"This is ridiculous. I already said I'm fine!"
Harry was sitting grumpily on the bed with Nagini nestled beside him, pouting not much unlike a child.
"It is not. Now silence."
Voldemort was standing beside the bed, arms crossed and looking quite sternly down at Harry, daring the boy to move from his place. Harry huffed as the Healer used his wand to quickly and tightly wrap a bandage around his skinny arm.
Harry was certain this was a waste of time and that, although his appearance suggested otherwise, he was perfectly healthy aside from a few bumps and bruises. When he finally awoke after the battle, Voldemort had to spell the sheets clean as Harry was covered from head to toe in dust and dirt. Harry had been ordered into the shower and when he emerged, the brutal scrapes and marks on his skin were much more visible. Voldemort had summoned a Healer immediately.
Harry had forgotten the Healer's name, but when he arrived the first thing the man did was check for head injuries, as Voldemort had told him of the blast that had knocked the boy off his feet. There were no signs of concussion or injury, and once the man was convinced each of Harry's limbs worked correctly, he set to applying healing ointments onto the various places the boy's skin was torn and wrapped the areas in protective bandages.
Harry had to admit, he did look like a wreck, but it all looked much worse than it was. The battle had been such chaos, but he certainly remembered being bound in ropes and dragged across the rough stone floor, which unfortunately had left a nasty looking patch of raw skin on each of his forearms.
"Alright, My Lord, I am finished," the wiry-haired Healer said. "He should be fine, I believe there are no serious injuries aside from his arms," Voldemort deftly ignored Harry's 'I-told-you-so' stare, "and that should heal nicely with the help of the ointment and potions. I shall leave them here for you."
The man placed two bottles on the bedside table and looked to Harry, "Apply once a day."
Wanting to make a snotty comment, but knowing he had annoyed The Dark Lord enough already, Harry kept silent and politely nodded. He pulled his feet up and lay back on the bed, immediately ignoring whatever useless conversation the Healer and Voldemort were now having. He stared up at the ceiling until he heard the door close.
"Could you have been any more rude?" The Dark Lord asked with little humor as he took a seat at his large wooden desk.
"Why couldn't you have just done all that? Why did he have to do it?"
"I already told you, Harry, Healer Trius is the best there is and I wanted to make sure you were adequately looked over. I did not spend my years in school learning about the wizard body as he did, my focus lied elsewhere."
Harry huffed again and Voldemort asked, "Why are you so insufferable today? It's thoroughly annoying. And stop picking at your bandages."
Harry stopped fumbling with the bandages covering his forearms and grumbled quietly. He crossed his arms before closing his eyes and rolling onto his side. He really didn't know why he was so angry today. It was the day after the attack on Hogwarts, an attack they had won, Dumbledore was dead and Harry and Voldemort had survived with barely a scratch. Ok, maybe a few scratches, but what on earth did he have to be upset about?
Harry could hear Voldemort mumbling about teenage hormones from his seat at his desk, and although he was aggravated, the boy wisely chose to ignore him. He lay there for a few minutes with his eyes closed, trying to ignore the pain traveling over his body. He wasn't in terrible pain, but whatever the Healer had put on Harry's skin was aggravating- 'healing' is what the man had said, but Harry felt 'aggravating' was much more suitable. He had small cuts along his forehead, nose, and lips where he had been knocked over by the explosion, but luckily the debris that had fallen on him had been light or his back would be aching by now as well.
He felt something heavy slide across his waist. He opened his eyes and grumbled, "Would you please just leave me alo- Nagini!"
Realizing it hadn't been Voldemort trying to bother him, the boy immediately sat up and looked at the snake. She had laid her tail on top of him and was now wrapping her lower half around his small body. Voldemort's chair overturned as the man quickly stood and made his way to the bed.
The snake didn't respond but she stopped her movement for a few moments, almost as if she were taking a rest. Harry lay back down carefully so as to not squish the snake's body and put his head close to hers. Her eyes were open for the first time in days and they no longer seemed cloudy and unfocused. She still looked tired as her scales were still pale, but they were not the unhealthy dullness they had previously been. The large snake did nothing aside from look at the boy.
Harry smiled at her, "She looks happy."
"Well she no longer looks like she's dying," Voldemort said straightforwardly. Harry gave the man an unpleasant look; Voldemort sure could ruin a moment.
Harry sat back up and asked, "I don't understand. Why is she better all of a sudden? We didn't do anything beside kill Dumbledore. Do you think she was connected to him?"
"No, I took care of what was hurting her."
"What? What was it?"
Harry paused, "I don't get it."
"I found my horcrux, the one Dumbledore had in his possession."
"Yesterday, while you ate," Harry remembered back to the day before when, much to his dismay, Voldemort had left him with the Death Eaters during the feast and vanished.
"Where did you go?"
The Dark Lord took a seat on the bed, "Dumbledore's office. Well, first I went and checked his body to make certain he didn't have it on him. He didn't, so I went to his office."
"So did he have the locket like you thought? The special one?"
"Yes, Slytherin's locket. I found it hidden in his office only partially destroyed."
"I didn't know you could only halfway kill a horcrux…"
"Well when you're as big a fool as Dumbledore you can do many brainless things."
Harry was thoroughly confused and waited for Voldemort to continue.
The man sighed and spoke again, "Listen closely because I'm only explaining this once. Dumbledore found the locket and brought it back to Hogwarts. The only thing that can harm a horcrux is Basilisk venom, which I'm assuming he acquired one way or another. The details aren't important at this point," Voldemort said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "The problem is Dumbledore is a useless fool, and when he attempted to destroy the horcrux it rebelled and tried to retaliate. That is why he looked so tired and weak yesterday. He wasn't just getting older, he was getting weaker, only the fool couldn't put two and two together."
Harry nodded as he tried to keep up.
"Horcruxes are living beings, and when it felt threatened it retaliated and cursed Dumbledore. One must assume the man didn't feel the effects of the curse until later, and therefore thought he had successfully destroyed the horcrux. He may never even have connected the horcrux with his deteriorating condition."
"What do you think happened? What happens when you try to destroy a horcrux?"
"Any variety of things," Voldemort answered with a professorial tone. "It could try to protect itself by harming the person attempting to destroy it. It could create visions, possess the person, even cast curses, or it could do absolutely nothing. Dumbledore couldn't have realized anything was amiss initially, or he would have gone back to fully destroy the horcrux. Something happened though; most likely the locket tried to protect itself, leaving it only partially destroyed, and cursed Dumbledore. Whatever curse it used was slow-moving," Voldemort paused for a moment, looking hardly willing to continue his next thought, "Unfortunately, we will never know. But I am certain that his comrades noticed a change in the man in the last few days, similar to when we saw it in Nagini."
Harry's mind was slowly piecing it together, "So that's why Nagini got weaker and weaker? She was slowly dying like Dumbledore?"
"But the horcrux didn't curse her, so why was she affected by it?"
"Do not forget that you too were affected, young one. The pains in your chest…" he gestured to the boy. "It did not affect you as deeply as it did Nagini because you were, well, not exactly planned."
"What?" Harry said with his face twisted in disgust as his young mind wandered to unplanned babies.
"There is a process one must go through to create a horcrux, certain things must happen, but with you it was very much an accident. Your horcrux is different than the others and while you are similar you are also not the same. You still have a piece of my soul, it is just different, and therefore acts differently."
"So what's the process of making a horcrux?"
"It is none of your concern."
"Why? It's not like I'm going to go out and make one! I just want to know."
"Yours was made accidentally when the Killing Curse rebounded, the others were intentional, that is all you need to know."
"No, and that is final."
Harry sighed and flopped back into the pillows, he was just curious for Merlin's sake! The man always had to be so dramatic. He felt something brush against his face and he smiled.
The snake continued to butt heads with the boy, rubbing her scales across his skin happily.
"Ow," Harry said quietly when she hit the fresh scrapes on his nose.
'Nagini, I know you're happy but please be careful' Voldemort hissed in Parseltongue.
"She's fine, don't bother her," Harry retorted, happy to see even a little bit of his old friend back.
He broke into a laugh when she began flicking her tongue over his face, tasting and examining the boy. Voldemort sat and watched the reunion amusedly, the smallest of smiles turning the corner of his lips.
When Nagini finally stopped Harry asked, "So you said you took care of whatever was hurting her, which was the messed up horcrux in the locket, right?"
Voldemort was pulled from his reverie, "Yes."
"So what did you have to do? How did you stop it?"
"I had to destroy it."
Harry bolted forward, "What?!"
"I had to. It was killing her, and in time it might have killed you too. It affected all of my horcruxes, therefore it was much more prudent to destroy the ruined one than have it destroy the others."
"Oh, well I guess that makes sense. Shouldn't I have felt it or something?"
"Possibly, possibly not. It was so weak by the time I destroyed it you probably didn't feel a thing. Plus, you were sleeping when I destroyed it."
"So if one day the horcrux in me dies, would I still be alive?"
Voldemort stood, "There are too many questions coming from you today."
"Well, I mean, I think that's a decent question to ask."
"You must understand something, Harry. People don't make horcruxes out of living things… they don't even make horcruxes in general. This is a very dark form of magic and very little is known about it. You must understand that these questions you ask cannot always be answered."
Harry just stared.
"One day I will answer all of your questions, but we cannot fit all of them into today."
"Alright," Voldemort seemed relieved to have ended the conversation as he took a seat at his desk. "Alright, enough of that. For Salazar's sake sometimes you wear me out."
Harry murmured quietly to himself, "Only 'cuz you're so old…"
"What was that?" Voldemort said as he lazily aimed his wand toward Harry.
"No! Wait!" Harry threw his arms out to protect himself, "I'm hurt don't forget!"
"You have annoyingly insisted all morning that you are perfectly fine. I certainly don't think a small stinging hex will make matters worse."
"No, I'm severely injured," Harry threw himself dramatically into the pillows, "Ow… so much pain…."
Voldemort lowered his wand and fought against a smirk.
A few minutes passed and Harry opened one eye. Voldemort was sitting at his desk looking intently down at his wand. No, wait, it wasn't his wand, it was Dumbledore's wand. The man was running his hand along the simple piece of wood.
Harry lifted himself onto his elbows, "It's weird looking, isn't it?"
Voldemort glanced up at the boy but took a moment to answer, "You have no idea what this wand is, do you?"
"It's Dumbledore's wand."
"Not just Dumbledore's, this wand goes back much farther than Dumbledore. This is the Elder Wand, Harry."
The boy sat confused for a moment before jumping from the bed and heading to Voldemort's desk, suddenly very interested.
"Have you ever heard of the Elder Wand?"
The boy shook his head.
"Harry," Voldemort held the wand up, "This is the most powerful wand in the world."
A moment of silence passed.
"Are you kidding me? This is a joke. You're such a-"
Voldemort put his hand over the boy's mouth, "Silence. I am quite serious. You have no idea what you have here." He kept his hand over the boy's mouth and continued, "It is said that this wand can do magic no other wand has the ability to, to say it is powerful is not giving it enough justice."
The Dark Lord removed his hand and Harry stared at the wand. Although it was oddly designed, it seemed no more special than his own wand.
"This is easily the most famous wand ever fashioned," Voldemort said as he ran his long fingers along the elder wood, "It has many names, The Wand of Destiny, The Deathstick, The-"
"The Deathstick?" Harry interrupted, slightly shocked at the title.
Voldemort gave the boy a look, indicating he didn't appreciate being interrupted, "Yes. The Master of this wand has the potential to become the Master of Death."
"So, like, they couldn't die?"
Harry just shook his head, it was too much to take in, "So who owns it now if Dumbledore is dead?"
"You do, Harry."
"You disarmed Dumbledore, the wand is yours."
Harry looked at the wand in awe. He now owned the most powerful wand that had ever existed? It seemed ridiculous, but even Voldemort seemed to be entranced by it.
Voldemort interrupted his thoughts, "I must say I am eager to use it."
"Excuse me? It's my wand."
"And I could easily take it from you, so consider it a gift."
"A gift? But I'm the one who disarmed him!" Even after all this time Harry was still shocked at the man's arrogance. "You don't get to use it!"
"A bit spoiled are we?" Voldemort smirked as he put the Elder Wand in his robes.
"No, I'm not," Harry said as he held his hand out. "Give it to me."
Voldemort raised his hairless eyebrow at the boy but Harry refused to amend his command.
"Do you think you scare me?" The Dark Lord said with a confident grin as he rose to his feet, suddenly towering over Harry.
The boy's extended hand faltered for a moment. Voldemort simply chuckled and moved past the boy.
With a huff of indignation, Harry chose to ignore the man. Voldemort had said the wand belonged to Harry, and that he should consider it 'a gift'. He wasn't worried, he knew Voldemort would eventually return the wand… eventually.
"By the way, I was impressed with you yesterday."
"Yeah? Because of what I did to Dumbledore?" The young boy replied excitedly as thoughts of the wand were pushed to the back of his mind. It wasn't every day Voldemort said he was impressed by you.
"Precisely, although do not forget it was a duel effort."
"Well, yeah, I guess you helped a bit," Harry teased, thoroughly enjoying provoking the unamused Dark Lord. "Seriously though, did you see the spell? Did you see the green? Did you see it?"
Voldemort smirked at the excited boy, "I saw it."
"It was the Killing Curse! It actually worked!"
"You were excellent, Harry."
"I just- it was like it all happened in slow motion and knew I had to at least try the curse. I didn't really expect it to actually work."
"And why is that?" Voldemort asked as he sat in the oversized armchair.
"Well, you have to mean it for it to work. I- I hated Dumbledore, but I guess I never knew I could hate someone so much I would actually want to kill them…" the boy said as he looked down at the wooden desk.
"You're much different now, Harry, you aren't as you used to be."
"Yeah… but you were impressed? So I did okay?"
"Yes, you did."
Harry couldn't keep the smile off his face. When he finally convinced Voldemort to train him he had tried so hard to impress the man. He needed Voldemort to know that he was trying his best, that he was worth keeping around, and that he could even help the man one day. Oddly enough he enjoyed his life here, and he wanted to be wanted. He didn't want to be held captive here because of the horcrux, he wanted The Dark Lord to want to keep him, and he wanted to be more than just a possession. He still had issues with fighting against The Order, but he still yearned to be useful in the war as something other than a poster boy, something other than The Boy Who Lived.
Voldemort was impressed with the boy's actions in the battle. Harry had disarmed Dumbledore of the most powerful wand in existence and then ended him. Sure, Voldemort had also casted the final Killing Curse, but Harry had been half of it. He had helped, and that was all he really ever wanted to do in the war. He didn't want to be the center of attention, he didn't want to be put on a pedestal, and if he was truly honest with himself, all he really wanted was to end Dumbledore's power. He and Voldemort had wanted retribution, and they both achieved it, together.
"What are you thinking?" Voldemort asked as Harry's eyes had long ago lost their focus.
The man knew what he was thinking, as he constantly had access to Harry's mind, but the boy replied, "I was just thinking that, that for the first time in a long time, and even with all the crap that has happened to me, that I'm actually happy."