His stomach turned as Harry dressed the next morning. Voldemort had instructed him to wear one of the nicer sets of robes the man had given him for his birthday. Harry thought he was going to be sick.
"Well you look very official." The Dark Lord said when he returned to the room after Harry had finished forcing his meager breakfast down.
"Why did I say I was doing this again?"
"If I remember correctly you were quite eloquent about it, saying something akin to 'Bloody hell if it gets me out of that wretched room then yes.' I didn't realize you were so offended by my chambers. You look right ill."
"I feel it." He said as he placed his head in his hands. Voldemort walked over to the boy and placed a pale hand on the thin shoulder.
"You will be fine. What are you afraid of?"
"Oh I don't know. The fact that they might kill me, that they might torture me until I end up in St. Mungo's for the rest of my life, the fact that they've been trying to do just that for the past three years…"
"Times are different now. Plus, they know not to lay a hand on you."
"Do they know I'm coming?"
"Come, no more of this. You will be fine. You will sit there quietly and listen and that is all." When the boy didn't move Voldemort said, "You don't have to go if you do not want to."
For the briefest of moments Harry considered staying in this room for the rest of his life where it was safe and calm. But no, Voldemort was giving him an opportunity to do something different, to get out of this bloody room. Harry wasn't sure he would be able to spend his days alone in the training room, so he had readily agreed to join in the meeting today. Plus, Voldemort had said he planned to break into Hogwarts and Harry could hardly miss an opportunity to hear further about this plan. Maybe he could persuade the Dark Lord to spare as many people as possible as opposed to his usual murderous rampage. In addition, the thought of meeting a group of people plotting to overthrow Dumbledore didn't exactly lessen Harry's interest either. Even with all these reasons, Harry was still terrified.
"Ok, let's go." The boy said with a sigh.
"You will be fine." Voldemort said as they stood in front of a set of large oak doors. The man waved his hands and it was as if the motion had unleashed the true Dark Lord. Harry felt Voldemort's magic course through him, almost as if the man were trying to physically radiate power to those around him. He swallowed thickly as the horcrux inside of him tingled at the Dark magic.
He shyly followed Lord Voldemort into the room towards a long dark wooden table where twelve people, both men and women, were seated. As the two entered each Death Eater rose from their seat and bowed low, murmuring individual "My Lord"s towards their Master.
Voldemort's robes billowed from behind him as he quickly made his way towards his most loyal and devoted followers. Harry stood awkwardly a few feet from the table, unsure of what to do as well as trying to keep distance between himself and the nearest Death Eater.
"I am impressed. I see a great lesson on punctuality was learned since the last time we met. I am delighted to be able to start on time today. The Cruciatus curse does make its point quite clear, does it not?"
Harry saw a few of the Death Eaters take quick unamused glances at a male sitting at the very end of the table- he was staring down at his hands, deftly avoiding the glares.
"As you all can see we have a visitor, famously known as The Boy Who Lived. You all know my expectations of you around our new addition, and believe me when I say that there will be no second chances when it comes to him. Do not dare disappoint me." Harry shifted on his feet as every eye in the room turned towards him, his gaze wavering towards the floor. "Come Harry, sit."
When he looked up Voldemort gestured towards a large empty chair to his left, indicating Harry's place at the table. Harry walked around the table and winced in embarrassed horror as the chair squeaked across the floor as he pulled it out. He quickly took a seat and immediately stared down towards the table in front of him, feeling incredibly small and ridiculous around these people.
"So, you all know why we are gathered today." Voldemort's tone was intimidating as it lacked the snarky sarcasm Harry had grown accustomed to. This was the Dark Lord Harry had known for the past few years, a man full of great power and intelligence with zero patience for impudence and those who did not live up to his expectations. "Severus, why don't you inform us on what the Order has been up to as of late."
Harry's eyes widened as his head flew up. Severus Snape was a Death Eater? Severus Snape, the man who was considered by most to be Dumbledore's right-hand man?
"Admittedly my Lord they have been struggling since the failed attempt to recapture the Potter boy. They were clearly not expecting any resistance from him." 'The Potter boy' sat with his mouth open. Was Snape really sitting here having a civil conversation with the Dark Lord? Did Voldemort know the man was with the Order? He taught at Hogwarts for Merlin's sake!
"Yes, Harry has recently changed his views on Dumbledore's mission and I intend to use that to our advantage."
"My Lord?" Harry leaned forward and glanced down the table to see where the voice had come from. His heat skipped as the crazed woman who attacked him in the library spoke. "My Lord, forgive my curiosity but why- why is the boy here? Surely he has not changed his opinions enough to join our cause."
Voldemort's eyes narrowed for a moment and Harry jumped as a red spell flew past him. The woman's screams echoed through the hall. The Cruciatus curse.
The spell only lasted a few moments before Voldemort ended it, the woman's screams dying along with it. "Certainly you do not think I would put our cause in danger, Bellatrix. Unless you think me unfit to rule and administer my own plans?"
"My- My Lord no! I did not, I would never. Forgive me Master please. Please. I simply meant to inquire why the boy was here with your Inner Circle, your most loyal." She emphasized the last word as if trying to amend for her inquiry. "I would never think you incapable of ruling, My Lord."
"The boy will stay and that this final. The next person who questions it will find their life at an end."
Harry sat tensed in his seat, feeling even more out of place than he had when he first walked in the door. Obviously Voldemort's followers were wary of his presence.
The meeting continued and Harry sat and listened, feeling slightly more at ease over time as the tension in the room died down. He took notice that the seat directly opposite of him was empty and when he finally gained the courage to do so, he leaned forward slightly in his chair and peered down the table once more. He recognized the two from the library, Bellatrix apparently being the name of the woman. He was still shocked at seeing Snape, who deliberately avoided eye contact with Harry throughout the meeting. He inwardly scoffed when he saw the elder Malfoy sitting a few chairs down from himself, recognizing the man from the few times he had seen him at Kings Cross on September 1st. Harry wanted to leap out of his seat when he saw who was sitting to the left of the man- Draco. The boy sat in his seat looking much like Harry, utterly out of place amongst the powerful wizards surrounding them. Draco was currently looking down towards his hands as they fiddled in his lap and Harry couldn't tell if he was bored or terrified.
Wasn't Draco supposed to be at Hogwarts? The school year had surely begun by now. And why was he here in the first place? Harry highly doubted a boy of thirteen was part of the Dark Lord's most trusted.
Harry was abruptly broken from his thoughts as Voldemort and the others rose from their seats. Not knowing what to do Harry quickly stood to his feet.
"I have matters to attend to before we meet again, but it should not take more than a few days. You will know when it is time. Lucius, Narcissa, and Draco stay. The rest of you are dismissed."
One by one the Death Eaters disapparated from the room, all except the two Malfoys and a woman Harry hadn't noticed before now.
"Harry, I believe you are probably acquainted with young Draco Malfoy are you not?" Voldemort asked.
"Um, yeah." He responded quietly, desperately wishing for Voldemort to leave it at that.
"His parents are both part of my Inner Circle and have been for quite some time. One day Draco may be honored with that title as well if he keeps along the correct path." The Dark Lord spoke as if no one were in the room aside from Harry and himself.
Lucius cleared his throat, "It would be an honor My Lord for my son to fully serve you in the future. He is taking his current responsibilities extremely seriously. Isn't that right, Draco?"
The boy's face paled as he realized he was being forced to speak. Harry almost laughed when Draco's usually cocky and arrogant voice cracked as he spoke quietly, "Yes, My Lord."
Voldemort looked intensely at the blonde boy, "I hope you understand how vital you are to us gaining entry into Hogwarts. Do not forget our previous discussion. You are dismissed."
Draco looked as if he were about to become violently ill as he grabbed his father's arm to apparate. Harry watched as the three bowed and quickly disappeared.
"Would you uncurl your lip? It's quite unbecoming." Harry blinked as he looked away from where he had been staring; Voldemort was already seated once more.
"I take it from your actions that you do not care for the young Malfoy boy?"
"Horrible? Certainly that's an exaggeration. His parents are quite dedicated."
"It's not. He's a pig-headed, cocky, superior, over confident, lazy, smug, bothersome, rude, br-"
"Alright that's quite enough, I understand. You don't like him. Sit." Harry huffed and plopped down into his seat. "I was rather hoping you two would get along."
"I have my reasons."
"That's a lousy answer. Why is he here anyway? Shouldn't he be at Hogwarts?"
"Draco has agreed to assist in our plight and has been taken out of Hogwarts on particular weekends to attend our meetings when able. It is a fairly rare occurrence as we would not want to be conspicuous. Not many students leave Hogwarts during the school year. Luckily the Malfoys are quite esteemed and do not get questioned on such trivial matters."
"So was that his mother? The woman?"
"Yes, that was Narcissa."
"You know, I wouldn't trust Draco to do anything correctly, I hope you aren't having him do something important. He'll probably just screw it up."
"Well thank you for your input child, but Draco is being closely monitored. He is our only available choice as it is."
"So what is he doing?" Harry asked straightforward, realizing Voldemort had yet to really answer his question.
"It is none of your concern. I did not think you were interested in matters of the war."
"Well, I'm a little interested…"
"Enough to want to assist? You do know as much about Hogwarts as-"
"I thought you weren't going to force me to help? I thought you said I could just sit here and listen."
"That is true, I was merely asking, not demanding. It is your choice, but know that it is a choice which is always available."
Harry looked suspiciously at the Dark Lord, "I know what you're doing."
"Oh do you?" Voldemort said with a smirk as he leaned forward. "Tell me, what am I doing, Harry?"
Harry swallowed, refusing to let Voldemort intimidate him. "You're trying to lure me in with all this Death Eater stuff. Letting me sit in on meetings, get training from you, all in hopes that one day I'll want to join in and fight for you."
Voldemort still sat smirking at the young boy, not agreeing or denying. He leaned back in his seat and changed the subject, "So what did you think of the meeting?"
Suddenly Harry remembered the one thing he had been bursting to tell Voldemort. "Do you know Snape works for Dumbledore?!"
Voldemort chuckled, it was so easy to get Harry off topic. "Of course I do."
"I-" Harry stammered, "Wait. You know? You know he works for Dumbledore?"
"You know that he fights with the Order?"
Harry paused. "Well why the bloody hell is he here then?!"
"Harry Harry, calm yourself. Do you honestly think I don't know of my follower's motivations? Of their loyalties? Severus is with us, not the Light. He poses as a spy for me and has quite spectacularly fooled Dumbledore into thinking he's part of the Order."
"Snape is a spy?"
"So he pretends to be in the Order, but he really is in your army? He tells you what the Order is planning?"
"Did he tell you they were coming to try to get me?"
"He gave me a fair warning, told me that the Order was considering it but that he was not part of the attack and therefore was not privy to any concrete plans. He was in the process of obtaining more information but it was too late- the date had been set and they attacked. Luckily I had an inclination they were on their way, we could have lost many more in that battle."
"Why didn't you keep them out then? I mean, why didn't you make the wards stronger if you knew they might be coming?"
"That is precisely what concerns me. There is a traitor among my ranks."
"What? How do you know?"
"The only way for the Order to have been able to break the wards as they did was if they knew what incantations were used in the creation of the wards. Someone informed them of this information, someone in my ranks. It is the only way. It is currently a matter I am thoroughly looking into."
"You said you made the wards stronger this time right?"
"Yes, it is a combination of various ancient protective spells, magic that is practically extinct. Even if they were to know which spells I used, they would never be able to break the enchantment."
"And I take it you didn't tell anyone this time what magic you used?"
"Precisely. Enough of this, why don't we head to the training room so I can defeat you in another dozen duels?"
Harry rolled his eyes and stood from his seat, his mind swimming with all that he had learned.