The Contract

Chapter 68

Corvus startled when he felt the wards ping, alerting him to someone entering the property. They were easily accepted, and knew it was Tom. He had insisted he'd be by as soon as his other obligations were seen to. It was a little bit late to be calling on any family, but Corvus didn't mind. Regardless of how late it was…he would lay down his head and sleep well tonight knowing his sons were home.

Both of them had been rather subdued, which had surprised him so much. He hadn't said anything as of yet, but he would discuss it if it didn't get better. Azkaban will have played havoc with their emotions. They would have their ups and downs until they recovered this he knew.

They'd bathed, put on a pair of soft fluffy pyjamas that he'd ordered for them. They were a little big on them, he'd tried to get the measurements correct but hadn't succeeded very well apparently. No matter they would fill out given time, at least their ribs couldn't be seen quite so starkly as he'd feared.

Then they'd eaten the food he'd had made for them, with the advice of the Healers. He didn't want them to go, he didn't want to let them out of his sight. They had to go, he knew that, they needed to recuperate. Which they wouldn't get with him waiting on them hand and foot, which he would do.

Voldemort slowed his gait when he noticed the brothers sleeping, comforters wrapped around their bony bodies keeping them warm. "How are they?" he asked, his concern for them genuine.

"Would you like a drink?" Corvus asked, both of them speaking low as not to disturb the sleeping boys.

"Whiskey," Voldemort stated immediately, he'd been doing some digging and investigating into just what Doge and Diggle thought they were doing. "The Aurors were put to the Doge and Diggle estates very quickly." He added, giving a reason for his annoyance and lateness.

"Harry will have your hide if he sees that," Voldemort pointed out, as he accepted his own glass.

"This is the first drink I've had since I was diagnosed," Corvus admitted, he didn't want to let either his boys or Harry down. "But I find myself in rather dire need." At least he could drink it without Harry's earnest disappointed green eyes staring at him.

He knew things had almost come down like a pack of cards. He hadn't been sure his heart would take it for Merlin's sake. "Did you find out anything?"

"I did," Voldemort admitted wryly, with a smirk on his face and disbelief colouring his eyes. "They made no attempt to conceal evidence of the correspondence between themselves and the unsigned letter, which will lead them directly to Dumbledore."

Corvus' own eyes gleamed with disbelief, sipping the drink, "You must be joking." Surely, they wouldn't be that stupid as to leave incriminating evidence lying? Especially in regards to their wizengamot duties and treason of all things.

"No, not at all, the Aurors even packed up their journals, if they have recorded anything…well, they're in for some serious trouble." He said smoothly, chuckling at the complete absurdity of it.

"Hmm, I wonder if that will encourage the Ministry to investigate the guards surrounding Azkaban." Corvus mused, because that was how Dumbledore's letters were getting out. "Including the cell, which will reveal him probably living a little greater than he should be."

"I think it's wholly likely," Voldemort agreed, "Hopefully it won't set Harry's goals back or he'll be disappointed." And strangely enough, he didn't want to see that. Harry was a smart stubborn creature, but he reckoned easily doubting himself. It didn't stop him going through with his ideas regardless of that doubt though. Hence the stubborn creature part.

"Yes, that's true enough," Corvus said wryly, "I bet you didn't see this happening in your future."

Voldemort choked on the drink, throwing Corvus a dark look, "No, I suppose not." He admitted, "It is better this way…so long as we deal with Dumbledore's fanatics, they're becoming more and more troublesome."

"Only because you're moving pieces on the board," Corvus admitted shrewd. "I do wonder how he'll react to the news that the boys are free?"

"Wondering how I did it no doubt," Voldemort said with a wicked grin, "I doubt he'd ever guess the truth of it," hoping the old fool had a heart attack and expired right there and then.

"Are you going to reveal it to me now?" Corvus queried, he only had bits and pieces of the full picture and it didn't sit well with him. "Will it be anything that will affect the boys somewhere down the line?"

"No, definitely not," Voldemort immediately reassured his old friend. "It's why it took such a long time to come together…I had to make sure it wouldn't."

"Good, that's a relief," Corvus sighed, relaxing further, all was looking up. The cynical part was just waiting for the shoe to drop at some point, but as long as his children were safe then that's all he cared about. "I will need to inform Harry of Bellatrix's demise; I'd hate for him to have to find out in the newspapers."

"Bellatrix is dead?" Rabastan's voice croaked out, clearly awake and having been listening. Either that or he had just a fortuitous timing to wake. "Are you serious?" sitting up, still groggy from what was the most peaceful sleep he'd had in years. Harry's gifts had helped wonders, but Azkaban was still Azkaban at the end of the day. No good or a decent rest.

His voice seemed to have Rodolphus stirring, also.

"She is dead, yes," Corvus answered, he would need to arrange a plot for her in the Lestrange cemetery. She had died a Lestrange and he would ensure she got a decent burial, if only to keep up appearances.

"Bloody hell, what happened? Did she try to escape?" Rabastan asked, his voice becoming firmer the more he spoke. With shaky hands reaching out for the glass of water and downing the entire goblet to quench his thirst.

"She had a bad reaction to the Veritaserum…" Corvus was explaining only to cause when Tom coughed, clearly indicating something more had gone on. "Or not…" giving Voldemort a curious look, had something more happened than he was aware off?

"I hadn't gotten around to Bellatrix yet," Voldemort confessed, "Truthfully…her mind being what it was, I doubt it would have worked."

"How did you manage to have her die in the middle of the courtroom?" Corvus gaped, magic couldn't be performed and if it was it would surely, be known. The Ministry knew of each and every spell cast within its walls, the wards were ancient, had been there and strengthened since the Ministries conception, as it was built brick by brick.

"It was either that or our plans crumbling around us, and it was…I had to use a time-turner to undo the damage. After Bellatrix's statement the Minister ordered Crouch Senior from his cell and found out while he'd placed his son under the spell…he hadn't placed anyone else under it." Voldemort went on to explain, "The boys were transferred straight back to Azkaban."

Corvus stared blindsided at the words coming out of Tom's mouth horrified. It wasn't like Tom not to think of every eventuality so it was a surprise to hear that something had screwed up. Still, at least it was corrected, a time-turner. "A time-turner wouldn't explain how you succeeded in killing Bellatrix." He couldn't help but point out.

"Technically I didn't kill her," Voldemort confessed, wondering what Corvus would think of what he was going to revel next. "I had Harry disown her from the Black family at a pointed time. Given her ill heath, her mental instability and the Veritaserum and the magic breaking her off from the Black family…she genuinely did just have a heart attack."

"You…used Harry to kill her?" Rabastan gaped, Merlin, he had no idea how Harry would react to that. How he would feel…and he was bloody miles away in Scotland and he couldn't very well just go to Hogwarts to make sure he truly was alright? He was thirteen-years-old! "He's only Thirteen-years-old!"

Voldemort didn't react to the scolding, but was genuinely surprised it wasn't Corvus saying this instead of Rabastan. He eyed the wizard with genuine curiosity, it would appear Corvus wasn't the only one entirely devoted to the boy. This was good, it would mean more protection for Harry in the long run.

"Basty!" Rodolphus whispered in warning, sitting up himself now. They were in no condition to get cursed by the Dark Lord. It could very well be the spell that ends them. Yet, he would cover his brother in a heartbeat.

"I assume you know by now just how bright and intelligent Harry is?" was all Voldemort said, not entirely upset by the defence of Harry. He was much becoming used to it by Corvus himself. What was two more? No, they served to say what they liked, they had remained openly faithful to him regardless of the fear every wizard holds of Azkaban. "Do you honestly think he wasn't aware of what he was doing?" oh, the boy had known alright, there was no doubt whatsoever.

"Why did he do it then?" Rodolphus asked bewildered, it wasn't like Harry owed him anything.

Corvus just smiled a genuine fond smile. "For the same reason you'd have killed the Dursley's for him." Harry was so very caring of both Rabastan and Rodolphus. His sons cared as well, in their own way.

"Still, it's a lot for a thirteen-year-old to live with," Rabastan said, still deeply concerned.

Voldemort snorted, "Harry won't lose a second's night of sleep over it." honestly, didn't they realize just how vindictive the boy could be? Would be to protect those he cared about? The rather inventive ways he'd already thought of dealing with Bellatrix to free Rodolphus? Yes, he'd read the boys mind a bit in the beginning, so sue him. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible now, his mind was adequately protected.

"He'll be just fine, Rabastan," Corvus reassured his son, he wished he'd known ahead of time, to be sure. However, he didn't think Harry would be affected unduly by it. He'd spoken of breaking the marriage or rather alluded to it when he became 'Lord Black' a title he couldn't actually take yet but magic knows. "You'll see on Saturday."

A burst of smug happiness enveloped Rabastan, he knew his father wouldn't allow the betrothal contract to be ignored or discarded. Then he vividly recalled what he looked like in the mirror. What was the point of continuing with a charade? "Why?"

Rodolphus frowned, giving his brother an odd look.

"What do you mean, why?" Corvus asked, his tone becoming guarded. Just what on earth was his son trying to imply with that one word? His son had better not make a liar out of him…if this closeness was all for him and they didn't care…he'd be furious.

"We're not in Azkaban anymore," Rabastan pointed out, "That was the whole point of the contract." Cursing himself for arguing the point, begging himself to stop. He was very fond of Harry, envisioned a future with him. Naturally, way in the future, he had no desire for Harry as he was now…but imagining him as an adult? What he would grow to be as an adult? Between the Potter and Black genes? Yet why torture himself on what would never be? Merlin he was hideous what kind of person would want to be with him willingly? "I'm sure he'd prefer to be doing something else with his Saturdays…like be with his friends." The thought of him with anyone else though…made him want to kill.

"Then you would be wrong," Corvus refuted his words immediately. "Harry has expressed a continued desire to spend his Saturdays with you. Right now, he's worried about his place in this family and I will not have him believe it to be a true concern."

Rodolphus smirked seeing the dazed look in his brother's eyes. He knew his brother cared for Harry. That his brother would immediately agree if he saw a future together for them. It softened something in him to know his brother would be in a relationship with someone he cared for.

His own marriage to Bellatrix had been…fraught with tension from the get go. She'd made it clear the night after they were married, she didn't give a shit about him. That she'd only married to keep her family happy, because it was expected that she marry into a respectable family. They'd never shared a bed more than once, and she'd demanded her own chambers at Lestrange manor. It used to be the norm to have married couples in different rooms. However, it most certainly hadn't been the norm when they married. When she'd attacked him when he slept, he'd given into her demands and just tried to make the best of it.

It didn't take long for him to realize who his wife loved and probably wished she'd married. It had gutted him to see his wife all but suggesting herself to their Lord, who thankfully hadn't touched her and paid no attention to her advances or her in general outside of the meetings. He was never going to be happily married, never going to have that slice of life his parents had, and children. He'd accepted that, although it was more difficult to watch dawning realisation creep into his father's eyes as the years crept by.

Rabastan hadn't been the heir and thus wasn't expected to marry at seventeen. Which gave him leeway that Rodolphus himself wished he had. Rabastan hadn't really connected with anyone, didn't seem to wish to settle down. Rodolphus had feared it was because of his own marriage and the failure it was.

"Why?" this time it wasn't defensive it was purely bafflement that was in Rabastan's voice. Why on earth would Harry want to continue to spend time with them? It made little to no sense whatsoever.

"Son, I love you, but you're an idiot," Corvus said speaking plainly, if it had been any other day before Azkaban, he would have smacked his head as if to smack sense into him. Not in a demeaning way, just a minor slap to give him a wake-up call. "Harry spent his first ten years in this world abused, abandoned, neglected. For the past two years now, he's had family, safety, happiness, he cares about you, he cares about Rodolphus and myself. You don't go into the same efforts as Harry has if you didn't. We are his family."

Voldemort watched them with an amused tilt to his head, even Corvus was still blind to the desires Harry has…or should he say, the sort of family he wants. He certainly didn't see Rabastan as a brother…oh, no, the protective way he was with him, definitely not. Then again, he doubted Harry realized what sort of relationship he wants yet. He would soon figure it out.

Normally teens began puberty at ten or eleven, but with Harry it would be different. The abuse his body had sustained, will have pretty much prevented it. However, now that he was healthy and thriving in his environment, he was probably either already going through it or was about to start.

"Now are we going to have a problem keeping with the contract?" Corvus asked his son with a pointed look.

"No," Rabastan said, hiding his grin in the covers, but his eyes gleamed giving away just how happy he was at the moment.

"Good," Corvus answered satisfied, "I've already requested a new portkey to be issued for Harry to use to and from Africa."

"Africa?" Rodolphus asked cautiously, glancing at his father warily.

"A hotel specifically for convalescence, made specifically to help people recover from illnesses or injuries. A spa if you like, the healers there know exactly what to do in order to see to your full recovery." Corvus explained, "You'll have an entire wing to yourself, there's been no expense spared, and while there you'll get to relax somewhere hot; the sun will do you some good."

"Oh," Rodolphus murmured, not sure how he felt about leaving Lestrange Manor so soon. "When?"

"Whenever you are ready, it's booked already, and the Portkey doesn't have a specific time." Corvus murmured soothingly, "The treatment's they have there will help you too, you'll look a decade younger by the time you return home."

Rabastan's throat contracted at those words, "What are the treatments?" potions? He supposed. Suddenly he didn't mind whatever treatment he had to get. Barely refraining from shuddering anew as he vividly recalled how he looked. Was there something that could take the years Azkaban stolen from them?

"Baths in phoenix tears, facial masks, body scrubs, mud baths with essence of dittany and a lot of other potion ingredients with healing properties," Corvus easily explained. He'd memorised everything, each pamphlet and slip of paper that had been sent to him and each word spoken during Floo calls. "Then there's the potion regimens you'll be on, exercise plans and good hearty and healthy foods to bring you back to your former strengths. Your muscles have atrophied, it will take a while even with potions and the healers will ensure you stick to the plans." He on the other hand would take too much pity on his boys and he knew it.

Yes, his boys would be back to their normal handsome self within a year or two at most.

The worst of it was behind them.

"How long?" Rodolphus asked, still not sure, but his brother had lit up at the prospect of the treatments, he didn't need to wonder why…not at all.

"The first few months are the most important, but you can return home at any time you wish to. I'm not sending you away, I'm just giving you the best possible care and probability of getting you back to as near to one hundred percent health as you can get." Corvus said, Rodolphus had always preferred to be at the manor above all other places. Always glad to be home after going on holiday, Rabastan had been the opposite as a youngster. As long as he was with family or friends, he was very content regardless of location. There would never be a one hundred percent health for either of his sons again.

A House-elf popped up with a platter filled with food, before disappearing without a word.

"You'll be eating eight meals a day, small to start with," Corvus explained, knowing what they were thinking. It was well after dinner time and they didn't need more food. "I know more about potion regimens and healthy eating and exercising appropriately more than I ever had done in my life." exasperatedly, shaking his head, not just because of his own health issues, but Harrys and now it was a repeat of that process with his sons. The people he cared most about in his life.

"I can't believe she's gone," Rodolphus admitted, rubbing at his chest, the echoing of the bond snapping. He thanked Merlin he didn't care about her, otherwise the feeling would have worsened beyond belief. He could recall how badly off his father had been after his mum passed of Dragon Pox when Rabastan was a baby.

"It's for the best, I mean who knows if the process would have worked with her?" Rabastan pointed out.

"Process?" Corvus asked, getting back to the matter at hand, he'd get in touch with Harry tonight – as he always did – and make sure he was fine. Plus, Tom would as always, keep an eye on Harry for him while he was at school and on Saturday as was their tradition, they would be together but instead of Azkaban it would be Africa. Perhaps as Rodolphus and Rabastan recovered further they could venture out, show Harry a little more of the world. Take little day trips, he was sure everyone would love it.

"You don't know?" Rodolphus asked in amusement, which faded as swiftly as it came. Merlin, his emotions were all over the place.

"Here, this is the method of the procedure." Handing Corvus the paperwork, letting him see it, but the second he was done, the lot was going in the fireplace and the ashes banished utterly.

"A magical oath that forces the recipient to reveal what they've been told to reveal instead of the truth. Their magic literally compelled them to lie to safeguard their magic. Not just three questions, I had to account for every single potential question put their way. It took a lot of trial and error, but I perfected it." Voldemort said smugly, "It was the only safe way to do so. Memory charms can be found, and the only known way I have of recovering memories…well, they wouldn't have survived with their sanity intact."

There were over ten Muggle-born wizards and witches 'missing' and would never be found. Sacrifices had to be made for his cause, and he had done what needed to be done. The magical world wasn't looking for them, thinking they'd returned home and the Muggle police were looking for them unaware there was a whole other society hidden from them, and they'd never find them.

He may have reclaimed the majority of his soul, and with it his sanity and feelings…but he'd always been ruthless when it came to his goals.

"So even if they were somehow questioned again…" Corvus realised with awe, that he'd truly covered all his bases and if anyone doubted it, they could be questioned and with the exact same results. It was…magnificent, truly, he was in awe. "And Harry came up with this idea?"

Rabastan and Rodolphus startled at that, glancing at their Lord waiting for an answer.

"He did, he came up with the original concept," Voldemort conceded, "I doubt he realized the work that would be required to go into it. Or perhaps he does now, due to the length of time it taking to get the boys out." And ultimately everyone else also.

"No wonder you needed so long," Corvus said, mesmerised, only to watch Tom stand, take the paperwork and put it in the roaring fire. It hurt to see such ingenuity destroyed, but well, it would be stupidity to leave evidence lying around. Unlike Doge and Diggle, who were proving to be idiotic to the extreme. No matter, it would work in their favour, hopefully there was more that would expose more of Dumbledore's schemes.

"I can't eat any more," Rodolphus murmured, perplexed, "How can't I eat more? I usually could eat my weight in food when you visited."

"That is because Harry was putting a stomach soother and nutrient potion into your hot chocolate." Corvus informed his son, "He's a very bright young man."

"Apparently," Rodolphus said, "He's got Black and Slytherin blood rushing through his veins. We shouldn't have expected anything less." It was a hell of a pedigree he had, and the carrier gene was just the icing on the cake. To think if the lines were joined…it would as good as it would ever get, powerful lineage, powerful children.

Certainly, would make a better marriage than his and Bellatrix's.

"Not with a grandmother like Dorea," Corvus confirmed, "Her portrait and Gallifrey Hall will be cleared soon enough…it will be lovely getting to talk to her again." His wife hadn't had a portrait activated, neither of them had thought to do it so young, thinking they had their entire lives ahead of them. He'd be reunited with her one day, but he couldn't deny he would have greatly liked to be able to talk to her sometimes. That his sons would have better known their mother. "She'll adore Harry, and at least he'll get to know some family better." There was no condemnation for Tom's actions in his voice, just simple truth of it.

"Why not have it brought here," Rabastan asked, holding his warm hot chocolate in his hands. He was nice and toasty warm next to the fire but his feet and hands still felt cold. His mind was beginning to tick on a little faster. "Is it stuck with a permanent sticking charm?"

"Indeed, it is," Corvus nodded, most portraits were stuck with permanent sticking charms. Wizards and witches choose were they want it, they didn't want it to end up in the dusty old attic, or put somewhere else with little to no interaction. Not all of them thought to do it, and paid for it.

"Excuse me," Corvus murmured,

"And you'll have to excuse me, if I leave now, I might catch the end of the feast," Tom told Corvus, gave a nod, as he opened the office door, waiting for the birds to fly in with whatever mail was coming so late.

Corvus didn't hear whatever interaction Tom was having with his boys, but it certainly perked them up a little.

Within three minutes, Tom was off, using the Floo to go directly to Hogwarts, the ante chamber, which was right next to the Great Hall. Knowing where to Floo, and the passwords was extremely handy one must admit.

"Do you reckon he'll be Headmaster for much longer?" Rodolphus asked his father, shivering a little at the wind coming in through the window.

"I think he actually secretly enjoys it," Corvus chuckled softly, checking over the mail for spells before accepting them. Giving the owls a choice of whether to fly off and hunt whatever they pleased, or a rest and a place to drink.

"Was that what he was like when you were young?" Rabastan asked, no threats, no anger…hell, he looked so young and devastatingly handsome…just like their father used to tell to them.

"He's much calmer than he was when he was younger, more centred," Corvus corrected him, "There was a reason for his insanity boys, and once you've fully recovered…you'll be informed by the Dark Lord exactly why." Moving over to sit again, relishing the fact he was free to converse with his son safely and could do it from his home…it made him want to take back the offer to let them go off to Africa even though he was going to be a very frequent visitor. He even had his own bed in the hotel, just in case he spent the night.

"And why can't you tell us now?" Rodolphus asked, not wanting to wait at all for answers.

"While you have protection from an heir ring that will be back on your finger before long…Rabastan doesn't, but I am having a ring commissioned that will act like one…your mental shields are non-existent, and it isn't information one can risk having revealed."

"Why does the Dark Lord want to tell us?" Rabastan asked, frowning in silent contemplation. Having a feeling he wasn't about to tell everyone…not even the entire inner circle either.

"You'll understand in time," Corvus said, horcruxes, he still couldn't believe Tom had been so stupid as to make one let alone multiple. Harry would forever carry around a piece of Tom's soul within him…unless, by some miracle it could be removed in future. Considering how close Harry would remain with his family – and he would make it so by any means necessary – it was understandable that Tom would tell them and only them.

Rabastan and Rodolphus shared an exasperated look, knowing they wouldn't get an answer. When their father made up his mind…then it was made up. Although it did sound like it was the Dark Lord making the final decision they supposed grudgingly.

"It looks like Narcissa has found out and is expressing her condolences and desires to know when the funeral will be held. In the morning she'll send a bouquet of flowers and wishes to help with the arrangements if possible." Corvus sighed, which meant everyone else would be sending them too. Empty platitudes, none of them really cared about Bellatrix…except of course, Narcissa but she'd long ago learned to let her sister go.

"You going to invite Andromeda?" Rodolphus asked, in amusement, she'd been a potential betrothed/wife. Unfortunately, she had been too enamoured with Ted Tonks and had gone on to marry him and have a daughter. "That would be a sight to see," Narcissa and Andromeda didn't get on, not any more. Not since Narcissa had followed the family plan and motto but Andromeda had split from the family entirely. Anger coursed through him, of course, he'd get the defective sister, one who would rather kill him than do her 'duty' as Lady Lestrange.

Merlin, he felt like an emotional yo-yo, the urge to cry was so humiliating. He absolutely refused to cry; he'd do it in the privacy of his bedroom.

"I shall give her the time of interment and if she comes, then so be it, only close family will attend." Corvus stated, "Except for you, there is no need to put on a show, nobody can get into the Lestrange crypts without explicit permission anyway." Plus, nobody could expect Rodolphus who would be only a week out of Azkaban to be equipped to deal with his 'wife's' funeral.

"Good," Rodolphus, he certainly wouldn't have done anyway, "The Newspapers are going to be amusing to read tomorrow." All the talk about how they were 'innocent' all along, and how they'd all been duped by Barty Crouch Senior.

Unfortunately, that wasn't what they opened the newspaper to, instead the title read thus: BOY-WHO-LIVED ABUSED BY MUGGLE GUARDIANS! It would seem that story was far better than the death of Bellatrix Lestrange or the release of the Lestrange brothers after a wrongful imprisonment.

And there we go! shall it be Skeeters? And it be the last thing she ever writes? Or will we focus on a different reporter? It can get repetitive when it's ALWAYS skeeter ;) but i do love messing with her so there is that :D just what will Rabastan and Rodolphus do when they read the gory details? Or will it come later down the line when they're well and truly wrapped around Harry's finger? Read and Review please! :)