Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Control Issues :: 09 :: Liberating Lupin

09 • Liberating Lupin

“Melkanson!” Harry bellowed.

The man rushed over and bowed. “My lord?”

“You seem to have the most brains of this lot, so you’ve just been promoted to lieutenant. Don’t disappoint me. Now, three things. First, detail someone to direct our incoming guinea pigs to the briefing room I set up. Have them meet me in there immediately so I can explain their new job. Second, round up the rest of the training staff and send them to the overhead observation room. I expect them to be ready to jot down notes as necessary. If that means them hauling their breakfasts with them, so be it. Oh, and make sure the gopher has the list of who to expect today. Third, make sure a medical team is waiting at the other end of the course.”

“Er, gopher, my lord?”

Harry brushed his hair back and gazed at Melkanson steadily. “The person you detail to escort our testees. It’s a muggle term, generally used to refer to a person who runs errands. Once you’ve done those things, join the rest of the staff in the overhead. Understood?”

“Yes, my lord. I’ll begin at once.” Melkanson bowed and scurried off.

Harry checked the time, then made his way to the briefing room. A couple of minutes later a fresh-faced young lady entered and bowed.

“Name?”

“Rava Jansky, my lord.”

Harry nodded. “The people on the list you ought to have will be arriving at half hour intervals. Bring them in here. After explaining what they’re about to do, you pop upstairs and wait for the go ahead, then come back down here and send them on in. Now, as for what you need to explain, that’s fairly simple. Through that door”—he pointed—“is an obstacle course of sorts, designed to test casting ability, creative thinking, knowledge, aim, accuracy, and so on.

“Each person’s objectives are also simple. They each need to successfully navigate the course and exit out the other end, and disable all ten opponents within. People should be aware that there are obstacles within which require actual thought, traps to be avoided or otherwise negated, and the odd magical creature to contend with.

“People will not discuss the course once they’ve been through it or they’ll have me to contend with. Anyone caught having loose lips may not need to worry about improving their skills, as it’s quite possible they might not live to see the next day.

“There’s eight people this morning with another eight starting at one. I’m going to make the bold assumption that Melkanson picked you because I can count on you to be here and handle this.” He stared at her intently.

“Yes, my lord. I do not presently hold an outside job, so I can perform this duty for as long as you need me.”

“Splendid.” Harry handed over a sheet of paper. “A summary, though I expect after a bit you’ll be able to recite this in your sleep. The first one should be arriving any minute now. And that reminds me. The first one of each session, morning and afternoon, can be sent in at exactly time without needing to check upstairs first. Anyone else has to wait until you have the go ahead so I have time to reset things. Are we clear?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Harry nodded. “You might consider bringing a book this afternoon so you have something to do between testees,” he said, then turned and exited so he could head upstairs. He paused after he entered, his eyes going to a fellow flat on his back on the floor, then approached Melkanson. “Explain.”

Melkanson started slightly and said, “My lord, Landsman seems to have a slight problem with heights. He made it halfway across the floor from what I’m told, looked down, started gibbering, and collapsed.”

Harry covered his face with one hand and sighed.

*

Harry dropped by Diagon Alley late Friday afternoon, needing desperately to get away from the compound after a week of watching people scurry about like rats in a maze, and half the time not even find the damn cheese. He slipped into Madam Malkin’s and glanced about, spotting the proprietor speaking with a customer, so he drifted over to one of the racks and began examining the offerings.

“Is there anything I can help you with?”

Harry, having heard the sound of an approach, was not startled, and so turned smoothly to see the cheerful face of Madam Malkin. He lifted his head enough to give her a glimpse of his face, at which point she said, “Oh!”

“I would like to pick up my order, if possible,” he said softly.

“Of course, right this way,” she said, then bustled off toward the counter.

He followed, keeping his head down slightly, and waited as she rummaged around and finally produced a stack of packages. As before she shrunk them to make things easier for him, pushed them over, then leaned in over the counter and said confidingly, “Not to worry. No one has asked a thing.”

Harry slipped his goods off the counter and into his pocket, then nodded as though he was already aware of that fact. “I have kept an eye out, but had not noticed anyone suspicious entering here to bother you, so I am very reassured to hear that. I couldn’t be here all the time, so. . . .”

She nodded a few times and reached out to pat his hand briefly. “I think we’ll be fine here, dear. It seems clear that either you weren’t seen, or people passed off any rumors as just that.”

Harry nodded again. “It appears to be so, madam. I will continue to keep watch whenever I can, though. And I expect at this point that if anyone does get around to asking, you can safely say you haven’t seen me at all. Thank you so much for your help.”

“You come see me whenever you need more things, dear,” she said, smiled cheerfully, and bustled off.

Harry exited the shop, rather pleased with that information. Apparently Moody had never paused long enough to let anyone in the Order know he had spotted Harry in Diagon Alley, or even that he suspected it. Moody had obviously learned of his presence and decided on the spot that he could handle things alone, and so did not bother to send off a note or a letter. Either that, or Harry had caught him at precisely the right moment and had distracted him from doing exactly such a thing.

And on that note, Harry decided to do a bit more window shopping as a method of relaxation, pausing at one window for long enough to alter his appearance without anyone noticing due to his cloak, then moving on. After all, it was possible, however unlikely, that someone could crash into him and cause his hood to fall back and expose his features, and then all hell could break loose as shop patrons wandering the alley recognized and swarmed him.

He paused, wondering for a moment just how little, or how much, he had even been in the papers since he had been hauled off to be trained. Did people even care any longer? Was he finally not a big deal in the wizarding world? He sensed a mental snort of amusement and knew Voldemort was having entirely too much fun at his expense. He resolved to ask about those very issues, to see if it was worth bothering about.

He continued on along the alley, looking here and there, pausing to examine the wares of the odd street vendor, and eventually drifted to a stop outside a rather familiar shop. He was mildly surprised to see his own, smiling face on a poster in the window. Apparently he was quite enthusiastic about . . . cutlery?

Harry squinted. The poster depicted him holding a fork in one hand, with text running along the side extolling the delightful virtues of tableware that would, within several minutes of being taken up, begin to droop and otherwise refuse to hold any weight. Perfect for parties and other gatherings, it said. Amuse your in-laws.

He thought about that for a few minutes, casting through his memories, but simply could not remember ever having posed for such a thing. Then he examined the poster again and frowned; that trademark crooked grin of his was all wrong. It was at about that point that suspicion set in.

Curious, and not a little angry, Harry decided to investigate a bit further, so he entered the shop and began browsing the shelves. Not only was his face a frequent sight, but he was apparently endorsing over half the stock in the shop. He somehow thought that he wasn’t receiving any compensation for the use of his name and face, nor a percentage of the profits that had no doubt been gained as a direct result of the twins’ advertising campaign.

A discreet glance around the shop’s interior placed both twins, so Harry tracked down a display of the cutlery and slipped a package off the shelf (service for eight), then strolled over to the counter and set it down. Within moments a twin appeared, as though having sniffed out a sale in the making. Harry rather thought it reminded him of sharks converging on a bleeding victim.

“Good afternoon,” the twin said cheerfully.

“Interesting idea,” he said, nodding at the package.

“They’re quite popular. But then, anything Harry likes is.”

“Oh? I hadn’t heard that he liked pranks so much.” He tilted his head so that he appeared to be checking out the sweets display.

“Absolutely,” the twin said, nodding rather enthusiastically. “He helps test all our products. Practically one of the family.”

“I suppose one shouldn’t always believe the papers, then,” he said, reaching out to get a packet of Drooble’s and place it on the counter as well. “It sounds like he’s a nice young man, especially to help you out so much.”

“That’s our Harry.”

Harry nodded at the counter and said, “How much will that be, please?”

*

Voldemort reached the door and whipped it open, stepping through a second later. “Well, Mr Official Timekeeper?” The sarcasm was totally unmistakable.

Harry grinned broadly and said, “Seven minutes, thirty-six seconds.”

“Finally!” Voldemort kicked the door shut and rolled his eyes.

“Yup! You win. You are also the record holder, not that I will actually share that information with anyone, and as far as my staff will continue to think, Lucius holds the top spot. After all, dark lords do not run the obstacle course and potentially subject themselves to ridicule and whatnot.”

Voldemort tucked his wand away and stepped forward, pinning Harry with an intent look. “Are you at least going to tell me what the penalty would have been if I’d lost?”

Harry stubbornly shook his head, a secretive smile on his lips. “I had absolute confidence in you, Tom. Perhaps next time, if you dare make another bet. But, seeing as how you won this time. . . .”

Voldemort snorted and stepped even closer to his mate, wanting to kiss that damn smile right off his face and make him beg instead. “Speaking of which. . . . Given that I am the winner, it is my right to order you to get that delectable ass of yours upstairs to the overhead post-haste. And somehow, I don’t think you’re going to disobey me.”

Harry lurched forward and pressed himself to Voldemort, writhing against him in a way that instantly made his cock stir to life, then stepped away and practically bounced toward the door leading to the hall. Once they were in the overhead observation room, Voldemort took a moment to re-lock the door, then advanced into the center of the room and cast a few cleaning and cushioning charms. By the time he had that done, Harry was already completely naked and advancing on him with a gait that screamed sexual predator.

And he was very shortly naked himself and pulling Harry down onto the floor, starting their little tryst with some serious kissing. It probably had everything to do with the fact that Harry didn’t actually need to eat, but the taste of his mate’s mouth was always delicious, like some exotic mixture of rare spices or flavors, subtle yet sinfully enticing.

Harry rolled them over and attacked Voldemort’s neck, forging a trail down his lover’s body to finally arrive between his legs and lower his head to tease Voldemort’s cock with his mouth. It was already painfully erect, but Voldemort had excellent self control, so Harry frequently indulged his desire to suckle him before intercourse.

However, it wasn’t long before Voldemort growled and reached down to tangle his fingers into Harry’s hair, then pull, forcing his mate to crawl up his body and prepare to ride. He groaned appreciatively as Harry’s tight ass enveloped his cock, hands moving to grip his mate’s hips even as Harry planted his own firmly on Voldemort’s chest. And then he started to move.

Voldemort was having the time of his life a few minutes later, the naughty little thrill of their location sending additional tingles down his spine and through his body, when Harry suddenly faltered, leaned over to one side, then stopped moving entirely. “Oh . . . my . . . god.”

“Harry, what is it?” Voldemort wasn’t sure if he should be concerned or not. Harry’s face was a study of amused shock.

“I’m sorry, but you’ve got to see this,” Harry said, then disengaged and crawled off. “Look there.”

Voldemort heaved an irritated sigh and rolled over onto his knees, looked through the floor, then snarled and shot to his feet, quickly striding over to a panel Harry had fashioned to control parts of the course. He stabbed one of the buttons viciously with his index finger and returned to his mate’s side to kneel and watch the results.

A couple of golems shuffled out quietly toward two people directly beneath them, one of them accidentally knocking over a spare bit of wood and creating quite a clatter. Draco, who had just begun to lose himself in orgasm, wrenched himself away from his companion and whirled at the noise, his hips continuing to jerk and his load spurting out in an uneven arc. Then he shrieked like a little girl and dove for his clothing, not bothering to assist his companion in any way, and raced off like the devil was on his tail.

The girl, obviously composed of much sterner stuff, whipped out her wand and quickly cut down the golems, then hauled herself up and found her clothes. They could see she was exceptionally miffed about the whole thing as she dressed and then strode off forcefully in the same direction Draco had taken.

Harry looked at Voldemort, then burst out laughing.

*

Voldemort called an assembly. Harry was pacing back and forth along the front of the dais looking like a dangerously hungry feline barely holding itself back from attacking. And then he came to a stop at the center and faced the crowd, letting his dead gaze sweep out over those assembled. Not a few of them took a half step back in response.

“It has come to our attention that some of you have been using the indoor training facility as an illicit assignation spot,” Harry said in a deadly sort of voice.

Nearly a dozen faces in the crowd suddenly went red, and while the majority of them were fairly young, at least one was old enough that he really ought to have known better. Voldemort kept his face locked into an expression of barely restrained anger and waited, very much enjoying watching his mate’s handling of the situation.

“This will stop,” Harry continued, then whipped out his wand in a blur of motion and swiftly cast an incarceration spell on the owner of every discomfited face. “I was quite sure that we were all responsible adults here and knew better than to indulge in our kinky little passions while sprawled out in a facility such as that. Are we to next expect to hear of Death Eaters rutting in the constructs cage so that they might have an audience of sorts?”

Voldemort’s mouth twitched; that was a rather interesting idea, actually.

“Be warned, my friends,” Harry said in a deceptively sweet tone. “And be very careful. I rather suspect that most of you are not so keen to christen half the compound as to feel pleased at the idea of being made to perform sexual acts before an assembly of your peers like a trained monkey in some demented circus sideshow.”

Harry looked away for a moment, then back and snarled, “Now get out of my sight!” Once the room had cleared his mate flicked his wand a few times and hauled the bound Death Eaters into a tidy row before the dais. “Whatever shall we do with you lot?” he purred.

They looked, Voldemort thought, really quite scared. He was going to have some fun of his own later on when he brought this up with Lucius. Perhaps Draco needed a chastity belt?

“I know,” Harry said. “I have a brilliant idea! You see, fighting against golems is all very well, but they are a bit slow, not to mention only as smart as their programming can handle. You, my dear friends, have just volunteered to replace them on the training course. You will be armed only with muggle weapons, and suffer the delights on a daily basis—until all reviews are handled, that is—of being disarmed, disabled, and knocked senseless by your peers.

“Naturally, if I catch any of you deliberately lagging behind in your duties, or causing irrevocable damage to anyone running the gauntlet, I’ll simply have to find a way to permanently rearrange your decision making processes. I also strongly suggest that you take this opportunity to learn how to use the weapons I will be assigning to you.”

Harry moved forward a step and tilted his head to the side, eyeing them intently. “Now, you will present yourselves to the training facility bright and early each and every morning at seven-thirty, unless otherwise instructed. And once you all have a very good idea of what you’ll be doing and where you need to be within the course, I expect to not have to babysit any of you. You will arrive on time, take your places, and perform your duty to the best of your abilities. Are we clear on this so far?”

A muffled chorus of, “Yes, my lord,” was heard.

“Excellent! Now, for your punishment.”

Voldemort arched a brow when they all had the audacity to look surprised. Harry laughed throatily and proceeded to cast crucio on each of them for a minute apiece, then remove their bindings.

“Now, follow me like good little children over to the facility where I’ll be just thrilled to begin instructing you.”

And then Voldemort realized it was equally amusing that Draco’s female companion had kept her cool during Harry’s speech and was not one of those presently being led off like a string of ducklings.

*

Harry waited patiently until the last of the Order members filed out of № 12 Grimmauld Place, and then waited an additional half hour just to be on the safe side. When he felt ready he lurched up to the front door, opened it and stepped inside, shutting it behind him loudly, then staggered around the hall, bumping into the walls and crashing into things and generally making a great deal of noise in the process before collapsing to the floor.

Mrs Black’s portrait began a screaming tirade almost immediately and Remus Lupin rushed in to see what the commotion was about, then gasped and threw himself on his knees at Harry’s side. “Ron! Dear god, where have you been? We’ve been—you’re hurt! Let me go call the others!”

“No,” Harry moaned, reaching up to get a death grip on the front of Lupin’s robes and prevent him from easily rising. His wounds, naturally, were completely fake, though they had harvested some blood from Ron’s corpse and fiddled with it a bit for use in this little charade, and to add some verisimilitude to the deception. He was even wearing Ron’s clothes. “Help me . . . upstairs,” he gasped out.

“Yes,” Lupin said and pulled Harry into his arms, easily lifting him off the floor, then started down the hall toward the staircase carrying him bridal style.

As they passed by Mrs Black’s portrait Harry winked at her, momentarily rendering her speechless. Apparently, though, she was pretty damn savvy for a painting, and launched right back into a continuation of her rant about blood traitors, disgraces to the family name, and the glory of the Dark Lord. Remus never even noticed, he was so distraught and intent on helping who he thought was Ron.

Harry was shortly being laid onto a bed in one of the upstairs rooms, and Lupin dashed over to a dresser and yanked it open, hauled out a shirt, then dosed it with a shot of water from his wand. He then skidded back over to the bed and began dabbing at Harry’s supposed wounds. “Ron, can you tell me anything?”

“It was . . . the Dark Lord,” he gasped, then moaned as though in pain from something Lupin had done. “It hurts . . . so bad.”

“I’ll get you a potion. Don’t move,” Lupin said and leapt back up, dashing off toward a cupboard.

Harry rolled his eyes and slid his wand out, then nailed Lupin in the back with that charming little Dark Arts spell Voldemort had so thoughtfully taught him. The werewolf dropped like a felled tree, hitting the floor with an exceptionally loud thud. “Christ, what a rube,” he muttered, then slipped off the bed. “And like I’d really want to move about if I were truly that injured? Not only bloody gullible, but also simple minded.”

A few steps had him standing next to the man. Harry crouched down and produced a portkey, then slapped Lupin with it and watched him disappear, knowing that Voldemort would be waiting to begin preparing the man for interrogation. Then he wandered out of the room and back downstairs to drift to a stop in front of a now silent Mrs Black.

“Greetings, madam,” he said cheerfully.

She gave him a very suspicious look, but was apparently curious enough about that wink to see what he wanted, and thus did not begin screeching again.

Harry leaned in close and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “I am not what I appear to be, madam. I can say, however, that you and I share a certain sense of admiration for a particular individual whose name I shall not speak.”

Mrs Black blinked in surprise, then frowned. “Why, young man, should I believe that?”

“Madam, really. You and I both know that people such as Dumbledore will be our downfall if given half a chance. In addition to ridding this fine house of yet another despicable person, that being the werewolf, I have come to ask for a favor. The Dark Lord would be very pleased if you would consent to keep your ears open, madam, and pass on any interesting tidbits when I am able to sneak back in for a chat. Or, if you happen to know of a second portrait of yourself, I would be happy to try to retrieve it to make things easier for us all.”

Her brow softened to a thoughtful crinkle as she considered that. Then she said, “Have you access to the Black family vaults, young man?”

“Indeed I do, madam.”

“Check those. Many portraits were stored there, and I know this was not my only copy.”

“Excellent, madam. I will most certainly check. I have a question for you, if I may?”

“Yes?”

“Do you happen to have any idea just how, oh—how shall I put this?—Slytherin Phineas Nigellus is?”

Mrs Black narrowed her eyes at him, then shook her head slowly. “I could not say for sure.”

Harry frowned slightly and nodded. “It was worth a—” Something, some movement, caught his attention and he whipped his head around, just in time to see something disappear out the side of a small portrait he had not noticed before. “Blast,” he muttered, then looked back at Mrs Black.

“Madam, I do believe now is a very good time for me to absent myself. Should you find yourself in any danger, I suggest you attempt to switch to a different portrait. I will be checking the vaults, so hopefully we’ll speak again very soon.” He gave her a quick bow, then nipped off out the front door and down the street, ducking into the first available alley and then disapparating.

Voldemort was waiting for him when he entered the dungeon, and already had Lupin stripped down and racked. He looked up from his work to smile and nod his head, then continued casting a variety of spells to determine if the werewolf was hiding anything dangerous.

Harry left him to it and conjured up a squashy chair, then flopped into it and cast his thoughts back to that eavesdropping portrait. He hadn’t seen well enough to place who it had been. And for all he knew, there was a pastoral scene on the third floor containing a milkmaid, and she had been taking her late night constitutional.

However, it was far more likely to have been some sort of spy for Dumbledore, and very probably Nigellus himself, especially given the question he had only just then voiced to Mrs Black. Would the old fart report to Dumbledore? If he did he would only be able to say that Ron Weasley was acting rather suspiciously, and possibly that he was responsible for the disappearance of Remus Lupin.

It was certainly true that Nigellus could have been lazing about the house in an effort to escape the snoring masses in the headmaster’s office, had heard the commotion and gone to investigate, then witnessed Ron’s arrival and Lupin’s brief care of him. If there had been a portrait in the bedroom, he might even have seen exactly what Harry had done before slipping back downstairs in pursuit.

Harry was shaken from his thoughts by Voldemort cracking his neck, and looked up to give his lover his full attention.

“He’s clean. I suppose he felt quite safe in that house as I’ve not found a damn thing on him aside from his wand.” Voldemort sat back in his chair and snorted.

“And were you able to notice what I did? That potential little spy while I was talking to Mrs Black?” Harry asked, thinking that perhaps Voldemort had been too busy dealing with Lupin to be able to notice all the details.

Voldemort shook his head and confirmed his suspicions, so Harry explained what had happened and his thoughts on the matter, which made Voldemort look both amused and contemplative. And then he agreed. “Yes, it is possible that Nigellus did not cotton on to the fact that it wasn’t actually Ron, and might well inform Dumbledore of this evening’s events. On the other hand, he might hold his tongue and instead attempt to converse with Mrs Black, and even possibly agree to spy for us. In any case, I expect you’ll be heading to Gringotts tomorrow to check the vaults?”

Harry nodded. “Absolutely. If I can find another portrait of her I’ll let you decide where to place it.” Then he took several deep breaths and nodded at Lupin. “Shall we begin?”

Several hours later Harry was feeling a bit . . . vicious. However, it was neither the time nor place to act on his impulses. He needed to calmly think about things and decide on an appropriate plan of action. And at that, he felt strangely unhappy about the idea of actually killing Lupin, he being the only real reminder of his parents. That was not to say he would definitely restrain himself from such an action, but it certainly suggested that he might be able to find a far more satisfying way to handle things.

So it was that Lupin was left to his rack while he and Voldemort returned to the house, and Harry was shortly out of those horribly uncomfortable and constricting clothes. They might be stylish, and they might set off his looks and make a statement, but the less he had to wear them the better. Besides, it was such a bother to have to pause to remove them when he felt like seducing Voldemort into another round of lovemaking, or even to be fed.

“Harry,” Voldemort said, causing his head to snap up, “when you check the vaults, keep an eye out as well for Nigellus. There may be one of his there also. It might be wise for you to alter your appearance out of sight of the goblin escort before you start your search, just in case.”

Harry blinked. “Right. Thank you, I hadn’t thought of that.”

“It might be useful for you to again appear as Weasley. That way, if Nigellus spots you there and decides to squeal to the old man, it will just add to the confusion. Also, if there were any house-elves attached to that dwelling, they ought to be under your command now, so that is another thing to consider.”

“Kreacher,” Harry snarled. “Well, if he’s still about I already know he’s completely mad and only listens to Mrs Black, so I’m sure he’d be happy to do a bit of eavesdropping on our behalf. I guess we’ll see, huh?”

*

The next day Voldemort lounged about reading for pleasure—a fairly new publication he had stumbled over on recent advances in torture techniques and ways to keep your victims alive for insane amounts of time despite the damage—while Harry was off rummaging through the Black vaults. His mate had already reviewed a few people who held outside jobs, so Voldemort was sure the trip would be a welcome break from idiocy.

Harry breezed in at about noon and said, “I found one of each, actually, though I only brought back Mrs Black for now. I’ve left her in the hall, well padded and wrapped so she can’t hear anything for the time being. I pretended not to notice Nigellus lurking, and he never said a word.”

“All right. I’ll find a safe spot for her shortly, somewhere in the house. We can question her together.”

Harry nodded, and strangely, had still made no move to strip. “I was thinking,” he said a bit diffidently, “of visiting another of my properties. And, I really wanted you to go with me, because I’m a little worried about how it might affect me.”

Voldemort narrowed his gaze, then understood. “Godric’s Hollow.”

“Yes. I think . . . I might need your support.”

“Of course, Harry. You have only to ask. I would be happy to accompany you. Did you wish to go now?”

Harry nodded slowly, then said, “I’m afraid I might lose my nerve completely if I don’t push myself on this, so yes, now, if you’re okay with that. I might never be able to go otherwise.”

Voldemort set aside his reading material and pushed to his feet, stepping up to his mate to kiss him softly and pull him into a brief hug. “Do you already know the coordinates?” he asked gently.

Harry nodded against him so Voldemort said, “Then let us go.”

They arrived in front of what appeared to be the ruins of a decent-sized cottage. Voldemort found that rather surprising given that it wasn’t as though the building had collapsed on that night so long ago. Investigation proved it to be an illusion meant for muggles and wizards alike, which intrigued him. And there were several sorts of wards surrounding the structure, but they were more on the order of repelling the curious rather than being actively defensive or hostile. The sole exception was an anti-apparation ward.

After a mental shrug Voldemort urged Harry forward gently, and they stepped through the illusion to see a perfectly stable cottage, then entered. He trailed along beside his mate as Harry drifted through the halls and rooms and occasionally made a soft noise of surprise, noting at one point that Harry had slipped a framed photograph off a mantelpiece and tucked it in his pocket.

He was feeling fairly confident about Harry’s ability to finish his investigation without undue distress by the time they headed upstairs, but quickly noticed that his mate’s gait had gone rather stiff, which was most unlike him. Harry started moving toward one door in particular, a hand stretched out, as though it were a magnet of some sort. And then he reached it and turned the knob, then pushed the door open, collapsing a moment later to the floor in a fetal position and whispering something Voldemort could not make out.

He rushed forward, his only thought at that moment to help Harry, then stopped dead as he caught a glimpse into the room itself. It was a cold, sterile, little box of a room—Harry’s cell. Dumbledore had used part of his mate’s own childhood home as a prison and torture chamber.

He snapped out of his shock and growing anger at the sound of Harry crying, and quickly dropped to his knees to pull his mate into his arms, then push to his feet and head back downstairs, out the back door and beyond the wards. Within moments he had apparated them home.


Associated Snapshot: First Day