Reassured by his servant Severus Snape that his other Horcruxes were all safe and well-protected, Lord Voldemort decided to visit his living Horcrux and check if he was in good condition. When he arrived in the Sítio da Nhandu, Severus greeted him without enthusiasm. Lord Voldemort wasn't surprised; Severus had always been a cold man.
Lord Voldemort was informed by Severus that Potter had gone for a walk and probably could be found by the lake. He reprimanded Snape for leaving his Horcrux unleashed and unwatched, to which Snape replied, with a most unnerving smile, that his Horcrux was feeling at ease in the place and didn't intend to escape.
He cast Snape a suspicious look and went after Harry Potter.
He glimpsed the boy sitting on the bank of the lake, playing a flute. The beautiful melody surprised him. Lord Voldemort approached and sat beside Harry Potter.
At first, the young man seemed frightened by his presence, but soon he recomposed himself and greeted him in Parseltongue, "Hello, Tom."
Surprisingly, the name 'Tom' in Parseltongue didn't infuriate Lord Voldemort. "Hello, Harry," he answered, also in Parseltongue.
Harry smiled at him and a strange emotion arose within Tom.
"Do you want me to play a song for you?" Harry asked.
A tremor shook Tom's body and soul. "Yes."
Harry began to play a song even more beautiful than the first one. Tom felt as if the notes were creeping through his veins and warming him. Tom slipped into a kind of trance.
Tom looked at Harry and saw that he was beautiful and full of life. An unbearable and unexplainable sadness covered his soul. He tried to wake up from his trance, but failed. His blood was boiling, ripping his veins out of his flesh. He lowered his face. Harry stopped playing and reached out for him. As soon as Harry touched his shoulder, Tom's body burned itself to ashes.
Watching from a distance, I see Tom Riddle vanishing in the air and Harry kneeling on the ground, in dismay. I run towards him, kneel down and take him into my arms.
"I didn't want him to die. For the first time, he seemed to be talking to me. For the first time, he was communicating with someone," Harry says, his voice tremulous.
"He's gone. I suppose he has seen himself in the piece of soul that is inside you, and he couldn't bear the feeling of being separated from you."
I nod at him. "My Mark disappeared too, which means he is gone forever. You absorbed the piece of his soul that was inside you. You are not a Horcrux any more."
"He's inside me, now?"
"He has always been, Harry. You just had to accept him."
We gather Tom Riddle's ashes and throw them into the waters of the lake. We return to the house in silence.
Now Harry is free. I advise him to return to Britain; he should rebuild his life. He agrees, but seems scared.
"When we go back, it will be a chaos. The Prophet will want to interview us; the Ministry will want to put you in Azkaban... "
"I cannot go back, Harry; I would be imprisoned, judged and executed."
"But I won't go back without you!"
Ah... Is there balm in Gilead for me?
"So we are in a deadlock," I state, sitting in an armchair in angle to his.
"I'll go back and tell everyone you're the true hero, the responsible for Voldemort's defeat."
"It's not exactly true," I acknowledge humbly.
He doesn't pay attention to my words, as always. "They will have to believe. When it's safe, you can go back too."
I can see the picture: he returns to the Weasleys', flings himself into the arms of his damsel Ginevra and I remain forgotten here, in the Sítio da Nhandu.
He stares at me. Ah! Legilimency. I was caught unguarded.
"Severus, if that's how you feel, I won't go. I'll stay here until they ensure us that you can go back without being imprisoned. I don't know how much money Voldemort left with you, but I have a lot of galleons in Gringotts and I can go there and take as much as we need. We can put this house under a Fidelius Charm. No one will force us out of here, and if they try, they'll have to face the Darkest Lord they've ever seen."
I am a selfish and possessive man. It wasn't easy to catch Harry Potter in my web, and I don't want to let him go. Even if, to be with me, he must become the next Dark Lord!
"The beach is not very far from here," I tell him, insanely hopeful in a future for us. "If we go down the mountain, we will arrive there in about an hour."
He smiles for the first time since Tom's death. "Great! Tomorrow we're going to the beach!"
On their way to the beach, in the morning, Harry caught himself looking at his lover and wondering what it was in Severus that made Harry chose him instead of everything and everyone.
There was Severus, in swim shorts and T-shirt, but ugly and snarky as ever. Or was he?
"Severus, I think I might be in love with you."
Severus almost stumbled into a stone as he stopped and turned to face Harry. "Oh? And what might have inspired such feelings in you? Perhaps my distinct and interesting personality? My heroic deeds? My Roman nose? Or even... my performance as a lover?"
Harry laughed and punched him on his shoulder. "You're such a bastard. I don't know how I put up with you."
Severus looked offended. "The feelings are mutual."
"I don't know how I put up with you either."
Harry pretended to be disappointed, and Severus pulled him close for a passionate kiss. When their lips parted, Severus whispered in Harry's ear, "I might be in love with you too, but perhaps I am just dizzy. It's too hot here and my neurons are melting. I don't think it was a good idea to walk to the beach under this sun. Why don't we Apparate straight to the beach?"
"Ha. You're chickening out."
"I am not!"
"Yes, you are!"
And they lived happy ever after, or so the tale is told...
I hope you've enjoyed the story! If you want me to write a sequel, leave me a review, letting me know what you would like to read in it. I may not write it very soon, though, because I want to finish "Baphomet II". If you have a livejournal, I'm running a poll there about a sequel to "Nhandu". My lj name is "ptyx".
Thanks to my betas Elanor Isolde, Kalena, Nicolle and Spinning Compass.
Replies to Reviews:
Strega: Don't tell anyone, but the line you quoted was inspired by the Bible... I do like it, and I'm glad you liked it too. Harry's death, in canon, would be a good ending literally speaking, but I doubt JKR would have the guts to do it. Oh yes, the Pied Piper! I hope you have enjoyed this epilogue... It's a bit sad and its style is so different from the rest of the story, but it possessed me, I had to write it!
mariana: Thanks for all your lovely reviews! I hope to see you again.
unamed: Your wish is my command!
Cuthrin Khafre: I don't know why you think Snape sounded a bit younger than he should. Maybe you're right; this is subjective, of course, and ages are tricky. How old do you think I am? Wouldn't it surprise you if I say I am only six months younger than Severus:-). I hope you have enjoyed the ending!
Idril831: Thank you, friend! I hope you've enjoyed the epilogue, and also hope to continue to follow "Baphomet II" (I'm going to update it in a few days).