get his attention. On the other side of him, Riddle was still sitting in the chair, looking somewhere between concerned and worried.

Lord Potter seemed to be able to gather his wits about him and dragged a hand through his hair before the green eyes went from Marcus to Riddle and then back to Marcus. Marcus waited. He was more or less sure that Lord Potter didn´t know how to make a claim of Conquest, nor what one was. Although he might have given the boy some idea when mentioning Riddle becoming his property.

“I´m not turning him into a slave!” The anger in the voice was a bit unexpected, but Kingsley had warned him that Potter probably wouldn´t think the whole idea was a good one and might refuse. Marcus on the other hand argued that it would probably be Riddle who refused. He couldn´t see the Dark Lord giving up his freedom just to get out of prison. Either way they had discussed the problem and as Marcus had explained, they couldn´t just let Riddle out of prison and give him a job - he was the the most dangerous criminal in the country. That would undermine the whole justice system and put the Ministry in a bad light.  

“Technically it´s an indenture contract,” Marcus said before he could think better of it. There really wasn´t that much of a difference between the two terms other than in the eyes of the law. In the common world they were more or less seen as the same thing. He didn’t feel the need to add the last part.

Lord Potter just stared at him. “I don´t care.” He waved a hand towards Riddle. “I´m not taking away his freedom and turning him into nothing more than a household pet. Although I´m assuming even they and house elves are above, what did you call it, idendturees or something?”  

“Harry,” Kingsley started, holding out both his hands and taking a step towards the boy. “We can´t just release him with 3 year served on his sentence. How would that look to the public? The most dangerous wizard of our time, simply released on a work program?”

Marcus watched as some of the anger bled from the young lord and he seemed to calm down somewhat. Interesting enough, Marcus thought, the dark lord in question hadn´t spoken a word. He had gotten up from the chair and was pacing back and forth, keeping an eye and an ear on the conversation by the look of things, but not saying anything. One should think the prospect of being stripped of ones identity and rendered nothing more than a possession would bring forth a verbal reaction.

“And how is this better?”

Actually that was a valid question. It was better for the Ministry as they could stand behind the law, which give Lord Potter right to claim Riddle. It was an old law, which catered mostly to the whole eye for eye philosophy that he knew a lot of the pureblood families would accept. As for the rest of the public, Marcus assumed seeing Riddle stripped of everything and forced to serve the Saviour of the Wizarding World would be humiliating enough to satisfy even them. If Riddle actually managed to behave in accordance with the Code, then there should be no complaints of him getting of easy. There was also the nice little fact that Lord Potter intended to use what Riddle knew to help the Aurors, so one could make the argument that it would be better for all parties if Lord Potter claimed the Dark Lord.

The Ministry would appear strong, the Dark Lord would get what he deserved, the Aurors would get help, Lord Potter would get to help Riddle and Riddle could stay out of Azkaban. Wasn´t that what the muggles used to call a win-win situation?

Marcus decided to jump in before Kingsley could manage to romanticize the whole thing to sell Harry the deal.

“Upon defeating Mr. Riddle, a debt appeared between you in the eyes of Lady Magic. If you wish you can claim the right of Conquest, a claim that will take precedence before any court issued rulings. In other words if you claim that you want him, the court has to accept. Normally such a thing would have been set forth right after the final battle, but there are no time limits as far as I know.”

Lord Potter looked slightly confused. “And what exactly does the claiming him mean?”

Marcus shrugged. “I would assume it sounds more or less like it is. You get his life. He will belong to you and is to serve you in anyway you see fit, until his debt is paid. He will be stripped of name and citizenship, which means he can´t own anything, sell or buy anything, well you get the drill. Only difference between a normal indenture slave and this claim is that you can´t sell him.” There was a couple of other differences too, but Marcus figured it was best to perhaps keep to the basics for this explanation. He considered telling the boy it was like getting a human dog, but he didn´t think Riddle would appreciate the comparison.  

“Until his debt is paid?” Potter repeated looking even more confused.

Yes. It would have been nice to know up front, exactly what Magic meant Riddle´s debt looked like, but that wasn´t possible. Magic decided herself when and how a debt was paid. That wasn´t something they could interfere with. It was the one weak spot in this plan. If and when Magic decided Riddle´s debt was paid, then he would be released and his name and citizenship restored. They couldn´t put him back in Azkaban if Lady Magic decided that was two weeks from now.  

“Yes.” Marcus didn´t elaborate though. They could go through all the details later.

Riddle was still pacing back and forth. He seemed somewhat anxious, and Marcus wondered if he was hoping Lord Potter would agree, or hoping he wouldn´t. If he said yes, then Riddle could still say no, but if Potter said no, then there was no possibility for Riddle force him.  

Although, legally the claim didn´t rest upon consent of the defeated party, but Marcus would prefer that Riddle willingly signed his life away instead of it being forced from him.

“What is the Code of Identure Slaves?”

It was basically just a how to behave book for slaves. Marcus wasn´t sure Riddle had ever read that particular law, but from his reaction earlier he apparently had heard about both of them.  

“A guide on behaviour and general rules of conduct.”

To his surprise it was Riddle who answered. All three turned to look at him. He shrugged, coming to a stand still with his arms loosely wrapped around himself, but he offered no explanations as to how he knew this.

“Yes,” Marcus confirmed, looking back to Lord Potter. The youth seemed to think about it, looking at Riddle, who was busy studying the floor and didn´t notice. Marcus had a feeling he knew which way this was going to go.  

“No. I´m not issuing that claim.” The voice was firm.

Was it his imagination, or did Riddle seem disappointed? It was just a brief change in his posture that was gone in a blink of an eye, but it made Marcus wonder.

He exchanged a look with Kinglsey and then nodded. “Very well.” Taking out his wand he produced a patronus in the shape of a goose that took of down the hall towards the prisoner’s entrance to fetch the two Aurors that was waiting there. “Mr. Riddle, these gentlemen will escort you back to Azkaban. I´m assuming you won´t give them any trouble?”

Riddle looked at the approaching Aurors. Both had their wands out and looked a bit apprehensive at the thought of being in charge of delivering the Dark Lord back to prison. “No, sir.”

They took up the places on either side of the boy and the oldest one held up a set of handcuffs and proceeded to chain Riddle´s hands behind his back. Riddle didn´t do or say anything he simply let the men work, and when one of them lightly tugged on his arm, he allowed himself to be led down towards the entrance they had come from.

  A thought suddenly struck Marcus and he called after them. “Mr. Riddle?”

The trio stopped and Riddle turned his head.

“Just out of curiosity, if Lord Potter had made the claim, would you have accepted?”  

Brown eyes flickered from Marcus to Lord Potter, then back.

Chapter Text

“Why did you say no?”

Harry looked thoughtful. He wasn´t fidgeting or showing any other signs of being nervous, he simply seemed to think about his answer.

Voldemort stopped picking at the cast. He had been doing that a lot the last week, and the end of the cast was becoming frayed. That and thinking. He had been doing a lot of thinking. Not that there was much else to do in the cell.

The Aurors had been polite and professional. They had escorted him back and handed him over to two new guards Voldemort had never seen before. Luckily these two had barely looked him over before taking him to the registration room. Here he had been signed back into Azkaban, he assumed Harry had made sure he had been signed out, before being given new prison clothes and left in the showers to take a shower and change. The guards had been watchful, but not cruel or in anyway anything other than polite. Voldemort had appreciated the privacy for once and the opportunity to take a warm shower. Apparently Sommerseth had been honest about making changes to the prison.

His cell had been upgraded with a cot, with blankets and pillows, and except for the brown haired Auror delivering a tray of food twice a day, he hadn´t seen anyone all week. It felt strange after the years of abuse and unwanted attention to suddenly be left completely alone for a week, or nearly alone.

He had to admit he had been surprised when Harry had taken him to the Ministry for the hearing. Even more surprised the young Lord had managed to get him the hearing. He wondered for a moment how Harry had managed that. Getting the Wizengamot to consider changing the sentence of the most dangerous dark wizard of their time couldn´t have been easy. Unfortunately Voldemort had known the moment he saw Sommerseth that there was no way the man would accept Harry´s proposal. It would mean letting him of all to easy.

The surprise however had been Sommerseth´s counterproposal. The one Harry had turned down. Magical Conquest was an old rule, barely ever used as most duels of this kind ended with one of the parties dead and buried, not alive and in prison. It was however still valid, and there was no time limit to it.

His first reaction had been to ask the man if he had lost all his marbles. Why in the world would he let Harry turn him into nothing more than – what had Harry called it again? A household pet? Why would he put himself under Harry´s control like that, let him strip away both his name and freedom?

Luckily Harry had been as opposed to the idea as Voldemort himself was. That was, until a couple of days ago.

Sommerseth hadn´t fired every guard in Azkaban unfortunately and one of the ones that had been good friends with Stanley was still there. Gunderson hadn´t been happy to learn that Stanley was facing charges for making sure Voldemort got what Gunderson labelled as “what he deserved”. The man had explained this in great detail while Voldemort had been twisting on his knees, trying to get air into his lungs. It had ended with a solid backhand across his face, which had sent him reeling to the floor, watching as stars danced before his eyes. Gunderson had then placed his foot on top of his right hand and pressed down until Voldemort saw black and for once considered begging the guard not to break his other hand.

Fortunately Gunderson had stopped short of breaking anything and left, promising that Voldemort would still get what he deserved, new Warden or not.

He could of course tell this to Harry, who would get the man fired, but he didn´t. He knew that no matter how many guards Harry managed to replace, the underlying hate towards him would still be there, and there would be enough guards over the years who would be happy to abuse their positions and power. Harry wouldn´t always come around looking for help on some odd case or another.

Merlin, he was tired, and now that he was somewhat healed psychically, he could feel how much the last three years had affected his mind. He hated that his mind seemed more content to kneel and obey than to fight and lash out. It made him feel like he had lost a part of himself, the one that had made him the most dangerous wizard of all times. But, at the same time he didn´t care. He was exhausted. A lifetime sentence was what it was, and he wasn´t getting out of Azkaban. Nearly all of his followers where either dead or had betrayed him to save themselves. The only way out would be the blasted claim.

The bloody deal that would get him out but at a high price. His initial thought had been that it was too high, but after a week of being more or less isolated in Azkaban, he had realized that perhaps it wasn´t.

It had felt good to be in a house again, to sleep in a bed, take a shower and just be allowed to move around on his own again, the simple things like opening a window or leaving the bedroom to go downstairs.

Harry was also Harry. He was a Gryffindor with a saviour complex the size of a continent. Voldemort knew that the Golden boy wouldn´t do anything to hurt him, even if he had the power to, and if the boy should suddenly turn vindictive, then it would still be better than being stuck in a cell for rest of eternity with guards that had questionable morals.

The whole situation was so surreal he nearly laughed. Here he was, the Dark Lord, the most powerful wizard in the world, trying to figure out how to get a 20-year-old boy to adopt him like some other stray at a shelter. One other upside of the claim would be that Harry could, in theory, not that Voldemort was holding his breath, allow him to use his magic. At the moment the magic was locked away, just out of reach. He knew it was there but reaching out towards it was like standing on the wrong side of a wall made of ice. He could feel the magic on the other side, almost see it, but he couldn´t touch it. It was strange not to have access to it after all these years. He felt empty, powerless and like he was missing a limb.

A sigh came from Harry. “Did you want me to say yes?”

Voldemort blinked, meeting the green eyes before looking down at the cast once more. Sommerseth had asked more or less the same question. Would you have accepted? No, was the first thought that came to mind, but he hadn´t said so. He hadn´t said anything.

Not that it actually mattered. His consent wasn´t necessary for the claim to be recognized, nor did it matter if he said no, so why Sommerseth presented it like he had a choice was a mystery. Or, it wasn´t really. He assumed Sommerseth would prefer for him to agree rather than force him. It would look better for the Ministry if they could document that he had agreed to the terms, and not had them shoved down his throat.

Did he however want Harry to say yes? To give him a way out of Azkaban that would only cost him his freedom and will? Then again, he wasn’t much more free in Azkaban either, but the chances of being hurt and abused were a lot higher there than with Harry. Or so he assumed. The boy could surprise him, but he didn´t think so. Considering all the trouble Harry had already gone through to make sure he got medical attention, muggle medical attention, but still. Allowed him into his house and arranging for him to have a hearing before the court. It was sure a hell of a lot more than Voldemort would have done if the roles had been reversed.

Why hadn´t Harry said yes? Did he want Voldemort to beg him to accept? In which case he´d rather stay in Azkaban. He hadn´t fallen so low yet that he would beg Harry to take him in.  

***

Harry sighed. “Did you want me to say yes?” Harry countered. He frowned as he looked at Tom.

Tom hadn´t answered the question about whether or not he would have accepted, and Harry didn´t know what Tom would have done.

It didn´t matter however, Tom was in no condition to decide what he wanted or not. The problem was that it was the traumatic part of his brain, the one that was seeking comfort and peace that was urging Tom to wanting Harry to set forth the claim. What the more rational part of his brain wanted, nobody knew.

The claim was permanent. Harry couldn´t reverse it if Tom somewhere along the years got his bearings back and suddenly realized that signing his life away wasn’t what he wanted. On top of that Harry didn´t think pushing Tom, in that condition, into a role of a slave would help him heal either.

The Code of Conduct was strict. Tom would be spending more time kneeling and behaving as a trained pet, than an actually human being.

Tom was looking at him, but when Harry met his gaze, he lowered his eyes to the floor. Instinct, Harry thought, the same that had sent him kneeling when Harry had entered. He had to give it to the Warden - he had actually managed to break the Dark Lord. Not an easy feat.

“Tom, you don´t know what you want me to agree to,” he tried. He got up from the chair and started moving back and forth in the cell, suddenly feeling restless. He pushed his hand through his hair and made a gesture towards the dark haired man. Tom was still staring at the floor and Harry wanted to snap at him to at least look at him. Not that it would do any good. It would probably have the opposite effect.

He continued to walk back and forth between the door and the chair. “I can assure you that you are perfectly fine her. Sommerseth fired the guards and have hired new ones. You won´t have any problems.” He could hear his own voice getting slightly louder and firmer. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see Tom getting to his feet and he seemed to be backing away.

There was however the issue about the bruise on his cheek that Harry hadn´t asked about. He doubted it came from the guards though. Sommerseth had assured him they had fired the once responsible for the assaults and there was no reason to fear it would happen again.

Tom would be better off in Azkaban. Better than having his freedom and will stripped on a whim.

“I´m not doing it.” He finished firmly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Tom seemed angry or perhaps frustrated, it was hard to tell. He had backed slightly away from the bed, but Harry could see the wariness in his posture. “Why not?” He demanded.

Saints, Harry thought. Why was he so hell bent on signing his life away?

“Because I won´t,” he replied, anger creeping into his voice as he raised it. He could see Tom flinch.

“But why?!”

Before Harry could answer the door to the cell opened, making him turn in confusion. The guard from before stood there, wand in hand, and looking worried.

“Lord Potter. Is everything all right in here? I heard raised voices.” The guard looked from Harry to Tom and back and seemed to deduce that there was no real danger from the prisoner as he put his wand away.

Harry tried to smile politely and knew he was failing. “Yes, everything is all right. It´s just a minor disagreement.”

The guard, who´s name he couldn´t remember, nodded slowly, but he didn´t leave. Apparently the guard was worried that something would happen. Irritation rose in him. First Tom pressuring him and now the guard interfering. This was getting annoying.

“Why?” Tom demanded again behind him and Harry could feel the little patience he had left snap as he turned towards the stubborn ex Dark Lord.

“I´m not accepting because you´re in no condition to consent!” he growled at the dark wizard. That earned him a strange look from the guard and a confused one from the dark wizard in question. Harry could feel the anger and irritation rise further.

“You have been abused and raped for three years and your mind is searching for anything that even remotely resemblances safety. In your mind everywhere except here is safe, and the only way out of here is through that claim. That is the only reason why you want me to accept. You are not considering the impact the decision will have on your life, you are panicking!”

Tom seemed to take that as an insult. “I´m perfectly able to decide what I want to do with my own life!” he seethed, crossing his arms over his chest.

Swiftly he stalked towards Tom. As expected the more traumatic part of the other´s mind took over and he flinched before dropping to his knees and cowering. Harry had no intention of hitting the Dark Lord, he was simply proving a point.

Retreating he turned towards the guard and smiled reassuringly. The man was understandably starting to look somewhat concerned about everything.

“Fine,” he growled at Tom when he turned back around. “Seeing as you are so eager to please, pet, then come here.” He watched as his words sunk in, and the change that came over the previous Dark Lord as his damaged mind scrambled to protect itself and it´s body by doing the only thing it knew wouldn´t get him hurt, obeying.

He watched as Tom knelt down in front of him. “Good boy,” he muttered, letting a hand slide over the dark hair and noting how Tom relaxed at the praise. His mind was too desperate to protect itself and Harry knew Tom wasn´t thinking clearly enough to take the consequences of the claim into consideration.

“My Lord?” The guard inquired. Clearly confused as to what was going on. Harry just shook his head at him. He had thought the presence of the guard would make Tom hesitate somewhat to slip into the submissive mind-set, but apparently not. He had dropped so fast that it made Harry worry. “Leave us, please,” he requested. The man more or less ran out the door. Harry didn´t care.

“What to do about you then?” He murmured more to himself than Tom. He summoned the chair and sat down, Tom beside him. Carefully he lifted the head and saw that the pupils in the brown eyes were slightly dilated. “You dropped all too fast.”

“Tom?” he called softly, watching as the other blinked a couple of times before his eyes started to focus. Good, at least it wasn´t that hard to bring him back up.

“My Lord.”

“Good boy. Come on back.” Harry watched as the flashback ended and Tom came back to himself, blinking a couple of more times before settling and looking around. He seemed confused as to how he had gotten from the bed over to the chair. Harry sighed and pushed a hand through his hair. This was ridiculous. He couldn´t leave him and he couldn´t take him. What a mess.

Pushing the chair away from Tom he put his head in his hands and groaned. Why had he gone to Azkaban that day? If he hadn´t then he wouldn´t have been in this predicament.

Glancing up he saw that Tom had sat down on his side and was currently rubbing his hands over his face to clear away the fog.

“That’s why, Tom,” Harry said, dragging his right hand through his hair once more before standing up. He walked over to the bed and grabbed the goblet and filled it with water from the pitcher on the floor. Taking the goblet back over he handed it to Tom who took it slowly and drank.

Taking advantage of Tom´s state of mind, Harry asked again. “Did you want me to say yes?”

Tom finished the goblet and played with it for around a minute before answering. “Yes,” he confessed, looking up and meeting Harry´s eyes and for once he didn´t drop his eyes right away.

Harry nodded. He was tempted to ask why, but didn´t. Instead he focused on the bruise on the other man´s cheek. “Where did that bruise come from?” he asked calmly while reaching out to take the goblet back.

Tom glanced away before shrugging and then looking back up at Harry. “Guard.”

Of course. Getting to his feet he went and got the folder he had brought with him. He handed it to Tom who took it and opened it to find several sheets of paper inside. After looking through them he looked up at Harry with a question in his eyes.

“That’s the paperwork needed to file the claim.”

“Why did you bring these?”

Harry shrugged. “I had a bad feeling I would be changing my mind after coming here.”

Tom was looking at the last page, which was the petition for the Court to recognize the claim. At the bottom two signatures were missing. His and Harry´s.

“Tom,” Harry sat back down on the chair. “Last chance, and I mean that literally. I can´t undo this when you snap back into your Lord Voldemort persona somewhere along the road and want to go back to ruling the Wizarding World as a Dark Lord.”

“I know.”                                     

“Because these feelings you are having at the moment is because of PTSD. Post traumatic stress syndrome, which is a muggle diagnose, but it applies here as well. I don´t think this is the best solution, but I´m starting to think that leaving you here in this state might be a worse one.”

Tom looked up and for a moment Harry saw irritation there in the brown eyes. “I know, Harry. I know what I´m doing.”

Harry held his gaze but couldn’t help but think no you don´t.

“Fine.” He took the papers from Tom and walked over to the table. “Come here then.” Dipping his hand into one of the pockets in his coat he pulled up a quill and ink. Inking the quill he signed before he could change his mind. There. Done. He was going to be in so much trouble when Hermione found out about this.

***

“I see you changed your mind, My Lord?” Marcus was practically humming. Kingsley too looked far too pleased with himself Harry thought.

“Yes, apparently I did,” he sighed. They were standing in the cell in Azkaban, which was getting rather crowded with the four of them and the Warden present. Harry hadn´t bother to take Tom back to the Ministry and after a quick chat with Marcus, and a couple of hours of waiting, Marcus and Kingsley had arrived at Azkaban. Marcus was carrying more files and papers, along with his blue, fluffy pen that was writing eagerly. Stopping only to peer at them once in a while.

“And, Mr. Riddle, you are accepting the terms of this agreement?”

“Yes, Your Honour.” Tom was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, leaning against one of the walls. For once looking like the Tom Riddle Harry remembered from the Chamber of Secrets.

“Good, good.” Marcus hummed as he was standing bent over the paperwork spread out on the table. He signed with flourish before taking out his wand and pointing it to the parchment, muttering under his breath. The whole thing glowed red for a moment, before changing into a light green colour. At the bottom of the page the Ministry’s seal appeared in black and gold.

“Minister, if you could?” He smiled towards Kingsley who came over and put his signature below Marcus’ and repeating the wand movements and incarnation Marcus had used. A second seal appeared as the parchment once more glowed green.

Waving his wand once more the parchment duplicated and Marcus rolled up one of them and held it out for Harry to take. “Here is the formal document, with signatures. This declares that you have claimed the life of Tom Marvolo Riddle under the Code of Conquest and that he and everything he owns now belongs to you. You are responsible for looking after his assets, which you can use within reason, but they are to be returned to Mr. Riddle once Lady Magic decides that his debt has been served.”

Looking at Tom, suddenly suspicious, Harry asked, “What do you own?” Except from the bloody snake Harry hoped he´d never see again?

Tom shrugged, apparently not in a sharing mood.

“His belongings were seized by the Ministry when Mr. Riddle here was arrested. I´ll send a copy of this,” he tapped his wand once more to the parchment, which duplicated once more, “to Gringotts and I´ll tell them to send you a complete inventory of his assets and properties. I then suggest you take a meeting with the account manager and decide what to do with it.”

Harry nodded and put the rolled up parchment into his inside pocket.

Marcus started gathering several other papers on the table. “These are just case documents. Here is a copy of both the Code of Conquest and the Code of Indenture Slaves. Make sure he,” Marcus gave Tom a pointed look, “behaves as expected. Petition from a third party for the Ministry to administer a punishment for breach of the code, if the owner himself hasn´t addressed this, is possible. And not pleasant.”

Tom looked at his hands, but said nothing. Harry assumed Tom had read the Code, or he hoped. If not the Dark Lord was in for a bit of a cold shower.

“Yes, well, that concludes the paperwork. Then it´s the matter of the ritual.” Marcus clapped his hands and waved at Tom and Harry to come out into the middle of the room. “You two,” he turned towards the Minister and the Warden, “will act as witnesses. Lord Potter, I assume he is keeping his first name?”

“He, - what?” Name? Harry looked at the Head of Magical Law, completely lost.

“My name, My Lord,” Tom explained. “I don´t get to keep it, so you are free to name me anything you like.”

“I´m not naming you Voldemort.” Harry blurted out with out thinking. He had no idea where that comment had come from but it made the Warden flinch, while Tom actually smirked. It was such a Tom Riddle smirk that Harry was suddenly reminded of just whom he had in front of him.

Kingsley coughed. “Yes, I think it would be wise not to.”

“Tom then?” Marcus asked, raising his wand and looking at Harry, waiting for an answer.

“Yes.”

“Good. Tom, come here and kneel please.” Marcus gestured to the floor in front of him and Harry. Tom knelt gracefully, hands in his lap and his head bent. Perfect picture of submission, Harry thought. Trying not to let his mind wander the wrong way.

A paper was put in his hand and he looked down at a long verse of Latin. Great. He hated Latin. Why couldn´t these rituals be in good old English?

Marcus was talking and Harry tried to pay attention. “Keep you wand at his forehead, My Lord, and read the verse. You´ll feel a connection starting to form between you two, and there will probably be some light of a sort. I don´t know for sure as I´ve never seen this ritual performed before.”

Harry gave him a look. That sounded reassuring.

“Tom, I`m not entirely sure how this will affect you, but I wouldn´t be surprised if there is some pain involved. I did however bring some healing potions just in case.”

That was thoughtful of him, Harry thought. Wondering for a moment why Marcus was so positive to the whole thing.

“Just start at the top?” Harry asked, nodding towards the parchment as he withdrew his wand and pointed it at Tom´s forehead.

“Yes.”

Harry started reading, a bit slow to begin with, but as the words left his mouth it became easier and easier and the words were soon flowing in a low tone. A golden light emerged from the tip of his wand and spread around Tom in a circles until he was completely covered in golden threads. They moved over his limbs, twirling and moving like snakes. Harry could hear Tom gasp, but it didn´t sound like pain. He continued to read and the golden threads seemed to tighten around Tom, pulling at something.

“Relax, Tom. It will be easier if you don´t fight it,” Marcus murmured, from somewhere beside him. A quick glance up told him that Tom was trying to relax, but the tense shoulders and jaw told Harry this probably wasn´t the most pleasant thing Tom had been subjected to. He continued on the third paragraph and now he could se the gold threads coming back up towards the tip of the wand, before starting to move over his forearm and up his elbow. He tensed, expecting pain, but felt nothing except a light tingling as the threads continued to wash over him, twisting and twirling in an unknown pattern.

At the same time he could feel an awareness in his head, like a strong golden light. It pulsed and twisted a bit before settling at the back of his mind. He came to the last sentence and let his voice die out as the golden threads retracted back into the tip of his wand. He blinked, waiting for the world to come into focus. The presence in his mind was still there, but mostly hidden. Carefully he reach out to it and could feel something that was definitely Tom.

“Easy,” he heard Marcus say and blinked again, looking down. Tom was shaking and gasping for air, his good hand supporting his weight as he was doubled over. Marcus had summoned a blanket from the cot and was pulling it around the shaking figure. “Breath. Lord Potter, can you feel his precence in your mind?”

Harry nodded.

“Good. Reach out to whatever the presence feels like and order it not to use magic in any way or form. Those exact words. The presence should glow if the order registers.”

“What?”

“Just trust me, I´ll explain afterwards.”

Harry slowly reached out to the golden feeling and as he touched it he thought as clearly as he could Tom, I order you not to use magic in any shape or form with out my permission. The golden light glowed for a few seconds and Harry could see Tom flinch on the floor. “Done. Now what?”

“Now,” Marcus began and held his wand to the silver collar around Tom´s neck, “we can remove this and get some potions in him.” He muttered and waved his wand before pointing it at the collar, which sprang open and fell to the floor. Tom gasped as his magic, at least Harry assumed it was the magic, rushed through his body before settling. Harry could feel the magic, how powerful and strong it was as it spread around the room, making the air thick with magic before it diminised. For a moment he wondered if Marcus knew what he was doing.

“Is, is that a good idea?” The Warden stammered. Harry had completely forgotten he was there.

“It´s fine,” Marcus said dismissingly as he was looking around in his bag, coming back up with a couple of vials. One was the blue colour of a Calming Draught, the other looked like the green of a PepperUp Potion. He made Tom drink both of them. As Tom calmed down, Marcus motioned for Harry to get him to the cot.

“What did I do?” Harry asked as he helped Tom sit on the cot, where he curled up against the wall looking miserable. “You okay?” he asked Tom.

Tom nodded. “Yes, My Lord, just not that pleasant to have my will stripped away.”

Harry could´t imagine it would be.

Marcus had gathered the empty vials and was putting the paperwork back into order.

“Did you use the exact words I said, Lord Potter?” Marcus looked up from the table. Harry nodded.

“Yes, no magic unless with my permission.”

Kingsley was rubbing a hand over his chin. “Should perhaps add ´no intentionally harming or killing humans or creatures´ or something like that.”

Marcus nodded in agreement and Harry reached out once more and ordered the presence in his mind not to in any way intentionally harm or kill humans or creatures. It glowed and out of the corner of his eyes he could see Tom flinch. “Done.”

“Good. The bond between you two gives you the ability to give him specific orders he can´t go against, as you have done now. You have to be in the same room as Tom when you give these orders for it to work, remember that. That´s the reason why I could remove the collar,” Marcus explained as he put the scrolls and papers into his bag. “You can of course use that method for every order, but that would be pointless and time consuming. Give him the most important rules this way, no magic, no killing or harming, no leaving your house, no wandering further from you than 30 feet etc.”

“What happens if he disobeys?”

Marcus shrugged. “We could test it, but I don´t think he is any shape for it. My guess would be a sharp pain which either last until you remove it or he passes out. Either way you need to get him a collar, preferably with your coat of arms on it.”

Harry frowned. “A collar?”

Kingsley jumped in. “Yes, he´s not allowed outside without a collar that shows who he belongs to and his status as it was.”

On the cot Tom seemed to be coming around. The shaking had stopped and he had gotten some colour back in his face. “I know a place, My Lord,” he said, voice tired, but strong enough.

Of course you do, Harry thought. He dragged a hand through his hair. That was really starting to become a bad habit he thought. “Fine. I´ll buy him a collar later today.”

The Warden seemed to have become tired of standing and sat down on the only chair in the room.

“Would you like me to buy a leash as well?” Harry added sarcastically.

Marcus smiled. “They normally come with a leash so that would probably not be necessary.”

Harry sighed.

To his side there was the sound of wood giving in and breaking as the chair collapsed under the weight of the Warden, and he tumbled to the floor amongst what had once been a chair.

Chapter Text

“Welcome home then,” Harry said as they arrived at the entrance hall of Grimmauld Place.

Volde-Tom, he guessed it was better to get used to the name again, nodded and pulled the cloak he was wearing better around himself. He only had the thin prisoners clothes underneath and had borrowed Harry´s cloak for the trip back, or home as he guessed it was.

He had never actually had a home, he thought as he looked around. Or, he had always thought of Hogwarts as home, as far as a school could be considered one, but no real home in the traditional sense. As an adult he had more or less drifted from one place to another on his travels. As he had established himself as the Dark Lord during the first war he had used a permanent headquarter, which no longer existed, but it had been filled with his followers most of the time and had never felt like home. Not that he had missed having one, it was strange what one could get used to when you had no experience with the concept at all. After his resurrection he had used Lucius home, much to the man’s despair.

Harry’s house seemed nice though. It was done in warm, brown colours and soft fabrics, and ha been renovated recently by the looks of things. The entrance hall was huge, with a large fireplace, the stairs leading to the floors above and a door that he assumed was leading outside. There wasn´t any portraits on the walls, it didn´t seem like there were any in the house at all. The few pictures Tom could remember seemed to be muggle pictures and not wizarding ones. A few plants were placed here and there to soften the room.

From the hall he could see through a door to what looked like a kitchen and another that looked like it led into a dining room. He hadn´t done much exploring the last time he had been at the house, there simply hadn´t been time for it. Now he did have all time in the world. It was strange, knowing he was free to walk the house as he pleased after spending three years in a small stone room.

He cast a quick look at Harry, who was busy looking through the mail that was placed on the round table in the middle of the room; along with a gigantic flower decoration that Tom hardly believed Harry had picked himself. Probably the house elf, what was his name again - Kreacher or something, had picked out. Most elves took great pride in making sure their masters and mistresses houses looked like something out of a muggle interior magazine.

It was strange how things had changed. He hadn´t thought Harry would agree to claim, but in the end he had, possibly because of Tom´s flashback and the bruise, agreed. Tom hated the flashbacks, or he wasn´t sure it was flashbacks exactly, more like his traumatized brain deciding to take over, and he was completely powerless to stop it. It was humiliating, but it wouldn´t kill him.

The ritual itself had been painful though, but no more than the torture he had been put through the last years. The biggest surprise was that the judge, Sommerseth, at brought pain relief potions just in case it was needed. The man had seemed genuinely nice, something Tom wasn´t sure how to handle. Even the Minister had been polite and supportive. There were plenty of risks by letting him out of Azkaban and he wondered for the second time how Harry had managed the get them to agree to this. There was nothing in it for them really. They had put their own necks on the line, as no one knew how long it would take for Tom to actually fulfil his debt. It could be days, months or years. Although, if he was going to be realistic he assumed it would be years rather than months. He wasn’t even sure he would ever reach the point of having paid his debt.

He didn´t feel any different. There was a slight connection to Harry in the back of his mind, like a slight golden light that felt like Harry for some reason, and when Harry had issued the commands it had tingled painfully for a moment as to make it clear that this was rules he couldn´t go against. He had felt the rules settle in his mind but he wasn´t completely sure how it worked until he had tried to reach out for his magic to do something as simple as to make a small ball of light appear in his hand. The pain had started small as he formed the idea of using his magic and became stronger as he put more will into the thought, only to diminish once he let go of the thought. He was pretty sure that if he had actually connected with his magic the pain would have knocked him of his feet in an instance.

The best part however was that he could feel his magic again. It was amazing. He couldn´t use it, but he could feel it flowing around in his body, twisting and turning. A familiar presence that he had nearly forgotten how much he had missed. Harry had of course issued the order for him not to touch or use with out permission and Tom wasn´t stupid enough to try. The feeling of it being close however was fantastic. He had to admit he might harbour a small hope that Harry might let him use some of it, but he guessed that was a long way down the road.

“You okay?”

Tom looked up and saw Harry was staring at him, a concerned look on his face. He nodded and pulled at the cloak, he was freezing. “Just been a long day,” he confessed. He felt completely drained of energy.

That made Harry laugh. “You think? I hadn´t actually planed on taking you with me home.”

“Sorry, My Lord,” Tom said with out thinking. He had more or less pressured Harry into the deal, not that he felt sorry for it, self-preservation and all. Harry sighed.

“Don’t be. Well, it´s already late afternoon and I guess we´ll have to get you that bloody collar. Where are we going? I can´t imagine it´s something they sell in Diagon Alley?”

“The muggle world. I´ll give you the address.”

“Somehow I had assumed we were going to Knockturn Alley,” Harry muttered and went over to the closet that took up the better part of the wall by the entrance door. “Why don´t you put on some real clothes, and burn what you are wearing and then we´ll get the shopping out of the way?” He suggested over his shoulder. “We need to get you some clothes as well, and probably a hundred other things.”

“Yes, My Lord.” Technically he guessed the correct title should be master, but he didn´t think he could force that word out of his mouth without choking on it.

He slowly made his way up the stairs. He assumed the room he had been in last time was to be his, unless Harry had planed to have him sleeping on the floor, which he doubted.

The door swung up easily and the room looked more or less the same as last time. Closing the door behind him he allowed himself to sink down along the door to the floor and rested his arms and head on his knees that he had drawn up to his chest. Suddenly he started laughing; it was a strangled, broken sound which sounded nothing like his own voice.

“Saints,” he swore as he laughed. Who would have thought this was how it was going to end. His laughed died down and he swallowed. Dumbledore would probably have delighted with the outcome. The words the older wizard had spoken in the Ministry during their duel all those years ago when Tom had asked him if he didn´t seek to kill him, rang in his head.

There are other ways of destroying a man, Tom.

Unfortunately he had to agree that Dumbledore had been right about that. He also knew this wasn´t going to be a walk in the park as the muggles used to say. There was no way for him to go back to his old ways, trying to take over the Wizarding World. He couldn´t kill Harry, or anyone else for that matter. He just had to play the part he had landed for himself and hope that somehow down the road he might be free. In the mean time he just had to make sure Harry was happy.

That would, unfortunately, necessitate a lot of humiliation on his part. One thing was that he had to obey the damned Code of Conduct while in public, but based on his last interactions with Harry he probably had to get used to get used to playing the submissive indenture slave in private as well. Not that it would be a problem, he thought with a broken laugh. His mind was far to concerned with it´s own and it´s body´s safety to care much about what the rational part of it thought of everything.

Sommerseth had said something about the Aurors however and Tom did have a sneaking suspicion Harry was going to take advantage of his knowledge to help the Aurors out. That would mean going out into public with all the humiliation it would entitle for him. Then again, he guessed that punishments weren´t supposed to be nice for the person being punished. Tom sighed. Well, he´d made his bed and now he guessed he was stuck with it.

***

The middle-aged shopkeeper looked up from the belt he had been working on when he heard the bell over the entrance door chime. Tom could see the surprise that came over his face at the sight of the Saviour of the Wizarding World standing in his boutique.

“Lord Potter. Please, come in.” The man took of the glasses he was wearing and put them down on the counter. He glanced at Tom, but there was no recognition in his eyes, nor should there have been. The man had never met Tom or Lord Voldemort. He had however a very wealthy client by the name of Lucius Malfoy, which was the reason Tom knew about the shop in the first place.

It was a small store located in one of the many alleys of London, near Piccadilly Circus. Placed on the corner of the alley it sold handbags, belts, gloves and everything else that could be made in leather. From Lucius, Tom knew the man also catered to the Wizarding World and was a wizard himself, which would make it a lot easier to explain what they wanted.

“Sir,” Harry nodded politely and shook the man’s hand as he came out from behind the counter and held out his hand. The man glanced at Tom, but when Harry made no move to introduce him the shopkeeper decided to ignore Tom for the time being and waved at Harry to follow him into the back.

“Trevor,” he called out as he opened the door to what Tom guessed was either an office or a backroom. “Mind the counter please, I have a costumer.”

The office was small, but tidy. A desk in the middle with two chairs in front dominated most of the space. Against the wall to the right there were bookcases filled with folders, ring binders as well as a filling cabinet and a safe. To the left there was a window that showed the outside street, but at the moment the curtains was drawn to ward of the sinking afternoon sun. The floor was dark wood, with a bluish carpet under the furniture. A small table held a muggle coffee machine along with cups and a pitcher of water.

“I understand that you know of me and-,” Harry trailed of, seemingly unsure on how to continue.

“And our world,” the man finished with a smile and gestured towards the chairs in front of the desk as he took his seat on the other side. He put the glassed back on his nose. “Yes. I´m a wizard, but it does help financially to also cater to the muggles.” He smiled as he sat and folded his hands on top of the desk. “I must admit I was rather surprised to see you, Lord Potter. What can I do for you and your,” the man hesitated, “companion?”

Tom almost smiled, but it quickly disappeared as Harry sat down in the chair. Come to think of it he really hadn´t thought this through. He should have just sent Harry along alone. The Code dictated that he knelt beside Harry, which he absolutely didn´t want to. Which was a bit contradictory seeing as he had told himself it wouldn´t be a problem only an hour earlier. Perhaps this wasn´t going to be as easy as he first had thought.

On the other hand this was a muggle establishment and one could therefor argue he shouldn´t. The Code only applied for the Wizarding World, but on the other hand the man in front of him was a Wizard. He closed his eyes; this was giving him a headache. Not being able to decide he simply wandered over to the bookshelf. If Harry wanted him to kneel he could order him, he thought irritated and picked up a product catalogue and started leafing through it. Behind him he could hear Harry starting on what Tom assumed was going to be an interesting explanation as to what Harry needed.

“Yes, you come highly recommended, Mr.?”

“Franklin,” the other man replied. “Can I offer you tea or coffee, My Lord?”

Tom went back to studying the vast selections of custom-made belts on page 45. Highly recommended was perhaps taking it a bit too far, but Lucius did speak warmly of the man though. And he was discreet. Not that it would matter much longer. Neither Harry nor the Ministry could keep the claim a secret for long before the public found out. The plan was for the Ministry to issue a press release regarding the claim, that way they could spin the story in their own favour and control the narrative. Tom would have preferred to keep the whole thing a secret. Unfortunately that wasn´t much of an option.

“No thank you. I´m in the need of a collar.”

“Of course, that won´t be a problem. We have a large selection of collars, all handmade and of the best quality. If you want to design it yourself then that can be arranged. What kind of animal are we speaking of?” Tom smirked down at page 50 and the handbags shown there. A snake perhaps? He was, had been, the Heir of Slytherin after all.

Tom could hear Harry take a breath. “Ah, yes, well, as it was I need a special one. A indenture collar.” Well he did manage to master the terminology at least, for someone who didn´t know what an indenture slave was a week earlier Tom thought.

The silence that followed was so loud that Tom considered dropping the catalogue just to scare the other two in the room.

“I see,” Mr. Franklin said and Tom could see out of the corner of his eyes the man was staring at him openly from his desk with a thoughtful look on his face. Apparently the man had managed to put together two and two. He sighed and put the catalogue back in it´s place. This was going to be fun. “And am I to assume that this collar might be for your companion here?”

Companion was at least better than slave, Tom thought.

Harry rubbed a hand over the back of his neck and cast a look at Tom before answering. “Yes, you would be correct to assume that.”

Tom leaned against the shelf and crossed his arms over his chest. He kept his eyes averted but it wasn´t difficult to feel the weight of the man’s gaze as Mr. Franklin studied him.

“Very well.” Mr. Frainklin waved his wand and a catalogue went by Tom´s head, missing it by an inch, and spread out on the desk before Harry. “If you could just look through this and see what suits your taste. We have everything from just plain leather to the more elaborate versions. It will of course be fitted with a tracking charm, an identity charm as well as a muggle GPS, if there are any other charms you want to add we can do that. Proximity spells are always popular. The collar will be magically locked and can only be removed by your blood, and only as long as you are doing it voluntarily. If you could have him come over here then I´ll take some measurements and find some samples for you to look at.”

Tom was impressed how casual the man made the whole thing sound. The amount of indenture slaves in the Wizarding World could be counted on two hands. This wasn´t a sort of collar the man sold everyday, or every five years for that matter, but he made it sound like he sold ten of them each month.

“Tom,” Harry said distractedly as he was looking at the catalogue.

You choose this, Tom reminded himself and forced his feet to move over to the desk and he knelt down beside Harry, hands in his lap and his head bent. It wasn´t as bad as he had thought it would be, there was a sense of familiarity about kneeling after all this time, and normally he would be safe from being harmed while he was kneeling, give and take some exceptions. The traumatized part of his brain was at least happy; apparently it associated kneeling with safety. Tom was starting to feel like he had a split personality, which said something considering he had been more or less insane until he absorbed the souls in the two horcruxes.

Mr. Franklin came around the desk and stopped in front of him.

“The scarf,” he said and Tom remembered he was wearing the thick, grey wool scarf around his neck. He slowly unwrapped it and placed it on the floor. A hand lifted his chin. The touch was gentle and professional, but Tom still had the urge to flinch away. A flying measuring tap came into view. It wrapped around his neck and then measured from his collarbone to his chin. Mr. Franklin wrote down the numbers before excusing himself and leaving the room. The measuring tap hung in the air staring at Tom who stared back, wondering what on earth the bloody thing wanted. It twisted like the tail of a cat before flying back to the desk where it curled up into a coil and went still. Tom frowned. Strange.

“Here,” Harry shoved the catalogue at him. “You´re the one that´s going to wear this, what do you want? Brown leather, black leather, synthetic, diamonds/sapphires?” Harry waved a hand in the air in indication that he didn´t care.

Tom tried not to laugh. What did one want in a collar? He looked at the pictures for a moment before handing it back. They all looked more or less the same, just different styles. “How about just plain black with your coat of arms? Not to wide.” Glancing up he could see Harry nod. It was just a bloody collar. It wasn´t an engagement ring they were picking out. There was no reason to spend too much time thinking it over. Except he was going to wear it for Merlin knows how long. Perhaps he should suggest sapphires and diamonds just to see how much Harry was willing to spend on the bloody thing. He discarded the idea.

With a sigh he let his head rest against the chair Harry was sitting in. Maybe he hadn´t thought this completely through. A hand carded through his hair, making him flinch slightly at the contact, but he couldn´t help but close his eyes and just let the feeling wash over him. The hand continued and as much as he wanted to pull away, he didn´t. His traumatized brain was very content, so seemed the bond as it was more or less humming at the contact. Where it had emitted pain earlier when he had thought about using magic it now seemed to do its best to calm and reassure him that he was doing something right.

The warm, strange feeling was starting to pull at him after a couple of minutes, lulling him into a comforting space where nothing really mattered. The hand in his hair was comforting and helped ground him somewhat. The touch seemed to prevent him for drifting completely away. Instead he was caught somewhere between awareness and a comforting nothingness. He could hear the sounds around him and watched as Mr. Franklin came back with a tray with what Tom assumed was samples. He listened as Harry and the shopkeeper spoke, but the words didn´t really register in his mind. He thought they might if he concentrated. Blinking a few times didn´t help to bring things into focus either.

Mr. Franklin rose and left the room again, or Tom assumed he had left. At that point he could feel a hand under his chin as Harry lifted it.

“Tom?”

Frowning he looked up at Harry.

“Focus, Tom. I need you to come back up a little.”

The voice was getting louder and slowly everything floated into focus and he blinked. Feeling like he had just surfaced from swimming under water. Confused he shook his head and dragged a hand over his face. What happened?

“Back with me?” Harry asked. Tom nodded. “Good. You okay? You didn´t seem to drop as far as the other times.”

“I-,” he stopped. He frowned. For once he had actually no idea what had happened. He kept slipping into this strange headspace that he couldn´t explain. Harry kept referring to it as him dropping, not that made more sense. Before he could get around to asking Mr. Franklin came back. He had another tray with something on it.

“Let´s see. Since you went with a standard model we can have it fitted right away, as opposed to if you wanted a custom made.”

Tom looked up and saw the man hold a simple black collar with white lining and an intriguing pattern woven into the leather. In the middle the Potter coat of arms in red and blue was clearly visible. It looked both soft and expensive. The reality of the situation suddenly hit him at the sight of the collar and white, hot panic curled in his stomach. He wanted noting more than to bolt out of the door and out of the store. There were no magic restrictions on his movements at the moment and he would be gone before Harry could manage to issue an order through the bond.

And then what?

There were nowhere for him to go, nowhere to hide. He didn´t have neither any muggle identity papers nor any allies in the muggle world to relay on.

A hand on his neck made him jump.

“Easy,” he heard Harry murmur. The boy had probably felt his panic through the bond. Mr. Franklin came around the desk once more and Tom felt himself freeze, but the hand on his neck warned him to stay still before disappearing.

The collar was soft and the familiar weight of it settled around his neck as Mr. Franklin tested the length before making some adjustments before trying again. Not quite happy he adjusted it once more before nodding.

“Now, My Lord, if you would take the knife and make a small cut on your thumb, then let a couple of drops of your blood drip down where the to two ends meet.”

Harry made the cut and then pushed slightly at the back of Tom´s head to get him to bend down to make it easier to get the blood to land where it was supposed to.

Tom could feel the collar’s ends connect as the circle became whole. He closed his eyes and wondered one more time if he actually knew what he had gotten himself into.

***

The pub in Knockturn Alley hadn´t changed. It actually looked more like time had frozen. The patrons at the bar looked to be the same as the last time he had been there, minus the vampire. It was late in the evening and most of them were more than a little intoxicated. They talked loudly, slapped each other on the back and yelled at the bartender to get more to drink. The lights were dimmed enough that he could pretend the place was cleaner than it actually was, not that it really helped, even his imagination wasn´t that good.

The man wrinkled his nose. He really hated this place. Hopefully this would be the last time he had to enter the downtrodden establishment.

He found Tassler at the same table as last time, whiskey in hand and by the looks of things it wasn´t the first or even third drink the man had downed.

“Mr. Tassler,” he greeted and was met with a glossy stare. Great. The news had to been even worse than he expected for the man to drink himself into a stupor before his companion had even arrived.

“I assume you have some news since you called me here?” He leaned forward with his elbows on the table, wand easily accessible in his left sleeve. One could never be too careful in a place like this.

Tassler nodded and finished his glass. “Yes. Yes, I do.” He stared down into the glass as if he could will it to fill back up again and fell silent.

The other man soon got impatient and leaned more forward. “And?” He inquired.

“What?” Tassler looked confused as he looked up from the glass. Good grief.

“The news?” the man pressed, the urge to hex the man ever present in his mind.

“Yes, yes, the news. My wife, she, eh, she received some paperwork today. She took a copy.” He fell silent again, staring into the glass.

For Merlin´s sake, the man though and reach out to grasp Tassler’s wrist. “Which I assume you brought with you?” He let a threatening tone slip into his voice. Tassler flinched but nodded several times. He put a hand into his inside pocket and came out with a scroll that he handed over. The man accepted the scroll and rolled it out. At the bottom he noticed both the seal of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement as well as the seal of the Minister of Magic.

He stared at the paper. “This has to be a joke?”

Tassler shook his head, the hand holding the glass trembling slightly.

“Bloody Gryffindors,” he swore and rolled the scroll back up. He pointed it at Tassler. “HE is not going to be happy when I tell him about this. This means we have to change our strategy completely. Get words to the others that we will met in four days time at the usual place.” He got up from the table and stalked out of the bar, pulling his hood up as he strode out into the street.

Why the hell couldn´t that damned saviour just be content with his life and get a hobby or something. But no, he had to go and adopt a stray from the prison. What the hell had the Ministry been thinking, agreeing to this? Well, perhaps it could work in their favour he mused. Strays were prone to run away sometimes.

Finally reaching the Apparation area he apparated with a crack.

 

Chapter Text

It was midday when he finally woke. The low winter sun casting rays of sunlight over the floor through the small crack in the curtains. It would soon disappear over the rooftops of the nearby houses. They were still headed towards the middle of December and the sun wouldn´t turn for a couple of more days. After that the days would once again become longer.

The fireplace was burning and crackling on the opposite wall, making the room pleasantly warm. He assumed the house elf had been in at some point because the room was tidier then when he had gone to sleep the night before.

He sat up, yawning and trying to avoid putting weight on his bad arm. Glancing down at it he wondered if he could get Harry to just use a healing spell to speed up the process instead of waiting for it to heal on it´s own.

Looking at the sun that spilled through the curtains he wondered what time it was. Well past breakfast at least. Harry must have decided to let him sleep in. Probably thinking he needed it, which he guessed he did. He still felt exhausted even though he had probably slept for twelve hours. It was tempting to just lay down and let sleep claim him for a few more hours, but his stomach was starting to remind him that it also had been twelve hours since dinner. With a sigh he figured a shower would probably wake him up. Luckily the waterproof charm Harry had used the day before would last for another couple of days before it needed to be replenished.

Grabbing some clothes from the dresser he headed into the bathroom. The mirror showed that he at least looked a lot more awake than he felt, that was something he guessed. The black collar was clearly visible around his neck, the red and dark blue coat of arms seemed to catch your eyes when you looked at it. Sealed with blood. He smirked. For a Ministry that thought everything that had to do with blood was dark magic, they did seem to easily accept the use of it when it suited them.

He lifted a hand to touch it. It was heavier than it looked, but the spell on it made it more or less weightless and he could hardly feel it. It didn´t have much of a function other than to mark him as someone´s property. Harry´s property.

You chose this, he reminded himself again. Well, that was kind of debatable really, the more rational part of his mind argued. The choice was either to stay in Azkaban or this. He wasn´t sure that really constituted as a choice.

***

The sound of music from the floor below told him Harry was probably in his office, working on something or another. He descended the stairs and debated about going down to the kitchen, or stop by the office. He decided that hovering on the landing wouldn´t do much good either way and figured he could get what he assumed would be a painful conversation with Harry out of the way.

They hadn´t talked much the night before. Tom had been exhausted when they came back and Harry had gone back out after dropping him of. He had managed to get down a sandwich that had appeared out of nowhere before more or less falling into bed.

The door to the office was slightly ajar as it had been the last time and Tom got a sudden sense of déjà vu. He pushed the door open and as an after thought, knocked on it before entering.

“Come in.” Harry was bent over something on his desk; a brown owl perched on the chair he was sitting in. He looked up as Tom entered and smiled.

“Finally awake?” he asked and Tom could detect a teasing tone in his voice that he didn´t quite know how to handle. Unsure what to do, Tom remained standing awkwardly in the middle of the room. He really didn´t know how to behave around Harry at the moment. A part of him wanted to kneel and the other part to keep standing.

Harry moved some of the papers on his desk and picked up an opened scroll, holding it up for Tom to see. “This came this morning. From Gringotts.”

Tom found himself nodding.

“For a convicted Dark Lord you don´t lack money.” Harry made gesture towards the chair in front of the desk and Tom took it as an in invitation to sit. He accepted the scroll Harry handed over; glancing down to see the list of assets the goblins had assembled. He knew his vaults contained a good amount of money and then there was a couple of estates, among them the Riddle mansion. He wondered if the building was still standing.

The list didn´t list every single item in his vaults, but he knew Harry could get one if he asked. The goblins had only listed “various other items” at the bottom. There was of course a lot more things not included on this list, but that was mostly because they weren´t in any of his vaults. They were hidden away other places. Mostly because he didn´t have the luxury of being able to enter Gringotts every time he wanted. The money he could get to easily enough by having the goblins transfer the amount he wanted to a specially charmed purse.

“Do I want to know how you managed to make money during the war?”

Probably not, Tom thought. He opened his mouth to answer, but Harry waved him of. “You know what. I don´t want to know.” Tom closed his mouth and handed the list back. Crossing one leg over the other he picked at his cast. It was becoming a bad habit.

Harry was shuffling papers around again before coming up with a sheet of paper that he handed over. Tom glanced at it and noticed it was a list of companies, both wizarding and muggle ones. “Unless you have objections I would like to take some of your money and invest it in these. That way you´ll probably get a better return on them than just the interest from Gringotts. As for the Riddle house you either have to do something about it, sell the property or it will probably fall down on it´s own. I checked with the muggle property register and I´ve paid the missing taxes for the house for the last couple of years and transferred money to a muggle account I set up so that the bills are paid automatically from it. I´ve alerted the Ministry of you new address. They were actually quite happy to finally have an address for you at all.” Harry reached out for his cup and took a sip. He grimaced and cast a heating charm on it before drinking from it again.

“Other than that most of your affairs seem to be in order.”

They should be, he hadn´t neglected them after all. Well, he had neglected the Riddle house, but in all fairness he didn´t like the house or the reminder it gave him of his father and the family.

“Here.” Something was thrown at him and he caught the plastic card. Frowning he looked from the card to Harry. “I assume you know what it is?”

“A debit card.” He turned the card and noticed his own name on the back.

“Yes. It´s linked to the muggle account. The goblins will transfer an amount to the account each month. You can use it on anything you like. Just don´t tell the Ministry about it. As for the wizarding world, there I can´t do much, but if there is something you want or need I´ll get it. Within reason.”

Tom assumed he looked about as confused as he felt. He turned the card over in his hand, frowning slightly.

“Any questions?”

Lots, Tom thought, but shook his head.

“Listen, I don´t know exactly how this normally works, but I guess we´ll just have to try and make it work somehow. On the positive side you get to help med solve my case with the missing crates.” Harry smiled and pulled his hand through his hair, making it stand up even more than usual.

Tom sighed. “There hasn´t been a case of a claim under the Code for a couple of decades. Mostly because the type of duel it takes to make the claim possible normally ends with one of the persons dead. The last time would have been possible would have been when Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald. ” He turned the card over in his hand again, his thumb toying with one of the corners. “I was surprised when Sommerseth brought it up as an alternative.”

Harry leaned back into the chair, his hand twirling a feather quill. Above his left shoulder the owl looked to be sound asleep. “Yeah, me too. I didn´t want this you know.”

He almost cringed at the admission, but managed to stop himself. “I know,” he agreed because there really wasn´t much else to say. He leaned back into his own chair and lifted a hand to rub at his eyes.

“Have you read the Code of Conduct?”

He nodded and pushed a hand through his hair. He had read it a long time ago and he remembered most of the content, but he assumed that he should probably refresh his memory. “Yes, a long time ago, My Lord.” The title was wrong, which he knew, and he half expected Harry to tell him to use the correct one.

Harry nodded. “Think you can try using my name while we are at home?” There was a small half smile on his face when he asked. The feather quill moved in circles around his fingers.

Tom stared. Slowly he nodded. A strange feeling of gratefulness washed over him. “Yeah, I think I can manage.”

“I know the Warden had his, eh…, rules, and what not, but I don´t expect, or want, you to keep following them.” Harry looked to be slightly conflicted about what he was saying. Tom got the impression he didn´t quite know how to phrase what he was saying. “I know that in public things will need to be as expected, but in the house no one will care. Kreacher will make you anything you want to eat at anytime. I know you can´t call him the normal way, but he´s normally easy to find in the kitchen downstairs. You have your room and free range of the house. I would appreciate if you stay out of my study and my bedroom.”

Tom nodded again. It seemed to be the only thing he was doing during the conversation. He wasn´t exactly sure how to process everything Harry had said at the moment, but the conversation hadn´t gone how he had expected in any way. He had expected Harry to somehow take advantage of the situation, but apparently the moral in the Gryffindor was stronger than Tom had thought. He shouldn´t be complaining thought. Harry was giving him more freedom than he probably deserved.

Harry sighed and leaned forward, putting his elbows on the desk. “Tom, I´m probably going to screw this up at some point, and I assume you are going to hate me half the time we´re out in public, but I´m flying blind here.”

“I know.”

Harry kept looking at him and Tom let his gaze fall to the floor. He was still picking at the cast, and at this rate he would probably damage the thing soon. “Well, anything we haven´t covered?”

Tom swallowed and wondered if he should ask or not. He assumed the answer would be no. “My magic?” He finally asked, not looking up from his hands, feeling embarrassed at how desperate the question sounded.

Harry was silent for a couple of seconds before answering. “I´m sorry, but at the moment I don´t trust you enough not to try and kill me or something equally stupid.”

The disappoint he felt at the answer shouldn´t really be as strong as it was. He had known it was a long shot. At least Harry hadn´t completely ruled it out.

The sound of a pop announced the arrival of the house elf, who bowed low. “Lunch is served, master Potter.” At least the house elf managed to get the title right, Tom thought with wry smile.

Harry rose from the chair and motioned for Tom to follow him. “I assume you´re hungry?”

As on cue Tom´s stomach rumbled and Harry smirked. “I´ll take that as a yes.”

***

Harry disappeared after lunch, muttering something about going to get yelled at by his friends.

Tom used the afternoon to explore the house before ending up in the library. He remembered that Lucius had used to complain about the loss of access to the Black library after Sirius Black inherited it, and after looking through the titles of some of the books he could understand why. It was amazing that the Ministry hadn´t confiscated half of the books in there. Pulling out one he hadn´t read about Ancient runes he wandered over to the window seat and curled up with a blanket and a couple of pillows. He cast a look outside and noticed that it actually was a beautiful winter day with a nearly cloudless sky and the sun was still up. The snow was covering the streets and the park across from the house, helping the waning sunlight to spread more light. He itched to go outside and stretch his legs.

His thoughts turned back to the conversation with Harry. The boy did continue to surprise him. He hadn´t expected any of it. Not that he was complaining, considering their history Harry was being more than generous, but he couldn´t help but wait for the other shoe to drop at some point.

“Lost in thoughts?” The voice startled him out of his musing and he turned to see Harry in the doorway, the winter cloak still around his shoulders. He wandered into the room and stalked over to the tray on a sideboard closer to the fireplace. It contained several crystal decanters and he poured himself an unhealthy amount of firewhiskey. The whiskey went down in two swallows before Harry refilled the glass and came back towards Tom and sat down on the arm of the sofa, staring into the glass. Tom watched, getting slightly curious as to why Harry felt the need to drown his sorrows.

“Meeting go well?”

Harry snorted and took another swallow of the drink. “Yes, absolutely bloody fantastic.” He finished the drink and summoned the decanter and filled his glass back up. Looking up for a moment he summoned another glass and poured a second drink that he handed to Tom. Tom took it and took a small sip for the beverage. He hadn´t had a drink in three and a half year and he could feel the alcohol go straight to his head. It didn´t stop him from taking another sip, larger this time.

“My friends think I´m completely insane and Hermione wants to have me committed to St. Mungos. Ron is sure I´m under some sort of imperius curse, Neville, actually I don´t know what he thought as he didn´t say anything, and Draco looked like he´d seen a ghost.”

Tom finished the glass. Yes, it sounded like it had gone very well then. Harry topped it of before downing his own glass in one go. “Hermione is strictly against slavery, and feels I´ve become morally corrupt.”

“It´s an indenture contract, and I talked you into it. How does that make you morally corrupt?” Tom commented closing the book and putting it down beside him on the seat.

Harry snorted and slid from the arm of the sofa onto the seat. “Yes, I did try to tell her that. She seems to think we forced you. She´s of researching the whole concept. Hopefully it will take a while.”

The sound of footsteps in the hallway made Tom frown. There wasn´t anyone else in the house beside the two of them. Harry turned his head towards the sound and sighed. “Or not,” he muttered just as a brown-haired women came through the door, a book in her hand and an angry expression on her face. Tom assumed it was Hermione. He could vaguely remember her from the war. She was pretty in a way, and pregnant from the look of her stomach. The black dress she was wearing hugged her body and the purple winter cloak billowed around her as she walked, or stormed rather, into the room. 

“It´s permanent. You didn´t mention it was permanent, or exactly what is expected of him!” she hissed, waving the book in the air as if that somehow should make it more understandable what she was talking about. Her eyes were fixed on Harry, but as she came into the middle of the room she suddenly seemed to notice Tom sitting in the window. That stopped her in her tracks. The brown eyes met his with an intensity that was hard to match and Tom let his gaze drop to the floor.

“Oh.” She suddenly seemed unsure, as if she had´t actually expected Tom to be there, even though Harry had told her he would be a couple of hours earlier. Tom glanced up and watched as she studied him for a moment, before turning towards Harry. He could see her look from the glass in Harry´s hand to his face, an unhappy expression on her face. Apparently she didn´t approve of Harry drinking so early in the evening, or perhaps at all. She didn´t look like the type who drank much. Tom swirled the liquor in his glass around before taking another sip, finishing of the glass. 

Harry sighed from the sofa and started on another glass. “What did you expect, Hermione? That I´d locked him up in a dungeon or something? Or was having him clean the floor with a toothbrush?” He waved a hand around. The tone was level, but bitter. 

Tom looked up and saw Hermione blush. “Of course not!" She argued. "You did however fail to mention something else apparently.”

Harry looked up, confusion on his face. Hermione waved the book towards Tom. “His looks, perhaps?” Realisation bloomed over Harry´s face. He shrugged. 

“Oh. Yeah. Well, Hermione, you remember Tom, or perhaps not this version, but still. Tom this is Hermione Granger a good friend of mine.” He put emphasise on friend and gestured with his glass between them. “Ron didn´t come?”

Tom was starting to think he might need a couple of more drinks to survive this meeting. “Ma’am,” he nodded politely, bowing his head. Hermione looked perplexed for a moment at the polite address. What had she expected? For him to curs og hex her? Or insult her? He remembered that she was a muggleborn, but it was completely stupid to cross Harry at this point by insulting his friends. 

“Yes, he has manners. Not surprisingly,” Harry muttered. The alcohol was apparently working well on the Gryffindor. 

“Mr. Riddle.” Hermione nodded her head and came further into the room, frowning once more at Harry and the glass in his hand. She had either decided to ignore the fact that he didn´t have a last name anymore, or she didn´t know. 

“Just Tom,” Harry injected. Apparently she didn´t know. “Why are you here, Hermione? I thought we had finished this discussion. You made you dislike for the arrangement quite clear." 

“I´m worried about you!” She exclaimed, shooting a dark look at Tom. Tom had the feeling she was expecting him to murder Harry in his sleep, not that it would be possible at the moment. He lowered his eyes back to the floor.

Harry sighed and stared longingly at the decanter, apparently debating if another drink would be a good idea or not. Coming to a decision he filled his glass and let the decanter float over to Tom to fill his glass as well. Hermione seemed to think it was a bad idea for she slammed the book down on the coffee table making both Tom and Harry jump and the decanter would have ended on the floor if Tom hadn´t manage to grasp it mid air. “It´s permanent,” she repeated, before pointing a finger at Tom who was carefully putting the decanter down on the floor. “He is stuck in this situation for God knows how long. What where you thinking?” He had to admit it was a bit entertaining to watch Harry get yelled at.

“Yes, he is.” Harry didn´t seem to be inclined to elaborate, which made the girl even angrier by the look of things.It sounded like they had been over the same argument several times already and this was just a repeat. 

“How could you agree to this?! I don´t know what Sommerseth was thinking proposing this.” She was starting to pace back and fort on the floor between Tom and Harry. Again she gesticulated towards Tom. “And a collar, really?”

“Actually that wasn´t my idea. It´s the law,” Harry defended.

“Still! How can you accept to strip someone of their name and freedom?” She stopped again and put her hands on her hips. "And how do you know he won´t harm you? It´s not like he hasn´t tried to kill you before." 

Tom opened his mouth but before he could answer Harry´s voice shot in. “He can´t harm me. I told you. The bond forbids it, and he can´t use his magic so he´s pretty harmless, as harmless as an ex dark lord can get anyhow.” Harry was definitely getting tipsy. “And it was his idea! I tried to talk him out of it.”

Hermione turned her angry brown eyes on Harry. “You still agreed!”

Tom used the glass to hide the smile that was threatening at his lips.

Harry sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. “Did you come here just to yell at me some more? Although I´m sure Tom finds this quite entertaining, I don´t. It´s done, and it can´t be undone not matter how many hours you spend at the library.”

That didn´t seem to calm the girl down at all. Tom could swear she was vibrating with anger. Harry continued before she could get going once more. “He´s fine, I´m fine! Or I´m fine, he´s traumatized, but other than that.” Tom tilted his head. He wondered for a moment what exactly Harry had told his friends of the reason behind Tom wanting so badly to get out of Azkaban. From the sound of it and Hermione´s reaction it didn´t seem like they had gotten the whole story complete with all the sordid details. 

“And your solution to him being traumatized is to make him a slave?!” She was speaking even louder and Tom flinched slightly at the raised voice. The girl noticed because she made an effort to lower it when she continued, "How the hell is that going to help?" 

“Technically it´s an indenture contract.”

Tom was surprised the girl didn´t hit Harry at that moment. She looked like she was considering it though. “How is that any different?” she seethed. Tom smirked, remembering Harry asking the exactly same thing.

“Ehh, Tom?” Harry looked at him pleadingly, apparently hoping that Tom would consider helping him out of this. Tom shrugged. “There really isn´t much of a difference, My Lord.” He added the title just to rile the girl up. It worked as she looked even more flustered and angry. It wasn´t nice of him, and he probably should help Harry out, but there was no reason he couldn´t enjoy this a little bit. It was more or less the best entertainment he had witnessed in years, and Harry couldn´t punish him for being polite. After all, they did have company and he was expected to follow the Code. He smiled innocently as Harry´s eyes narrowed to glare at him. He felt a twinge of fear in the back of his mind at Harry´s displeasure, but he fought it down. 

“And you,” she turned on Tom who managed to wipe the smile of his face just in time. “You´re a murder who deserves nothing more than to rot in prison for what you´ve done! I had to oblivate my own parents and send them out of the country just to be sure they wouldn´t become casualties of your insane ambitions.” Tom assumed there wasn´t much point in trying to apologise so he kept quiet. “However, I can agree with Harry that what you´ve gone through the last years is horrible and distasteful, but I don´t think this is a morally good solution. You would be perfectly fine in Azkaban now after the Minster has fired the Warden and the guards.” Some of the anger seemed to leave her at that. She sighed and dragged a hair through her hair.

“You are an idiot,” she said to Harry. “And this is possibly the worst idea you have ever thought up.”

Harry shrugged and gave her a small smile. “Most likely.”

Hermione went over to the sofa and picked up the book she had put on the table. Tom half expected her to start berating Harry again, but she didn´t, instead she turned towards him again. “If you hurt Harry in any way I will find the rest of your bloody horcruxes and destroy them before killing you slowly,” she threatened before sweeping out of the room. The door slammed shut behind her.

“Yes, so, that was Hermione.”

“She seems nice,” Tom answered without thinking, sarcasm clear in his voice. He froze the moment the words left his mouth, but Harry just snorted and finished his glass.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“What did you tell them?” Tom rolled the now empty glass between his two hands, looking at it intently as he asked. He wasn´t sure if he preferred that Harry had just told them the whole truth or a watered down version of it. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Harry rise to pull off the winter cloak before flopping down on the sofa again.

“Not enough, evidently,” came the muffled response as Harry slung an arm over his face and looked like he was trying to melt into the furniture. “I told them you had been mistreated by the guards and that Sommerseth suggested the claim if I wanted to give you a way out of prison, that I refused, but you talked me into it. I didn´t go into detail about the abuse, but perhaps I should have. Hermione thinks you would be better of in prison as the warden and guards that mistreated you have been removed, instead of being turned into an indenture slave. Which as I recall, is more or less the same argument I made to you as well. That and your lack of clear thinking.”

Tom worried at his bottom lip with his teeth. Not hard enough to draw blood, but hard enough to hurt. The whole situation was really rather ridicules. If Harry had only told half the story to his friends then Tom could understand Hermione´s anger. From her point of view it probably looked like they had forced him into a helpless position, and if her objections to slavery was that strong that would explain why she thought Harry was morally corrupted. If he did tell her the rest then she might agree that this was better for Tom in the long run than staying in prison, but he wasn´t sure he actually wanted them to know everything that had happened to him. None of it was his fault, he knew that, but still, the humiliation and embarrassment was still real.

“I´m sorry.” The words were so quiet that Tom almost didn´t hear them. He frowned and turned his head towards the sofa, not understand what the boy was apologising for.

“I should have reported the Warden and the guards the first time I visited Azkaban, but I don´t think the reality and seriousness of the situation quite registered in my mind before that third time I visited. Not that it is an excuse, more an explanation. And a part of me thought you could use to loose some of that damned arrogance and pride you always carried with you as if it was a cloak. I didn´t want you this broken.”

Broken. Was that what he was at the moment? There was still whiskey left in the decanter on the floor and Tom poured the rest into his glass before putting the decanter back down on the floor. The alcohol gave him a slight buzz and seemed to be relaxing his mind. Pride and arrogance yes. He had to admit he didn´t have much left of either of those. They had disappeared sometime during the last years. Perhaps in a lot of ways he was broken.

He wasn´t sure why Harry was apologising though, none of it was his fault.

“Don´t be,” he said, drinking from the glass. “It doesn´t change anything.” Perhaps he was getting drunk himself. He did feel slightly tipsy. “And I killed your parents. We can call it even.” That earned a snort from the sofa. Harry managed to get himself into a sitting position and reached for his glass. The last of the whiskey disappeared.

Tom pulled his legs up to his chest and rested his arms and chin on his knees. He pulled his blanket closer around and looked out the window. The sun had gone down and the evening darkness was spreading, not quite able to get hold as the snow reflected the lights from the streetlights and the buildings around. People were still out, walking back and forth on the sidewalk, some with large shopping bags after having been out on Christmas shopping. It was two weeks to Christmas and Tom knew it would be the strangest Christmas he´d celebrated.

Behind him he could hear Harry get up and move. From the sound he was a bit unsteady on his feet. There was a sound of glass clinking and Tom assumed Harry had decided to keep drinking. One or two more glasses and the boy should be properly drunk. Tom wasn´t too far behind if he was being honest. The alcohol did help. It numbed out the feelings, and made it easier to think somehow. Easier to talk.

He jumped when Harry suddenly was at his side. As the Gryffindor reached out Tom flinched back out of instinct, hitting the window hard and one of the hinges pushed painfully into his thigh. His pulse automatically rose and he could feel fear starting to spread through his body.

“Sorry,” Harry held up his hand and Tom saw the glass of clear liquid in his hand. “Thought you might want some water.”

Tom stared at the glass for a moment before accepting. “Thank you,” he murmured. He downed the glass in one go before leaning his forehead against the window enjoying the cold against his skin. Harry stayed by the window, leaning against the wall, sipping his drink.

“How are you doing?” The question took him by surprise and he hesitated. It was the first time anyone had ever asked him that as far as he could remember. How was he doing? He didn´t know. The last three weeks had gone by in a flash and it felt like he was just trying to survive each day. He was mentally exhausted and all he really wanted to do was sleep. He huffed a laugh and answered honestly. “I don´t know.”

Harry shrugged across from him. “I guess that´s understandable.”

***

Harry watched as Tom continued to stare out the window. He looked so lost and uncertain, curled up in a grey wool blanket, that Harry really didn´t know what to do or say. It seemed Tom´s ability to hide his emotions was either reduced or he wasn´t trying. Harry assumed it might be the last reason. The Tom sitting in the window was nothing like the Tom Riddle he had encountered in the Chamber of Secrets, nor the one he had seen in any of the memories and as far from Voldemort as it was possible to get. It was like trying to get to know a completely new person.

Taking another sip of the glass he realized he was getting more than a little tipsy, but he didn’t care. He wasn´t going to work the next day, and after having had to listen to Hermione for the better part of the day he really needed a drink, actually several. Perhaps he should divulge the whole story instead of the shortened down version he had given them. He wasn´t sure why he hadn´t told them the whole story, perhaps to spare Tom or because he felt he couldn´t tell them. Either way it seemed to have backfired.

The sound of Kreacher popping into the room made both him and Tom jump slightly. Kreacher seemed to take in their state of drunkenness before speaking. “Do master Potter want dinner to be served?” Dinner yes. It would perhaps be wise to actually eat something. “Yeah, I guess we should eat something. Tom, anything in particular you want?” 

The look Tom gave him made him feel like he had just asked for the answer to “what is the meaning of life?” “Chicken, beef, pasta? Pizza?” Actually pizza sounded good. Kreacher hated making it though. Filthy muggle food as he liked to call it.

“Anything is fine.”

Well Harry would assume anything would be fine when you had been living on bread and water for three years. “Something to soak up the alcohol, please. And something we can eat here.” That made the elf look at him like he had suddenly grown a second head, but for once he kept his tongue and disappeared. Tom looked curious at the behaviour.

“He came with the house. He doesn´t like me since I´m a half blood. He accepts me, but he would have preferred Bellatrix I think.” He needed more alcohol. He wandered back over to the side table and picked up the decanter. Bourbon. Well, he guessed that would have to do. He brought the decanter back over to the window and took the seat opposite Tom. The window seat was more than large enough for the both of them. Lifting the decanter he filled Tom´s glass when he held it out. Getting the ex Dark Lord drunk could prove to be interesting after all.

“What happened to Bellatrix?” The question was asked after Tom had taken a good swallow of the liquid, grimacing slightly as it went down. He stared down into the glass before resting his head against the wall behind him.

Harry looked out the window at the darkness. “She´s dead. Ron´s mum killed her.” When he looked back he was met with brown eyes and for once Tom held his gaze. Harry assumed it was the alcohol making Tom more daring. He did seem to be doing better though. “Most of the rest of them is either dead or in Azkaban. Some managed to escape. Lucius gave us a lot of names to avoid spending time in prison. He got two years house arrest.”

Tom snorted. “Of course he did. Just like last time. Nagini?”

Harry grimaced. The bloody snake had been nowhere to be found. “No idea. She disappeared during the battle and no one has seen her since.” Tom nodded and looked out the window. Harry thought he could see something akin to longing in his face, but whether it was for the snake or for the possibility to go outside he didn´t know. “You can go outside anytime you want. There is no restriction on you that confines you to the house. Just stay away from the Wizarding World.” The Minister would probably have his head for this, but he didn´t care. He couldn´t keep the man locked up in the house day in and day out.

“Not afraid I´ll run of?” The words were soft, and Harry could hear genuine curiosity in his voice.

“Are you going to run of?” He countered. If Tom ran, then he ran, but the amount of tracking charms and the muggle GPS in the collar would make it difficult to stay hidden. The former Dark Lord couldn´t use his magic and they both knew there was no way to counter the claim, the magic of it was as old as time itself and only Lady Magic could reverse it when she thought the time was due.

Tom continued to stare out the window. Harry saw that he was biting on his lower lip. A nervous tick perhaps. “No.”

“Good.” Harry sipped at his glass and stared out the window. The silence settled between them. Not uncomfortable in any way. Harry had to admit he did enjoy having another presence in his house except the owl and the elf, even if the presence in question was Voldemort.

“Thank you.”

The words made Harry straighten. Tom was still looking out the window, but he glanced over at Harry before resuming to stare out in the darkness. “I know you didn´t want this, but I´m grateful. I know I´ve done horrible things and you had no reason what so ever to help me out. Most wouldn´t. They would have been content to leave me there to the amusement of the Warden, or they would have used the claim to their own amusement.” Harry assumed it was the alcohol that made Tom talk, not that he was complaining, but the voice was laced with a vulnerability Harry had never thought he would associate with Voldemort.

He just nodded. “This isn´t going to be easy,” he warned. It wouldn´t be. The Wizarding World was not going to be welcoming Tom back with open arms, claim or no claim.

That earned him a small, humourless smile from the dark lord. “It can´t be worse than the last years.”

“Do you regret it?” The words slipped out before he could take them back.

Tom looked at him. “What I did? Both no and yes, I guess. Splitting my soul so many times made me mentally unstable. If I hadn´t done it, then perhaps things would have been different as I would have done things differently. What done is done, and I don´t think that anything will change if I take the rest of the night to explain my views and reasons.”

Harry nodded. The horcruxes. There was a question that kept bothering him thought and he took a good drink from the glass before asking. “How did you get you looks back?”

The other flinched slightly at the question and was biting at his lip again. “Does it matter?”

“No, but I´m just curious as to way you bothered. The appearance you had going for you would strike more fear into people than this.”

Tom seemed to be thinking about what to say. Then he sighed. “I absorbed two of the horcruxes to stabilize my mind. As they were made when I was younger, the looks came with them. I used a glamour for most after.”

The horcruxes. If he had absorbed two, and the diary was destroyed that meant there was only 3 left. Tom seemed to notice his reaction because he palled and Harry could see fear and worry building in the brown eyes. He held up a hand. “Don´t, I´m not going to go looking for the rest of them if that is what you fear.”

“Why not?” It looked like Tom regretted the question the moment it was out.

He sighed. “I´m not interested in killing you.”

“You think you can reform me?”

“No.” He really didn´t think that. Tom was who he was. Harry could show him how the world worked, but he couldn´t force him to change. And, as things were with the claim, it actually prevented him from killing Tom. The whole idea behind the claim was that the losing party was given a chance to redeem himself through the indenture slave contract. That also meant that the holder of the contract, or owner, which was him in this case, couldn´t kill the indenture slave.

Tom fell silent before speaking, his tone low and soft. “Harry, what do you want from me?”

The use of his first name, threw Harry of. He shrugged. “Nothing.”

“Everyone wants something.”

Harry laughed at the Slytherin response. “I want you to behave and be respectful, to follow the Code so I don´t get dragged into the Ministry for a complaint, I want you to try and live somewhat normal, and I want you to help me at work. In return I promise you will have a home here and as much freedom I can give you. And I´ll protect you as much as I can.”

“I killed you parents and my followers killed a lot of your friends and loved ones.”

Harry felt a surge of anger at the matter of fact tone Tom used. “Yes, and would you like me to string you up and beat you into submission for it, pet?” The use of the endearment term threw Tom of. From what Harry had gathered the Warden had normally used it and Harry knew he was being cruel to utter it.

He watched as Tom flinched and lowered his head. “No, My Lord.” Well enough into his cups not to care Harry decided to push things a little. “You know that´s the wrong title.”

Tom shifted on the seat before him. He could see the confliction emotions and thoughts that went through Tom´s head. He opened his mouth before closing it again. Harry waited. He didn´t know why he pushed this. It didn´t matter as he had told Tom to call him Harry at home, but then there was the problem with when they was in public. My Lord, was a common enough title that everyone that was a Lord was afforded. An indenture slave however was expected to address their owner as master or mistress, Lords and Ladies as My Lord or Lady, and everyone else as ma’am and sir.

If Tom couldn´t utter the word, then they would be in trouble.

Kreacher suddenly appeared, floating two trays beside him that he placed on the coffee table, before bowing and with a pop went away.

Harry left the window seat and took a seat on the couch and drew one of the trays towards him. The food was simple, pasta with bread.

Tom was still sitting on the window, a look of uncertainty on his face.

“Come here,” Harry commanded. He really didn´t want to do this, but he knew he had to. Tom hesitated. “Now.” Tom was by his side in seconds and on his knees as his traumatized brain having forced it´s will through the alcohol induced state, and Harry could se he already was beginning to drop. He lifted the chin of the dark lord and softly used the name to keep Tom from dropping further. “Stay here.” Tom blinked and Harry drew the second plate over and gave Tom the fork. “Eat. We have had too much alcohol.” Tom nodded, but kept toying with his fork.

Harry sighed. “Tom, I need you to be able to use the titles correct in public." 

“I know,” the words was hissed. The other looked like he was having a lot of trouble debating on what to do. He was kneeling beside Harry, head bowed and hands toying with the metal fork in his hands. Harry sighed and reached out, ignoring the way Tom flinched as he put as hand on his neck to ground him like he had done in the shop when they bought the collar. “Tom, giving up control is not the end of the world. I´m not going to hurt you and I think I´ve proven that by know.”

Tom nodded, but didn´t look up.

“Well?” He could order Tom to use the correct title, but he didn´t think that would do any good at the moment.

On the floor beside him Tom seemed to have finally reached some sort of conclusion because there was a determined look in his eyes as he opened his mouth.

Chapter Text

Harry wondered if it was possible for a hangover to last two days. He had a horrible headache, one that had been much worse the day before, but still lingered. Rubbing at his eyes he waited for Tom to finally get finished dressing and to come down. He was pretty sure the Slytherin heir was still angry with him for the idiotic stunt he had pulled that night.

He shouldn´t have pushed at Tom for using the wrong title, but the continued mentioning of his parents and the alcohol had made something snap and he had taken the irritation out on Tom in the worst possible way. No wonder the other man had avoided him like the plague the day after. He had apologised but he knew he had screwed up and made Tom even more wary of him. He would have been wary too if the person holding your life in his hands went from reassuring to demanding in less than five minutes. And Tom had actually talked to him that night and seemed to be doing better, before Harry decided to ruin everything of course.

The problem was still standing though. He needed Tom to be able to use the correct title in public, which he still wasn´t sure Tom would do. For some reason it seemed like the use of that word struck at something in Tom. Well, he guessed today would show.

Picking up the red Auror winter cloak he threw it over his shoulders just as he heard the sound of Tom coming down the stairs. He looked up and paused. Tom was dressed in the formal robes of the Potter estate, black robes, with crimson lining and navy blue and red trimmings. At his neck the collar matched the robes perfectly with it´s black colour and the coat of arms in red and blue, which was also shown on the chest of the robes. Harry had seen the robes when they arrived, but never on Tom. If the man had been handsome before the robes made him straight out gorgeous.

As Tom reached the floor Harry held out the heavy winter cloak that had come with the robes. Tom accepted and pulled it around his shoulders and fastening the claps. The collar was still visible at his throat.

“Ready?” Harry asked, pushing a hand through his hair. Brown eyes rose to meet his for a moment.

“Yes.” The tone was curt.

Harry sighed. “You still angry with me?”

The silence was probably answer enough. Tom did have the right to be angry, Harry thought. He had acted like an idiot. “I suppose it won´t help if I promise not to drink again?” Still no answer.

“Tom, you need to talk to me.” They really should be going but Harry didn´t want the issue to hang over them for the rest of the day.

A muscle twisted in Tom´s face, as he seemed to grind his teeth. “I´m not angry. I just,” he huffed a breath and dragged a hand over his face. “I don´t know how you want me to act and…” He trailed of.

Harry nodded. “I know. I shouldn´t have made you kneel, when I had told you five seconds earlier that I wanted you to have a somewhat normal life. I am sorry. It was idiotic of me to loose my temper. I guess today will not be the easiest of days either.”

“Probably not.” Tom agreed.

“Well, let get this over with.” Harry led the way over to the fireplace and picked up some of the Floo powder. Pulling Tom into the fireplace with him, he cast the powder down and ordered “Ministry of Magic.”

There wasn´t a lot of people in the Atrium at seven pm in the morning. They emerged from one of the fireplaces in the middle and walked the familiar way over towards the golden gate. Harry had set the meeting with the Head of the Auror office early to avoid most of the Aurors. It would give Tom a chance to settle in before the rest of the office arrived. He wasn´t entirely sure how they would take the news about the Dark Lord being there, but he hoped it wouldn´t go too horrible. If it did then he would have one more thing to feel guilty about.

They stopped at the registration desk where Eric was sitting, having already been there for an hour. Harry knew from the letter he had received that Sommerseth had arranged for something that would grant Tom access through the gate. Normally it was tied to the person’s magical signature and name, but with Tom´s status being what it was, the gate wouldn´t recognize him.

“Good morning, Harry,” Eric smiled, but it faltered at the sight of Tom behind him. His eyes lingered at the collar before reaching into a draw and pulling out something that looked like a silver bracelet. “Here. Mr. Sommerseth had me prepare this. It will open the gates for him.” He nodded at Tom.

Harry smiled and thanked him. Just outside the gate he turned and held out his hand. “May I?” He asked.

Tom placed his hand in his and watched as Harry fastened the bracelet around his right wrist, the only possible solution seeing as the cast was still on his left. “There, hopefully that will grant you access. Care to try it?”

The gate seemed to hesitate for a moment when Tom approached it, but then it swung open, allowing them inside. Harry took the lead and headed for the elevators. The Auror’s office was on level 2.

The office was quiet and empty, but the lights were on so Harry assumed Robards was in his office. He stopped by his own desk and took of the cloak and hung it over the chair. “This is my desk. Draco and Neville have those two,” he pointed to the desk directly opposite of his own and the one beside it. He had no idea what Robards had planned in regards to the newest addition to the team though. “Ron sits behind Neville, but he is currently on leave. Have you ever been here?” To be honest Harry didn´t know how much of the Ministry Tom actually had experience with.

Tom shook his head and unclasped his cloak when Harry held out his hand for it. He put it over the chair along with his own. “No, I´ve never been here. Never had reason to.” Harry nodded.

“My boss wanted to talk to us before the rest of the Auror´s gets here. I´m assuming he´s in his office since the lights are on.”

The sound of “come in” floated out when Harry knocked on the door and the proceeded to push it open. “Good morning, sir,” he smiled as he entered the office, Tom close on his heels. The office looked about as much of a mess as usual. Stacks of papers were everywhere. On the floor, the shelves and the desk. Pilled so high some places that Harry always expected them to come tumbling down any minute. How in the world the man got anything done was a mystery. Even the visiting chairs were filled with papers and books and Harry moved some out of the way to make room for sitting in one of them. Tom seemed to drift of somewhere behind him, and when he turned his head he saw the Dark Lord was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. Definitely still angry, Harry thought.

“Good morning,” Robards smiled, putting down his coffee cup. He glanced up at Tom and Harry could see his eyes lingering at the Slytherin. For a moment he wondered what people thought when confronted with Lord Voldemort. The Dark Lord that had terrorised the Wizarding World for so long, but now looked like nothing more than a young student out of Hogwarts. Did they feel a pang of fear, or relief or perhaps anger?

“Tom I presume?”

“Yes, Sir.” Tom gave a polite nod as he glancing up.

“So this is you version of getting information from a source, Harry?” The voice was teasing and Harry found himself blushing. “At least it will save time,” he defended. Robards laughed.

“Yes, the Minister himself and Mr. Sommerseth was in here yesterday more or less ordering me to allow you to bring Tom here with you to work. I guess I would be stupid to turn down the opportunity to have one of the most powerful wizards of all time, with his wealth of knowledge at my disposition. Have you talked to Mr. Longbottom and Mr. Malfoy?”

Harry nodded. Neville had taken it nicely; Draco on the other hand had looked like he considered resigning. Tom had after all tried to turn him into a murder, so Harry could understand the impulse. “Yes. Draco is sceptical, but he´ll come around.”

“Good. I´ve cleared out meeting room one for you. I thought your team could use that as an office from now on. It will be easier than working in the bullpen.” Robard´s was muggleborn, which showed sometimes in his choice of words.

“And you, Tom, are you going to terrify my employees with you presence?”

Harry turned in his chair. Tom looked up and looked between Robards and Harry before concentrating on the floor alone. “No, sir. Not intentionally.”

“Good. And his magic?” The last was directed at Harry. He shrugged. “It´s currently blocked.”

“I assume you´ll agree that you are not taking him out into the field with you if he can´t defend himself? Sommerseth and the Minister will have my head if something were to happen to him in the field because I let you drag him with you on one of your idiotic hunches that normally end with you in the hospital.” Robards leaned back into his chair and folded his hands over his stomach.

Harry groaned. Of course the man had to bring up the times he´s screwed up in the field and gotten hurt. It wasn´t like being an Auror was the easiest job in the world. “That has only happened three times, sir!” From the corner of his eyes he could see Tom have something that looked like curiosity on his face.

“Yes, and you are still not taking him into the field. That´s an order Potter.”

He knew there was no arguing with the man so he just bowed his head. “Yes, sir.”

“Now go and set up in the meeting room, I want to talk to our new addition here.” Dismissed apparently. Harry nodded and rose. He cast a quick look at Tom who didn´t look all too happy about being left alone with Robards. Sorry, he mouthed before leaving the room.

***

Robards studied the youth in the corner of the room. Dressed to the nines in the Potter estate colours as was expected of an indenture slave. The collar was easily visible at the neck and Robards found himself somewhat fascinated by how well the collar seemed to fit the former Dark Lord. For a mass murder he was incredible handsome with the sharp features, black hair and what he thought was brown eyes, but they had been trained mostly at the floor so he wasn´t completely sure. Robards had little problem imagining how the boy in front of him at used his looks and charm to build and army of followers. Unfortunately the boy wasn’t a boy at all, but just a decade or so younger than himself, but it wasn´t possible to think of him as anything else the way he looked at the moment.

He had never seen or met the Dark Lord when he had been at the height of his power, nor attended his trial. The boy, (man he amended), before him was one of the most powerful wizards of all time, perhaps second only to Dumbledore when he had been alive. He still had the power, only locked away. Robards let him self wonder for a moment what it would mean for the Auror’s to have that kind of magic on their side.

Rounding the desk he sat down on the edge. He could see Tom tense and take a step back, then another before colliding with the wall. His whole demeanour was one of unease and he looked like he wanted no more than to bolt out of the office. A hint of white peaked out from the left sleeve and Robards realized it was a cast.

“Easy,” he murmured, feeling like an idiot for using the same tone as when he was trying to console one of his father’s horses. “Skittish aren´t you?” The words slipped out before it could stop them. They were not appropriate considering what the man in front of him had been through the last couple of years, but he had been too lost in the thoughts about the horses.

They earned him a glare. Yes, definitive brown eyes, he thought. Robards spread his arms wide, palms showing. His wand was well tucked away.

“Easy,” he repeated. For a moment regretting that he had dismissed the Potter heir. “I just want to apologise. I´m the Head of the Auror office and so responsible for those who guard Azkaban.”

That gained a reaction. Something flashed across the youthful face in front of him, something that was torn between fear and something else.

“I am sorry. I didn´t know, not that it´s an excuse. I should have known. They were my Aurors. If you want to blame someone then blame me. If I had known I swear I would have had them removed. We have established new routines at the prison to avoid something like this from happening again. I know that doesn´t change anything, and I can´t undone what has been done, but I am sorry.”

The brown eyes were watching his own and Robards remained still. He had not lost any relatives to the dark lord during the last two wars, and didn’t personally have anything against the man, but he did understand those who did, but hadn´t the former dark lord paid enough already?