Description: Sequel to ¡®Retreat¡¯ and ¡®Advance.¡¯ Harry has accepted the grim reality of his marriage with Voldemort, which cannot ever be undone. And then he discovers that, after all, joy is a matter of where you find it.
Characters: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings Graphic Depictions Of ViolenceHarry Potter/Voldemort Viktor Krum & Harry Potter Fleur Delacour & Harry Potter Harry Potter & Blaise Zabini Nagini & Harry PotterHarry Potter Voldemort (Harry Potter) Draco Malfoy Viktor Krum Fleur Delacour Blaise Zabini Nagini (Harry Potter)Angst Alternate Universe – Canon Divergence Forced Marriage Dubious Consent Violence Gore Torture Minor Character Death Politics Political Alliances
Sequel to ¡®Retreat¡¯ and ¡®Advance.¡¯ Harry has accepted the grim reality of his marriage with Voldemort, which cannot ever be undone. And then he discovers that, after all, joy is a matter of where you find it.
This story continues the universe of ¡°Retreat¡± and ¡°Advance¡± and will be impossible to understand without them. It is also one of my ¡°From Samhain to the Solstice¡± fics and will be posted in three or four parts over the next few days.
Voldemort was practicing being human again.Harry kept his eyes on his plate and ate quietly, at least when he wasn¡¯t answering his husband¡¯s ¡°dinner conversation.¡± So far, Voldemort had asked him if he liked Quidditch (he knew perfectly well Harry did), how his Charms study was going (well enough, which Voldemort also knew, since he helped him with it), and whether Harry had changed his mind and would allow Voldemort to torture his relatives yet (the answer was no and always would be).Finally, the fifth time that Voldemort cleared his throat to ask something, Harry laid down his spoon and fork. ¡°You don¡¯t need to, you know,¡± he said, and looked up to meet Voldemort¡¯s wide red eyes. They still had such an impact on him, even after seven months of marriage.¡°Don¡¯t need to what, Harry?¡± The Horcrux bond between them flared with something like irritation.¡°Don¡¯t need to act as though you¡¯re an ordinary human,¡± Harry said. ¡°I know you¡¯re not. I¡¯m all right with that.¡±Voldemort paused, the mask falling away. He was always much more still than an ordinary human would be, this time with his hand clenched about his knife. ¡°I am something greater than human.¡±Harry made a little humoring gesture and picked up his fork again. ¡°Sure.¡±¡°You do not agree?¡± The scar stung, and Harry grimaced and reached up to rub it. Immediately, the pain slid away, but not the sense of being intensely watched. Then again, Harry had had to get used to that or he wouldn¡¯t have been able to sleep.¡°I think you did a stupid thing when you split your soul and made Horcruxes. As you know very well. All the things you¡¯ve asked me tonight are questions you know the answers to. Why ask them? I don¡¯t mind if we just be quiet while we eat.¡±Voldemort was certainly quiet for the next minute or so, while Harry ate the rest of his roast chicken covered with a steaming, savory sauce. The Malfoy house-elves could definitely cook.¡°You do not want me to ask new questions.¡±Harry started and glanced over at Voldemort. There was a different sensation behind his scar this time, one that skittered back and forth like a squirrel on a tree. It was so new that Harry took a long moment to grasp it, and then still another, because he didn¡¯t think he believed what his senses had told him the first time.Voldemort was¡nervous?¡°Yes, I do,¡± Harry said, blinking. ¡°I mean, I don¡¯t know what¡¯s going on with the Dark Lord reigning business, but you can talk about that if you want. Or talk to me about something new if you want,¡± he added, because Voldemort talking about what he¡¯d done didn¡¯t make sense of the business about new questions.Voldemort laid down his knife. ¡°I wish to ask you to come with me and see the house I have chosen for our new home. Provisionally.¡±Harry drew in a breath so deep he started coughing. Voldemort promptly filled the Horcrux bond with thoughts about murdering the Malfoy house-elves. Lately, they¡¯d started to come through as images¡ªmuch more detailed ones than Harry wanted, given that Voldemort was probably being extremely accurate about imagining the placement of blood and entrails.¡°It¡¯s not their fault,¡± Harry hissed, using Parseltongue, which always made Voldemort pay more attention to him than his own emotions. ¡°I just¡I kind of forgot that I¡¯d asked you to find us a house.¡±¡°You thought I would forget.¡±Harry sat straight up and toyed with his silverware. But it was impossible to hide from someone who shared his mind and soul with him, and Voldemort¡¯s hiss seemed to echo off the inside of his skull.¡°I thought you might decide it wasn¡¯t convenient.¡±¡°Why not? Have I not shown you my commitment to making you happy?¡±Harry clenched his fists in front of him on the dining table and finally decided that looking away from Voldemort and hiding from this conversation was cowardly. He turned his chair, and Voldemort was right there, as fucking always, dipping his head slightly to catch Harry¡¯s glance. His eyes gleamed that devouring red, as always, and Harry had to catch his breath against his own reaction.¡°Yes, but I deliberately asked for as much as would make me joyful in that list of things I wanted in a home. And you said it would take a while to arrange. I thought that you¡¯d decided it would take too much time, or too much effort.¡±Voldemort stood and prowled around the table. There had been a time when that movement made Harry numb inside, in the first days of the marriage when he was trying to pretend as hard as he could to feel nothing, and then times when it would have made him shiver with fear. Now, he just watched Voldemort come.Voldemort¡¯s hands separated and curled around Harry¡¯s face, one lifting his chin, one cupping the back of his neck. Harry looked straight into Voldemort¡¯s face and sent irritation down the Horcrux bond, knowing it would prickle like cats¡¯ claws on bare skin.¡°I forget nothing where you are concerned,¡± Voldemort hissed. ¡°You should assume that your every movement matters to me. Your every thought. Your every expression. And I have found us a house.¡±He bent down and laid his lipless mouth against Harry¡¯s. Harry shuddered and opened his mouth. In some ways, this part of the marriage was the easiest. It was all action, no having to consider.But Voldemort drew back when Harry would have deepened the kiss. ¡°Will you come with me? Remember that you have right of final refusal.¡±Harry swallowed and felt down the Horcrux bond. Voldemort had restricted the flow of emotions, though, as he sometimes did, and Harry only got the humming that meant he was paying attention. If he was nervous, Harry could no longer sense it.¡°Yes,¡± Harry murmured.*¡°You took the place that should have been mine.¡±Harry briefly considered what Voldemort¡¯s response would be if he beat his head against the banister of the staircase until he passed out.But the problem was, he knew exactly what that response would be, and it would begin¡ªnot end¡ªwith the intestines of the person talking to Harry looped around his neck. So he turned around and asked mildly, ¡°Oh, Malfoy? Planning to marry him, were you?¡±At least he could still make Draco Malfoy splutter incoherently. Harry knew that he was no longer the same person, in many ways, who had attended Hogwarts and been a Gryffindor and served as Dumbledore¡¯s prot¨¦g¨¦, but he hoped this ability would never desert him.¡°No! I meant, the position as his most loyal, most trusted!¡± Malfoy folded his arms and glared at Harry. ¡°You took that.¡±¡°Not because I wanted to.¡± Harry felt an enormous, stretchy tiredness descend on him, as if he was struggling against mud. ¡°Go away, Malfoy.¡±He turned to climb the staircase. He didn¡¯t know what warned him, perhaps just the stir of air, but he spun around and darted out of reach of the hand that Malfoy had almost brought to rest on his shoulder.¡°Are you insane?¡± he asked quietly. ¡°He¡¯ll destroy you for touching me.¡±¡°You¡¯re nothing but a liar!¡± Malfoy¡¯s face was breaking out in pink blotches that made it look as if he¡¯d taken some prank potion made by the twins. (Harry curled around the stab of pain that thought caused and buried it expertly. At least the twins were alive to make their pranks). ¡°You acted as though you were his greatest enemy, and then you crawled into his bed the first chance you got!¡±¡°You have no idea what you¡¯re talking about.¡±¡°Oh, yes, I do!¡± Malfoy poked a finger at him, but didn¡¯t actually touch him. Harry was glad of that, since it made the difference between Voldemort actually murdering him and hanging him from the staircase by his neck for a few hours. ¡°If I¡¯d known that all it took to win the war was offering to fuck you, maybe I would have tried.¡±Harry didn¡¯t ever remember the next few moments clearly. He knew he moved. He knew Malfoy moved, almost as though he was about to shove Harry down the stairs. And then Harry blinked, and the blurriness departed from his eyes, leaving his sight clear, and he saw that Malfoy was hanging upside-down above the stairs.Harry stared at his wand. Yes, it was out. He had cast that spell from the Half-Blood Prince¡¯s book, the same one his father and Sirius had used to torment Snape in that memory, without even hearing himself do it.¡°Let me go, Potter!¡±Harry remembered what Malfoy had said, and his fury came back, rushing through him like a great, cold stream. He smiled and twitched his wand. Malfoy floated out over the great floor that the staircase climbed up from. It was pure marble and at least ten meters below. ¡°Let you go? Are you sure?¡±¡°Potter! Potter!¡±¡°Harry.¡±Harry was only glad that he had enough control of the spell not to start when the voice spoke from so near. He looked down and saw Nagini rearing up next to him, swaying back and forth in time with Malfoy¡¯s shrieks. Her eyes were locked on the floating boy.¡°I like it better when I can break my prey¡¯s bones myself,¡± Nagini said, tilting around so that she was mostly looking at Harry. ¡°But it was kind of you to tenderize him with his fear first.¡±Harry blinked, realized what she was talking about, and snorted. At least it distracted him from his anger, and he shook his head. ¡°I didn¡¯t do this so that I could feed him to you, Nagini.¡±¡°But why else would you do it? You begged the master for this squeaky mouse¡¯s freedom.¡± Nagini slithered to the very edge of the step she was on, which was as close as she could come to Malfoy unless Harry brought him nearer. ¡°And now you are doing this. You will drop him and I will feast.¡±¡°No.¡± Harry sighed and moved Malfoy closer. Nagini began to climb one of the poles of the banister, and Harry made a sharp noise at her, causing her to flick her tongue out as if to catch his scent. ¡°No.¡±¡°But why did you float him out over the floor?¡±¡°Because I was angry, and I wanted to teach him a lesson.¡± Harry lowered Malfoy over the stairs then, so that if he fell, he would still get hurt, but probably wouldn¡¯t break anything. He saw the tear tracks on Malfoy¡¯s cheeks and breathed out. He would have been ashamed of himself only an hour ago, but at the moment, he felt¡ªtired, again. ¡°But I¡¯m beginning to think that he¡¯s not going to learn anything.¡±¡°His kind never do,¡± Nagini said hopefully. ¡°So therefore the best option is to feed him to me.¡±¡°I at least have to give him one more chance, don¡¯t I?¡± Harry lowered Malfoy down until he was only a few centimeters above the step and dropped him. Malfoy sat up, not looking at him, wiping his face with his sleeve.¡°And this was the last chance. He will refuse, and then I will feast.¡±Harry ignored Nagini for the moment and consciously switched back to English as he looked at Malfoy. ¡°Are you going to bother me again? Even though you know that the only result if I¡¯d dropped you would be that it¡¯d make Voldemort a little happier?¡±Malfoy sat in silence for long enough that Harry wondered if he should just leave, and maybe hope the other boy had learned his lesson after all. Finally, he glanced up and whispered, ¡°You¡¯re just as much of a bully as¡ªas Professor Snape always said you were in school.¡±¡°Well, he¡¯d know from experience,¡± Harry said. ¡°And I thought you were saying something about how you would have won the war by fucking me?¡±¡°He said what?¡±Harry turned quickly, glad that he was in a position to be able to put his body Voldemort and Malfoy, and at least slightly between Malfoy and Nagini. Voldemort was standing on a step several meters away, his eyes unwavering. Technically he was looking at Harry, but Harry knew that he was really burning Malfoy with his stare. Harry just happened to be in the way.¡°He said stupid things,¡± Harry responded in Parseltongue, meanly glad for the way that it made Malfoy flinch and shrink against the railing. ¡°But one of them was that he could have won the war by fucking me. Because he thinks that¡¯s how you won the war.¡±Rage crashed through the Horcrux connection, for a moment making Harry¡¯s vision as blurry as his own had. He remained standing where he was, though, which meant that when Voldemort¡¯s wand started glowing green, he raised his chin and stood there, unafraid.¡°You do not think I would hit you with the Killing Curse.¡±Voldemort sounded intrigued. Harry shook his head a little. ¡°I know you wouldn¡¯t hurt me. And I¡¯m going to ask you to leave his punishment up to me. I already did part of it by dangling him above the floor and making him think I was going to drop him.¡±¡°You were going to drop him,¡± Nagini interjected. ¡°So I can eat him. Then you brought him back here so I could break his bones on my own.¡±Voldemort paid her no mind, except for a flicker of confused attention. Harry wondered when he had started being able to tell it was confused as Voldemort turned back to him. ¡°I would leave his punishment up to you, except that you would go mercifully on him.¡±¡°Now that you¡¯re here, I can destroy him with words.¡±Voldemort paused, and that was enough reason for Harry to turn and face Malfoy. Malfoy¡¯s face had gone the color of old cheese, the way it did whenever he was face-to-face with Voldemort. Harry wanted to shout at him. He thought he could hold an important position in Voldemort¡¯s life when he was fucking terrified of him?But right now, Harry had other words to speak, and ones that he thought might make a reasonable difference.¡°You have no idea what I bring to this marriage, Malfoy,¡± he said. ¡°Sure, Voldemort married me to end the war. But also because I¡¯m like him. Can you speak Parseltongue? Try to answer that question without looking as if you¡¯re about to wet yourself,¡± he added, when Malfoy opened his mouth.Malfoy glanced back and forth between him and Voldemort. ¡°No,¡± he said at last.¡°Can you gave up connections with everyone else you care about in order to be Voldemort¡¯s husband?¡±¡°I wouldn¡¯t have to. My father¡ª¡±¡°Always hiding in the shadow of your dad, Malfoy. It¡¯s pitiful, really. And it doesn¡¯t answer the question.¡±Malfoy puffed up like a bullfrog, then looked at Voldemort and stared at the floor again. It was kind of funny, Harry had to admit. It resulted in what was more or less a half-glare on his face. ¡°No,¡± he said finally.¡°That¡¯s what I did.¡± Harry leaned his elbow on the railing. ¡°And I survived the stupid attack you made on me, and I was the one who begged for your life. I¡¯m the reason that you¡¯re alive to be a nuisance right now. I¡¯m the one who asked my husband for your freedom from the slavery bond, and he was pleased to grant it.¡± He paused, and then gasped in nock surprise. ¡°I just realized! That¡¯s the reason that you hate me so much right now, isn¡¯t it? You owe me a debt, and you know it.¡±¡°Shut up, Potter!¡±Harry grinned. He had Malfoy¡¯s throat between his teeth now, or so it felt. ¡°You don¡¯t have any advantage over me, Malfoy, either as a servant or as a spouse. You can¡¯t speak Parseltongue, you bring no political connections, you couldn¡¯t have lasted a day as the Dark Lord¡¯s husband without trying to lord your position over someone, and you were so weak that when you tried to murder me, I¡¯m the only reason you survived. Even now, I think you¡¯re snapping at me and trying to make yourself noticed because that¡¯s the only way to hold the shattered splinters of your pride together.¡±Malfoy sucked in a sharp breath and stared at Voldemort. Voldemort reached out and put a hand on Harry¡¯s shoulder. Harry moved a little as if he was luxuriating in the touch, and Malfoy made a noise that, this time, might have been a strangled gasp.¡°Harry is right,¡± Voldemort said, although his voice was close enough to a hiss that Harry nudged him a little so he wouldn¡¯t slip into Parseltongue. ¡°He is the infinitely preferable spouse. There is no reason for me to keep you around, Draco. Absent yourself from our presence before I decide there is no reason for me to keep you alive, either.¡±Malfoy stood up, his face looking blank with devastation this time, too deep for tears. He turned and worked his way carefully around Harry, near the banister. Nagini flicked her tongue at him, and he pounded down the stairs and out of sight.Harry shook his head. ¡°That¡¯s really torn it,¡± he muttered. ¡°We can¡¯t stay here now.¡±Voldemort¡¯s arm slid around his waist and drew Harry back against him. Harry went. He no longer started at the feeling of his husband, hard muscles and leanness under a layer of cool skin that could harden as if it was made of scales, too. ¡°You would be willing to take the house I found sight unseen?¡±¡°Yeah. Anything¡¯s better than dealing with Malfoys. I think I made Draco at least think, but who knows?¡±Voldemort bowed his head, and flicked his tongue out much like Nagini did. Harry shivered as the forks subtly caressed the side of his throat. The emotions he felt through the Horcrux bond were so complex that he could only tell they were shifting back and forth like layers of sand and water.¡°I hope you will be happy in the fact of it.¡±¡°I¡¯m not happy,¡± Nagini whined. ¡°I¡¯m hungry.¡±Voldemort didn¡¯t even pay attention to her, his eyes fastened on Harry¡¯s face. Harry swallowed and tried to ignore the hard flutter in his stomach.
You would react this way if anyone paid attention to you as intensely as he did. It¡¯s a relic of your childhood and the life you lived before this. And your friends betrayed you. You don¡¯t have any connections with anyone else. That¡¯s all. That¡¯s it. That¡¯s the only reason you¡¯re reacting this way.
But only reason or not, Harry nodded and strode beside Voldemort as he led him out the doors of Malfoy Manor and pulled him into an Apparition.*The first thing Harry noticed as he came out of the Apparition was that he could smell something heavy and salty. He sniffed, listened, and drew in his breath sharply as he realized it was the sea.¡°You specified that our house should be on the edge of the ocean. You did not mean it?¡±¡°No, it¡¯s not that.¡± Harry licked his lips and sniffed the air again, then switched back to Parseltongue as he felt the uneasy stirring behind his scar. ¡°Not just that. It¡¯s that I¡¯ve only ever seen the sea once, and that¡¯s when Dumbledore and I went to, um.¡±¡°I have seen the memories of your expedition to find the locket Horcrux. And I know that it was replaced with a fake.¡±¡°You haven¡¯t gone in search of the real one?¡±Voldemort gave him a look that felt as if it burned the side of his face as he guided Harry down a rocky path that became a steep stone staircase, slippery with lichen and sea-spray. ¡°Why would I need it? I told you that you are the only one I need.¡±Harry concealed his smile. That might even sound romantic if you didn¡¯t know that it was referring to Horcruxes, not people or partners.Not that anyone else would ever hear it. No one else could speak Parseltongue, or intrude into the closed sphere that Voldemort and Harry shared.Well, if he really paid attention to my requirements for the house, that will change, Harry thought, and then they came around a turn in the staircase and he stopped with a huge gasp that felt as if it might lift him off the edge of the stair.¡°Harry?¡±¡°Wow,¡± Harry breathed. He¡¯d meant to make the word come out in Parseltongue, to show Voldemort that he really did appreciate this, but frankly, he didn¡¯t have the concentration for it.Harry had told Voldemort that he wanted a large, open house, where he wouldn¡¯t have to feel trapped, but which would also have plenty of spaces where he could hide if he wanted to. He¡¯d wanted it to be by the sea, and private, and have places where he could meet with friends. Harry still wasn¡¯t sure how Voldemort was going to fulfill that last requirement, given that Harry didn¡¯t really have any friends left.But the house before him was a great beginning. It was made of grey stone, and almost blended in with the cliff, except that this stone was brighter. It had visible wings flung out to the sides and climbing up the slope. Harry knew Voldemort must have used magic to make it cling and balance, but he didn¡¯t care.The sides of the house were open on the one that faced them and the one extended along the front of the cliff and faced the sea. Harry could see pillars roofed over with a stone walkway running between them, like the ones in a cloister. Open windows pierced the wall that would actually make up the inside of the house. Harry could imagine himself standing there with the sea-breeze blowing through his hair, listening to the crashing of the waves and being at peace.¡°Shall we go closer?¡±Harry nodded and accepted Voldemort¡¯s hold around his waist as the man flowed like smoke into the air, taking Harry with him, and landed again on a lower step that spread out like a broad landing in the direction of the house. Even though they hadn¡¯t gone that far, the call of the waves and the salty smell of the air were both stronger. Harry licked his lips and took a few steps forwards to lay his hand on the nearest pillar.Voldemort didn¡¯t follow.The stone was cool beneath Harry¡¯s touch, but not cold. He moved into the shelter of the roof and sighed as he turned to face in the direction of the wind. It hit him, hard, bracing, swift. Harry opened his mouth and laughed.Voldemort staggered behind him.Harry spun around, concerned at once, but Voldemort held up one hand and shook his head. Harry blinked and remained where he was. Voldemort lifted his face and flickered his tongue out before he answered.¡°I have never felt you feel¡ªjoy like that.¡±¡°Oh.¡± Harry had no idea how to respond or why joy would make Voldemort stagger, so he shrugged and walked over to one of the windows to look through it. There was a room behind it whose door he couldn¡¯t see, due to the dusky shadows falling, but he could make out a bed covered in what looked like moss¡ªsome kind of enchantment?¡ªand a chair and a table with a stack of parchment on it. The chair and table both looked to be made of silky stone, like the pillars, polished and worn by the sea air.¡°Wow,¡± Harry murmured again. He could imagine himself sitting at that chair, writing at that desk, sleeping in that bed. ¡°Where did you get this?¡±¡°I removed and reassembled parts of several different buildings. Including some churches and one temple.¡±Harry glanced over his shoulder. He almost wanted to ask if Voldemort was serious, but he wasn¡¯t sure Voldemort knew what a joke was, so he had to be. And the buzzing behind his scar had started again, the tumbling layers of emotions Harry wasn¡¯t sure how to sort out. ¡°Uh. Because you couldn¡¯t find one building that had all the qualities I requested?¡±¡°Yes.¡± Voldemort sounded distracted, which made Harry wonder if there was some threat around that he hadn¡¯t sensed. But it didn¡¯t seem like it. So far, Voldemort was just staring at him.¡°Well. Um. Thank you.¡±Voldemort inclined his head. Harry walked through the cloister, or whatever it really was¡ªmaybe Voldemort had taken it from a monastery¡ªaround the side of the house.The side of the building that faced the sea was another cloister-like area, but the side that ran along the broadest lip of the cliff and looked out across jumbled rocks and hills into the grey sky was a single huge window. Harry paused and looked in. The window had no glass, he saw¡ªno, wait. There was a faint shimmer in the air.He reached out before he could think better of it, and then realized that, of course, nothing Voldemort had put into the house would hurt him, a moment before the ward in the window dissolved at his touch and Harry found himself reaching into air that had been enchanted to be warm.Because of the angle of the light, it was easier to see into this room. Moss seemed to cover the floor, too; Harry reckoned it was the carpet. Two chairs that looked as if they were draped in silk stood a long distance apart from each other. Harry could imagine sitting in them with food and staring out into the sky, listening to the sea but not confronted with it.He let out a shaky breath and glanced over his shoulder. Voldemort had come to stand about a meter away from him.¡°How did you design something so perfect?¡± Harry whispered.¡°I read what you wanted, and took my cue from your list.¡±Harry slid his hand back, caressing the windowsill and the silky stone. Then he licked his lips and glanced at Voldemort. ¡°Can we go inside?¡±¡°Of course. The door is around the corner from here.¡± Voldemort hesitated, and Harry waited, wondering if he had to dissipate harsher wards or something similar. Then Voldemort asked, in a voice that buzzed sharply at the edges, ¡°Do you like it?¡±Harry blinked. The nervousness was back in Voldemort¡¯s voice, and he seemed to hover as he waited for the answer, even though surely he must be able to feel through the Horcrux bond how much Harry liked it.Maybe he could. Maybe he could feel that and still¡ªhow much experience did he have with designing something and then asking someone if they liked it, anyway? Maybe nothing that didn¡¯t come from Nagini.Harry carefully widened the Horcrux bond to its fullest extent and said, ¡°I love it.¡±Joy came back to him like a hailstorm.