The strangest surprise of life was its end, and the strangest part of surprise was the bliss. It was direct and simple and delicious: the cold wasn't really that cold, because nerves were making him glow; the gusts of wind were just exciting; he left his clothes and the Cloak and the knife by the staircase, with the note on top, and then it was seven strides to the merlons and he could fly.
Down, down, down, down.
Then there was the gorgeousness of seeing the whole of the grounds arranged around him like a snowglobe, and falling into it; absolutely magnificent, the only part of life worth living for, the only part of death worth dying for; almost night and a little band of glow on the horizon, like a spill held out to light a candle, reflected again in the lake; and then a round punch-bowl of the dark.
He fell towards the trees, blood streaming out behind him, and saw a little white thing sprawled luminous in the grass. Dead bird, perhaps. He would hit the ground soon, but he carried on falling. It was quite a big dead bird. He would hit the ground soon? No, he carried on falling, and it was a dead unicorn.
Very appropriate. He could keep it company.
Down, down, down, down, thud. Oops.
For a second or so Harry was unable to process what had happened, being so astonished at the comedy of his continued life. Cast thy bread upon the waters, indeed. Then he registered that he had landed on something black and soft, invisible compared with the pale hide of the unicorn; something that was moving, twitching, thrashing against the mossy floor. Unnerved, Harry lunged away from it; and put his hand down on a discarded wand.
The Lumoswas confusing. It showed a black object on a black background. Harry leant forwards uncertainly, put his hand into the black; it was cloth, a robe, wrapped round a twitching, jerking body. At the top of the body was a face as white as the unicorn. Voldemort's face.
Harry set one half of his brain to researching where sanity might have gone, while the other contemplated the problem of what might have happened to Voldemort. He had been hit by a Harry, certainly, and a Harry that had just descended two hundred feet; but surely he ought to be dead or unconscious, not staring speechlessly, eyes black via the dilation of shock, rigid and spastic and hands making little tics, clutching clutching clutching clutching...
And a patch on the front of his robes that was darker than black. Sodden. Running with drops, warm drops, blood.
Harry opened the robes, and immediately wished he had no eyes; wished he could be realising any existence other than that of a half-trained wizard in a sinister whispering forest, with his worst enemy laid out in front of him shaking in shock, an inch of bloody unicorn horn protruding from his stomach. Harry wondered idly how long a unicorn horn was; a foot, perhaps? – didn't matter; its entire length was lodged in Voldemort's abdomen. Presumably he had fallen over backwards and the weight of plummeting teenager had impaled him; not that it particularly mattered, since they were both trapped in this horrible dystopia and Harry had no idea how to either kill or save him. He sat and dithered ineffectually while Voldemort shuddered and jolted and then, as any reasonable person might after having a huge stake jammed through their spine, gave a series of great racking spasms and fell still. Only the noisy, sandy breathing continued, as if he had grit in his lungs.
Harry tried to calm himself and said sotto voce, "Right." Actually it wasn't right at all, and wasn't going to be, since he was in the Forbidden Forest, drenched in the bodily fluids of a Voldemort kebab; but there was no point in complaining. He leaned forwards ridiculously and took hold of Voldemort's shoulders. "It's all right," he assured him, "It's all right."
Voldemort's non-lips moved, gaped a few times; "Insanguinius," he gasped, "Insanguinius."
"Insanguinius," Harry said blankly. The bleeding stopped with a gurgle, but the horn was embedded as firmly as ever. "The thing – the unicorn horn – "
"Cut it off," Voldemort whispered. "Diffindo..."
"But we've got to get it out – we've – "
"It won't come out, boy."
"You're not dying, are you?" Harry said, not really listening to what he was saying. Voldemort's skin, where it touched the unicorn horn, was starting to bubble and hiss gently.
"Diffindo. Cut it off."
Harry reached his wand arm as far behind Voldemort's back as he could, and whispered "Diffindo." There was a crack, and the horn split away from the dead unicorn's head.
"Get me off this thing," said Voldie.
"If you've hurt your back you shouldn't be – "
"I will die if I remain near the unicorn."
Harry's otherwise randomised brain helpfully supplied an image of Lupin splinting Ron's broken leg. "Ferula," he said tentatively, and Voldemort's lower back was suddenly restrained by a sort of corset of splints and bandages; and Harry levitated him away from the unicorn and set him down in some comfortable moss. He waited hopefully for the return of sanity and the other half of his brain; then, when neither was forthcoming, wondered how to pass the time in the interim.
"I suppose I have to get you to a Healer."
"No point," said Voldemort.
"What were you doing here anyway?" Harry demanded.
"Collecting unicorn body parts. Horn, hair, blood." Voldemort paused to gasp. "Ollivander needed the hair for wands." More gasping. "Why are you naked?"
"Where am I supposed to take you?" Harry said distractedly, still shivering from the shock of impaling Voldemort and the elation of being alive. "Last time I took a Death Eater up to the castle, they gave him the Kiss by accident."
"Don't do that to me, boy," Voldemort said harshly. "Don't let them do that to me. Kill me first, if you've got any heart."
Harry wondered why he agreed with this sentiment so strongly, but had no chance to come to a conclusion, since at that moment they heard shouts, whistles, the sound of feet crashing through the undergrowth.
"They've come looking for me," Harry realised. "I've got to get you to a Healer."
"NO!" said Voldemort.
"I've got to do something," Harry said wildly, and he jumped to his feet and sprinted off towards the voices. Voldemort slumped back into the moss and cursed the day Harry Potter had been conceived.
"Potter!" yelled Snape. "Why are you running around the castle grounds naked?"
"We need a Healer, sir, someone's hurt!"
"Do you have any idea what's been going on since we found that note of yours on the Astronomy Tower? It is far too much to hope, Potter, that you actually care!"
"Professor, he said someone's injured, maybe we should – "
"Silence, Miss Abbott!"
"We've got to get him to St. Mungo's. Where's Dumbledore?"
"The Headmaster is not at Hogwarts, Potter, and you do not need to know where he is! I sorely wish he would return, in the interests of your immediate expulsion from this school! The trauma caused to certain foolish members of staff, trekking into the Forbidden Forest at night – "
"SNAPE, WILL YOU LISTEN TO ME! VOLDEMORT IS IN THE FOREST, DYING!"
"SILENCE, Potter! Amongst your overweening selfishness and hereditary stupidity, I'd have thought you could summon up some fraction of an iota of remorse for the inconvenience you have caused to others!"
Staring gobstopper-eyed at Snape, Harry finally perceived that he was expected to apologise for committing suicide. He gave a yelp of incredulous laughter. "Why would I give a fuck about the inconvenience I caused to others? Listen, Professor, Volde – "
Voldemort heard the thud of Harry's body hitting the ground, and resigned himself to several more hours in the Forest. Tonight just wasn't his night.
Harry woke up in the hospital wing with an air of general disorientation. He was no longer naked, since persons unknown had charitably donated a pair of unspeakably hideous paisley pyjamas. He strongly suspected Ron. There was nobody watching over him, fortunately; and, while he no longer had either a wand or his Invisibility Cloak, escaping the ward was a simple matter of waiting until Madam Pomfrey was in her office and creeping out into the school. On the principle of fools rushing in, he was not caught as he wandered vaguely up to Gryffindor tower; but he couldn't remember quite what was happening, either.
Suddenly he remembered Voldemort, pinned like a black moth by a unicorn horn; and he rushed into the boys' bedroom in a panic, flinging the door back so hard that it crashed into Seamus's bed and woke everyone up.
"Harry,"came drowsy, irritated moans from every direction.
"Sorry," he said distractedly, but forgot that hurling his trunk open and digging out the Marauders' Map might irritate them. Halfway through the process, Dean Thomas sat bolt upright and most uncharacteristically yelled at Harry to stop that bloody noise because he had an Arithmancy test the next morning, and hadn't Harry caused enough trouble already tonight? Harry had no time to shout back, so he ground his teeth and marched out. Five minutes later he was wandering distractedly through the entrance hall, wearing paisley pyjamas and clutching the Marauders' Map, which most fortunately had a small dot labelled "Lord Voldemort" on the eastern side of the grounds.
Outside it was very dark. There was a gibbous moon, but Harry was still hard-put to read the Map unless he held it two inches from his nose. This inevitably meant that he bumped into rocks, trees, centaur manure and finally, six feet away from Voldemort, an Acromantulus.
"Yes," said Voldemort. "Die."
The Acromantulus, which was about the size of a horse, eyed Harry and decided Harry had far more meat on him than Voldemort. It trampled towards him, pincers clicking. Harry took the only offensive action he could think of, which was to bend a tree branch to near-breaking point and let go. The branch sprang towards the spider like Bellatrix Lestrange towards a Muggle, and sent it flying across the clearing.
"Where's the wand? Where's the bloody wand?" shouted Harry, scrabbling amongst twigs.
"Where indeed," leered Voldemort. If he was going to die, he reasoned, at least Potter could be hung upside-down from a tree and slowly eaten by a giant spider. Hell, he'd willingly hang upside-down next to him just so he could watch.
As the enraged spider trundled back towards them, Harry roared, "Lumos! LUMOS!", and Voldemort's wand flared into blue light just in time for him to chase the Acromantulus out of the clearing with a series of bursts of fire. As he wandered back to Voldemort he could hear the outraged clicking of pincers and the drumming of very large legs.
"Ah, well," said Voldemort listlessly. "Have you decided what to do yet?"
Harry thought. His head was as empty as Voldemort's conscience. "No."
"Well, if I were you, I'd get us a bit further away from the Forbidden Forest before anything else attacks."
Voldemort's voice was very far from harsh horror it had once been. It had a wispy quality, like cobwebs... best not to think about cobwebs. "Mobilicorpus," said Harry, and Voldemort's body rose off the ground as if on an invisible stretcher.
"Does this hurt?" Harry said cautiously.
"You've killed me, you little fool. Of course it hurts." Pause. "Nice pyjamas."
Harry looked down at himself in mild puzzlement. "Oh. They're not mine. I'd never wear anything like this."
"And the make-up?"
Harry touched his face. It was still encrusted with dried blood and possible other substances that he preferred not to know about. "Oh... well... er."
Voldemort cackled wheezily for a very long time while Harry thought about what to do next. Once he would have trusted the Ministry to punish Voldemort, but he now knew they would do something awful. There was no other magical justice system, and no Muggle prison would do; so somehow or other he would have to go outside the law: punish Voldemort himself or get others to help him.
"How did you attack me?" the hoarse voice asked. "I didn't see you coming."
Harry contemplated his own lunacy. "I jumped off the Astronomy Tower."
Flabbergasted. "WHAT?" Pause. "How on earth did you aim? How can you just jump off a tower and know that you'll land on your enemy? Potter, did your mother take Felix Felicis all through her pregnancy? I've never known someone so fated to cause trouble."
Harry remembered the feeling of falling into the sunset and tried to figure out whether he wished he'd succeeded or was glad he had failed. "I didn't aim, I didn't know you were there. I committed suicide."
Even more flabbergasted, then: "A ha. A ha ha ha. A HAA HAA HAA HAA HAAAA! Hee hee hee! Oh. Argh," tortured by the abdominal agony. "Aah. Aah! God."
Harry had reached the grounds and was steering the floating Voldemort away from the Whomping Willow, wondering where to go. His first thought was the Room of Requirement, but that was no good now so many students knew of its existence. The second option was the distinctly uninviting Chamber of Secrets. Harry tried to think of other locations and realised that he appeared to have formulated a plan, viz., to hide Voldemort and keep him alive until Dumbledore came back from wherever he'd buggered off to.
"Unhhh," Voldemort moaned. "You have killed me with laughter."
Harry parked Voldemort under a tree and said "Listen, why wouldn't you let me call a Healer? I ought to get you to St. Mungo's."
"No point," said Voldemort.
"But you – " said Harry, trying not to recall or relive the shaking in the dark.
"I've got a unicorn horn stuck inside me," he said. "The wound is mortal, there's no possible cure."
"Are you sure?" Harry said suspiciously. "You might be lying."
Shrug. "Ask Severus Snape, if you're that bothered about it."
Harry spluttered. "Yeah, I'm really going to ask Snape and get Stunned again. So..."
"Is that why he was shouting at you? For trying to kill yourself?"
"What? Oh. Yeah, I left a suicide note at the top of the Tower."
"We need somewhere to hide you."
"I must say, I can't see why he was annoyed that you'd tried to make away with yourself."
"Probably because it didn't work. And he saw me in the nude. How long before you die?"
"A few days at most."
Harry paused. "D'you want me to kill you?"
"Do I hell," snarled Voldemort.
"Well, you're dying anyway!"
"So are you! You've only another eighty years or so! Shall I kill you now, Potter? Thought not..."
Harry and Voldemort shouted platitudes at each other for a while before Voldemort was gripped by further pains in his stomach and couldn't speak, and in the silence Harry realised, "The Shrieking Shack! That's where I should have hidden you. Bugger."
"Fuck the Shrieking Shack," enunciated Voldemort as vehemently as one can in a whisper. "I'm not spending my last few days in a hovel in the dark."
"I thought you liked dark."
"Fuck you, Potter, fuck you. I want some bloody sunshine, or even three days of solid rain would do. I want to die outside, now cowering in some bloody hole... ahhhh, the pain, the fucking pain."
Harry found this sentiment surprisingly easy to relate to. "I just can't think where to put you."
"Ruined bothy on one of the hills," croaked Voldemort. "It's got a Gaelic name that I can't spell or pronounce. I used to – aah... I used to sneak off there when I was about thirteen."
"Can you find the way there?"
"Tell me roughly where it is."
"East of the loch and south of the Forbidden Forest, two hopes north from where that cave is. I assume the cave's still there. You can see a cairn and the remains of a..."
"We're not going into the cave, are we?" Harry interrupted suddenly, having identified it as Sirius's rat larder. He had no desire whatsoever to see Voldemort there.
"I've had enough of caves. Turn left."
"Isn't the Slytherin common room underground?" Harry said, taking the left fork where Voldemort indicated.
"It's under the lake. Beautiful when the sun's shining. I wish I could see it again."
"Can't we Polyjuice you or something?" Harry asked in frustration.
"Wouldn't help, I'd still have the horn."
They continued in silence, Harry trying to make Voldemort's progress reasonably smooth as they continued up beside a burn, along some scors (Harry ingeniously putting a foot over the top of one, but not quite falling off it) and across occasional scree.
"The bothy's here somewhere," Voldemort said.
"Really?" Harry said doubtfully, peering around. "Lumos maxima," he said, but the increased light showed nothing but a multitude of fiddleheads peeping out of last year's bracken. "I can't see it," he said, taking a few steps forwards, and promptly fell over a wall.
Then there was packing up a big pile of dead bracken to make a bed for Voldemort, and settling him down on it as comfortably as was possible given the circumstances; and enquiring re: his toilet arrangements, and discovered that he hadn't eaten food since 1972; and snatching the wand away at the last minute as Voldie tried to grab it.
"I should throw a rock at you," Voldemort mumbled, "but I'd never manage it."
"You shouldn't. You'll damage yourself. Are you warm enough here?"
Voldemort peered up from his nest of bracken with amusement. "It's not me who's wearing pyjamas and nothing else. Your feet are cut to shreds."
Harry stared down at his raw, bare feet. "I didn't notice."
"You owe me a life debt, you know."
Harry was jolted. "What?! Because I nearly killed you?"
"Because I saved your life. Unless you believe you could have survived a fall from the top of the Astronomy Tower if you hadn't landed on – "
"I wanted to die! And you didn't DO anything!"
Voldemort leered at him horribly. "The fact remains, Potter, that you're alive. Do you want me to fix that? Just give me that wand and I'll do a quick Killing Curse. I promise I'll be gentle."
"Then you can damn well thank me, boy, for being your mattress. It wasn't you who fell on that fucking unicorn."
This was indisputable. "I'll cast a Warming Charm on you," Harry decided. "And I'd better Scourgify your robe, too."
"Much better," said Voldemort, now snug and smug amidst the bracken. "Although if I were you I'd warm your feet and Scourgify your face. And can you bring me a quill and parchment when you come back tomorrow? I want to write."
"Quill and parchment. Nothing else?"
"You sound as if you're going to the supermarket."
"How will I get permission to get out of Hogwarts?" Harry worried. "They'll probably give me 24-hour detention for the whole of the next year."
Voldemort rolled his eyes. "Break out, you law-abiding idiot."
At around four o' clock in the morning Harry made it back into the Hogwarts grounds, mumbling to himself loudly. He spent a few minutes pacing up and down and slamming his fist into the palm of his other hand; he also punched a tree, although the tree was indifferent. Once he had successfully thought about things, he wandered back up to the castle.
Once over the threshold, he realised the one topic he hadn't considered was how to explain his disappearance. He tried to think of a plausible explanation, and failed disgracefully. The only thing clear in his mind was that he had to avoid Snape, or at least to cast Protego the instant he saw him coming. Gripping his wand in readiness, Harry remembered with a shock that it was Voldemort's. He wondered whether anyone would notice that he carried a different wand, or identify it as the former Tom Riddle's. He decided that the only person who could do that was Dumbledore, who was not here. He sent mute psychic encouragement to Dumbledore to return as quickly as possible.
The next day was a fiasco. Harry was traced to the Gryffindor dorm by the trail of little bloody footprints he had left on the stairs and corridors. An irate Professor McGonagall marched straight into the boy's dorm at six o' clock in the morning, eliciting yelps of horror from Seamus, Neville and Ron, and dragged Harry out of bed with a snarl.
"Mr Potter!" she shouted. "Kindly explain yourself!"
Harry, who had only had an hour and a half of sleep, wasn't up to explaining anything. He moaned.
"What's he done now?" said Ron, frightened.
"I think I was in the Forbidden Forest," Harry slurred, his head gummed up by fatigue. A moment later he remembered this wasn't the best lie to have chosen.
"The Forbidden Forest! The Forbidden Forest, Potter, is FORBIDDEN to students! Perhaps we should have named it The Forest of Instant Death in order to get through the stubborn skulls of creatures like you! WHY WERE YOU RUNNING AROUND THE FORBIDDEN FOREST AT MIDNIGHT WITHOUT YOUR WAND?!"
"Don't know," Harry said in a muffled voice.
"He woke me up in the middle of the night throwing things everywhere," Dean Thomas said vindictively. This was the second time he had been woken up and he despaired of passing his Arithmancy test.
"He didn't know what he was doing, Professor," Ron defended stoutly. "You heard what Snape said – "
"PROFESSOR Snape, Mr Weasley! He said that Potter had gone out of his mind, and I must say that I am inclined to agree with him! Fifty points from Gryffindor, Potter, and detention every night next week!"
"But, Professor – "
Harry's feeble arguments were crushed under the juggernaut of McGonagall rage. By the time he went down to breakfast, Harry had been informed that his Invisibility Cloak had been confiscated and that he would be reported to the headmaster as soon as that became logistically possible. Furthermore, Voldemort's blood had proved to be remarkably sticky, and it had taken a great deal of scrubbing in the shower to get it off. Harry was sleep-deprived, disturbed and had a headache, and he confidently predicted that he would fall asleep in his porridge.
That was before every pair of eyes in the Great Hall snapped round to stare at him; and as Harry stood poised, horrified, under his sudden bell jar, there was an expectant silence and then every student at the dining tables burst out laughing. It was like walking into an alternate reality; but Harry couldn't think of anything to do other than sit down and act as if everything was normal, so he stumbled to his seat red-faced and curiously ashamed, as though it were him that had done something stupid and not everyone else. And they carried on doing it. All the time he was eating his breakfast he could hear their remarks, dysphonious as the jangling of coathangers.
"D'you think it's true that he tried to kill himself?" – as loud as possible, so that he would overhear it.
"Potter, did Snape see your willy?"
Then, from Draco Malfoy: "Psychopath."
Harry paused mid-mouthful and raised his eyebrows at Malfoy, savouring for a moment the feeling of being able to say, "It's all over. Your boss is on the fell above the Black Loch, dying." It really wouldn't do, though; he let his eyes drop back to his plate, and the moment passed.
"They're being more stupid now than they were when I was the Heir of Slytherin," Harry commented, annoyed.
"Well..." said Hermione resignedly. "Nobody's being killed this time, so I suppose they're not feeling so serious."
Glare. "Hermione, I was being killed. I landed..." he paused. "I landed on something soft."
"OK," Hermione said uncertainly. "Right."
Ron snorted porridge up his nose and had a coughing fit. "Yeah, as if, Harry. Like there's anything soft enough that you could jump off the Astronomy Tower."
As he carried on snickering, Hermione gave a half-hearted smile and turned to Harry with a bewildered expression, awaiting an explanation. All she got was a stiff smile. Harry hadn't felt the slightest need to apologise last night, nor did he now have any desire to explain.
Then, to his horror, he saw over Hermione's shoulder that Ginny was starting to approach, an uncharacteristically hesitant took on her face. Harry leapt to his feet and ran away from her as if he had a bomb strapped to his back. His exit was noted by far fewer people than his entrance, but there were still loud guffaws from the Gryffindors to make him hate them as he escaped.
Leaning against the corridor wall and wheezing for breath, he wondered why people always seemed to find it so funny when you tried to hurt yourself. It seemed to him that it ought to be everyone else explaining themselves.
Before Transfiguration Professor McGonagall cornered him again, much to his horror, and gave him his wand.
"Professor Snape took this when he found it on top of the Astronomy Tower," she said coldly. "He also found your Invisibility Cloak, which, as I have already told you, you certainly are not getting back..."
"Be quiet, Mr Potter! When the Headmaster returns tomorrow he will have the final say, but given the trouble you caused last night, I've no intention of letting you do something even worse. I sincerely hope you can explain yourself to Professor Dumbledore."
Harry had the best explanation of all time to give to Professor Dumbledore, so he was not unduly worried by this threat. He was superduly worried by the thought of Defence Against the Dark Arts that afternoon, in which Snape would probably do something appalling. It might be a better idea to skive off, steal some food via Dobby, and take Voldemort his quill and parchment. He reflected how typical it was of Hogwarts that the prospect of a DADA lesson made him want to seek sanctuary with the Dark Lord.
"You came back," Voldemort snapped. His grim face perfectly matched the leaden clouds.
"Didn't you want me to?"
"Yes," Voldie grudgingly admitted. He rustled his bracken loudly and said, "I missed you."
"When?" Harry said blankly, assuming that Voldemort had failed to score a hit on him with a projectile.
"While you were away. I was all alone."
Voldemort was now turning big, distressed red eyes on him and rasping quietly, "I don't want to die, Harry, this thing is killing me. And the nightmares, god, the nightmares..."
Harry was inclined to believe that Voldemort should have contemplated the inadvisable nature of death before he went round killing other people's parents. He said as much, and Voldemort gave him a wounded look.
"It's too late for enmity, much too late. I'm dying, boy. Come here for a moment, I don't want to die alone," he whispered.
Harry thought this was ridiculously melodramatic, but reluctantly crunched over to Voldemort's nest and started to kneel down. He was halfway into position when a high-pitched voice shouted "Ah! Iss that him thur? Kill sssic a bonny lad, ye musst be aff yer heid!"
A small adder crawled out of the bracken and onto Harry's lap. Harry looked on, bewildered, as Voldemort stared at her with an expression of the utmost exasperation and said "Typical Potter. Even the bloody snakes are on your side."
"Were you trying to kill me?" asked Harry, as comprehension finally dawned. The prospect was alarming, but tremendously reassuring. A homicidal Voldemort was, after all, a much more sensible concept than one who made quivery proclamations of love. He sat down cross-legged and let the adder, hissing appreciatively, curl up in the warmth.
"I've got about twenty of them in here with me," Voldemort observed, curling up himself in his nest. A chorus of ophine voices peeped concurrence. "They usually nest against the south wall to get the sun, but at night they decided it was warmer in here."
"Brasss humanssss weather oot there," the adder agreed.
"That's cute," Harry said appreciatively.
"Beats humans any day."
"Unless you're going to possess one of them when you're dead."
This statement seemed to cause Voldemort some logical distress. "Possess one of them? What d'you mean, boy?"
"Yessss, what?" demanded the snakes.
"I thought that was what you did in Armenia. When you didn't have a body."
Pause. "Well, I do have a body, so why should I want to do it now?"
After a lengthy verbal comedy of errors, they finally established that the situation in which Voldemort now found himself was not the same as that which had occurred when he tried to kill Harry. After his body died he would not drift around as a bodiless, aimless sprite; he would be well and truly dead, destroyed along with his Horcruxes, because the unicorn's horn held a power antipathetic to his own.
"Is that love?" asked Harry.
"One day you'll drop this ridiculous pantomime of 'good' and 'evil'," said Voldie. "There is a power in unicorns which is antipathetic to mine, and there it ends."
"Very far from right. It means I am dying."
Harry couldn't see why this was a problem, and said so. There followed a short shouting match, which ended abruptly when Voldemort shouted too loudly and made the unicorn horn jolt. There was a long silence while the paralysed Voldemort grimaced in agony, and Harry joined in, because the pain had travelled through their connection. At last Harry became suspicious, then deeply bored, and finally succumbed to his better nature and rubbed Voldemort's shoulders.
"I've got your quill and parchment."
"What quill and parchment?"
"You asked for them. And Professor Dumbledore's coming back tomorrow."
Voldemort stared at Harry in the manner of Caesar regarding Brutus.
"Why, you little shit. You're not going to bring that old goat to gloat," he said.
Well, if he was dying anyway, of course, there wasn't really much point. "I've got to tell him something," Harry said plaintively.
"So tell him you decided to run round the grounds naked! Tell him you did it for a bet! Tell him you were visiting a secret lover in Hogsmeade! Tell him anything, but DON'T TELL HIM ABOUT ME!"
Harry couldn't think of anything to say to this.
"You do believe me when I say I'm dying? That it'll all be over in, at most, a couple of days?"
"Who's your least favourite teacher, boy?"
Harry pondered where to start. He decided not to keep Voldemort waiting, so randomly picked, "Umbridge."
"And as you lie dying, tragically impaled on a basilisk fang, the young Malfoy boy comes and gibbers at you for a while and then decides (for your own good, of course) to take you to Professor Umbridge?"
Harry saw what he meant. "I don't know why you hate him so much."
"I was a brilliant student."
"I bet he was a brilliant teacher," Harry said angrily.
"He was not."
"You would say that. Just because you couldn't fool him like you fooled all the rest."
"Not just because of that."
"Why did you come and get the unicorn hair yourself?" he asked. "If Ollivander wanted it, he should have bloody got it."
"I needed blood and powdered horn. You've got to kill the unicorn to get them."
"Oh. – And Ollivander's incapable of killing a unicorn, is he?"
"Perhaps you've forgotten the curse?"
"Curse? Oh, the..."
"Most wizards are weak. Few of them would put up with a little curse or two in exchange for power."
"I don't know," Harry said absently.
"Besides, he's not a virgin."
Harry said, "Mm – I didn't know it was men virgins that unicorns liked. I thought it was girls."
"Either, they're not particular."
"Oh. Er – hm. Um. You know, that seems a bit, like, odd."
"What does? Being a virgin at sixty-nine?"
"Well, yes. But you were so good-looking when you were Tom Riddle, I'd have thought they'd be queuing up."
"They were. Simpletons! You get more use out of them by being a tease. There are a few magical benefits that arise from virginity, like being attractive to unicorns, obviously, and I wanted to hold onto those."
"How old were you when you decided that?" asked Harry, unable to believe his ears.
"Ten or eleven, I suppose."
While Harry was digesting this Voldemort said, "You can save me, you know."
"What? You said it was mortal!"
"It IS mortal," he said in annoyance, "unless you forgive me and invite me to possess you."
"Possess me! Why would I want you to possess me?"
"I've no idea. I can give you plenty of reasons why I would like to possess you, if you'd like."
"Forgive you? Forgive you for what?"
"Absolutely everything I've ever done."
"And then, as a reward, I get your face sticking out of the back of my head?"
"No, you get me in your whole body. I've done it before."
"You – What?! When?"
"At the Ministry of Magic, last summer. Only for a few seconds, though."
Harry said coldly, "D'you mean that thing that hurt more than anything's ever hurt in my entire bloody life?"
"Did it?" said Voldemort. "I suppose it would. Opposing forms of magic once again."
"And you really expect me to do this?" said Harry. "It hurt worse than the Cruciatus. Give me one reason why I would do that for the whole time, maybe years, until you get another body again."
Voldemort grinned at him, laughed, and was promptly caught up in the internal agony of the horn's movement. He writhed for a while, an extremely lonely tear making its way down one cheek, and wheezed, "I could lie to you and tell you I'll be purified, Potter, turned into a good man, but I doubt you'd ever fall for it. I want to live, boy. I like being alive as much as the next wizard, and considerably more than you do. I haven't got any other reason than that."
"You shouldn't laugh so much," Harry said severely. "It's making you worse."
"It's too late," said Voldie. "It doesn't matter now."
Harry looked away in discomfort, because Voldemort was staring across the dark loch with a grumpy expression, and the lights of Hogwarts had flickering aqueous twins that Harry found particularly captivating; and it had occurred to him that the reason Voldie had come to kill his own unicorn had nothing to do with convenience or competence, but rather with his fondness for Hogwarts and desire to see it once more; and this made Harry characteristically angry and he stamped across the bothy in frustration and kicked a few rocks.
"What are you doing?" said Voldemort when he got back. "Is this another one of your strange ways of destroying yourself?"
Harry was extremely offended that his respect for Voldemort's finer feelings had met such an ungrateful response. Moreover, he suspected this was yet another suicide/self-mutilation jibe, which, in fact, it turned out to be.
"GOD!" he said. "Not you as well!"
"Well? Why would you want to kill yourself?" demanded Voldemort. "Death comes quickly enough to us all. What kind of maniac wants to hasten the process?"
"The kind of maniac that doesn't want to be alive any more," Harry said between gritted teeth.
"What about your life has been that repellent? I've seen amputees in bomb shelters with more will to live than you!"
Harry promptly listed all the things in his life that had been that repellent; for most of which, of course, Voldemort had been responsible. They started another shouting match, which quickly degenerated into a whispering match.
"You don't sit down and think through all the death stuff," Harry said angrily. "You just need to do it. It's just... a feeling, like being hungry."
"Hungry! Hungry for death?"
"You're the Death Eater, not me."
Voldemort got pissed off and gave a quote by Lenin so unspeakably banal it had the chill of death about it. Harry responded with an even worse one from Nietzche, and they shouted platitudes and clichés at ever-increasing volume and wasted half the time they had left.
Harry lay in bed that evening and stared up at the red and gold hangings. The row when he arrived back at school had been cataclysmic, and Professor McGonagall had banned him outright from leaving the castle; but Harry couldn't bring himself to care. This was partly because he was so confused, but mostly because he was falling asleep on the spot. He had swayed up the stairs to his dormitory and fallen asleep in his clothes.
Then there had been dreams; very senseless and frustrating ones like fringe theatre, in which confusingly almost-recognisable characters spoke frenetically from behind distorted wooden masks, and he flipped over monotonous grey cards faster and faster, trying to find the one that had the correct pattern on it; and at first he failed, and then the dream changed and he'd got it after all. He went through the Forbidden Forest, which wasn't really a forest at all, just trees painted on a cardboard backdrop; and it turned out all to have been a cheat, because Voldemort was already dead, lying in the snow, calm and blue and very peaceful.
Then Harry was woken up by the terrible pain caused by Voldemort trying to move, and had to lie still, salivating in agony, for a minute or so until Voldemort's entrails went more or less back to normal. With the pain and the dream still fresh in his mind, he acknowledged for the first time that Voldemort really was going to die; there were all sorts of things he'd never be able to do again, and the fact that he was an evil Dark Lord wouldn't make him any less dead than Cedric Diggory or Sirius. He remembered belatedly that Voldemort was pathologically frightened of death as well, and that surely couldn't be helping him much.
The bed hangings looked rather on the old side. Harry wondered how long they lasted; presumably not fifty years. All the same, there must have been generations of Hogwarts students who did things in much the same way, in the same surroundings, and it gave an illusion of continuity; when in fact everything could be taken away from you very easily if you happened, say, to stand below a tower when somebody was jumping off it. Tight.
And Professor Dumbledore would be back tomorrow.
How long had Voldemort got left? Harry asked himself. Possibly long enough for Harry to take Dumbledore to see him. See him? Kill him, quite possibly, or take him to the Ministry or something equally dreadful. Well, Harry knew Dumbledore wouldn't let anyone get Kissed, but still. Voldie wouldn't be very happy.
Then he wondered why he hadn't told anyone already; Hermione and Ron, or Professor McGonagall? He scratched that question at once and concentrated on the real one: what was it about that suicide-impalement combination that had driven him crazy? But he found he didn't really want to think about that either, since it made him curl up with shame inside, so he sank back into his confusion and decided that killing Voldemort was not what it was cracked up to be, since he had anticipated it, planned it, yearned for it as the solution to all his troubles, and now he'd done it by accident and was as confused as ever.
Harry woke up in the morning, and immediately wished he hadn't. He lay and compiled a list of reasons why he shouldn't get up, which were: he would have to put up with random insults from almost everyone; he would get in trouble for not having done his homework; he would have to tolerate stabs of appalling agony from Voldemort, yet wouldn't be able to tell anyone why he was in pain; Ginny might see him; and he was in a bad mood. Then he compiled a list of reasons for rising, which read as follows:
All the same, he did get up, and wandered blearily and drearily from place to place, trying not to scream whenever Voldemort moved.
Only one thing could make the situation much worse at that point, viz.:
"...probably just because of Potter," a male voice sneered.
"You shouldn't make fun of him for that," another voice said with a rather feeble sternness, and dear god, it was Cho Chang; "it's a very serious issue."
"Well, maybe, but not when Potter's doing it, it isn't," Marietta Edgecombe said dismissively; and as they walked past there was silence.
Harry grabbed his face with his right hand and tried to tear it off. To his mild surprise, this time it worked; the skin ripped off his cheek with a sucking noise and hung down onto his jaw, slippery blood running everywhere. He wanted to run after the Ravenclaws and shout "What kind of person has to try to kill themself before you think it's serious?", but he reckoned there wasn't really much point. Besides, he'd done enough gibbering about philosophy with Voldemort yesterday, and that hadn't got them very far. Time to get on with things, he decided, and he rushed agitatedly towards Dumbledore's office and straight into Ron and Neville, who were heading to Gryffindor Tower to find out why Harry wasn't in Charms.
"D'you know if Dumbledore's back?" Harry barked before either of them could get a word in edgeways.
"No," said Ron, so pale he resembled a ginger Dalmatian. "Harry, what's happened, there's blood – "
"Oh yeah," Harry said distractedly; Voldemort's insides had just made a particularly nasty lurch. "I pulled my face off."
There followed the usual Caesura Of Doom, then Ron giggled nervously in the register of a castrato. Neville did not. He looked horrified.
"Harry," he gulped, "what's happened? You're not the same. It's like you're under Imperius or – you're – you're – " He swallowed very visibly and said indistinctly, "You're mad."
This was the first time in the last three days that anyone had said anything sensible. Harry stared at Neville in astonishment, swept him into a bear hug and said, trying to fight back a sudden attack of weird tears, "It's a good thing you're here, Neville."
Neville looked flabbergasted; possibly nobody had ever before said it was a good thing he was there. An alternative explanation was that he was less than pleased about being hugged by a bloody Harry.
"It's all right, mate," said Ron, who was still pale but had managed to pull himself together. He patted Harry on the shoulder and said "You come up to the hospital wing and we'll get your face stuck back on. McGonagall'll come and let you know as soon as Dumbledore gets back, she's been having kittens."
This might have worked, except that at that moment the bell rang, the Charms classroom door flew open, and a full class of sixth-years marched out into the corridor to stop dead at the sight of a faceless Harry Potter glued to Neville Longbottom (literally, as the blood was drying) while Ron Weasley patted them. There was a stunned, gawping silence, during which Ron silently hoped that the students wouldn't do what he thought they were about to do. Then, with terrible inevitability, they all burst out laughing.
Harry didn't really have much time to write a thesis on why he was a maniac, or why Ron wasn't, or why it couldn't have been he, Harry, who was tortured into insanity instead of Neville's parents (because, after all, he wouldn't have noticed); or what insanity was, or what sanity was, or why this feeling came down suddenly with no warning. He could only think that he needed to get out of here by the quickest possible route; get as far away as possible from the people who thought this was funny.
He cleared his throat. "You seem to think," he informed the gaping, goggling students, "that I don't really mean this, that it's all a big joke. It isn't. And you also seem to think that this is funny. It's not."
And there was the window.
He flew through the air for the second and last time, once again trailing blood; thinking irritably how odd it was to die in the sunshine instead of at dusk, but still, bloody hell, it was amazing. He exulted in the feeling as he fell over and over through the air, peripherally wondering how much it would hurt when he hit the ground; and then a gigantic object hit him very hard in the arms and midriff, dragged him in circles through the air several times, and dumped him painfully on the grass.
Harry lay there, flat on his back and completely winded, for several seconds; the sky was an unnaturally strong lapis lazuli blue, and the sun very hot, and he noted this leisurely in the awful hiatus before his lungs started to work. Then a branch appeared in his field of vision and smacked him in the face, and he finally realised he'd been caught by the Whomping Willow. It didn't seem any more fond of him than it had been when he flew the car into it, and he made his very slow escape, crawling into the Forbidden Forest and hoping he would be able to breathe again soon. The Whomping Willow shook its branches at him as if to say "Good riddance to bad rubbish."
Harry walked in dazed circles in the Forest for some time, not really aware of either his location or his destination; he only came to his senses when he heard brisk thumps and the shaking of branches. It finally occurred to him that he ought to run away, but there wasn't really time, so it was most fortunate that the mystery thumper turned out to be a cheerfully humming Hagrid.
"Harry!" he said, stopping his humming on the instant and dumping an armful of turnips on the ground. "What 'appened to your face? You look like a dragon walked all over yeh!"
"McGonagall told me to," Harry said hazily, not noticing that he was answering an entirely different question. "She said she was fed up of me chopping myself up and I was to run round the castle six times." He was rather impressed with his own lying ability.
"Yeh shouldn't be out here covered in blood, Harry," Hagrid said firmly. "The smell'll attract all kinds of creatures, and some of 'em are dangerous. D'yeh want to come back to the cabin?"
"Oh no, I've got three more laps to do, but please show me out of the forest."
"All right, then," came the dubious response, "but you've to go up to Madam Pomfrey straight after, get that seen to. Looks 'orrible."
Harry helped Hagrid gather his turnips and the two of them trundled through the Forest in amiable silence, Hagrid because he enjoyed Harry's company and Harry because his mind was a total blank. Suddenly his brain reactivated itself and he said in an innocent voice, "Is everything OK in the Forest, Hagrid?"
"Oh, not too bad, Harry, not too bad, considering that unicorn got killed," Hagrid said, frowning. "Don't know nuthin' that kills unicorns. Bad business, very bad."
"I heard that if an evil creature gets gored by a unicorn, they die within three days."
"Really?" said Hagrid in surprise. "Gored? How d'you get gored by a unicorn?"
"You know, stuck on its horn."
"Aye, but how? They're peaceful creatures, unicorns. Don't attack folk."
"Oh. Does that mean it's not true, then?"
"Oh, it's probably true. Every part of a unicorn's magical, Harry. The blood, the 'air... And evil creatures don't like 'em. You'd be better off asking Firenze, though, cos I don't know much about good an' evil. I just know nothin' usually kills unicorns, and if one's dead, that's a hell of a bad sign."
Firenze. That's who he ought to have asked for advice. Harry restrained the impulse to whack himself in the face; it had suffered enough damage for the moment. Oh, well, it was too late now; and besides, Firenze was too... distracting. They left the trees and came out into the castle grounds.
"Thanks, Hagrid," Harry gushed. "Now, which way was I going? Oh, yeah, over there," and he jogged off towards Voldemort with Hagrid waving at him happily under the bold sky, as though bruised neeps were his only problem.
Harry set off to the bothy along a path unrecognisable in its balminess. The sky clashed with lime-green fiddleheads and garish foxgloves, and the typically damp terrain was sending up wisps of steam under the sun. Harry took his outer robe off and stuffed it under his arm. Bees buzzed.
He'd tried to kill himself twice. He fixed his mind on that problem. He'd tried to kill himself twice, and both times he'd been saved. For what? Why was he alive? If his only purpose in life was to kill Voldemort, then he might just as well have been killed in the first fall, mightn't he? Voldie would still be dying.
And Voldemort was being strangely amiable, with the minor glitch of trying to kill him, and all his friends and teachers had suddenly gone off their heads. Perhaps it was because Voldemort was dying. That must concentrate the mind. Oh, and he needed Harry to save him. How odd; Harry was suddenly Voldemort's potential saviour instead of everybody else's. They didn't seem to think much of him at the minute.
He tried to think what he ought to do, but it turned out to be impossible. The sun was hot and the air was humid, and every stage of the way was glowing with life. He had no idea how to make the decision logically, and his mind kept returning to the fact that he always seemed to be rewarded for doing insanely dangerous things; what he was best at was being a sacrifice.
"What's up with you?" Voldemort rustled in surprise.
"What's up with me?" Harry repeated, baffled, and realised that he was once again covered in mud and bruises, not to mention that his cheek was still hanging off. "Oh. That. I was scratching my face because they're all being arseholes." He sat down. "I don't know why they're all so pissed off with me."
"I do. It's because you're queer."
"I am NOT!" Harry said vociferously.
"Oh, really, Potter, who cares? As soon as they call the psychiatrists in, you're in Wonderland. I got psychoanalysed in the thirties."
"What? – What, in that orphanage?"
"They were afraid of me enough that the education authority stumped up the money," Voldie said dismissively. "They thought I might grow up to be a psychopath if they didn't have me sorted out."
"Doesn't seem to have worked very well."
"They don't want to do anything medically useful, Potter. It's a battle of wills like everything else. Will you do what they want you to, or the other way round? That's your problem. You want to keep everyone happy at once. It doesn't happen."
Harry half-heartedly debated the wisdom of using Voldemort as his counsellor, and discovered he didn't really care. "I thought I was making them happy," he said miserably. "They don't seem to want me dead, but they don't want me alive either."
"There's someone here who wouldn't mind if you made him happy," said Voldemort, fangs gleaming.
Harry shied away from the implications and fiddled with some bracken. "I didn't tell Dumbledore."
"Good. I can die in peace."
Harry caught his breath a little and said "So you do think you're going to die, then."
"I am going to die, unless you forgive me and let me possess you, and the odds are, frankly, pretty low."
"Are you going to try to kill me again?... Where are all the snakes?"
"They've all gone off sunbathing, and no, I am not."
Harry felt a speech coming on and said "Careful. Don't move around."
"Oh yes. Thank you. D'you think you could help – that's right. And could you move this bracken off me? I'm getting too hot."
Harry excavated Voldie and laid him carefully on a fresh bed of bracken. Voldie settled himself comfortably like a hen on the nest and said, "I understand it all now, Potter. 'Power the Dark Lord knows not', eh? Very true, and even you don't know it, although that's pretty much the point. You are the Chosen One. I've finished all the calculations," he said, with a nod to the quill and parchment that were lying in the corner of the bothy, "and there is no doubt."
"Calculations?" said Harry, picking up the parchment, and found that every single sheet was covered with appallingly boring equations in eye-blastingly small handwriting. Just looking at it made him shiver.
"Yes. Did you take Arithmancy? Or Divination?"
"I did some Divination. It was mostly crap."
"Well, there's no room for doubt here, Potter. This morning the sky was mostly clear, and I've never seen Venus so bright. You have defeated me. By accident," said Voldie, and cackled like a punctured bellows. "The Chosen One. It was when you told me you were only trying to commit suicide that I got my first suspicions. Nobody leaps off a tower and lands on their worst enemy and a unicorn. The fates determined it; the stars have spoken."
Harry went down on his knees next to the bracken-nest and shoved his face into Voldemort's armpit. After a few moments he started stroking Voldemort's shoulder, and Voldemort patted the back of his head.
Harry hoped that this performance gave the impression that he was overcome by emotion. It felt rather odd to him, but it was the only thing he'd been able to think of off-hand that would hide his face from Voldemort and thus guard him against Legilimency. He doubted enormously that the whims of fate had caused him to land on Voldie; that might have been the case once, but not twice. Landing in the Whomping Willow had made him remember the time in primary school when, chased by Dudley's gang, he suddenly found himself perched on the flaunching; it was autonomantic magic, nothing more. When he jumped, his magic automatically tried to save him by making him land on something soft. Well, not soft, but, y'know, he was alive.
He didn't think he wanted Voldie to know that. Come to mention it, he had no idea what to make of Voldie any more. Who dies just because the stars have ordained it, let alone spends their penultimate day on Earth scrawling twenty-seven pages of equations to show that it's necessary? It was death by maths.
Voldemort's chest was surprisingly warm.
Harry woke up some time later, and it took him a while to realise he'd been asleep. Voldemort was snoring loudly. Harry slid out from the Dark Lord's armpit and trundled across the fell. He took a leak well away from the burn and wandered aimlessly back to the bothy.
Lying at the bottom of the dyke was a litter of little rodent bones and skulls. Harry picked some of them out and arranged them in ladders. Their virgate pallor reminded him irresistibly of Voldemort, and he glanced up at the snoozing tyrant a few times and tried not to snigger. Soon he had a procession of bones about a foot long; little crackly white skeletons washed bare by Scottish rain.
He moved some bracken aside and suddenly discovered a colony of the most remarkable things, smooth and light and irregularly shaped. They resembled freshly scrubbed new potatoes, which they clearly were not. Maybe mushrooms, then; young shaggy ink caps, perhaps? Of course not; wrong season. It was several moments before Harry touched them, found the broken flaps where the young snakes had emerged, and identified them as last year's grass snake eggs. In a few weeks, when all the courtship rituals were over and Voldemort's life, too, this was what the "scaly wee lassies" would produce.
Harry stared at the eggshells for some time, wondering why he had the beginnings of tears in his eyes and taking care to hide this from Voldemort. The shells were such small things to produce entire, living grass snakes, so little and bumpy and pliable; some smeared with a fairly sizeable quantity of dirt that, like dingy clouds smeared across blue sky, only emphasised the whiteness of the shell.
They actually reminded him of Voldemort's head, as well.
Five minutes later Voldemort started to twitch and mutter in his sleep as he felt a series of tickles on his leg, chest, face. Then the tickles became prickles and he scowled, opened his eyes and gave a great yelp, followed by a snort of laughter as he discovered the little skeleton dancing on his chest.
"What did you make it out of?" he said in amusement, watching as the creature tipped its head to one side and enthusiastically waved a little bony hand.
"Rat bones and a snake egg," said Harry, cackling. "It's you."
Voldemort gave another snort despite himself and said "You've a cruel tongue, boy."
The skeleton looked up at him for a moment, then sat down with its back to him and quietly hugged its legs to its chest, the picture of wounded misery. Voldemort discovered that, even with a unicorn horn leaping about in your entrails, laughter was generally worth it.
When the lance of fire had left his guts, Harry returned to Voldemort's armpit and broke up bits of bracken. The little skeleton danced and played on top of the ruined wall; a small adder turned up and started talking to it.
"How do I invite you to possess me?" enquired Harry.
"You have to forgive me first. Ego absolvo te."
"'Come inside me'."
Voldemort's cackle this time resembled the shaking of a baked-bean tin full of marbles.
"I want to forgive you," Harry argued, then played unhappily with some lichen and said, "I want desperately to forgive you, but I don't know why."
"Because you think it'll help you to forgive yourself," Voldemort said without interest, as though this were obvious. "You think you're a worse person than I am. You want to punish yourself for being queer."
"I AM NOT QUEER!"
"And perhaps you want to save me from myself," concluded Voldemort.
"Can I?" asked Harry. "Can I offer to save you in exchange for you stopping all the evil stuff?"
"No. The forgiveness has to be unconditional. It can't be a bargain or you wouldn't be giving it freely."
"But you're dying anyway, so I'm still doing you a favour."
"I'm not convinced."
"But I'm freely saving you from yourself, so there you go, and can you swear an Unbreakable Vow?"
"No. We'd need a third person."
"We could use one of the snakes."
"The third person," said Voldemort, rolling his eyes, "needs to hold a wand, and snakes haven't got hands."
"Cast an... erm... a Wizarding Vow, then."
"I think you mean a wizard's oath, and it's possible to break them."
Harry picked all the bits of bracken out of his shirt and lay watching the little skeleton. It was now riding on the adder's back as the reptilian destrier zoomed back and forth along the wall. At last he said, "Back to square one, then."
"I would owe you a fairly sizeable life debt, boy, if that's any help."
"I don't..." Harry sighed and said, "I don't know why I went mad... I wish I wasn't mad now, when you need saving... except of course if I hadn't needed to kill myself I wouldn't have fallen on you in the first place."
"You hardly needed to kill yourself," croaked Voldemort.
"Oh, not again. Look, I never asked to be like this, it comes from nowhere."
"Like large teenage boys appearing out of the blue to spear one on a unicorn."
"Well, yes... Oh, for god's sake. There's always like... I always set out with this, like, intention of telling you an incredibly important thing, and we just end up talking, well, crap."
"What's the incredibly important thing?" Voldemort said tiredly. His eyes were clouded now, like a snake's as it prepares to shed its skin; prepares to shed one body and move on to the next.
"Well, you know. I... you know already. I just can't think of anything to say."
"Well, yes," agreed Voldemort, "it would be a pity if the most eloquent statement you ever made was to impale your archnemesis on a unicorn."
"It was an amazing feeling," Harry mumbled.
"I don't wish to know that."
"Not falling on you," Harry said irritably. "The flying bit," and he fell silent again. For a while he reflected how similar the suicide had been to the first time he rode a broomstick: there is magic, I can fly; the world is not what I thought it was, my life is mine. And in both cases, making the transition from one world to another; to one that was better. He felt sad for his eleven-year-old self, the one that had set forth to Eldorado.
He still couldn't think of anything to say. He rested his head on Voldemort's hand and said "Is there anything I can do for you?"
Voldemort mulled it over. What a ridiculous question, he thought; but then, it was innocence that had killed him and it was innocence that, with any luck, would save him, so he couldn't complain. The poor lad; a dead man walking since before he was born. He resolved that after he had possessed Harry he would try to find him a body of his own.
"I wish the pain would go away," he said, and opened his robes. The pair of them gazed at the rigid horn sticking out of his abdomen, and Voldemort looked down at Harry with his unintentionally horrid smile.
Harry made the pain go away.