When Harry awoke after his first day or training, and the nightmare, he could hardly move. His muscles screamed with each tiny shift of his body.
Nagini heard Harry moan a few times before she made her way up onto the bed, crawling over top of Harry's body.
'Oh Merlin get off of me! AHH!'
'What?! What is wrong snakeling?!'
'Oh sweet Circe don't touch me…'
The large snake made her way to Harry's face, her tongue feathering his cheek. 'Tell Nagini what is wrong.'
'Your Master tried to kill me'
'WHAT?! He didn't! Do not lie! Master would do no such thing to his snakeling!'
'You are grumpy today.'
The two sat in silence for a few moments as the snake examined her fellow horcrux.
'Nagini I'm going to kill your Master.'
'Snakeling won't do that.' Nagini said matter-of-factly. 'Snakeling is just mad.'
It was not long after that Voldemort returned, slightly shocked that Harry was not dressed already.
"Yesterday you were halfway out the door before I returned."
"Ugg… you tried to murder me!"
"I am sore everywhere."
'Snakeling is grumpy today Master.'
'She won't believe me that you tried to kill me.'
'I didn't try to kill you.'
'Well what was the point of throwing me across the room a dozen times then?!'
'I needed to show you how much you can and need to learn. You have a long way to go.'
'Don't you think I know that?! You didn't have to make me disabled.'
"Always so dramatic." Voldemort mumbled quietly to himself as he waved his hand, conjuring a flask. "Here, this will ease the soreness."
Harry slowly sat up and took the flask, wincing as he did so. He brought it to his lips and was surprised when the taste didn't make him want to gag.
"A Slytherin wouldn't be so weak."
Harry's eyes widened and he almost choked on the potion, "Are you kidding me? A Gryffindor wouldn't harm someone who was weaker than them just to make a point!"
It didn't take long for Harry's muscles to relax and the soreness ease itself away. Once Harry got dressed they made their way back to the empty training room to begin the day's lesson.
"Are you going to hurt me today?" Harry asked once they arrived.
"Only if you don't listen to me."
"Really though, are you just going to throw me around again? That got old really quickly ya know."
"No, not today. Today we begin actual instruction, you have much to learn. I saw how you dueled yesterday and it was truly pitiful, so that is where we are going to begin."
"Yes. You were uncontrolled, spells were flying everywhere, nothing was planned, it was all quite chaotic. Now, as I was saying-"
"Planned?! You can't plan a duel Voldemort!"
"That is where you are wrong. While you must react to another's spells, you cannot merely start casting whatever comes to your mind in the moment." Voldemort sighed, "Yes, much much to learn. You will understand soon enough. Do not interrupt me again."
Two hours later and Harry's dueling had, well, slightly improved, but improved nonetheless. Voldemort had focused on defensive and counteractive spells, leaving Harry to keep himself protected from Voldemort's minor attacks.
"Well, there is potential I will say that."
"Potential? You don't think I'm good now?"
"You're good for a third year, but age has nothing to do with magical ability. You could easily be practicing at a fifth or even sixth year level if you applied yourself."
"Why don't you teach me those spells then?"
"Because you need to learn to adequately defend yourself first, Harry. Offensive spells do no good if you are taken out by the first attack your enemy casts. Come, we are done for the day."
"What? It's only been two hours."
"I am aware of this, but I have matters to attend to."
"Oh. We were here all day yesterday though."
"Which will be a rare occurrence. I told you I would have to make time to teach you throughout the day as I cannot simply drop everything. Just the mere thought of my followers running around unsupervised gives me a headache."
Even through his disappointment, Harry had to smile at that.
"Come Harry, we must go."
"Can- can I stay here?"
"Yeah, and practice? I mean, as long as the Death Eaters won't come in."
"I suppose I could put a charm on the door to keep them out…" Voldemort seemed to consider it for a moment. "Alright Harry, I will come to collect you later, but I expect you to be responsible. As I said yesterday, whatever you need you may simply summon, and Tibby can enter this room if you need anything. I want you to practice what we went over today. Also, do not leave this room under any circumstances. Understood?"
"One mess up and it's back to my chambers do you understand? One."
"Alright alright, geeze."
Harry looked around the large room as The Dark Lord vanished and was suddenly filled with an excited energy. A whole day alone outside of the room with not even Nagini around to hassle him. Feeling much like a child he dropped his wand and sprinted to the other side of the room, slamming his hands into the wall before spinning around and running across the room again with a huge smile on his face. He repeated this until he was gasping for air, laughing to himself over the elation of running, of simply doing more than just sitting or walking.
He sat on the floor as he caught his breath, playing with his wand between his fingers. He thought about what Voldemort had mentioned to him the previous night about going back to the Dursleys. He didn't want to imagine what torture the Dark Lord had planned for his family, but at the same time deep down he didn't want to stop it from happening either. The thought scared Harry. It was… very unlike him. Usually he was against torture or murder of any kind, and while it bothered him that Voldemort had plans for his uncle and aunt, it also wasn't something he was wholly against. Harry shook his head against the thought, he had time to decide- Voldemort said it was his decision.
He stood up and went to work, practicing over and over the defensive spells that he had learned earlier. He felt not quite desperation, but a great need to prove to Voldemort that he could learn. He wanted to prove that these lessons weren't a waste of time. He vowed to put his heart and soul into advancing his skills, he didn't want Voldemort to regret spending this extra time with him.
The dummies in the room were enchanted to cast whatever spells you instructed, so Harry practiced against them until his hand was cramping. He was sitting in a chair rubbing the ache from his wrist when the door creaked open and Voldemort entered.
"Hm. I almost expected you to be hanging from the ceiling or in some other ridiculous predicament."
"Ha. Ha. No, I really practiced hard! I think you'll be impressed."
"Oh really?" Voldemort said as he crossed his arms, inwardly smirking at the confidence radiating from the boy. "When I left this morning you weren't overly impressive."
In a flash Voldemort had uncrossed his arms and a spell was flying across the room. Harry's body moved on instinct, his mouth casting the counter-curse before his mind had even registered what had happened. Pausing only a moment in surprise, Voldemort began throwing curse after curse at Harry which were all deftly deflected. Voldemort put his wand away with a smirk.
"Alright, I am slightly impressed."
Harry couldn't wipe the confident smile off his face. "I told you."
"Don't think for a moment that I wasn't going easy on you."
It was not long after they were back in their room, Harry hungrily shoving food into his mouth, not taking the time to even look at what he was eating.
"Can you please not eat like an animal?"
Harry swallowed. "I'm hungry."
"Yes but you don't have to act like you haven't been fed in weeks." Actually, Harry looked much healthier than he had when he first arrived at Voldemort's manor. When Voldemort had first seen the boy he had been extremely thin, just verging on sickly looking, but now he looked much stronger… and much happier.
"The training made me really hungry."
For once Voldemort was eating with Harry, a true rare event. "So why don't you really eat?" Harry asked, "I don't know if I've ever seen you eat before?"
"I don't do it often."
"I don't have to."
"Oh… that's weird."
"Only to you."
"Hm. What about Nagini? I've never seen her eat either, does she have to?"
"Yes, she eats every day as you do. She leaves the room to do so though in the early morning hours while you are still asleep, she always returns by the time you have awoken."
"What does she eat?"
"The same things as other snakes- rabbits, birds, other small animals, the occasional Death Eater…"
Harry dropped his fork. "Are you serious?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"... no, I don't think so. Um, but birds huh?" Harry looked warily over towards Hedwig. His owl had grown quickly accustomed to her new life, but Harry figured anything was better than being constantly cooped up in a cage like at the Dursleys. "I'm kind of glad she leaves to eat… I don't really want to see that I don't think."
"It is slightly stomach churning I must admit."
"Anyway, so you're going to let me stay in the training room again tomorrow right?"
Voldemort gave Harry a suspicious look, "I don't know Harry, I feel as though I am tempting fate by leaving you in there."
"What? I didn't do anything stupid though, I just practiced like you said."
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Ugg, please? It's so much better than staying cooped up in here all day."
"Hm. Actually Harry I was hoping to make a trip to the garden tomorrow if you wished to accompany me."
The boy's eyes widened as he remembered the magnificence of the magical garden. "Really?"
"Yes. Do you want-"
"Yes I want to go! I definitely want to go!"
"But don't think that we are done talking about the training room."
Voldemort rolled his eyes, "Of course not…"
As they made their way out onto the grounds the next day Harry looked to the sky. He smiled as he felt the sun on his skin as the dazzling garden came into view. A thought flashed through his mind and he subtly looked down at his own arm before sneaking a quick glance over at Voldemort's exposed skin. If he kept this indoor life up for much longer he would certainly be giving the Dark Lord's paleness a run for its money.
They walked through the garden for a bit while chatting idly. There was something about the garden that absolutely enchanted Harry. Something about the way the plants were so unlike what he was used to seeing in the Muggle world, the way they hovered in the air, changed colors at will, some even making funny little sounds. It was just another thing that made Harry appreciate and admire the magical world he had been placed in, a world where even the simplest of things could mesmerize.
Harry was inspecting a particularly odd patterned plant floating in midair when Voldemort spoke.
"Harry, there is something I wish to discuss with you."
"Okay," the boy said without taking his eyes from the plant. He was reaching for it with his index finger when the Dark Lord broke his concentration.
"What?" he said, pulling his eyes away.
"There is something I wish to ask you."
"What is it?"
"Understand that I have no intention of pressuring you into anything. I am not Dumbledore."
Harry's face curled at the mention of the Hogwarts headmaster. "Okay."
"I was wondering if you wanted to accompany me tomorrow to a Death Eater meeting."
"I am quite certain you heard me."
"I just- why?!"
"You wished to get out of the room did you not? I had the feeling you were enjoying being productive throughout the day."
"Yeah, but a Death Eater meeting? What does that even mean?"
"The one tomorrow is not a full gathering. My inner circle is assembling to discuss further action, particularly as it pertains to Hogwarts."
"What do you mean? What are you going to do to the school?" Harry asked, worry creeping in.
"We're going to break in."