— 36: Omega —

Voldemort cast, a feral grin on his changed face, presumably unable to contain his curiosity any longer, and knowing his foe could not hope to stand against his might. Potter reacted quickly, turning back the attempt without blinking an eye.

Voldemort went stock still, giving Potter a brief moment to rest. Suddenly the Dark Lord spoke in an oddly detached voice. "How does it feel?"

A smile spread across Potter's face, one laced with an unholy glee. "Hurts, doesn't it. Love. It's what you do not have, Voldemort. And yet, I have countless others to support me and their love makes me strong. You just couldn't resist knowing the contents of the prophecy, assuming I knew it. Well, let me take advantage of that before you shake this off, hm?"

Potter shot a bludgeoning curse at Voldemort, aiming for his wand hand. A second later both the Dark Lord's wand and hand exploded, quickly followed by a shower of blood as a cutting curse ripped open the man's carotid artery. Potter didn't have much time to appreciate his handiwork, though. Even as Voldemort started to topple unceremoniously to the floor Potter staggered, a look of utter bewilderment on his face.

Within seconds, not one person in the room remained conscious.

«« :: »»

"Well, that was fun," Harry commented evenly.

"Wasn't it?" Tom smiled and gave a slight nod. "Once again, I bow to your genius, Haze. Now let's go tie up any loose ends down there before they start waking up." He started to walk away, then paused and looked back over his shoulder. "Are you absolutely certain you wouldn't like to rule the world with me?"

Harry scowled and shook his head. "No. Nein. Nyet. Does that answer your question?"

Tom sniffed dramatically and continued his walk toward the door, pulling it open a moment later. Harry chuckled softly and followed, aware that Severus was right behind him. Together they wended through the corridors and entered the audience chamber, glancing around before converging on the remains of Voldemort and Potter.

Voldemort's wand was splintered beyond repair, so Tom stepped over to the other body to see how that wand had fared. After a moment of thought he whipped out his wand and levitated the body. "Haze, make sure that wand remains in his hand while I do this."

Harry nodded and released his own, casting a quick spell, and then watched curiously.

Tom made a sharp movement and the body dropped down again, this time with the wand arm directly underneath. A loud crack was heard a moment later. "That takes care of that."

It was . . . distinctly odd to see himself lying there dead. Harry shook his head to clear his thoughts and looked around again. He really did not want to think too deeply about it. They were all still out cold—those that were alive, anyway.

"Right. Let's check them over. Quickly now," Tom said briskly, then headed off at a fast clip toward a cluster of Death Eaters.

They made short work of checking every last body there. Those dead were ignored in favor of making sure the ones left alive no longer had a Dark Mark. Once they were certain everyone had been looked over they slipped back to the observation room. Tom then collapsed the wards that surrounded the property, making it possible for literally anyone to find it, wizard and muggle alike.

At a nod from his bonded Harry called Dobby to the room and crouched down next to him. "It's time, Dobby. Go throw a hysterical fit of massive proportions for Ron's benefit, then head to headquarters to spy. Return to us in the Chamber once it's clear you can. I trust your judgment in this."

"Yes, master. Dobby is being most upset for your Wheezy."

Harry wrapped his arms around his bonded after the house elf left, waiting for the former Death Eaters to awaken and discover their new circumstances. Eventually they did, dragging themselves up with moans of pain, shaking their heads and looking around fearfully, then with surprise as they took in the sight of their surroundings.

It wasn't until they began to rise to their feet that Tom intervened. He gave Harry a quick kiss and swept out, emerging shortly in the audience chamber wearing the guise of Peter Pettigrew, and breathing heavily as though he had been running. "Master, the wards are down!" he squeaked out, then came to a dead stop as he seemed to notice the bodies at the center of the room.

He ran to them, hovering uncertainly over the corpse of his master, then looked up at those living. "What happened?" he asked anxiously. "Is this why my Dark Mark is gone?"

"What the hell do you think?" one of them snapped. "And why are you pretending? If you've no mark left to speak of, obviously you did not wish to be a Death Eater in the first place, no matter how skilled you are at groveling and sniveling, you disgusting little rat."

Tom looked briefly taken aback. He cast his gaze over those standing, then slowly nodded, a crafty look appearing on his face as he stood up straight and rolled his shoulders back. Given his guise, he looked quite ridiculous. After a moment he spat on the corpse and kicked it for good measure. "The Ministry," he said absently. "They might forget I was one if I go tell them how to find this place. Or maybe Dumbledore? He likes to give second chances."

He snapped back into focus, then bolted as if all the hounds of hell were after him. The survivors glanced at each other, then ran out as well.

The door opened again to admit Tom and was quickly closed. He rolled his eyes expansively as he rejoined them at the window, slipping an arm around Harry's shoulders. "That was mildly disgusting. They seemed to buy it, though."

"Are we to stay here?" Harry asked. "To be sure?"

"Severus, I think now would be an excellent time for you to toddle off to see the old man."

"Yes, quite. I will join you in the Chamber later on." He disapparated, the wards no longer there to prevent him.

"We will stay a while longer, Haze. However, you will apparate or portkey out at the first sign of trouble. I will not take chances with your safety." Then he looked at Harry with a wicked gleam in his eyes. "It's too bad, really. If I had my way, I'd have you bent over right now and screaming."

Harry wrinkled his nose. "You know, it's a bit sick that you're thinking of sex at a time like this."

"At a time like what? We've just been set free. What better thing to celebrate?"

And those statements sparked a discussion on appropriate behavior that completely distracted Harry from his anxiety, not that he realized what Tom was up to until the sound of people racing into the audience chamber brought his attention back to their location and the passage of time.

Tom swore when he noticed Mad-Eye Moody and prodded Harry. "Go, now. I'm right behind you."

«« :: »»

Chaos. Pure, unadulterated chaos. Former Death Eaters had scattered in every conceivable direction, spreading the news of the Dark Lord's demise, helped along by those who had been in public places and had dropped on the spot, either in death or unconsciousness. Fudge was said to be having mild hysterics, with no idea what kind of speech to devise for the public as an official statement on recent events.

Dobby reported that he had interrupted a family meal at the Burrow. With Harry's disappearance, they had most likely all been called home by their parents. He had popped in and thrown himself at Ron, wailing about how he could not sense Harry Potter sir, and that something must be terribly, horribly wrong.

Ron had sat stock still during the display, pale as a ghost, and ignoring the fact that Dobby was quite nearly strangling him. Dobby allowed as how he had managed, in between loud, anguished sobs and wails that is, to whisper that master was actually fine.

Naturally, chaos erupted there as well, and Dobby slipped off after a bit once everyone was too busy to pay him any further attention, heading straight to headquarters. He was in good time for Severus's arrival, not having seen or heard anything of particular interest up until that point.

Albus, presumably alerted to matters afoot by the Weasleys, had arrived only minutes prior to Severus and was already calling in all Order members that could come. They barely discussed anything at all, in point of fact. Once Severus had demonstrated his newly found freedom from the Dark Mark, Albus swung into action and designated several teams for various tasks, such as canvassing the Ministry for information.

Remus was ordered to remain at headquarters and coordinate. No doubt, Albus was concerned about his potential reaction to seeing a dead Harry, should that actually be the case. And not long after that, Albus and many of those still present swept off to check out a report detailing the location of Voldemort's headquarters.

Dobby was sent back off to Grimmauld Place to continue to keep an eye on things, and to pass along a bit of discreet reassurance to Remus before blending into the woodwork again. Thus, with everything going on, it was very late that evening when everyone was able to gather in the Chamber library to have a chat.

Ron had been slipped a time turner to effect his escape. As far as his family was concerned he was resting in bed, heavily drugged, and not likely to wake up anytime soon. Severus had simply melted back into shadow, and Remus stormed off after screaming bloody murder at Albus over something that came out during the immediate aftermath.

Tom looked around the room and smiled, then lifted his glass of port. "A toast. To freedom and new beginnings." And once everyone had taken a healthy sip of their drinks, their version of a meeting began.

"Albus has his hands full," Remus said with a chuckle.

"Why's that?" Harry asked. "Oh, and let's all get used to the new names, please?"

"Albus admitted after the bodies had been found and we were back at Grimmauld Place that he has always suspected Harry would die once he defeated Voldemort. My ears are still ringing from the screaming that started up over that. Of course, I was right up there with them. You know I never lose my temper, but I think I did a damn good job of faking it in this case."

Severus snorted and had another sip of port.

"Now you have people reacting over Voldemort's defeat, Harry's death, and Albus's departure from reticence. It's not a happy combination. At least half are torn up over feeling happy at the same time as being heartbroken."

Harry fiddled with his hair and mused out loud, "I wonder how Percy is reacting to the news."

Ron choked on his butterbeer and had to have his back slapped a few times. "Percy didn't even come to the house. He's probably sucking up to Fudge as we speak, even at this hour. I'm more worried about Hermione. I don't know if anyone has bothered to tell her yet. She might have been lost in the shuffle."

"She'll surely know by morning," Tom pointed out. "I cannot imagine the Daily Prophet will ignore this. As it is, I'm surprised they didn't put out a special evening edition. What about the Death Eaters released?"

Severus looked up. "Presently, there seems to be no push toward capturing them. I would not be greatly surprised if it comes out later that a number of them had made donations to Fudge to keep it that way."

"Stay on your guard, please," Tom requested. "I will be most upset if someone attempts to haul you off."

"Rest assured," Severus drawled, "I will turn up on your doorstep requesting asylum if need be."

"No suspicions, then?" Harry asked.

"Not that I could see," Remus replied, then glanced at Severus, who shook his head. "Actually, Albus was already planning a memorial service when I stormed out."

Harry blinked. "Can't get rid of me fast enough, eh?"

Remus shrugged. "Nice touch with the wands, by the way. Albus was mildly upset that such powerful wands were both destroyed."

"Oh, that's all I would need. Harry Potter's wand up on display in some wizarding museum. Maybe next week he can contact Madame Tussauds and commission a wax replica for display at the Ministry to replace the magical brethren fountain in the atrium."

They discussed things for a while longer, then Harry dragged Ron off to sit on the rug in front of the fire. "Your reaction?"

Ron shrugged and tipped back his bottle for another swig. "I'm not sure. Tonight's been given over to shock, of course. Tomorrow, though. . . ."

"I guess it depends on whether or not you find out from normal sources what the old man said about my death."

"Well, yeah. If I knew that, I think I'd have to throw one hell of a temper tantrum. I am a Weasley, after all."

Harry snickered and nodded. "Oh, by the way, you will want to be careful of Hermione."

Ron gave him a suspicious look.

"Don't make the mistake of not eating. Slow down, maybe, but don't try to go hungry or make out like you simply don't think to eat. If you're not careful, she might try to force feed you. I did make her promise not to tell you I told her the prophecy, but we'll see if she keeps it. I think she will. Anyway, I kind of hope you'll continue to be friendly with Blaise. You might even want to consider offering to help him with Defense tutoring if that keeps on—the Slytherin children, I mean. Maybe at Roary's?"

Ron nodded absently and said, "I wonder how long it should take me to get over your death."

"I have no idea," Harry confessed. "I can only tell you what happened for me over Sirius, and how I ended up dealing with it. It still hurts, and I still miss him, but it doesn't dictate my life."

Ron left not long after, needing to get home before his extra time ran out. Severus was not far behind him, though Remus was perfectly happy to use the spare room for the night, preferring to be in a place no one could find him at for a bit.

The next morning, after several rounds of celebratory sex in the interim, Harry and Tom had breakfast with Remus, idly discussing a copy of the Daily Prophet Dobby had delivered, not to mention how it was that Remus (and even Ron) knew Ash and Haze.

"It might have been another story if our new ages were different and we could produce the appropriate records, or at least for Haze. It's incredibly rare that anyone transfers into Hogwarts, but not unheard of," said Tom.

Harry shook his head. "True, but no, not in a million years. I can just see it now," he said, casting a dark look at Tom. "You, showing up as the new Defense professor, tormenting me in class with mental comments and trying to make me blush or get me squirming in my chair from need. No, don't think so." He flapped his hand dismissively.

Remus chortled in amusement. "Well, there's nothing to stop either of you at this point from doing whatever you like. You could set up a shop of some kind in Hogsmeade. That's plenty excuse right there for meeting people and establishing access."

Tom looked thoughtful at that. "Possibly." Then he looked at Remus appraisingly. "Of course, it could be that we did so and hired you on as an employee."

"We are," Harry added quickly, before Remus could formulate a response, "remarkably tolerant and enlightened people, after all." He would not know until later how his friend would react to his inheritance.

Remus rolled his eyes at that and shook his head slowly. "I should know better. Now, to deliberately change the subject. . . ." He tapped the paper.

:That reminds me. We should probably pay a visit to the bank soon, just to let Greltack know you're fine,: Tom sent, then said, "They seem to be reacting quite favorably, and as well they should be considering not one of them ever lifted a finger to effect this outcome. I expect the celebrations should last a week or more."

"Do you suppose the memorial service he's planning will be bruited about in the paper? I'm not sure I even want to think about where they'd arrange for one. There could be twenty people there, or thousands."

"That is your chance, Haze," Remus said with a slight grin. "If it's big enough for total strangers to attend, you could hear firsthand how people speak on your behalf."

Harry reached over to cuff him playfully before having another bite of his breakfast.

Several Years Later

Haze stepped out the back door and made his way through the kitchen garden, eventually arriving at the gate leading to the property next door. Once through that he ambled into his neighbor's house and made himself at home at the kitchen table, nodding a greeting to the house elf that arrived to drop a plate of food in front of him.

"Morning, mate."

Haze looked up and smiled on seeing Ron stagger in and take a seat. "Late night?"

Ron shrugged and looked around blearily, perking up considerably as an elf slipped him a heaping plate. "Eh, I suppose so. Made the mistake of stopping in to see mum and dad."

Haze tilted his head in confusion, then came to a realization. "They've been nagging you again, haven't they."

Ron grunted, a tired scowl briefly gracing his face. "Yeah. Mum gave me another talking to about not having married yet." He rolled his eyes and snatched a piece of toast off the rack. "It's not like she doesn't already have five million grandkids." As he was buttering it he said casually, "That's not really it, though."


Ron gave him a sidelong glance. "The old man died last night."

Haze's fork clattered to the table.

"They started dithering around like chickens with no heads. Even after all the crap that came out back then, they're practically crushed that he's finally gone. I even came in for a lecture for not looking upset enough." Ron rolled his eyes again and piled eggs on his toast.

Haze sat back in his chair and gazed at the ceiling. "You know, I just felt another weight lift off my shoulders. He's the only one I was worried might start digging."

Ron reached over and nudged him with his free hand. "Oi. No reason to stop eating. You know what'll happen if Felk looks in and sees you like that."

Haze quickly sat up and grabbed his fork, having already come in for more than one scolding for not eating enough at Ron's. The elf always managed to make it sound like Haze was insulting him and his cooking for not diving in like Ron did. He sometimes wondered if he let the house elves bully him too much, truth be told.

He was perhaps halfway through his meal when the distinct sound of heels clicking along the corridor intruded, causing Ron to swear under his breath and shoot him an apologetic look. "I forgot," he said in a low tone.

A few seconds later Hermione stepped into the kitchen, freezing for a moment when she saw Haze. "Good morning, Ron," she said, then as a deliberate afterthought, "Riley."

Haze nodded and pushed back his chair, dropping his fork on his plate. "Granger. Ron, it's been grand, but I'm afraid I've lost my appetite. Later, mate." He stood up and strolled out to the garden, then back to his own house.

Hermione had been devastated by the death of Harry Potter, though Haze still wondered just how much of that was caused by her confident promise to figure things out, and her failure to do so. Things might have been fine when they met much later on, with him in his new life, except she took irrational exception to the fact that Ron had found such a close confidant, and had more than once accused him of trying to replace Harry.

In the end, she transferred her animosity over the situation directly to Haze, and always acted like a frigid bitch in his presence. Obviously, Ron had forgotten she planned on stopping by that morning and so failed to warn him. He would have begged off breakfast if he'd known, and spared himself the attitude.

By the time he wandered into his living room his bonded was already up and absently popping fruit into his mouth. Ash looked up and paused, then said, "What's got you looking so ornery?"

Haze sat down heavily and scowled.

"Oh, her again. Is that all?"

He shook his head and reached over to steal a strawberry right out of Ash's hand. "No, but that is why I'm home so quickly. Ron forgot to mention she'd be over. The pest is dead. Ron's parents informed him last night when he went to visit."

Ash smiled brilliantly. "We could always go to the memorial, sit in the back row, and make snide comments to each other while ignoring the people scowling at us for not being properly respectful."

Haze chuckled and ate his stolen strawberry.

— The End —

Final Notes : I really don't think I should walk away completely until I explain at least one thing for certain, and that's the title of this story. A couple of people were curious, so I'll be nice and give you the reason for it.

The meaning is simple enough, though it's a derivation of the actual source, Xenogears. The red herring, if you can call it that, would be the song A One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII (an excellent tune, by the way). If you read the paragraph below (courtesy of the game script posted by Sheamon at GameFAQs), you'll begin to understand.

Margie: Did you notice that the two great angels only have one wing each...?
According to a legend handed down in Nisan... God could have created
humans perfectly... But then, humans would not have helped each other... So
that is what these great single-winged angels symbolizes... In order to fly,
they are dependant on one another.

So, going from that, we come to my version of a soul bond, which entails what you already know. If both halves of a couple aren't alive by the time the eldest hits sixteen, then the eldest goes mad. The fact that Tom was an abused orphan...well, he went more than a little psycho.

Obviously, this also completely ignores what we learned about Tom Riddle during HBP. Then again, I began this well prior to that coming out, so that's perfectly all right.

P.S. Eileen, Remus, and Severus are all fine.

Edition: 22 December 2007