Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Control Issues :: 14 :: Justus Bane

14 • Justus Bane

Harry was comfortably snuggled up against him when he mumbled into Voldemort’s neck, “Please be honest and tell me if I hurt you or not.”

Voldemort set his book aside and reached up to run a hand through his mate’s hair, enjoying the silky texture as it flowed between his fingers. “You did not hurt me, Harry, and I would not have allowed you to take me had I not been ready.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, my sweet.” He placed a kiss on Harry’s head. “Would you like to do that again?”

Harry sort of shook his head, but it was more like rubbing against him. “Not often, no. I felt . . . overwhelmed, but not in the same way as usual. I liked it, but. . . .”

“Yes, well, I’m sure if I were female, you might think differently on that point. In any case, I won’t say no to you on those occasions you desire it, Harry.”

His mate shuddered lightly, presumably at the idea of him not being a man. “I like it when you take care of me,” he whispered.

“And I like taking care of you,” he replied softly. “It makes me happy to do so.”

Harry snuggled against him more closely, then laughed a little, the sound muffled. “Do you remember, that first day—well, second, I guess—you and your theory?”

“Yes, what of it?”

“I didn’t understand really, why you would want to try to feed me. I mean, I know it was to prove or disprove a theory, but. . . . I didn’t understand why anyone would—that anyone might find me, um. . . .”

“Desirable?” Voldemort suggested.

Harry nodded.

“Several things come to mind, if you want to hear them.” His mate nodded again, so he said, “I find you aesthetically pleasing, Harry, in your natural state. And there is a certain suggestion of innocent sexuality, which is very alluring, especially to an evil bastard like myself. Of course, there is also the fact that you are an incubus, but I would like to believe had you looked like Fudge, for example, that I would have at least hesitated before making the offer.”

Harry snorted softly against his neck.

“I had also seen your mind, Harry, your memories. I knew how strong you are, how powerful and skilled, and that too is attractive. I greatly admired how cunningly you devised your plan to protect yourself, and the fact that you succeeded. So I had a number of reasons above and beyond simply wishing to test a theory.”

“There was no pity?”

“None. You didn’t seem the type to seek that, or be willing to accept it. Why risk angering you when I wanted to get you in my bed, hm?”

Harry snickered and sat back, then eyed him speculatively, a hint of uncertainty creeping into his expression. “Do you . . . ever want children?”

Voldemort lifted his chin slightly and arched a brow. “Are you feeling broody?”

Harry looked quite offended for a moment, then shook his head and pouted.

“I didn’t ask to upset you, my sweet. I have been reading those books, remember? I find I don’t mind the idea, in any case, though perhaps I might find the concept more interesting after we’ve run away from it all.”

“Will you? Run away from it all, I mean.” His mate looked very curious about that.

“I’m very tempted, yes, though not until certain people are dead, like Dumbledore. You said that wizarding society is hypocritical in the extreme and needs a wake up call. While I happen to agree, I’m not so sure any longer if I want to be the one to give it. Think of all the paperwork involved.”

Harry rolled his eyes and leaned in to brush lips, then whispered, “I don’t care, really, if we remain as dark lords or not in the end, so long as I’m with you.” And then his mate kissed him for real, angling his head and entreating entry, which Voldemort gladly gave, sliding his hands over every part of Harry he could reach, though avoiding the scales.

It hardly mattered that they had made love just an hour or so previously. His Harry seemed quite intent on the idea of seducing him into another round, and he could already feel his cock stirring to life at the idea. Voldemort pulled away slightly to say, “We will decide together, all right?”

“Yes,” Harry practically hissed, then sought his mouth again, beginning to rock slowly against his body and winding his arms around Voldemort’s neck.

Voldemort was once again overcome with myriad feelings, not just desire, but also that tightening in his chest that he thought might be something like love. Harry was his, all his, and not just because of some silly oath, and he knew he would rather die than give his mate up. He might not admit it to the world at large, but Harry had rather successfully wormed his way under Voldemort’s skin and into his heart, what there was of it.

He pushed forward, getting his mate to wrap his legs around his waist, then carried Harry into the bedroom and laid him down carefully. Voldemort then decided to have a bit of fun and shook out his wand, summoning something, which he placed on the bedside table momentarily.

Harry whined piteously at the lack of attention he was receiving and opened his eyes in confusion. “Tom,” he whispered, “please?”

“My sweet, you are the one who likes to bring up clichés, so now you’re going to have to handle a new one.” He picked up a small jar and held it so that his mate could see, then smiled deviously and opened it, a second later drizzling some of the contents down along Harry’s chest and stomach, over his beautifully stiff penis, and even his thighs.

Harry squirmed at the sensation, but let out a low moan after Voldemort set the jar aside and bent down to begin licking his mate’s thigh. “You’re already delicious, Harry, but this makes you even sweeter,” he murmured, then swept his tongue along another line of honey, smearing it slightly before licking and sucking it away.

Voldemort rather though it was a good thing he had no mane of hair to fall forward, lest it become quite sticky as he crouched over his mate to continue his impromptu snack. He cruelly bypassed Harry’s twitching cock and shifted around on the bed so that he might concentrate on his mate’s chest instead, smearing the honey around quite a lot. He gave Harry’s nipples undue attention, driving his mate mad as he rolled them around in his mouth and sucked and bit, then worked his way back downward, all the while shifting position.

He eventually ended up back between his mate’s legs, and finally deigned to sink that cock in his mouth, which set Harry to writhing around even more than he had been in that peculiar sinuous manner he had. This was . . . a different kind of power, driving someone so near the edge without letting them fall. Voldemort felt he might have accomplished his goal when Harry began pleading in Parseltongue rather disjointedly.

It was then that he straightened and positioned his cock for entrance, then thrust sharply. Harry moaned loudly and arched off the bed, so Voldemort slipped one arm around his mate’s waist to hold him up and gripped Harry’s hip with his free hand. “Please, my sweet,” he whispered as he thrust mercilessly into the body of his mate, “stroke yourself for me. I want to see you make yourself cum.”

Harry moaned again, his expression almost invisible for the amount of tangled locks that had managed to partially conceal his face from all the times he had tossed his head from side to side. But he did hear, and he did snake his hands down his body, one to begin almost frantically pulling at his cock, the other to etch faint red welts into his own skin as he dragged his nails along his inner thigh, or raked them back up his stomach and chest.

Voldemort continued to whisper encouragement, loving the way it made his mate even more wild and unrestrained, actively bucking against him. And then his . . . beloved—he thought he could finally admit that now to himself, feeling a bit girly there for a moment—practically heaved half his body off the bed as he exploded in orgasm. Voldemort tightened his hold and thrust faster, teetering on the edge himself, and then the dam burst, with him losing all control as his cock pulsed and his hips did exactly what they damn well pleased to eke out every last bit of pleasure.

He really could not bring himself to care a while later when he realized that they were both sticky, as were the sheets.

Late that afternoon Harry disappeared for a short while to see to his latest set of captives, then returned to perch on his lap with an odd smile. “All right. I really would like your advice on something, Tom, before I go any further.”

“On Fudge?” he inquired, lazily playing with a lock of his mate’s hair.

Harry nodded and bit his lip, then said, “I do plan to kill him. I don’t want you to think otherwise. It’s a question of when. So, if he’s still very useful to you—er, us—as minister, then I suppose I could delay things a bit.”

Voldemort felt puzzled at first, then nodded slowly. “Should I take that to mean you’d be willing to screw with his head and make him very agreeable to whatever Lucius asks for in the future, without all this dancing around we’ve had to be doing?”

“Yes, and also Justus Bane. If you would like to keep him for a while longer, then okay. I do have a plan to try to keep him in office, despite the story I let Skeeter run. In fact, I’d need her again to make it work. If not, though, I might just let myself indulge in purely physical torture.”

“Unfortunately, Harry, I do not have someone waiting in the wings to slide into that position, though I could find a candidate with enough hard slogging. If you’re comfortable holding off, then it would be easier to keep him around for the time being. I can, however, start looking so that if and when that day comes, we would have someone ready to take over for him that the people wouldn’t suspect.”

“You mean someone unmarked,” Harry said, then continued after Voldemort nodded. “All right, then I plan to set up a little something for tomorrow. I’ll send a note to Skeeter. After you’ve had dinner I’ll go finish my prep work.”

*

Now, it just so happened that one Rita Skeeter (and her trusty photographer) managed to stumble over a rather revealing conversation the next day between two people who had featured in the news of late, so she was very happy to duck down behind cover with her beloved quick-quotes quill and some parchment, and direct her man to surreptitiously snap a few shots (this time leaving out the flashbulbs, as the two men were conveniently sitting in plenty of light). And by then, if she hadn’t figured out who her employer really was, she either did not wish to think about it too hard, or simply didn’t give a damn.

“My lord sends a reply,” said Harry, presently lounging about as Ron Weasley.

“Truly?” Percy asked, the very picture of eagerness. “Do you think. . . ?”

Harry nodded and reached into his pocket, producing a hefty sack of galleons which he placed on the table between them and pushed over, and ignoring when it tipped a bit and spilled out several pieces of gold. “A gift, brother, for the accomplishment. The Dark Lord was very pleased with you once he realized the magnitude of the scheme you devised and carried out in order to get his attention and prove yourself worthy of him. Very slick of you to make sure that Skeeter woman was able to get photographs and cause a huge ruckus with her story. She always has been quite good at gilding the lily.”

“Will he. . . ?” Percy looked terribly anxious, barely even noticing the gold which might have equaled his salary for a year.

“You wish to be Marked?”

“Have I not earned it?” Percy said passionately. “I have encouraged that man to use me as his sexual outlet, all so that he would think I was completely harmless. And I did eventually manage to put him in a position whereby I could splash his face all over the Daily Prophet and possibly sink his career. He’s nothing but a fat fool in my opinion. And do you have any idea how difficult it is to paste a portkey on your ass by yourself and not have it be noticeable?”

Harry snorted softly and shook his head. “Percy, the Dark Lord expects results, not whining about how taxing it might be for you to accomplish. Make the mistake of saying something like that in front of him and I don’t even want to think about what sort of punishment you’d get. If you want to be Marked, I’d be more careful in how you speak.”

“I won’t, Ron. I’m talking to you in case you hadn’t noticed,” he said pompously, then got all anxious again. “Will he? What do I need to do?”

Harry aimed a faint smile at Percy. “First of all, at least put that gold away. My lord will be most upset if you can’t even appreciate his gift. If you want to go through with this, I’ll take—” Harry used his wand under the table to produce a noise over by where he knew his pet reporter was hiding, then whipped his head around in that direction.

“Bloody hell! I thought you said this spot was secure, Percy,” he accused, then shot to his feet. “Here, touch this,” he said, yanking a jagged piece of metal from his pocket. “Now, damn it!” Percy did, and they both disappeared a second later, leaving behind one hell of a lot of gold.

They arrived in the dungeon, of course. Percy simply stood there with a vacant look on his face, which made Harry curve up one corner of his mouth in a smile. Handy fucking thing, hypnosis. Too bad he hadn’t known about it all those years ago when he was forced to endure the Dursleys. Things could have been so much different growing up.

“Strip,” he commanded, and was gratified to see the latest addition to his kennel undress without hesitation. “Down,” he added, then walked over to Percy’s cell and opened it. “In you go, Weatherby, that’s right.” Once the up and coming compound bitch was safely inside Harry outfitted him exactly how he had Lupin, then exited, closing and locking the door behind him. A playback device was turned on, this one designed to reduce Percy into the mindless fuck toy he had originally intended Moony to be, and left him to it.

Then he corrected his appearance and headed off to the cell containing Cornelius Fudge to check to see how he was doing. Harry halted the playback set up for the minister and conjured up a stool so he could sit, then asked, “To whom do you give your unquestioning trust?”

“Lucius Malfoy,” Fudge said rather tonelessly.

“Anyone else?”

“Justus Bane.”

Harry nodded. “And you’ll obey either of those men without question or hesitation?”

“Yes,” Fudge affirmed.

“That makes me very happy,” Harry said. “Will you consciously remember any of this once you’re awake?”

“No.”

“Very good. What will you say or do when the media gets their hands on you?”

“I will lay all blame elsewhere and attempt to make people believe I was set up in order to get me out of office. I will claim that Weasley placed me under the imperius curse and forced me to perform unnatural acts with him. I will call into question Madam Bones’s handling of her department, as it should not have been possible for anyone to disable the wards around my office area and kidnap me from the very Ministry itself. I will—”

“Stop.” Harry nodded again; Fudge seemed to be absorbing his conditioning nicely, so he stood up and vanished his stool, then started the playback loop again and wandered off upstairs. Voldemort was alone, thankfully, so he perched on the edge of the desk. “Things are well, so far.”

Voldemort nodded. “I was watching. I expect we’ll be seeing another special edition of the Daily Prophet?”

“I certainly hope so after I went to all that trouble. If it’s the morning, I suppose that’s okay as well. I’ll just set Fudge up to sneak back into the public eye at some point after.”

“He only really needs to last until the next election. By then I could have chosen someone else, and even if they aren’t, strictly speaking, a supporter, you could use that nifty little trick of yours to make them one, at least under the surface,” Voldemort said with a slight smile. “And if the public refuses to accept his excuses over what happened, then we simply capture him again. You can torture him directly and kill him, and then we can subvert whoever ends up as minister in his place.”

“Sounds all right to me,” Harry responded agreeably.

“And who do you plan on considering next?”

Harry worried his lower lip between his teeth for a bit, then said, “Oh, probably the Weasleys. The last four I care about, that is. But not until after Percy’s name is slung through the mud a bit more as a wannabe Death Eater. Besides, I have to wonder how much more difficult it’s going to become, catching them. Dumbledore’s got to be hurting in a serious way what with half his people vanishing whenever he looks away.”

Voldemort shrugged slightly and started ticking names off on his fingers. “Severus disappeared after reporting in to me, Moody from Knockturn Alley, Ronald and Hermione from their cottage, Tonks from the Ministry environs, Remus from their headquarters, Neville from a park, and Ginevra from the Burrow. We’ve taken them from all over the map, and Dumbledore cannot be everywhere.”

“No, but he can try to beef up defenses, at least for homes and workplaces,” Harry countered. “We could go check out the Burrow discreetly and investigate the warding, see if it’s changed any from what Moody seemed to think it was. And then the twins. I guess if Dumblefuck has become really antsy, he might have tried to force people into a new location, though I kind of doubt it’d be HQ.”

Then Harry frowned heavily. “And what happens if that bastard decides to use Order members to hide my properties from me? For all we know, he might move HQ to the house at Wakefield, or possibly have trapped the damn place already.”

Voldemort reached over to soothingly brush his fingers across the back of his Harry’s hand. “Yes, and he might have blown them up just to be spiteful. I would not worry about it at present. Once we have him you can find out directly from his mind, and then take care of things after the fact. On the other hand, if you really want to stir up a hornet’s nest and don’t give a damn about the reputation of Harry Potter, hire a few teams of goblins to go secure those properties.

“They aren’t affected quite the same as humans are by wizardry, and for enough money, would probably march right out there to each and slap so many sets of wards over them that Merlin himself couldn’t get in. Look, why don’t we go outside. Send a runner to fetch golems so you can work up an appetite, and then we can return to the house and have lunch.”

Harry rolled his eyes at the obvious attempt to distract him, but went along with it anyway.

*

Cornelius Fudge, after helpfully having imparted every last detail about the security at his home, was placed in a normally unused room in his house and left with instructions, and Harry slipped back outside and into his animagus form, that of a black Bengal cat, to hide in the bushes.

The Daily Prophet had run a story about the latest scandal, of how Percy Weasley was a Death Eater in the making, and all about his supposed attempt to single-handedly bring down the minister. Rita had embellished the short conversation, exploding it into a years long conspiracy that only grew in magnitude over time, probably spurred on and inspired by the small fortune in gold left behind.

She called into question the security at the Ministry, and even the employee screening process, pointing any number of fingers at Madam Bones. Skeeter also made sure to dress up Ron Weasley’s role in things and made it quite plain that he was acting as emissary for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and had spirited Percy away at the first sign of trouble, presumably to be given the Dark Mark.

Harry watched as Fudge attempted to slip out the back door of his home quietly and was immediately brought up short by a horde of reporters who had arrived in the interim. They began screaming out questions, to which Fudge stubbornly shook his head. All he would say is, “I shall arrange for a press conference. You will all simply have to wait until then. Now please vacate the premises.” And with that he turned and disappeared back inside.

The show over, Harry slinked off through the fringes of the back garden and found a place to transform, then headed off to the Ministry, knowing that Fudge would be along in a short while as instructed, and decided to see just how deeply his supposed cover as Justus Bane went. That occasioned a trip to the dusty records office where he began digging around after being helpfully shown where things were by an oddly chipper sort of fellow with long flame-red hair and frightfully pale skin.

He pulled himself away reluctantly when the time came, feeling really quite puzzled, then hastened off to coincidentally be present for when Fudge’s conference began. Cornelius had set himself up in one of the Wizengamot courtrooms so he could look out over a sea of voraciously inquisitive faces. Harry took a position off to one side where he wouldn’t be trampled by enthusiastic reporters, and set himself to listen, feeling Voldemort settling in to watch as well.

Fudge orated for quite some time on his ordeal, and his gratitude over the fact that his erstwhile captor had been witless enough to provide him the opportunity to gain his freedom. He was impassioned, speaking in clear, ringing tones about the travesty of anyone, and the minister no less, being so badly protected within those hallowed halls as to be subject to kidnapping, dark magic, and what amounted to torture.

He went on to firmly chastise the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for their dismal failures, and promise to immediately appoint a committee to begin an investigation into how such a mockery of security could have been accomplished, and to see just how much slacking off had been occurring in all matters pertaining to the safety of those within the Ministry building.

Eventually he finished up his long-winded speech. “And I will not stand for my good name and reputation to be dragged further through the mud! This is an outrage!” he exclaimed, his face all pink from exertion.

“Minister!” shouted Skeeter. “What of the Weasley brothers?”

Fudge harrumphed and responded, “They will be captured and brought in for questioning and trial, of course! I’m sure Azkaban would love to have some new inmates.”

“On what charges specifically?” shouted out another.

Fudge looked very much like he wanted to roll his eyes, but instead settled for saying, “Ronald Weasley has been linked to, at the very least, collusion with the Dark Lord, suspicion of being a Death Eater, the destruction of numerous properties in Hogsmeade, and may be responsible for the disappearances of a number of people lately, known supporters of the Light, some of which have regrettably turned up dead. Percy Weasley is charged with use of the imperius curse, inciting slander against a public official, misuse of Ministry funds and personnel, and the suspicion of being a Death Eater.”

The questions went on for quite a bit longer before Fudge became tired of the limelight and called an end to things. And by then, reporters were starting to repeat questions, possibly hoping to catch him off guard or confuse him by varying the wording they used. Through it all, the man performed exactly as instructed by Harry via hypnotic suggestion and conditioning, so he was well pleased with the results. He also had no doubt that Fudge would be spending an inordinate amount of money to make his wife cease her threats of divorce, or worse.

Harry decided to head home. However, he was stopped on his way to the atrium by a very familiar voice coming from behind him. “Justus Bane?”

Harry made a casual sort of turn and gave Albus Dumbledore a once-over, then said, “Yes.”

“I would appreciate,” Dumbledore said in that rather dusty voice of his, “if you would enlighten me as to the whereabouts of Nymphadora Tonks.”

Harry’s expression went quite blank. “All information pertaining to the Unspeakables is classified, as I’m sure you’re aware of. Have a good day.” He started to turn away, but Dumbledore spoke again.

“I really must insist. She has not been seen for quite some time or communicated with anyone.”

Harry made his face go even more blank, if possible, and said, “I do not exist to satisfy your whims or curiosity, regardless of who you may be or what honors you may hold. I am, however, permitted enough leeway to inform you that Miss Tonks has been adequately performing her present duties. I suggest you find other things and other people to concern yourself with.”

“I do not appreciate your attitude, my boy.”

Harry aimed a very faint smile at Dumbledore. “What you mean to say, more precisely, is that you fail to appreciate a person who refuses to cower before your reputation and bow to your demands. There is nothing further to discuss.” He turned away and began walking again, hearing that Dumbledore was following, but ignoring him, counting on his senses to protect him from any potential attacks, not that he expected one to occur in the middle of the Ministry itself.

He had just approached the visitor’s entrance when he heard, “This is not the end.”

Harry tossed back over his shoulder quietly, “Quite possibly,” then stepped inside the lift and turned around to face Dumbledore as the door slid shut. “Exit,” he requested, and was shortly gliding upward and out of sight.

He found Voldemort in his usual chair, and nodded a greeting, then stripped out of his clothing with great relief, tossing it all in a pile off to one side and taking a few moments to fix his appearance. Then he pushed Voldemort’s book out of the way so he could crawl onto his lover’s lap and snuggle up close.

It always made him feel better to do so. He felt safe, accepted, and cared for within the shelter of Voldemort’s arms. He felt so certain that even if Voldemort did not have all the answers, or could not make everything better, he would do his absolute best to help if asked. And, given that Harry was still feeling very puzzled over his visit to the archives, he decided to share his findings and thoughts.

“Tom, I thought the credentials of Justus Bane were fake,” he said softly.

“They are,” Voldemort responded. “Certainly good enough to fool most people, and there was a bit of documentation put in place to support them. Why?”

“Um, Tom, a bit? I checked the archives at the Ministry. Were you aware that Justus Bane has been employed as an Unspeakable for the past fifteen years? That he has a complete history on record, with OWL and NEWT scores, up until the point he supposedly went into the Department of Mysteries? Tom, he even apparently has a vault at Gringotts where all his pay has been going. If it weren’t for the fact that I created him myself, I’d say he was a bloody real person!”

Voldemort caused Harry to sit back and gave him a mystified look. “I certainly didn’t order anything of that magnitude. My people are good, but not that good.”

Harry shrugged. “Well, that’s nice. You don’t have a clue, either. Though, it is rather funny to think that I’m being subsidized by the Ministry without their knowledge. I guess I could toddle off to Gringotts again at some point and inquire about the vault.”

“Without a key?”

Harry shrugged again. “If someone went to all that trouble to help secure a fake identity I created, I’m sure they’d have fiddled things at the bank, too.”

“This does make me wary, my sweet. The only other person with real knowledge of Justus Bane is Lucius, and I know beyond question he could not have managed this feat, nor even attempted it without my orders to do so.”

“I’ll just be extra careful when I go out as him, and I may start doing some of my workouts blindfolded just to push my awareness a bit further.”

Voldemort chuckled and shook his head. “And terrorize the daylights out of our people in the process.”

Harry lifted his chin and said, “Well, maybe I’ll just add that to the list of required training courses. Blindfold the lot of them and force them to fight. If nothing else it would produce a list of people who would be very handy on certain types of missions or raids.”

“You, my sweet Harry, are the law when it comes to that sort of thing, so do whatever makes you happy and think will benefit us. Now, I notice that our dear friend Dumbledore finally lost control of himself enough to approach you.”

Harry snorted and wrinkled his nose. “Yeah. I was feeling sort of torn, actually. I really wanted to slice him up on the spot, but it was rather fun playing with him. Something tells me he really doesn’t like it when people say no to him.”

“There’s a shock,” Voldemort said dryly. “If nothing else it shows that word got around, and that Dumbledore is worried about the chit’s absence. The fact that he bothered to inquire means he hasn’t entirely written her off yet as dead.”

“He’ll find out eventually. Listen, how much were you able to get out of Snape’s head about his experiments?”

“Enough to know what he was attempting, and to know where he stashed all his research. Do you wish to raid his home? We could, you know.”

“Yeah, I think I would like to. I’m sort of curious to know if we could steal any of that research, or if most of those potions were designed with my, er, unique physiology in mind, making them useless for our own people.”

“I have the coordinates, Harry. We can go now if you wish, or later, this evening.”

“Now is fine. I don’t have anything I particularly wish to be doing.” And so they went, but not without putting on disguises first, and eventually arrived at a rather dingy looking semi-detached house in a run-down section of a town near Manchester. Harry’s reaction was to murmur, “Good lord. And I had the balls to complain about Privet Drive?”

Voldemort shook his head in amusement and led Harry closer, pausing only briefly to check for any warding that might have been put in place since Snape had last been there, and pointing out to him exactly what they were looking at. Harry allowed himself to then be led inside the house, promptly wrinkling his nose at what he considered to be downright appalling conditions. “Even my damn cupboard was cleaner than this!”

He was promptly led off into the back room, the kitchen, where Voldemort opened what looked like a cupboard, but was in reality a cooling box filled with spoiled and rotting foodstuffs. Harry staggered back at the assault on his poor nose, though it did not seem to bother his lover so much. He idly wondered if Voldemort’s sense of smell worked differently than his own.

A few minutes later Voldemort had carefully pried open the back of the interior, reached in and done something, then put everything back into place, ending up by closing the cupboard again.

“Huh?” Harry said.

Voldemort smiled at him and took his hand, then led him back to the sitting room and through a door that opened directly onto a set of stairs. Upstairs were two rooms, both just as cramped as below, and one of them was outfitted with a dilapidated bed with tattered linens and hangings. His lover pointed at a spot on the back wall, causing his gaze to take in a section that had presumably sprung open due to whatever had gone on downstairs, then strode over and pulled out a stack of what looked like journals.

Those were placed in his pocket before Voldemort pushed the bricks back into place. It did not even seem to be magic responsible for how well they blended back together. The very fact that all the walls were in sad shape, with crumbling mortar and cracks, made it very difficult to see anything suspicious. They left a minute later, after Harry had curiously poked his head into the other room to find a bathroom in what likely used to be another bedroom.

The journals came back out once they were home and Voldemort placed them on the side table in the sitting room, sat down, then began checking inside the front covers of each as Harry looked on. “This one,” Voldemort said, shaking one slightly, “appears to be a bit more personal and not so much research.”

Harry reached out to take it, then looked inside. Snape’s distinctive handwriting filled the pages, and his attention was immediately caught on seeing his own name. He left the research to Voldemort while he settled in to read.