This is a challenge fic for unusuallygen
Title: Paying Off Debts
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: Harry, Peter Pettigrew, Voldemort
Prompt: #57. Harry is captured by Death Eaters and Voldemort chooses to keep him alive and powerless because he is a Horcrux.
Summary: Peter pays his debts as best he can.
Paying Off Debts
Harry peered blearily around the Headmaster’s office at Voldemort’s gathered followers from his place next to Voldemort’s throne. Where once had stood Dumbledore’s magnificent desk stood a dais with a high backed chair perched on top. Harry sat at the foot of the chair doing his best to focus his eyes enough to glare at the faceless Death Eaters assembled.
Voldemort smiled indulgently down at him, and if Harry had shackles, he would have pulled at them, but Voldemort had found a more permanent way to keep Harry captive than physical bonds. He had deliberately and methodically ruined Harry’s inner ears so that he could neither hear nor walk without toppling over.
Harry closed his eyes, trying to swallow the nausea that came whenever he turned his head. Nagini slithered past him, her scales rubbing against his bare feet. “I smell mice,” she hissed, “and squirrels, I like squirrels.” Because Parseltongue was magical, Harry supposed he didn’t hear it with his ears. It was a pity. He’d really rather no conversation at all than to only be able to hear Voldemort and Nagini. Nagini wasn’t cruel, exactly, just overly focused on food.
“The meeting will be over soon, pet,” Voldemort crooned, “and then you can hunt to your heart’s content.” Nagini hissed her wordless satisfaction, coiling around the legs of the chair, and Harry shivered. It would be winter eventually, and Nagini wouldn’t be able to hunt on the grounds. She would be cooped up in the castle with him only eating meat that was already dead when she got to it, and she would mutter.
If Harry could only see the lips of the Death Eaters as they spoke, He might be able to tell what they were saying, but Pettigrew had broken disappeared his broken glasses years ago. He slumped back, closing his eyes again, bored, but then he was always bored anymore, bored and terrified.
Voldemort smiled down at him indulgently, and Harry flinched back with a snarl as the Dark Lord patted his head. “Don’t touch me!” he hissed, darting away from the hand and desperately trying to swallow the vomit pooling in his mouth from the movement so that he didn’t humiliate himself more than he already had by being sick in front of Voldemort’s henchmen. Though if he could manage to be sick on Voldemort, it might be worth it.
“Four years, Harry, I thought you’d be used to me by now.” It was their constant ritual. Every time Voldemort held court, he patted Harry’s head and Harry snapped back at him, and every time, Voldemort responded to his insolence the same way. Unspoken each time were the words “besides, you have a piece of my soul inside of you. You have never been free of me.”
It vaguely distressed him that he had fallen into a pattern with Voldemort of all people. Patterns spoke of consistency, of comfort with another person, but he couldn’t seem to break it.
With a wave of his hand, Voldemort dismissed his Death Eaters and they filed out quickly until only Peter Pettigrew remained. Harry heaved himself to his feet, clinging to the arms and back if the chair as Voldemort rose, just thankful to be leaving the monster’s presence for the night.
Pettigrew was Harry’s care taker, his nanny, and his jailer. He was the poor fool that Voldemort had saddled with his keep. As the quivering bulging rat animagus helped him to his feet and looped an arm around him to steady him, Harry couldn’t help but be glad that it was Pettigrew and not Crabbe or Goyal who might drop him out of sheer clumsiness, or worse, Lucius Malfoy, who would drop him out of sheer spite. Or resentment, it might be resentment. He wasn’t glad that it wasn’t Bellatrix Lestrange caring for him anymore than he was glad the sky wasn’t made out of sulfuric acid. Not even Voldemort was stupid enough to leave him in the care of Bellatrix.
There was no Hogwarts anymore. The wealthy hired private tutors and the poor did without. The castle was The Dark Lord’s palace. For a while he had left the school intact with Snape as headmaster, but when he discovered that Dumbledore’s death had been planned, he had killed Snape and disbanded the school entirely. The professors loyal to the school died as well, and the ones who were willing to be flexible became the tutors that only the wealthy could afford. There were rumors that Remus and Professor Vector each ran schools with cheaper tuition, secreted away where the Death Eaters couldn’t find them, but Peter wasn’t sure he believed it.
He had to remind himself that over and over again as he walked down the familiar corridors, holding up Harry, who hobbled at his side. This was not where he had gone to school. This was not where he had studied, and pranked the Slytherins and each other, and run wild, this was the Dark Lord’s palace.
“Don’t trip, Harry,” he admonished as the boy, young man really, almost lost his balance again. Harry didn’t even turn his had. Sometimes Peter forgot he couldn’t hear him. Peter slowly helped him climb the staircases and meander through the hallways, moving ever upwards until they reached the old Gryffindor common room.
Harry had the old Gryffindor tower all to himself except for the ever present Peter, and Nagini who sometimes wandered in to hunt the birds that flew in the open windows. When the students had left, all of the dormitories in the tower except two had disappeared, and each of those had only one bed in them. The school knew what was needed, and it took care of Harry in a way it never did for the Death Eaters, or even the Dark Lord, who was a descendant of one of the founders.
Peter helped the boy into one of the overstuffed armchairs nearest the empty fireplace and scuttled back down the stairs to the kitchen to fetch dinner for them both. When he came back, Harry hadn’t moved at all, and still sat ensconced in the armchair, staring unfocusedly out the open window at the sunset. He didn’t sink against the cushions, but sat stiffly, almost quivering with tension.
Peter set the food down and moved a table in front of Harry and then moved the food onto it and served them both. Harry nibbled a bit and pushed the food around his plate then nibbled some more, eating listlessly. He never was hungry anymore, and Peter could understand why. He never did anything except struggle down to the Dark Lord, sit at his feet, and then struggle back up to the tower. He never did anything to make himself hungry.
He didn’t object when Peter took away the plate, but when he left a slice of cake with a candle in its place, Harry plucked out the candle, his hand very steady so long as his head didn’t move, flipped it over, and shoved it burning end down back into the cake, where it guttered, blackening the icing. The smoke drifted up from it, and Harry coughed. It was the first sound Peter had heard from him in months.
Harry had forgotten it was his twenty-first birthday. He glared miserably at what was left of the candle, going cross-eyed as he tried to focus on it. Just over four years ago, Voldemort had captured him as he had flown with Hagrid to the rendezvous point. He had snatched him from the sky as he had fallen, somehow knowing what Harry did not, that he was a Horcrux, and so should be kept alive and helpless by his side. He remembered how Voldemort had quickly secured his victory, and then secreted back his remaining Horcruxes again, keeping them close by. He had shown them off to Harry, as if to rub his face in his failure.
It hadn’t taken Harry very long at all, sitting next to Voldemort’s throne unable to even crawl away, to think that perhaps the reason he had the power to defeat the Dark Lord was because his very death would weaken the monster. The power the Dark Lord knew not wasn’t love, as Dumbledore had supposed, but an all encompassing need for revenge, and a willingness to end his own life if it would bring that revenge to him.
First, he had broken his glasses and tried to slit his wrists with the jagged edges of the frame, but Pettigrew had found him and healed him. Then, he tried to trick Nagini into biting him, but she only said that her master had told her not to.
At last, he had purloined Pettigrew’s wand from the pocket of his robe as he had walked him to Voldemort’s throne room. Harry had aimed it right at Voldemort’s chest and cast a soundless Sectumsempra, no longer able to trust his mouth to form a word properly. Voldemort had responded by instinct, or perhaps he felt he could sacrifice Harry because he had four other intact Horcruxes. The killing curse had hit him square in the chest.
Even then, he didn’t know if he had hallucinated Dumbledore and the train station, the way Muggle doctors said people could hallucinate during near death experiences, but Dumbledore had told him he had an ally in Snape, and he didn’t think he had had anything in his subconscious to tell him that. Either way, he supposed he wasn’t a Horcrux anymore. Fortunately, Voldemort had only concluded that he couldn’t destroy his own Horcruxes.
Harry’s taste for suicide had abated after that. There wasn’t any point if he wasn’t carrying a chunk of Voldemort’s soul around inside of him. Besides, he was probably the only person alive who knew where the Horcruxes were and what they were, so Harry would watch and wait, and when rebellion rose, and Harry was sure it would rise eventually, he would be there to destroy the Horcruxes and kill Voldemort.
Peter lifted the plate with the cake on it and put it way next to the rest of the massacred but mostly uneaten food. Harry gazed ahead, plainly ignoring his companion, thoughts somewhere else. As Peter sat back in his own chair, his own thoughts drifted back to the first year after the Dark Lord had captured Harry. At first it had seemed at every time he turned his back, he would be mending another attempt of Harry’s to kill himself, and Peter had lived in panic that after this attempt or that, the Dark Lord would decide he was worthless and kill him.
Peter supposed the Dark Lord realized that no one would have been able to stop Harry from trying to cause trouble, and he didn’t want to replace Peter only to have his more able and valuable replacement fail as well. It would have been a victory of sorts for Harry, he supposed, if he were able to make the Dark Lord kill all of his loyal servants on his account.
After Harry stole Peter’s wand and the Dark Lord couldn’t kill him again, the boy had stopped, and Peter had heaved a sigh of relief. He supposed Harry didn’t think it was worth the effort if he was always unsuccessful, or perhaps he decided after his most recent taste of death that he didn’t want anything to do with it, even if it meant the Dark Lord kept his Horcrux.
Whatever the reason for stopping, Peter found he missed the Harry who kept trying to kill himself, because at least that Harry had kept trying for something.
He pulled Harry to his feet and guided him up the stairs, helped him wash, and dressed him in his pajamas. Harry submitted to it all soundlessly, not even seeming to notice as Peter helped him into bed. Peter extinguished the light and waited for his charge’s breath to even out in sleep and descended the stairs to the common room.
A shaky, bedraggled house elf popped in to hand him a cup of tea, and he held it, watching the sky darken. For years he dithered about helping Harry at least escape and then going into hiding. Stopping someone who clearly had a purpose to hilling himself from doing so wasn’t much of a way to fulfill his debt. If he could only leave, if he could get out and take Harry somewhere safe… well, he owed it, didn’t he?
Peter stroked the handle of the teacup and hung his head, and again he swore that this next day, this time, he would help Harry escape, but he swore that every night.