DAY FOUR, THE FINAL DAY
He hated to admit it, but Harry was nervous, borderline terrified. He was currently standing in the shower trying to stall before having to go get dressed. Voldemort was assembling all of his available followers today to give final instructions on tomorrow's attack. Harry had begged the man to allow him to stay in their chambers with Nagini, but Voldemort had insisted that Harry accompany him to the gathering.
He had long ago washed his hair and cleaned himself but he was still standing under the flow of hot water, hoping that if he wasted enough time Voldemort, not wanting to be late, would leave without him. Even Harry knew it was a long shot.
After about 45 minutes Harry emerged from the shower, knowing that before long Voldemort would enter the bathroom and pull him from the water himself, and being dragged around naked by Voldemort was not something Harry wanted.
He wrapped a towel around his waist and begrudgingly exited the bathroom.
"Sweet Salazar, I thought you'd never come out."
Harry ignored the man and walked into the massive closet to retrieve his usual robes. He had only taken a step inside when his body was yanked back into the room by an invisible hand. He had to quickly grip the towel around his waist to keep it from falling before coming to an abrupt stop in front of the bed.
"You're wearing those robes," Voldemort said and gestured to the dark green set laid out on the comforter. Harry had grown accustomed to the Slytherin green robes and shirts he continually was forced to wear and therefore made no fuss about the color. He grabbed the clothes and walked back into the bathroom, emerging in a dark green dress shirt and black pants. He walked back over to the bed and took a closer look at the robes. There were silver snake-shaped clasps on the front and black embroidery along the edges. It looked expensive, but it also looked hot, and Harry was none too pleased to put it on. He considered asking Voldemort if he could just wear the shirt and pants, but decided to stay quiet and just do as he was told.
He grabbed the shiny pair of black boots beside him and plopped onto the bed, slipping the shoes on in the process. When he was finished he sighed and flopped backwards, laying on his back extending his arm to rub along Nagini's scales. She had done little the past few days aside from lay with her eyes closed. Both she and Harry continued to have the unannounced spasms, but Harry's were much lessened in pain as he continued to take the pain relieving potion Voldemort had ordered Snape to make for him.
"What's bothering you?"
Harry raised his head to see Voldemort standing in front of him. "What?"
"Something has been bothering you. You've been uncharacteristically quiet since yesterday. What is it?"
Harry hadn't paid much attention, but he supposed he had been oddly quiet the past few hours as the events of the day before had been repeatedly playing through his mind.
"I would think you would be happy for some peace and quiet," he jibed, but Voldemort remained silent as he waited for the boy to answer him. Harry sighed, "I don't know," he mumbled, still lying on his back.
The boy turned his head as he heard Hedwig begin to rummage through her food dish, not concerned at all for the battle that lie ahead.
"I said I don't know. Nothing is bothering me."
"I know you've been thinking about what I said."
Harry was about to say 'Have not' but didn't for fear of sounding childish. Voldemort knew what the boy was thinking at all times, but he rarely commented on it.
The room stayed silent for a few moments before Voldemort sat down upon the bed. He began running his long fingers over his lifeless companion before moving to Harry's unruly head of hair. He always enjoyed running his hands through the boy's locks.
Harry closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling. He often thought of his mother playing with his hair as a baby, but he knew it was only his imagination. He had been much too young to remember his parents.
"Are you going to say it?"
"No. You already know."
"I want to hear you say it," Voldemort pressed.
Why did it matter who said it? Voldemort knew what he had said and what it meant when he threatened to rip the horcrux from Harry and send him back to the Dursleys.
Harry was quiet for a while as Voldemort continued to pull gently at his hair, "Did you mean it?"
"Did I mean what?"
"What you said yesterday about the horcrux and the Dursleys."
"No, I didn't mean it."
"Why did you say it then?"
"Because I was angry," Voldemort emphasized his point by pulling sharply on the hair in his hands.
"Ow!" Harry swatted the man's hand away and Voldemort went back to stroking Nagini. "Can you even take a horcrux out of something?"
Harry sighed. "You acted like you didn't even care," The Dark Lord stayed silent, "You said you'd send me back and you acted like it was nothing, as long as you had your bloody horcrux. Do you even- I thought- you- GAH!" Harry shouted as he jumped up from the bed. He was so frustrated! Why would Voldemort say something like that if he didn't mean it?! Harry knew he had screwed up but did the man really have to do that?
Voldemort knew every corner of Harry's mind and was a skilled manipulator- he could threaten Harry with things that would make his skin crawl. He could scare the boy just enough to keep him in line, while never having to actually act on his words. He could play Harry like a puppet, and Harry hated it. He absolutely hated the fact that he had become so attached to the man.
He was standing across the room and looked to Voldemort, who still sat upon the bed, "I hate you."
"Harry, come here," Voldemort said and pointed to the ground in front of him. Harry hesitated but walked over anyway.
"I did not mean what I said. I would never send you back to those Muggles." He waited for a reply but received only silence before begrudgingly saying, "Salazar only knows how it happened, but you mean more to me than just the horcrux," Harry refused to look at the man, but he was listening and Voldemort knew it, "My life would be a lot more boring if you weren't here."
The corner of the boy's lips turned up a bit but he still stayed silent. He was going to make Voldemort keep talking, apologizing in his own Dark Lord way.
The man sighed.
"You are so frustrating," he said, but there was no malice behind the words.
He was still sitting upon the bed while Harry's face was turned towards the floor, so Voldemort was face to face with the top of the boy's head. He wanted to yank Harry's head up by the hair and scream, but he knew that would only make things worse. Harry was a child, and often Voldemort had to remind himself of that. Harry wasn't a Death Eater, threatening and instilling fear into the boy would only make things worse, not better. Voldemort knew that Harry's life at the Dursley's was full of abuse and neglect, but going back to that life also included going back to Hogwarts. It meant being the Wizarding World's Savior, and Voldemort knew Harry was more terrified of being their hero than he was of his family.
Knowing exactly what would make the boy respond, he tried a different tactic.
You won't get an apology from me.
Harry's head shot up as he heard the familiar voice echo through his thoughts. Hearing 'the voice', as he had come to know it as, always forced Harry to think of the first few times he heard it while at his uncle's home. It took him to a dark place in his memories, but yet it provided so much comfort.
The boy spoke, "Don't say that stuff again."
Voldemort barely refrained from chastising the boy about his 'order', "I won't."
The boy crossed his arms and the two left it at that.
"Alright," Voldemort sighed as he stood, "We must go."
There was no one in the eerily silent halls as Voldemort led Harry through the manor. Harry had expected the gathering to take place in the room the Inner Circle of Death Eaters had been meeting in the past week, but when they marched past the familiar set of doors he inquired as to where they were going.
"I don't believe you have been there before. It is on the other side of the manor."
"The other side? How big is this place?" Harry questioned.
"Quite large. There's still much you haven't seen."
Finally, Voldemort stopped in front of a door and Harry could instantly feel the man's powerful magic radiating off of him. They were here. Harry could hear the low rumble of people talking on the other side of the door.
Voldemort threw open the door with a dramatic flourish and Harry paled. There were people everywhere. Each person wore black and immediately kneeled when they caught sight of The Dark Lord entering. Harry's eyes were wide and he took two steps back into the safety of the empty hallway before he felt a force pulling his body inside the large room. It was as if there was an invisible rope keeping Harry close to Voldemort's side, forcing the boy to follow. He considered fighting it but quickly decided his better option was to simply obey and follow as he had already greatly embarrassed himself in front of the Death Eaters the day before. He kept his head down as he was dragged along, but Harry could still hear faint whisperings of the Death Eaters closest to him. Many were shocked to see The Boy Who Lived unharmed and obediently following The Dark Lord.
Voldemort and Harry ended up on a large stage-like platform at the front of the room. They were elevated, and Harry took a quick peek out from under his messy bangs. He immediately wanted to shut his eyes- there were hundreds of people staring directly at him. The room was massive, easily bigger than the Great Hall at Hogwarts. The ceilings were high and Harry couldn't even begin to make out the faces of the people in the back. He moved so that he was standing behind Voldemort enough so that the man could block some of the staring faces. The room quickly fell into silence.
"My loyal disciples," Voldemort's voice rang out, obviously enhanced by an unspoken spell. "We sit on the cusp of great change. The Wizarding World will soon awaken to a new government, a new leader. It has been long known that Minister Fudge believes Albus Dumbledore to be a loyal confidant, but that is soon to change. As long as all goes to plan tomorrow, Fudge and Dumbledore will no longer dictate the happenings of the Wizarding World. We will destroy them and their mindless minions."
The grand hall erupted into cheers and shouts, and Voldemort waited patiently until the noise died, "And you, all those who have been so very faithful, will be rewarded beyond measure. Your family and your children's families will be provided for and considered noble for generations to come. You will be greatly rewarded for your service. Your future hinges on the success of tomorrow."
Smart, Harry thought to himself, Reward them, make it important to them, force them to fight for something they want. People will always work harder if they get something in return…
Harry watched the Death Eaters as Voldemort spoke. They were enraptured. Harry had to admire the man, he had manipulated thousands of witches and wizards across the globe into following him blindly. The ones before him now watched Voldemort's every move, looked at him as if he were a god.
"-rry Potter," Harry perked up and Voldemort grasped him by the shoulder and pulled him forward to his side. Everyone was staring at him. "Oh how I have longed for the day when the Wizarding World could see The Boy Who Lived fighting beside us. Dumbledore and The Order of the Phoenix have kept his whereabouts under wraps, but soon I will show the world where their Savior's allegiance lies. Without Dumbledore, they will follow Harry Potter blindly. He will soon be vital in swaying the world to our side."
Murmurs were traded among the Death Eaters. So that would be his job post-war, convince the Wizarding World that what Voldemort stood for was just and right- a world of Wizarding rule and the pursuit of high status. Of course Voldemort would use him, why wouldn't he? The man was right, they would follow him blindly- he was Dumbledore's little pet.
As his mind was turning, the hall erupted once more into cheers before Voldemort said, "Do not disappoint me. Dismissed." The assembly was finished.
Some Death Eaters disapparated while others began animatedly speaking with one another. The hall was full of energy as Voldemort turned Harry and they quickly exited the door from which they came. There were people in the halls now and as Harry marched past he could hear them talking excitedly of strategy for tomorrow. Many of Voldemort's followers bowed as they passed, wishing The Dark Lord luck or assuring him of their upcoming success. The hall was boisterously loud and Harry was surrounded by black, although no one touched him. He stuck close to Voldemort and held tightly to the back of the man's robes, afraid of losing sight of the man in the mix of people.
They turned a corner and suddenly Voldemort had a tight grip on Harry's arm. He was about to yank his arm away when the world caved in around him and his body felt like it was being sucked through a straw. Not a moment later they were back in Voldemort's chambers with Harry bent over, trying not to heave up the contents of his breakfast. Oh how he hated the feeling of apparition.
When he was able to stand straight Voldemort was gathering papers from his desk.
"Well that wasn't as long and boring as I expec- wait, are you going somewhere?"
"Yes. There are still final plans to discuss and confirm. I will be back later. Stay here, there are too many people around for you to be roaming off by yourself."
"I'll be back later."
And with that Voldemort vanished. Once again alone, Harry looked around the room and decided to pull his Quidditch book out from under the bed to read. He laid down beside Nagini and began to read.
Harry was running his hands over Hedwig's smooth white feathers when The Dark Lord finally returned to his chambers. Voldemort's hand roved over the boy's shoulder as he passed and headed for his other companion. The man took a seat on the bed and Harry could hear Parseltongue being spoken quietly behind him. He tried to listen but Hedwig's quick attention-seeking nip at his fingers pulled his focus back towards her.
It was when Voldemort stood and made his way to one of the armchairs that Harry finally pulled away from the bird, taking a seat in the chair opposite The Dark Lord.
"I didn't realize you had so many followers," Harry said.
"Hm," was the only response he received as Voldemort flicked his wrist and the fireplace lit. They sat quietly for a few minutes as Voldemort stared into the flames, but Harry was anxious and he wanted to talk.
"Is Draco okay?"
"He is fine," Voldemort answered curtly without looking at the boy.
"I'm sorry we didn't get it finished…"
"That is not a matter we are going to discuss, Harry."
"I know it scared you," Voldemort said as he finally looked away from the flames. Harry knew he was referring to Draco's punishment.
"No it didn't," Harry lied.
"Yes it did, but I would not do that to you."
Voldemort was about to press on but he heard a small commotion from the other side of the room. He turned and saw Nagini once again writhing on the bed as she had been doing off and on for the past few days. He glanced over to Harry who sat harshly rubbing his chest with his palm, but even his eyes were on the snake.
After a few moments the boy asked, "So you think we'll be able to fix her?"
"Yes," Voldemort answered, "Once I finish off Dumbledore The Order will scatter and there will be no one left to hunt my horcruxes. Although I do intend on retrieving the one Dumbledore has been using to weaken Nagini."
"How will you find it? Do you know which one it is?"
Voldemort paused for a moment, he had always kept his horcruxes and their whereabouts a secret, but what did it matter if Harry knew if he himself was one?
"I believe it is a locket I acquired many years ago."
Harry scrunched his face, "You put a horcrux in a necklace?"
"It belonged to Salazar Slytherin, it's a very important necklace."
Harry's jaw slackened, "Seriously?"
"Well what about my other question? How will you find it once you get into Hogwarts? How will you know if it's even in the castle?"
"I can sense my horcruxes in the same way you can. They are a part of me."
It was Harry's turn to look into the flickering fire now. A question flitted through his mind, a question he had wanted to ask Voldemort for the past few days, but it seemed so childish…
"Well I certainly appreciate your concern for me, Harry," Voldemort teased.
"Stop doing that! Get out of my head!"
"Never. Your mind is much too interesting a place for me to leave alone. Really though, you mustn't worry."
"I'm not worried, just curious."
"Curious as to how likely it is that I will return alive? I do believe that is considered worry, my child."
Harry groaned, "Fine. Whatever. I just don't want you to lose and end up dead; I don't want to go back to my old life."
"We will not lose I assure you."
"You know that's not as reassuring as you think."
"I have the utmost confidence in our attack. We won't lose," Voldemort said the second part quietly, as if speaking to himself.
Harry hesitated, then finally broke down and asked, "You're sure you'll be okay though? I mean what if you get hurt?"
"I won't get hurt."
"Would you stop? I'm asking a serious question! Just answer it!"
"Harry, my power rivals Salazar Slytherin himself. I am among the most accomplished wizards of all time. The only person who could even begin to duel fairly with me is Albus Dumbledore, and I assure you the old coot is no match."
"I'm just nervous," Harry said quietly. He was nervous for not only the safety of Voldemort, but also of his friends, the other students, the professors, The Order… but if the Death Eaters lost Harry didn't doubt for a moment that he would have to return to his old life.
Voldemort studied the boy, "You have no need to be nervous, little one."
A small smile graced Harry's lips at the endearment, he always liked when Voldemort called him that. He huffed, "So what, am I just staying here while you run off to save the world and take all the glory? I finished that Vanishing Cabinet so I should get some credit."
Voldemort pretended to consider the proposal, "Hmm, no. No I don't believe you do."
"Yes, you will stay here tomorrow, and by 'here' I mean in our chambers."
Harry hung his head dramatically, "Alright."
"It's not the end of the world, you will survive a few hours."
"But it's going to be awful staying here alone and wondering what's going on. I can't even talk to Nagini," he said, as the snake hadn't spoken much at all in the past couple days.
"Well soon she will be as annoying as always and you two can get back to your usual bickering."
Harry once again huffed and rolled his eyes, but the thought did make him smile.
"It will all be over soon. Life for the Wizarding World is about to change."
Harry looked to Voldemort and realized for the first time that the man was on the cusp of achieving everything he had worked for. Under the nervousness and the fear of the unknown, there was a part of Harry that was excited for what was to come, for deep down he truly did believe that Voldemort and the Death Eaters would win.
The Second Wizarding War was about to end.