“I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded. You have until midnight.”
It was too soon, Harry thought to himself desperately. He hadn’t had time to find all the horcruxes yet and he needed to have destroyed them all before going to Voldemort.
So whatever happened later tonight, it wasn’t time to act like a self-sacrificing Gryffindor yet. He needed to keep fighting for just a little bit longer. Long enough for Ron and Hermione to get the basilisk fang; long enough to find the diadem and destroy it. Only after that had happened could he go to Voldemort.
At Professor McGonagall’s prompting, Harry left the Great Hall to continue searching. The only problem was he didn’t know where to start and he was running out of time.
“I speak now, Harry Potter, directly to you…I shall wait for one hour in the Forbidden Forest. If, at the end of that hour, you have not come to me, have not given yourself up, then battle recommences. This time, I shall enter the fray myself, Harry Potter, and I shall find you, and I shall punish every last man, woman and child who has tried to conceal you from me. One hour.”
The diadem was gone, now the only horcruxes left were Nagini and apparently himself. Not even Voldemort had known about that one. Harry couldn’t help the satisfaction that rose in him at that thought, though it was quashed quickly at the remembrance of all those who had been hurt in the battle so far.
True to his word, Voldemort had avoided spilling magical blood as much as possible with the Death Eaters aiming to incapacitate rather than kill. But that hadn’t changed the fact that some had been seriously injured, whether intentionally or just caught in crossfires it didn’t matter.
It wasn’t fair. This shouldn’t have been their war; it was between Harry and Voldemort and Dumbledore, and now that the latter was dead well, it should have been almost over.
But now, finally, it was over, Harry thought as he walked out of the castle and towards the forest, invisibility cloak wrapped tightly around him. No matter which way things went in this meeting with Voldemort, it marked the end of the war. No more fighting, Harry thought with a smile. No more needless suffering or pain because of people unwilling to see both sides of the story.
A strange kind of peace fell over Harry as he trudged between trees to the place he knew Voldemort would be waiting. His mind was finally made up. After years of constant stress and worry, always wondering if he was doing the right thing, he was now completely decided.
There was no turning back but to be perfectly honest Harry didn’t want to. All those years leading up to this point. Anticipation was building inside of Harry. Some kind of 6th sense that told him Voldemort was getting closer and closer until eventually, slightly out of breath and stumbling over a tree root, Harry made it to the clearing.
It was just the two of them, just Harry and Tom. Harry couldn’t help the gasp that escaped him at the sight of the Dark Lord. Tom looked…nervous. He was pacing back and forth at the centre of the clearing, checking his pocket watch with his jaw clenched.
No longer old and snake-like but youthful, like Harry remembered though now he had burning red eyes. Eyes that snapped straight in Harry’s direction upon hearing his gasp. The pacing stopped and Tom’s eyes snapped up towards him.
Harry took off the invisibility cloak and smiled, watching as the tension drained out of Tom. Then the Dark Lord did something that would have shocked anyone else if they had seen it; he grinned. Not a malicious or sadistic grin but one full of joy and contentment. Tom opened his arms and beckoned.
“Cutting it a bit tight there, Harry. I thought perhaps you had changed your mind or they were holding you captive.”
Harry ran forward, unable to stop himself even if he had wanted to, and buried himself in Tom’s embrace, clinging tightly. He was trembling, or maybe that was Tom, or maybe they had fused together into one being. Years’ worth of emotions unable to be spoken were spilling out. The connection that they’d always had was blown wide open once more. It was overwhelming. It was everything Harry had ever wanted, and he knew Tom felt the same.
“It’s ok,” Harry whispered. “I’m here.”
Harry watched helplessly from where he was bound to a grave as a figure emerged from the cauldron. Panic washed over him as he realised exactly what was happening, what Wormtail had done.
The figure was grotesque, though less so now than when it had gone in. It left Harry feeling quite confused actually. The body he was looking at, the body of Lord Voldemort, was new and a little bit terrifying but the presence behind it was familiar and…comforting. It was almost the same feeling that Harry got returning to Hogwarts after a summer at the Dursleys, so why would he feel this way around Voldemort.
It hadn’t been like this in 1st year when Harry faced Voldemort on the back of Quirrell’s head, or in 2nd year against Tom Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets. So why now, what was different this time? Aside from the obvious, Harry thought wryly looking at the snake-like figure in front of him. The same figure who was now looking at him with an amused, slightly crazed glint in his eyes.
Harry gulped as the fear returned, overriding any other emotions he was having. This was no time to forget where he was…actually, Harry had no idea where he was but it was clearly a graveyard which didn’t bode well. Add that to the fact that, aside from Cedric who was currently lying stunned on the ground, he was completely alone with the mass murderer who killed his parents and the rat who had betrayed them.
“Harry Potter, the-boy-who-lived,” Voldemort said, sounding…ok, Harry really needed to get his head checked out because that sounded almost fond; pleased in a way that didn’t quite fit with the fact that he’d tried to kill him. Multiple times.
“Voldemort,” Harry replied as calmly as he could. Which, given the circumstances, was actually quite calm. “If you’re going to kill me then just do it. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
Voldemort cocked his head to one side, his gaze not leaving Harry for a single moment.
“What I want, hmm. There are a lot of things that I have wanted to have: a body again, though this one does leave something to be desired does it not,” the Dark Lord said arching an eyebrow towards Harry, who had to fight himself to not find that amusing. Apparently Voldemort had a sense of humour. It was disconcerting to say the least.
“You here with me,” Voldemort continued. “Yes, I want that too. But dead, no. And if you think about it hard enough, I think you know that already.”
Harry couldn’t stop the blush that spread over his skin. Dreams that he barely remembered sprung to mind at the other man’s words, more vivid now than they had been at the time. Flashes of laughter and teasing, and skin on skin heavy with sweat. And a face, one that he had seen so many times before but had never been able to make out the features.
It seemed so obvious now, standing in front of the man who was supposed to be his mortal enemy. The reason why Voldemort felt so familiar and not half as scary as he should have.
The man from his dreams was Voldemort.
Well, closer in appearance to Tom Riddle than the snake-like figure currently in front of him but it was definitely the same person. But…
“How? I mean…I don’t understand,” Harry said quietly, confused and more than a little bit unnerved. He let out a wry huff, “Even accusing you of planting the dreams in my mind seems wrong, like I know you would never do that to me…” he trailed off and stared into Voldemort’s blood red eyes, looking for answers.
Voldemort just stared back for a moment. Then, seemingly recognising something in Harry, he smiled slowly. The expression looked out of place; sincerity amid harsh serpentine features.
“These dreams you’ve been having, they’re not just some fabrication of your subconscious. They’re real. Past memories rising to the surface of your mind while you’re asleep.”
Harry was fairly sure he knew the answer to his next question but he asked anyway. He wanted to hear it out loud.
“How do you know all this? You knew about the dreams the moment you saw me. How?”
“Because your past is mine, the dreams you have are of our life quite some time ago. I know you’ve been having the dreams because they were part of a spell you cast back then to reincarnate yourself upon your death.”
That would’ve made Harry freeze if he hadn’t already been bound to a grave, unable to move. The issue was it made sense. It fit, from what he remembered of his dreams. Indistinct though they may have been, he knew it was himself in those dreams; older than he was now though and not from this time.
But this was Voldemort! For once, Harry decided it might be prudent to follow his head rather than his heart and not just automatically believe him without any more proof than some dreams. Voldemort did seem to be in a strangely talkative and non-violent mood, so Harry reckoned he should make the most of it.
“Why? Why would I want to reincarnate myself?” Harry asked, wishing he had his wand just in case but Wormtail had taken it. With a start, Harry realised he’d forgotten about the other person in graveyard with him and Voldemort. Slowly he glanced around, taking his eyes off Voldemort for the first time since he’d emerged from the cauldron.
Wormtail was crouched behind a grave, his wide eyes jumping between Harry and Voldemort. He was clutching the stump at the end of his forearm to his chest, Harry’s wand lying forgotten on the ground beside him.
“Ah yes,” Harry spun his attention back to Voldemort as the man spoke, having noticed the source of Harry’s distraction. With a few flicks of the Dark Lord’s wand, Wormtail collapsed to the ground and Harry’s wand was flying towards Voldemort’s outstretched hand.
“Obliviated and stunned; he won’t remember any of our conversation. And I believe this is yours,” Voldemort held out Harry’s wand but made no move to close the few metres between them. The bindings holding Harry in place retreated; clearly Voldemort wanted Harry to come to him.
Cautiously, Harry did. Part of him expected this to be some kind of trick but a deeper part of him was urging him forward, telling him he was safe.
There was a moment when Harry grasped his wand, before Voldemort had loosened his grip, that he swore he could feel magic swirling between them using the wand as a conduit. But it was over all too soon as Voldemort let go and broke the connection.
Now that he had his wand back, Harry was very tempted to try and escape; to get back to Cedric and the cup. But he knew he’d never make it without Voldemort stopping him and besides, he wanted an explanation.
“In answer to your previous question, the ‘why’ is very simple. They were dangerous times and we wanted to ensure that we could be together, forever.”
“We…so you did this reincarnation ritual too?”
At this Voldemort, who up until that point had been completely collected and in control, hesitated.
“Not quite, I had already performed a different ritual,” Voldemort trailed off.
For some reason this hesitance annoyed Harry enough that he momentarily lost his sense.
“I still don’t understand! You’re not telling me anything but even if you were why should I trust a single word you say!” Harry continued, uncaring of the fact that he was yelling at the Dark Lord. “You killed my parents and have tried to kill me three times already. You said you don’t want me dead and that we were in love, how can that be true when you keep trying to kill me!?”
Fire entered Voldemort’s eyes at Harry’s outburst. But it wasn’t anger; it looked more like desperation. And wasn’t that something, that Harry could read the Dark Lord’s emotions from his face so easily when he was clueless with almost everyone else.
“I will explain everything and I need you to believe that I wasn’t in my right mind,” Voldemort paused and seemed to bring himself back under control and continued, voice soft despite the intense feelings clearly visible in his eyes. “Have you ever heard of horcruxes?”
Harry shook his head.
“A horcrux is a fragment of a person’s soul housed in another object. If that person is killed, they will live on through the horcrux until they can regain a body,” he gestured down at himself. “Essentially, as long as someone has a horcrux they are immortal.”
He paused, burning eyes still fixed on Harry. Dread was filling Harry the more he heard. He still wasn’t entirely sure where this was going but that semi-hidden part of him knew he wasn’t going to like it.
“Before I met you, the first time I met you I created a horcrux. It was the end of my school days and I craved power. My plan had been to create six, seven part in total including my own share; a powerful magical number. But then I met you and you persuaded me otherwise.
“As you’ve probably guessed, there is a price to gaining immortality. But while your reincarnation ritual only required some of your blood and a considerable amount of magic from both of us, creating a horcrux requires a human life.”
The blood drained from Harry’s face at that revelation,
“I can’t have been too pleased about you killing people.”
Voldemort let out a dark chuckle.
“You’ve always been opposed to killing except when absolutely necessary. You managed to convince me that I didn’t have to resort to war to change our world into something better for everyone; that it could be done through politics instead. You were very persuasive,” he said with a fond smile that made Harry blush. He tried to gather himself, to not get completely drawn into the story Voldemort was weaving, their story apparently.
“Assuming I do believe you, what went wrong? I mean, obviously there was a war.”
“Haven’t you guessed?” Voldemort looked thoughtful. “Perhaps you haven’t dreamt that much yet. But then I am glad that you haven’t because I wouldn’t want you to have to relive that moment.
There was silence for a few minutes before Harry could process it, swallow down the bile that had risen in his throat and speak.
“It wasn’t a pleasant death was it?”
Voldemort visibly flinched. “No. And although I knew you would be reborn at some point, I wanted vengeance.”
Harry was starting to get some idea who had been involved in his previous self’s death, the pieces beginning to come together in his mind.
“And then you made more horcruxes.”
Voldemort nodded slowly.
“In retrospect, your determination that I not split my soul any further may not just have been about the killing. The soul is not designed to be torn apart in that way. By the time I faced you as a baby having killed your parents, I had been completely insane for years and you were too young to have the same aura of magic that I could recognise you by. Though even if you had I suspect it may not have helped much…I am deeply sorry.”
Harry sunk to the ground overwhelmed. Here he was facing his parent’s murderer and being given an apology. As if that helped. But Voldemort had had plenty of opportunity to kill him tonight and hadn’t harmed him at all.
“What changed? Clearly you’re not still a raving lunatic, or not completely anyway, or I would have been dead that moment you had a body again,” Harry let out a wry laugh that sounded slightly hysterical to his ears. “Unless of course you are completely mad and this is all some scheme to twist my mind!”
“I’m sure there is nothing I can say to convince you I’m telling the truth aside from assure you that the more dreams you have the more you’ll remember.”
At that point Voldemort did something so bizarre and uncharacteristic that Harry almost laughed; he sat down on the ground in front of Harry.
“Before you died, we set up a safeguard so that if my horcrux was destroyed I would know and the soul fragment would be returned to me. Thankfully, this measure also carried over to the horcruxes I created later. You were not aware of it at the time but 2 years ago you destroyed one of my horcruxes – the first one actually.”
“The Diary,” Harry let out on a breath.
Voldemort hummed his acknowledgment.
“As that was my first horcrux, it housed the largest fragment of my soul – far more than I had left in my body at the time. So when it returned to me I regained a significant portion of my sanity.”
“But not all of it, you still have the other horcruxes, don’t you?”
Voldemort nodded, “I have a request to make of you, Harry.”
At this Harry stiffened, but motioned for him to continue.
“Dumbledore will surely have recognised the diary as a horcrux and in time I’m sure he will bring his hero into the process of tracking them down and destroying them so that I am mortal again. All I ask is that you play along.”
“I’m pretty sure that won’t involve any acting on my part,” Harry muttered to himself. “Wait, you want to be mortal?”
“If it means that I return to my previous state of higher functioning brain power then yes, of course I do,” Voldemort raised an eyebrow slyly. “Besides now I know about a reincarnation ritual that works wonders. I won’t be mortal for long.”
“I thought you said that took both of us to cast last time. Are you planning on forcing me to help you?”
“Of course not,” Voldemort retorted, actually looking mildly offended. “I’m hoping that once you remember more, once you’ve had more of the dreams, you’ll choose to help me of your own accord.
“So you see, you hold my life in your hands. If you decide against me, my horcruxes will be destroyed and I will have no way of performing the ritual. Or at the very least I will have no desire to live for eternity without you,” he finished quietly.
Harry was speechless. Again he was struck by the thought that the man in front of him was not the same Lord Voldemort he’d met before, the one that the whole world feared. This was a man who had decided that Harry was worth giving up immortality for just the chance to be with. And it didn’t feel like a manipulation either, it resonated through him like the truth.
It was humbling, thrilling. But at the same time a niggling worry had formed in Harry’s stomach.
“I’m not the same person I was then, the one in my dreams. I’m different and you don’t know this me and I don’t know you at all anymore!”
Harry left unspoken the rest of the thoughts filling his head; what if you’re not what he wants, what if he’s expecting you to be this person that you’re not and you can’t possibly live up to it. He swallowed roughly, it was a devastating thought that affected him far more than he’d like to admit.
Despite the fact that Harry kept all this to himself, Voldemort seemed to hear him loud and clear anyway and sent him a smile.
“You’re more alike than you think. But I’m aware you’ve changed since then. It’s been 40 years and you’re certainly not the only one who’s different,” the Dark Lord said wryly. “But in your heart of hearts you are the same person, as am I, and I look forward to relearning you.”
Oh Merlin, Harry loved this man. He barely knew him at all…except Harry did know him and he knew that he loved him. Was it enough though? Voldemort was a murderer, had killed his parents and so many others even if he hadn’t been in his right mind when it happened. And Harry had no doubt he could kill again with only the slightest hesitation if provoked. But he loved him.
Voldemort seemed to sense the turmoil twisted him up inside. He rose gracefully to his feet,
“You don’t have to decide now; there is time. All I ask is that you consider all have told you and are open to whatever memories may come to you.”
He stretched out a hand in front of Harry, offering his help. Harry took it without skipping a beat and as he pulled himself up felt that same rush of energy he’d felt earlier. He let go again quickly, flustered. Now was not the time to let himself be affected by something like that.
When he looked up again, Voldemort was gazing at him fondly and wasn’t that a bizarre thing to see on a face like that. After a few moments the Dark Lord spoke, almost reluctantly.
“If you hold the other boy and the cup, it will take you back to the maze. Oh, and do your best to look traumatised by everything that has happened here.”
At that Harry couldn’t hold back and let out a loud laugh. It made Voldemort preen.
“If you ever need anything, send out an owl and I will respond no matter what. And I’ll keep my followers reigned in until you decide,” he spoke like someone seeing their lover off ahead of a long trip, which Harry mused he sort of was.
“Actually, there is something you can do for me,” Harry said suddenly remembering, and looking pointedly over at Wormtail’s slumped body.
“I have no more use for him, the Ministry will find him on their doorstep tomorrow morning. I’ll make sure your godfather is pardoned, and he will come to no harm by my hand or by any of my people.”
Harry thanked him sincerely. If nothing else, at least Sirius would be safe and not have to stay in hiding. Maybe Harry would be able to live with him now.
He made his way over to Cedric and the cup, not overly eager to leave but knowing that he had a lot to think about and Voldemort’s presence would make it difficult to be completely rational.
With one last look, and a promise to find Voldemort once the horcruxes were destroyed, Harry was gone.
The door to Borgin and Burke’s creaked as it opened, distracting Tom from where he was reading through one of their rarer texts behind the counter. Nevermind that it was the middle of the day and the occasional customer was to be expected, the shop work itself was menial and bored him to no end. But the access he had to various books and artefacts made it just about worthwhile, until he had what he wanted at least.
Annoyed he glanced up at the intruder and promptly froze.
It wasn’t his outward appearance that captured Tom in such a way, though he was undeniably attractive. In fact, to anyone looking no deeper the young man would seem distinctly out of place anywhere in Knockturn Alley. Though similar to Tom’s age, this man looked open and honest and innocent; a stark contrast against Tom himself.
But Tom wasn’t looking at his face, he was looking at his core; the magic that danced and swirled around him, every so often creeping closer to Tom as if reaching out to him. If Tom didn’t have such a tight leash on his own magic he was sure his would be doing the same, because this man’s magic was breath-taking.
It showed a knowledge of power and worldly experience that contradicted his appearance. There was something about him that drew Tom in, that made him immediately decide that this was someone he wanted by his side. Not as a follower but as an equal; someone who might share his viewpoint and help him achieve his goal but never be tamed or fear him.
Lost in his imaginings and dreams for a better future, Tom hadn’t realised that he had zoned out staring at the man until he heard someone clearing their throat pointedly.
He focussed back in on the man’s face, his heart racing in his chest, and saw a raised eyebrow and slight smile. Pulling himself together he asked smoothly,
“Can I help you with something?”
The man blushed but took a step forward.
“I’ve been looking for a gift for a friend and felt like I should come in here. But I think that may be more to do with you than anything you might be selling.”
Tom let out a laugh, put down his book and came out from behind the counter.
“Well then, let me introduce myself.”