Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own anything from the HP universe, and even more sadly, I'm not making any money off this story...

Author's Note: I wrote this ona a sudden spark of inspiration, as most of my other one-shot fics. This one deals with the final moments of Lord Voldemort's life and offers a little insight into what might have awaited him after death... It's Voldemort's POV and goes along with all the canon so far. I recently re-read HBP and was fascinated with Tom Riddle and intrigued with the fact that he allegedly 'never felt love'. So here it is - a little cruel, a little sad, and very ironic. Let's see what you make of it!

The Final Enlightenment

'I really hate four-letter words.'

He found it almost funny that at such a moment exactly this thought came to his head. But after all, it was only fitting, wasn't it?

Hope. Soul. Love.They were all four-letter words. Short. Pompous. Overused by muggles and wizards alike.

And they all became his undoing.

Hope.

It never seemed to fail his enemies, no matter how ruthlessly he hunted them and how deep into the ground he trod them. He killed and killed again, destroyed their families and tore apart their world. And yet they rose, bloodied and scarred, their eyes disgustingly full of hope even seconds before the killing curse snuffed the light out of them. He couldn't understand that. Oh, he knew on whom that hope was centered. The Chosen One. The Boy Who Lived. He was the one who continued to give them hope and grow stronger, even though he did everything he could think of to make him weak. The death of his last family member and his most powerful protector should have broken him, but somehow, he still fought on. That made Voldemort angry and kindled unease somewhere deep down inside his splintered soul.

Ah yes, Soul.

To him it was merely an instrument to ensure his immortality, a means to an end. He never revered it or believed that he should preserve its wholeness. He never gave a second thought to the warnings that splitting it into parts would do him any damage. Foolish superstitions of the weak. Was it the reason why he felt absolutely nothing when the Horcruxes were destroyed one by one, why no warning flashed in his mind despite all the protective charms he had put around them? If he had known, he wouldn't have been surprised at the gradual decline of his powers during the final battle. He wouldn't have wondered why he got so tired so fast and why suddenly he was lying flat on his back before the Boy Who Lived, barely able to lift his wand, waiting helplessly for the curse that would finish him.

'You have no idea, do you? You destroyed yourself. You singled me out as your enemy and then gave me all the tools I needed to destroy you.'

He was astonished that the holy Harry Potter could smile with such wickedness and disdain. And then he remembered that a part of his power was transferred to the boy the night the killing curse bounced off and left him the lightning scar. For a moment it seemed as if he were looking into a mirror. He suddenly felt terrified, tired beyond death and split into a hundred bleeding pieces.

Realizations hit him one right after the other in these few final moments, all of them crucial and all of them much too late.

'Only a whole soul can sustain great magical power for a longer period of time. A crippled one diminishes quickly and so does the wizard' - the Chosen One recited dryly, like a professor bored with his own lecture and Voldemort's anger flared up once more, even as his eyes widened involuntarily in fear and disbelief. He managed to raise his wand hand a few inches and then a flash of white mingled with excruciating pain washed the green-eyed face from view and he faded away.

Everyone thought it had ended right then, as they rushed to the Dark Lord's cold, unmoving body to see for themselves that Voldemort was really dead.

But for him, it was far from over. It was time for one final enlightenment.

Love.

It was warm. It was light. It was peaceful. It was exactly as they described it. He had never felt or wanted it before and yet knew it at once the moment it enveloped him and he desired nothing more. He was proved wrong in death, but he didn't care any more if he had been right or not, all that mattered was that he could rest and float in that everlasting, radiant warmth…

'Tom... Tom. Tom, you don't belong here.'

Suddenly he was brutally torn away from the peaceful glow into cold, bitter darkness – a crushing, unacceptable awakening after the momentary perfection of universal love. A scream caught in his throat as daggers of pain shot out from the very core of his being.

'You threw away all that. Love does not exist, remember? It does not exist for you."

The voice was barely a whisper, but it seemed to move the air about him and sharpen the pain to an unbearable intensity. The mild, sad voice he always remembered and hated. Dumbledore's voice.

'You never believed there were worse things than death, Tom.'

The voice continued calmly, splitting him into ever smaller pieces.

'In fact, death is a very pleasant, peaceful experience, as you have been shown moments before. But that is death for a soul which is whole and has known love. This, as you may already guess, does not refer to you.'

Dumbledore's voice sounded for all the world as if he were tutoring one of his less talented students on the particulars of some mildly complicated spell.

'I believe in time you may come to understand, Tom, that one of the things worse than death is the eternal pain of a shattered soul.'

Agony was rapidly wiping away any shreds of coherent thought he was still able to muster.

'Oh, and one last remark before I leave you, Tom - "Fool" is also a four letter word.'

And then, Tom Riddle screamed, but the world couldn't hear him.

Finis

Please R&R!