Harry is ten-almost-eleven years old, and the news reporters on the television are talking about what they call “the loneliest creature in the world”.
“This whale sings at a different pitch from all other whales,” the news anchor says. “Scientists think it’s looking for a mate, but because its song is so unique, it can’t find one.”
The other news anchor next to him winces in sympathy. But he cannot grasp the agony of singing a song without reply. None of them can. They all have had their counter-melodies for as long as they can remember.
None of them understand the agony of silence.
Harry is glad when his aunt orders him outside to weed the garden. Maybe there he can block out the sound of the news channel.
Harry doesn’t realize something is wrong with him until first grade.
Harry has always had the echoes and strains of a song in his head. That’s normal. That’s what everyone has. It’s the song that leads them to your other half, your soulmate, your equal. Your match will recognize your melody, and you will recognize theirs.
Harry didn’t know that there was supposed to be a second melody in his head.
“The two melodies twist and bind around each other, supplementing each other, making each other something entirely new,” the teacher explained. “Each is beautiful alone, of course, but together—together they are glorious.”
Somehow Harry didn’t understand this before.
He thought—well, he thought that maybe there was only one melody, and that’s how the two recognized each other—or he thought that the echoes were normal, as if your song was sending itself out through space to your compliment—or he just didn’t think.
Because Harry doesn’t have a counterpoint melody to his own. He can’t remember ever having one.
As he walks home that day, he can’t stop hearing the silences between the notes of the melody winding through his head.
“Yer a wizard, Harry,” the giant says, and his craggy grin stretches across his hairy face in exuberance and beaming friendliness.
Harry looks at him, and thinks, maybe I will finally find a home.
(Later, on the platform, getting ready to board the train, Harry watches the other children singing soulmate songs, following familiar melodies and shrieking in joy as they find their soulmates, and thinks that he was stupid to have ever thought he would find a home here.)
“Haven’t I already told you,” says Tom Riddle quietly, “that killing Mudbloods doesn’t matter to me anymore?” He leans forward, his red eyes glowing eerily in the strange light of the chamber. “For many months now… my new target has been you.”
Harry stares at him, at the lines and angles of his face, at the tousled fall of his hair and hue of his eyes, and for a split second, thinks—he is familiar.
But that doesn’t make sense—how can Tom be familiar? Harry has never seen him before.
Then Ginny moans quietly, and Tom continues on with his monologue, all sweeping gestures and dangerous charm, and Harry forgets the split-second where Tom Riddle seemed familiar to him.
(After the chamber is closed again, the diary destroyed and Ginny recovering in the hospital wing, Harry wonders why the silences in his head are more noticeable than before.)
Harry watches across the hall as a fourth year Ravenclaw embraces a student from Beauxbatons in a tight embrace. Around them, others applaud, and congratulate them on finding their soulmates.
Harry is reminded only of the whale on the television news when he was ten-almost-eleven and the absence of a counterpoint melody to his own.
The loneliest creature in the world, Harry thinks, and scoffs under his breath.
He thinks he’s won that title instead.
“We could be glorious, Harry,” Voldemort hisses at him, baring his teeth in a mockery of a grin—
—and suddenly Harry is back in first grade, listening to his teacher as she explained counterpoint melodies and soulmates.
“No,” he whispers.
“Yes,” Voldemort breathes back. His eyes are radiant in the spell-fire light, shining with power and mad ecstasy. He extends his hand to Harry in open invitation.
And despite the differences in appearance and age, with his eyes glowing just-so, he looks like Tom Riddle did, when Harry was twelve, during the split-second where Harry thought, he is familiar.
Harry feels sick.
Later, after the fight in the graveyard is done, as he’s curled up in his bed, tears streaming down his face and body shaking in repressed sobs, Harry longs. For something he’s never been able to touch, so out of reach that it feels as if he was born half a person—half a soul.
Longing for something that’s been out of his reach since far before he was born.
Voldemort had been listening to half of a song for sixty years.
Harry can understand why he became a dark lord, now.
Listening to the silences for sixty years would have driven him insane too. Would have driven even the strongest to do something, anything, to take away that silence—those endless, maddening gaps between the notes.
Dumbledore explains about Voldemort splitting his soul into fragments, and Harry closes his eyes and listens to the gaps in the melody in his head, the silences just a bit louder than they were before.
It all makes sense now.
Harry sings when he can’t handle things anymore.
His broken melody reminds him of why he must go on.
(There is no place for him here, after all.)
When the time comes, Harry walks to his death gladly.
Voldemort has broken him already, after all—taken from Harry the one thing he would have cherished the most (his partner/ match/ equal/ soulmate)—so what difference would him dying make?
All the difference in the world, Harry thinks, as he looks his other half, his soulmate, in the eyes, and thinks of Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, and all the people he loves.
A flash of green, and beautifully, blissfully—quiet.
The white space is silent. No melody in his head, which means no gaps in a song that he knows like the back of his hand. He supposes this is what death is, beneath all else: quiet.
“Will it leave me now?” Harry asks.
The look Dumbledore gives him is full of sympathy and sorrow. “I’m sorry, Harry.”
It’s all Harry can do to bury his face in his hands and weep softly.
Dumbledore sits with him, on a bench in the white dream-like Kings Cross Station, while he cries.
Harry stands over the corpse of his soulmate, and feels nothing.
The silence in his head is so loud, he thinks he might drown in it.
He raises the elder wand to his own throat.
“Please tell me it will stop now,” Harry whispers to Death.
Death floats in front of him, breathtaking and terrifying in its stillness, its silence. “What is it you want, Master?” the entity asks gently.
“I want it to stop,” Harry pleads. Tears prick at the back of his eyes. “I’ll do anything to make the silences stop.”
Death is silent as Harry struggles to maintain his composure, shoulders shaking, breaths coming in ragged gasps. Then, it answers: “There is a way.”
Harry snaps up, eyes flashing, staring at Death. “What way,” he asks, demands.
“I could send you back.”
“Back to when he was young enough to want you.”
Harry laughs, brokenly. “Want me? He’d never want me. What about needing me?”
“Ah, but Master,” Death explains, “he’s always needed you.”
And with that, the entity stretches out its hand, and Harry is gone.
Harry wakes up on the train to Hogwarts.
There is a trunk at his feet that he supposes must be his. Checking himself over and then looking inside, he is surprised at how fully Death seems to have prepared this.
He supposes it’s the entity’s way apologizing for things.
Harry stops. Something is strange. Something is wrong.
No… No something is right.
There is a counterpoint melody playing to the song in his head.
Harry hunts the wand out of his robes—the elder wand, how fitting—and twirls it at the door, shooting off a strong locking charm. Then, he curls up in his seat, hides his face in his knees, and cries.
He knew the silence was horrible—but he never realized how horrible until the silence was gone.
The compartment door bangs open, and a boy—man?—shoves his way in frantically. “Where?” he rasps, the sound desperate.
Harry lifts his head to look at him—and stares.
He impeccably dressed, but his ice-shard eyes are wild, and his hair is slightly unkempt, as if it was previously styled but had begun to come undone—and he is staring back.
Tom Marvolo Riddle, young and alive and whole, right in front of him.
“You,” he breathes.