It had been a few days since the Order had attempted to capture Harry, but the manor was still abuzz. Harry could often hear Death Eaters moving about, talking away about what had happened and why- they finally knew that The Boy Who Lived was in the Dark Lord's custody. Many questions arose about how long Harry had been around and where he was being kept, but Voldemort refused to answer any inquires. Apparently the Wizarding World had been in a panic for many weeks wondering where their Savior had vanished to. While he was quickly becoming desperate to leave the room, Harry for one was glad he was hidden away from the chaos. He had asked Voldemort if they were going to have to move now that the Order had broken through the wards, but the man assured him they would stay where they were. Death Eater protection around the manor had increased threefold, and the surrounding wards had been enhanced by Voldemort himself with ancient magic. It would take many more resources than the Order of the Phoenix had at their disposal to get anywhere near the Dark's headquarters a second time. Harry wasn't convinced, but Voldemort insisted that it would not happen again. Even so, everyone knew the war was about to come to an end, even Harry could feel it. A sort of anticipation hung about the manor, they knew the time was near.
He hadn't put much thought into how the Order had gotten through the security wards surrounding the manor, and if he was honest he really didn't care. All he cared about was Tonks and who knows how many other people who had lost their lives trying to rescue him from a place he refused to leave… it was his fault. His mind often ran away with possibilities, more often than not involving the Weasleys. What if Mr. Weasley had been part of the attack? What if he had gotten hurt? Or even killed? What was happening to Ron's family? It was all too much. He should have gone with Tonks as soon as she showed up but, it just didn't feel right. He couldn't leave. He didn't know why, it didn't make any rational sense, but something kept him here with Voldemort.
Harry had been moping about for the past few days, worrying about his friends, second guessing his decision, his mind was a mess. If he knew he did the right thing then why did he feel so horrible about it?!
He lay on the large bed with Nagini resting peacefully, and for once quietly, by his side. He had grown rather attached to the snake in the past month or so. He never wanted to ask Voldemort the date, so he could only guess, but he assumed it was sometime in mid-August.
Harry sighed and flopped over, letting the side of his face rest against Nagini's cold scales.
'Snakeling seems sad…'
'Why is snakeling sad? You are with Nagini and Master! Snakeling should be happy!'
'I don't know Nagini… I don't want to talk about it.'
'Master is happy… and so is Nagini.'
Harry couldn't help but smile.
Voldemort entered the room to see Harry resting against the large snake with his eyes closed, his arm wrapped around her body.
Harry heard Voldemort come in and for once didn't put the effort out to let go of Nagini. Voldemort knew they were getting along anyway no matter how hard Harry had tried to hide it.
The boy smiled again as he felt a hand run through his hair. "I have something for you, Harry."
He rolled away from Nagini and looked up to the Dark Lord. Voldemort sat down on the side of the bed beside his two most precious horcruxes.
"I must admit that I have had it for a few days, I was not sure if I was going to give it to you."
Harry sat up curiously, "What is it?"
Voldemort extended his hand and Harry looked curiously at the envelope. "I think the owl had trouble finding you because of the wards around the manor. When the Order broke through I believe the wards were down long enough for the owl to get an idea of your location. One of the Death Eaters on patrol found it impatiently waiting around the outside of the wards."
Harry flipped the envelope over.
His Hogwarts letter.
He felt a lump in his throat as he opened it slowly. He pulled the letter from Professor McGonagall out.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Please note that the new school year will begin on September the first. The Hogwarts Express will leave from King's Cross station, platform nine and three-quarters, at eleven o'clock.
Third years are permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade on certain weekends. Please give the enclosed permission form to your parent or guardian to sign.
A list of books for next year is enclosed.
Professor M. McGonagall
Voldemort quietly played with Nagini as he sat patiently and waited for the boy to finish reading.
"Thank you for giving it to me," Harry said with a sigh.
"You're welcome. I felt as though it would be improper not to."
Harry gently ran his hand over the green font on the envelope. This is what he gave up when he told Dumbledore he was staying with Voldemort. Hogwarts, the place he considered his home. Was it worth it? He thought about his life at the school, fantastic in almost every way except… except there was always that one thing, the one thing that he could never escape from, the unfamiliar person who followed him like a shadow- The Boy Who Lived. Harry felt no more a Savior to the Wizarding World than a house elf…
It was always present, that pressure to be something great, to be better than those around him because he was the one who had to save them in the end. He knew he would never be great enough to defeat Voldemort though, he had known it deep down since the first moment he understood his place in the Wizarding World. He would never be enough, but Hogwarts couldn't quite understand that. He saw the looks he received in the halls, the way people knew his name before his first year had hardly begun, the way they glanced at the scar… He was destined for something that would destroy him in the end. The world had put too much faith in a young boy.
When the Order had come to rescue him those few short days ago Harry had his chance to go back, but he didn't want it. He had never wanted it. Never wanted the fame, the hope, the potential. Choosing to stay with Voldemort had given him the opportunity to get away from his responsibilities. If that meant he was a coward well, he could live with that. Sure, he knew he could always choose to go back and they would welcome him with open arms, but could Harry say he enjoyed his life here with Voldemort?
"I think I do…"
Harry looked up from where he had been gazing. "Oh, I was just thinking."
"No actually, more about how I'm happy to be away from it."
Voldemort didn't try to hide the surprise on his face. "What do you mean?"
"Same as I said before- getting the bloody hell away from The Boy Who Lived."
"Ah, I see. Does it bother you that badly? To be him? The Savior?"
"I'm no Savior…"
The Dark Lord studied the young boy who was still looking down at the letter. Voldemort was beginning to think that Harry finally believed he had saved him as opposed to captured him. Was Harry that desperate to get away from the world? So much so that he would willingly stay with his 'enemy'?
Abruptly Harry stood up and almost pushed Voldemort out of his way in his haste to get off the bed. He ran to the unlit fireplace and frantically began tearing the envelope to pieces. He ripped the papers over and over again as if he were seeking revenge for some unspoken crime against him. Nagini lifted her head and watched the boy curiously along with her Master. When Harry was satisfied he threw the shreds into the fireplace with finality.
The room was silent for a few moments. "Harry are you sur-"
"I SAID BURN IT! I WANT IT GONE!"
Voldemort pulled his bone wand from a pocket in his robes and pointed it towards where Harry had thrown the papers. With a flash of bright orange the fire roared to life, burning what in Harry's mind was his last connection to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Voldemort lowered his wand and waited, watching as Harry stared into the flames. Minutes passed and Nagini's head resumed its place on the pillow, the room now pleasantly warm from the fire. Harry turned and looked to Voldemort, who had hardly taken his eyes off the boy in the time that had passed. As if an unspoken signal had occurred between them, Voldemort stood and Harry moved forward. The boy walked straight into Voldemort's arms and buried his face in the warmth of the man's chest.
Voldemort squeezed the boy tightly, the feeling of hugging someone awkward and unnatural, but yet at the same time it was Harry… his Harry.
The man turned his face into the boy's hair and breathed deeply, murmuring over and over in Parseltongue, 'Little snake…. My little snake….'
Harry had made his choice, and he had no intention of going back on it.