Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Control Issues :: 05 :: Ron & Hermione Weasley

05 • Ron & Hermione Weasley

Voldemort, having decided that his mate really needed to be cheered up after certain recent events, went to the trouble of tracking down and capturing Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Rather, Hermione Weasley. They lived in a quaint little cottage in a rural muggle area, far enough away from neighbors that he wasn’t all that worried about being noticed.

And indeed, he would not have cared much anyway. After all, this was for Harry, so a few muggles getting the shock of their lives was hardly a blip on the radar. The warding they had in place was about as effective as tissue paper when it came to the level of skill he possessed, not to mention the amount of power and patience, and given that he knew what to expect.

So it was that he added two new toys to his dungeon in the middle of the night, took the time to do the usual checks for anything dangerous, then wandered off home. However, before he had a chance to let his still awake mate know about the gift, Harry had tackled him and dragged him into the bedroom, making quick work of removing Voldemort’s clothes and pushing him onto the bed.

“I see you’re feeling quite frisky,” Voldemort commented.

Harry licked his lips and straddled him, then looked at him sort of hesitantly. “I was wondering,” he said slowly, “if maybe you would mind if, um. . . .”

“You topped?” Voldemort said helpfully.

Harry blinked a few times and shook his head. “Er, no, though that’s an interesting idea, too. I, um, wanted to know if you would—if I could—” Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then said, “I would really like to know what it feels like, your mouth on me. I—it’s not that I don’t enjoy what we do, Tom, I just. . . .”

Voldemort did not respond with words, as it did not need to be explicitly stated that Harry had most likely never experienced someone taking the time to worship his body. Indeed, even he was remiss, having contented himself with somewhat selfish behavior when it came to giving pleasure to his mate. It should not matter that it did nothing in terms of sustenance if Harry’s pleasure was the only goal. He needed to firmly keep in mind that there should be and was a difference between sex for pleasure and sex for the purpose of feeding his mate.

So Voldemort reached up to pull Harry down into a kiss, then rolled them over so he was on top. He spent quite some time simply kissing his mate, eventually sliding his mouth along Harry’s jaw and over to his neck, to begin biting and suckling in a generally downward direction. Harry just lay there, seeming completely boneless beneath him, letting out breathy little sighs and moans to signal his pleasure in and approval of Voldemort’s actions thus far.

And he continued working his way down, pausing to spend quite a bit of time teasing Harry’s nipples with his teeth and tongue and fingers. That made his mate’s expressions louder, which likewise pleased him. When he had worked his way down to Harry’s achingly stiff penis he decided to be a slight tease and stroke the skin to either side fairly firmly, then slide his hands along his mate’s thighs.

As they made the return journey his hands swept up Harry’s inner thighs, gently pushing his legs farther apart, and then Voldemort positioned himself so that he might not only use his fingers to slide inside Harry to stimulate his prostate, but also comfortably attend to his mate’s cock.

The odd thing about all of it was that Voldemort had never given anyone head before, so this was a new experience for him, as well. Harry certainly seemed to appreciate his efforts, though, so Voldemort was pleased to continue, quickly getting the hang of relaxing his throat muscles so as to entirely engulf his mate without trouble.

His jaw, though, was getting a bit tired by the time Harry started to tense up and begin to jerk his hips uncontrollably, and it was all Voldemort could do to keep up with the frantic thrusts into his mouth and swallow the resulting warm sticky liquid. After Harry was completely spent Voldemort crawled back up to kiss him softly, then prepare to get them both settled for the night, ignoring his own aching erection.

The next morning he awoke to the sensation of a warm, wet mouth on his cock and murmured in sleepy pleasure. He was starting to lose control of his hips when Harry released him to crawl up his body and then straddle him, setting things up so he could sink down onto Voldemort’s penis and begin to ride him without restraint. One hand was firmly planted on Voldemort’s chest while Harry’s other reached down to fondle and stroke his own cock, and shortly thereafter they had both reached completion. They fell back to sleep with Harry nestled against his side.

It was over a late breakfast—Voldemort’s, that is—that he was finally able to mention his late night activities. “I have a present for you, Harry,” he said casually, then had another piece of bacon.

Judging by the expression on Harry’s face, one might think Christmas had come early. “Oh?” he said eagerly.

“Indeed. I happened to stumble over some people I think you might like to see and brought them home with me. Well, not home, per se.”

Harry waved his hand dismissively. “The dungeon, then. Who!?”

Voldemort spooned some of his eggs onto a piece of toast and had a bite before saying, “Why, your two best friends in the whole world.”

Harry tossed his book aside carelessly and clapped in delight. “Ooooo, I can’t wait to see what’s in their heads.”

He looked up, an indulgent smile on his face, then said rather soberly, “Harry, I know how upset you were when we had Moody, so I want you to keep a firm grip on your temper when we check their memories, all right?”

Harry pouted for a moment, then looked briefly resigned. “Yes. I suppose I deserve that warning.”

“I’m not blaming you for your reaction before. I do think, however, that you’ll be better prepared this time, especially if you keep in mind that you probably won’t like what you’ll see.”

“I know. You’re trying to look out for me, not hurt me. I guess I was completely blindsided then, but you’re right, I should be okay this time. Thank you for the reminder, Tom. Actually, thank you for last night. That was. . . . Hell, I don’t know how to describe it, but I’m not going to say no if you do it again sometime.”

“You’re quite welcome.”

Harry retrieved his book and found the page he had been at, marked it, then set the book aside properly. “You know, I’ve been thinking. I’m feeling a bit out of sorts, I realize, and I’m not quite sure what to do about it.”

“Out of sorts how?”

Harry shrugged a shoulder and wrinkled his nose. “Well, I’m not sure. It’s just . . . I feel kind of strange. I’ve been trained to within an inch of my life, but. . . . I am happy that you have a training room here so I can get my exercise.”

Voldemort considered that rather disjointed explanation, then said, “Would you like to go out on raids?”

His mate shook his head violently. “No, absolutely not. I’ve no interest in that. Maybe it’s to do with having seen Malfoy the other day.”

He made a leap of logic and said, “You’re proud of the skill you command as a fighter, a warrior, and you wouldn’t mind showing that off, but not necessarily in real combat.”

Harry adopted a very thoughtful expression, then nodded. “Maybe I would.”

“Let me think about it. I’m sure I can come up with something to pique your interest. And once I finish my breakfast, how about we go poke around inside some heads?”

*

It took Harry a number of days before he was ready to tackle his former best friends. Eventually, though, he was very ready. Voldemort took up his usual position in the shadows, this time inducing them with magic so he could lounge comfortably in a squashy armchair and sip wine without being seen. After all, it did get tiring standing up for so long, and one had a tendency to fidget after a while, which was very unbecoming of a dark lord.

Mr and Mrs Weasley had been racked up and placed not quite directly apart from each other. Rather, they were angled somewhat. If Harry were to stand between them they could see both him and each other quite comfortably. Voldemort shuddered slightly every time he looked at the male; all that milky skin absolutely ruined by so many freckles. She wasn’t so bad, he supposed, but he seriously questioned her taste.

And then, Harry nodded his approval to start and slipped into his own pool of shadows. Voldemort opened his link to Harry so that he could see both captives while still being able to clearly see his mate, then released them from their comas and sat back to enjoy the show.

She raised her head first, and her first action was to let out a gasp of surprise, then wildly look around. That seemed to spur Ron awake, though not to full wakefulness, as he started mumbling something about it being too early.

“Ron! Wake up!” she demanded tersely. “Ron!”

He mumbled a bit more loudly, then yawned and tried to get more comfortable, frowning sleepily when he could not.

Hermione scowled in annoyance and shrieked, “Ronald Weasley! Wake up this instant!”

Ron’s head snapped up, his eyes wide open. “I’m up, I’m up. Where’s the fire?” Then he seemed to realize his predicament. “What the—where the hell are we? And why are we—?”

“Well, Ron, the logical conclusion is that we’re in a dungeon, strung up on racks, and naked,” she drawled, though fear was etched on her face. Then she added, “And quite probably in the clutches of the Dark Lord.”

“We’ve got to get free!” he declared.

Hermione rolled her eyes and said, “Yes, Ron, that would be good. Now, are you able to free your hands? I’ve tried, and can’t. Perhaps you can. Quickly now, before somebody comes.”

Five minutes later they were still arguing. And while Voldemort could not actually see his mate at the moment, he could sense the brief, bitter smile that twisted his lips. It was then that Harry decided to make his entrance.

He stepped into the light, seeming to bleed shadows, then casually conjured up a chair and took a seat. He was wearing a set of skintight black leather trousers, black leather boots, and a wand holster strapped to each forearm. His hair was now a waterfall of black reaching down to his tailbone, and his skin had a translucent quality that made him look ethereal. It was just enough different from his normal appearance to throw people off, and made him resemble a sadistic dark angel.

“Harry? Is that you? Harry!” Hermione cried. “You’ve got to help us! Please, get us down from here!”

Harry looked faintly confused by that. “Why are you referring to me as Harry?” he asked. “It sounds rather like you’ve mistaken me for someone who’d give a damn.”

“Harry?” they said in unison.

“You’re not twins are you?” he said accusingly. “You don’t look like twins.”

“Harry! What on earth is wrong with you?” Hermione demanded.

Harry ignored them and instead produced a clipboard with several sheets of paper on it, then began to scan the text, occasionally flipping the pages. When he looked up he said, “Right. The paperwork seems to be in order, so let’s get started, shall we?”

“Harry?” they repeated.

“I have here one signed contract. You ordered the Deluxe Personalized Fantasy Torture Session, right?” He consulted the clipboard again. “And you’re Bertha and Homer Dalrimple—from Tillingford?” He looked back up when they said nothing and just stared at him in disbelief. “Look, it’s a simple enough question, and we are required to verify these things. All you need to do is say yes, or nod. . . .”

“Those are not our names,” she hissed. “Now please, get us down from here.”

“They’re not?” Harry flipped his hair back absently and glanced at his clipboard again. “Then who are you?”

“Ronald and Hermione Weasley,” she said with exaggerated patience, then shot a worried look at her husband.

“Oh,” Harry said, sounding quite puzzled. He flipped through the pages again, then gasped and said, “Oh dear. There’s been a horrible mistake.”

They both gave faintly relieved sighs, which Voldemort thought was quite a silly reaction, then stiffened at his next words.

“I am such an airhead! I had the paperwork in the wrong order.” Harry pressed on the clip long enough to yank out the top set of papers, then tossed them aside carelessly. “All right, yes,” he said, then slowly read from what remained. “Dark Army work order number C53-E629-AA23. Names, Ronald and Hermione Weasley. Disposition, excruciating torture and death. Right, that’s verified, then.”

Harry tossed the clipboard over his shoulder and stood up, rubbing his hands together. “Shall we get started? Is there any particular type of torture you’d like? Or method of death?”

“Harry, please!” she pleaded. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but please let us down. We’ll get you some help! We’re your best friends, you can trust us!”

Harry’s expression went from vaguely cheerful and eager to downright chilly. “I’m sorry, I could have sworn you just claimed to be my best friends.”

“We are, Harry. We’ll get you some help if you’ll just let us down.”

“Yeah, mate. You are acting a bit odd,” added Ron.

“And I can trust you?”

“Of course you can, Harry,” Hermione said passionately. Then she really put her foot in it. “We’ve been through so much together, don’t you remember? You know you can trust us. We only want what’s best for you.”

Harry smirked and placed a hand on his hip. “Really,” he drawled. “Let’s talk about that, shall we? Or rather, I’ll talk and you two will listen,” he said, then flopped back into his chair and slung a leg over one arm.

“Friends, huh? Yeah, I seem to recall that we had seven years of school together. Went on plenty of adventures, too. You, Hermione, always aspired to be the brains of the outfit, and you, Ron, always aspired to be the—” He furrowed his brow. “Well, I’m not sure, actually. We’ll call you the faithful sidekick, though I suppose that’s suspect due to fourth year. Oh, and I suppose you did pull double duty as comic relief at times, so that’s worth mentioning.”

Ron’s face went red and he shouted, “You bloody bastard!”

Harry flicked a wand into view and casually shot a stinging hex at Ron, then put it back in its holster. “You know, that was downright rude of you to interrupt like that. Please note that each time one of you misbehaves I will have to punish you. Oh, and it will get worse each time.”

He paused again, seeming a bit lost, then brightened. “Right. So we had seven years together, grand adventures, blah blah blah. However, I’ve recently had a look at the Big Book of Friendship and I noticed a few rather startling things, so I’m fairly certain that what you two did is a big no-no. Very naughty of you, really.”

Hermione looked like she was about to protest, but thought better of it and held her tongue.

Harry smiled at her approvingly, then continued. “You see, nowhere in the Big Book does it say, ‘Thou shalt deliver thy friends over into slavery.’ I realize that you two don’t understand just yet, which is why I’m going to be super helpful and explain it for you, but I am aware of the little Order meeting you two attended near the end of seventh year. You know, the one where you all got together and agreed that Harry Potter was a rebellious teenager with no respect for authority, and who badly needed some discipline? The one where you all agreed that I simply would not listen to my betters, and absolutely must be stopped from nearly getting people killed on a regular basis?

“Yes, I know, Hermione, that after Sirius died you started to think quite a bit differently about me. And you, Ron, have been wavering ever since fourth year, plus have allowed Hermione to do your thinking for you far too often. It’s hardly a surprise that you two got married, though what she’s sees in you I’ll never know. Well, all right. Perhaps she’s just incredibly turned on by easily led oafs, I don’t know.”

They both protested at that point, so Harry whipped out both wands and cast again, this time upping the intensity of his little hex, an action that left both of them gasping in pain. “I did warn you,” he reminded them, then tucked the wands away.

“Now, where was I? Yes, of course. I am also aware that you both knew all the sordid little details of my training, and approved wholeheartedly, believing that it would produce a brilliant weapon for the Order, one that wouldn’t dare try to actually think for itself and potentially put others in danger, a weapon that could handle all the dirty work for the Order so the rest of you could sit back in safety while I risked my life. You liked that idea quite a bit. You also liked the fact that you got to supplement your incomes with my money, allowing you to live a more luxurious, definitely undeserved lifestyle.”

He gave Hermione a twisted smile. “You, darling, were jealous, and don’t try to deny it. We’re all friends here, right? And friends don’t keep secrets from each other, do they. Well, according to you, anyway. You might have played the role of the brains, but it made you taste bile that I had the power. All your books and reading and research could not give you what I had, and there was no potion you could mix up that could manage it, either.

“It doesn’t matter one whit how many spells you can learn about if you haven’t the power to cast them or defend against them. It’s just a circumstance of birth, darling, or fate. Take your pick. The thing is, I do have the brains, and the power, and presently, the authority. So you’re going to be a good little girl and do as you’re told.”

He had started to turn to Ron when she snarled, “They obviously didn’t beat you hard enough if you still have the wherewithal to presume you can outthink me, you freak. You were going to get us all killed if we didn’t do something to bring you under control!”

Harry smirked, released a wand into his hand, then hit her with the cruciatus curse for a minute, ignoring a frantically yelling Ron. After he lifted the spell he said, “Oooo, such big words. I’m so damn impressed. It seems I’m not quite done with you yet. I find it fairly interesting that you’d say such a thing. After all, you were such a champion for the rights of house-elves, those poor, abused, enslaved creatures. I seriously have to wonder why I am exempt from your compassion given that I too am not human and was abused and enslaved. Sounds like hypocrisy to me, darling.”

She lifted her head and shot him a hateful glare, then said, “Can’t outthink me, so you resort to pain curses in an attempt to keep me quiet? Yes, of course. That is the last bastion of the stupid, isn’t it?”

Harry laughed merrily and shook his head. “You don’t seem to understand, darling. This is a torture session. And a bit later on, once we’re done with that part, you’re going to die. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but it can hardly be a torture session if you aren’t tortured. Honestly, I thought you were smarter than that. Now, be a good little girl and shut up while I talk at your husband.”

She opened her mouth to retort, and very quickly regretted it when Harry surged to his feet and tucked away his wand, replacing it with a knife he slid from a sheath on his thigh. “I warned you, little girl,” Harry said savagely, then advanced. “Perhaps this will teach you to obey the authority figure.” She was helpless to resist when Harry forced her mouth open and yanked out her tongue, then sawed it clean off.

He stepped back a moment later, wiggling it impudently, then tossed the tongue off to one side and resumed his seat, absently wiping his hand off on his bare chest. “Do be sure to let me know if you’re in danger of bleeding to death or drowning, darling,” he said to her, then turned his attention to Ron, totally indifferent to the tears running down her face and the strangled noises of pain she was making.

Ron had gone white as a sheet; his expression was completely horror stricken and he seemed to be mumbling under his breath. “You, Ron, were also jealous. And see, I always found that to be a bit strange. You had the loving family, the interesting and magical home, and the lifestyle free of abuse, not to mention free of a psychotic madman trying his best to kill you. For some reason you seemed to think it was somehow wrong or unfair for me to have money, even if it was just a small vault that was getting me by for my school years.

“You were jealous of my fame, though heaven knows why. You wanted, for some insane reason, the spotlight, the notoriety, the adulation of the masses. Of course, we both know that’s a crock of shit. The wizarding public is hypocritical in the extreme, and badly needs a wake up call they can’t ignore. They, like you, seem to think it should be someone else’s problem. They, like you, seem to feel they somehow deserve a safety they aren’t willing to fight for. And they, like you, seem to think it’s awfully damn spiffy to have a scapegoat to blame when things get a bit dicey.

“For some incredibly mad reason, you wanted to be me. You conveniently glossed over the things you didn’t like, such as the nasty rumors, the hate mail, the fear and scorn and sneers. You glossed over the constant danger to my life, such as the fact that by the time we finished school I had nearly died six times, seven if you feel like counting that dementor. And even more if you count quidditch incidents.

“And as a result of all this selective blindness, you felt perfectly justified in thinking that I deserved none of what I had, and really ought to have to work for it. So you went along with that thrilling little plan, didn’t you.” When Ron said nothing Harry repeated, very tersely, “Didn’t you?”

Ron whispered, “Yes.”

Harry nodded and gave him an approving smile. “So you decided it was great for me to be trained by our dear, beloved Potions Master, Severus Snape, a man who despised the very ground I walked on and the air I breathed. A man who delighted in causing me pain, making me bleed rivers of blood, and especially liked indulging in rape.”

And then Ron made his unfortunate misstep, softly saying without thinking it through, “But you needed to be fed.”

The corner of Harry’s mouth curled up in amusement. “Mm, definitely. You definitely pulled double duty as comic relief, Ron,” he murmured and got to his feet, gently pushed his chair back a ways, then cast a quick spell on Hermione to make sure she didn’t inconveniently die on him before her time.

“Well! Today I have a very special deal for you and your lovely, though mute, wife, Ronald. For absolutely no extra charge, I’m going to make a long cherished dream of yours come true,” he said excitedly. He summoned a whip and a set of bolt cutters and hooked them onto his belt, then stepped into the shadows for a moment, quickly reappearing with someone in tow.

“You wanted so badly to be me that I’m going to provide you with the unparalleled opportunity to intimately experience firsthand one of the more unforgettable aspects of my training, darling. And this”—he gestured to his companion, who appeared to be an exact replica of Severus Snape—“is my lovely assistant who, naturally, will be assisting me in this little playlet.

“Now, listen closely, Ronald, because I’m about to explain the rules, and I wouldn’t want you to be confused or anything. After all, part of training is learning to obey without question or hesitation, and learning that failure brings consequences. Sevvie here is going to first feed you his cock so you can suck him to hardness, and then he’s going to whip you until you bleed, darling. And after that he’s going to thrust that lovely cock of his in and out of your ass until he cums. Now, the most important thing to remember is that for every sound you make, your lovely wife will suffer for it, such as by losing something important to her, or by feeling the sting of my whip. Are you with me so far, darling?”

“Don’t you dare touch her again, you fucking bastard!” Ron yelled as he began desperately struggling against his bonds. “You’ll pay for this, Dumbledore will make sure of it!”

Harry shook his head slowly. “Ron, Ron, Ron. You simply don’t like learning, do you? You really should have done your own work more often rather than copying off Hermione. Well, you’ve broken the rules already, so I simply must dish out some punishment.” He slinked up to Hermione, snagged the cutter off his belt, then proceeded to use it to nip off her left thumb, causing her eyes to bug out in renewed pain and more strangled noises to sound in her throat.

“Now, as I said, you’re not going to protest your treatment, Ron, nor are you going to make any sounds. I certainly learned not to like a good little boy, so I suggest you get with the program. Otherwise, your lovely wife might lose all her fingers and toes, and possibly be flayed alive. You see, I’m being nice to you, darling, even thoughtful. I didn’t have this kind of motivation to help me behave myself when I was being trained, but you do, so make the best of it, Ron.” With that he used one of his wands to rearrange Ron’s rack to bend him over at the waist, moved it a bit so Ron would have no trouble seeing Hermione, then directed the golem to begin it’s programmed course of action. Another couple of spells made sure neither of them could keep their eyes closed for longer than it took to blink occasionally.

Ron nearly choked to death when the Severus golem abruptly shoved its penis into his mouth and started thrusting mechanically. It, after all, did not care whether its victim could breathe properly or if it had a touchy gag reflex. And it really did not matter if Ron attempted to bite it, as the golem wasn’t made of the sort of material he could easily damage. He was more likely to break his damn teeth in the attempt.

Harry waited patiently, humming slightly and idly inspecting his fingernails, then suddenly took interest again when the Severus golem pulled away and moved into position behind Ron, then slung a whip down off its shoulder and unfurled it. And for every moan or cry of pain Ron made, Harry cut off another of Hermione’s digits, at one point observing scathingly, “You’re pathetic, Ron. Even I did better than this the first time around.”

Voldemort was beginning to think Harry would run out of fingers and toes when the golem suddenly switched gears and tossed the whip aside, then slathered some of Ron’s blood all over its penis and pressed the head against his ass. It took Ron’s hips in a crushing grip, then pushed forward sharply, provoking an anguished yell.

Harry tossed the cutters aside and shook out his bullwhip, then sent it with a crack right up between Hermione’s legs. “Do try to be quiet, Ron,” he admonished his former friend. “I don’t think your wife appreciates how cavalier you’re being with her well-being. Oh, and did I forget to mention? Sevvie here can’t actually obtain orgasm, so I really hope you’re enjoying your stint as me since this will last until I’m damn good and ready to move on.”

The nasty little play continued until Voldemort’s weather eye on the girl showed she was close to death, so he nudged Harry’s mind to get him to hurry things along. Harry responded by signaling the golem to cease its actions and stand against the wall, then directed Ron’s rack to an upward position again.

“Well, I suppose you two have had enough fun for one day,” he commented, then looked into the shadows. “Tom? Your opinion, please?”

Voldemort finally got to his feet, feeling a bit stiff, and walked forward into the light, between the two racks. He came to a stop at Harry’s side, then turned to face the Weasleys. Both of them somehow found the strength to exhibit fresh new signs of terror on seeing the Dark Lord himself, which made Voldemort smile.

“Harry, as always, I commend you, though this did take you rather longer than usual.”

Harry pouted adorably and tossed the whip aside, then said, “Yes, but their betrayal practically demands it.”

“I suppose I can’t argue with that, my sweet.”

Neither Weasley had the courage or the energy to actually attempt to comment on the endearment, or anything else for that matter.

“I think at this point you should be good to go with a quick killing curse,” Voldemort added. “Unless you’d like me to?”

“How about we share?” Harry suggested. “Pick one, it doesn’t matter which, and I’ll kill the other.”

“That’s very generous of you, Harry. Thank you.” Voldemort brought his wand into view, aimed it at Ronald, and cast.

Harry then gave Hermione one last smile, this one sweetly innocent, then raised his wand and spoke the fatal words.

Tidying up was a matter of putting the bodies in stasis, though Harry did take the time to gather up all the odd bits and pieces he had removed from Hermione and put them in a nice little reticule that could hang neatly from her wrist. A few more flicks of their wands cleaned up the spilled blood, and then they headed home for a luxurious shower.

Much later on Voldemort was having a splendid sort of dream. He and Harry were riding above London in a hot air balloon, randomly picking targets from the multitude of people scurrying about below on their everyday business, and awarding points for speed, accuracy, and creativity. He had just been about to point at a rather weedy-looking fellow headed toward Harrod’s and specify a change of hair to snakes when the sound of muffled crying caught his attention, causing him to look around in surprise.

It was about then that he jerked awake and oriented on that same sound, shaking off his feeling of lassitude to pull Harry close to him and begin smoothing the hair back from his face in an effort to calm him. “Harry, my sweet, what is wrong?” he asked gently.

Harry burrowed his face in Voldemort’s neck and curled his arms up between them, not speaking, though Voldemort could feel his mate’s warm tears splashing onto his skin. He almost felt like he was back in their early days, with no clue whatsoever for what to do. Voldemort switched to stroking Harry’s flank, only being sure that he really ought to avoid his mate’s back. “It’s all right, Harry,” he murmured, “you don’t have to explain if you don’t wish.”

They continued like that for several minutes before Harry managed to whisper, “I’m not a freak, am I?”

“Of course not, Harry,” he hastened to assure his mate soothingly. “You’re an incredible young man, with amazing skill and talent, not to mention a brilliant mind. Don’t you dare let that bitch’s words upset you. You know that’s exactly what she wanted.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, I am, with every fiber of my being. You are not a freak. Besides, even if you were, so would I be, so we could be freaks together. I’m not entirely human myself, Harry.”

That provoked a weak bout of laughter from his mate, which relieved him immensely.

“I feel so sad,” Harry said softly, his voice a bit distorted. “They were my best friends, and I trusted them so much and cared about them. How could they do that to me? I would have died to protect them.”

And that started a fresh round of tears, so Voldemort pulled Harry even closer, kissing his sleep-tangled hair and continuing to soothingly run his hand along his mate’s side. “You’re here now, my sweet,” he murmured, a part of him wondering just when he had become so . . . sensitive? Caring? “I will take care of you and let you take care of me. Nothing and no one will ever try to hurt you again if I have anything to say about it.”

“You promise?” Harry asked in a small voice.

“I promise, Harry. And I will affirm that promise every day if you need me to.” In truth, he felt a bit like his heart was breaking to see his mate in so much distress, and so unsure of himself. He wondered, briefly, if this was something like love, these strange things he was feeling. “I know it will never entirely be all right, but I will be with you every step of the way.”

Harry’s tears gradually subsided and his breathing deepened, letting Voldemort know that his mate had fallen back to sleep. But he stayed awake for quite a long time before he too returned to the arms of Morpheus, cradling Harry protectively.