A/N: I own nothing. The words in italics refer to past memories or thoughts.
This cannot be happening.
Harry stared at his own hand, wondering at the idea of his losing. He then looked up and away, at the distant stars, open-mouthed, as if trying to figure out why the fates had spun his weave in such horribly comic fashion.
"Did you truly think you could vanquish me, Potter?" Voldemort asked, every syllable trembling with a perverse joy, "If there ever was a god, I am him."
Harry merely looked at Voldemort, utterly stupefied. "But… we are gods," he said blankly, "Gods… we cannot die."
Voldemort merely stared at him for a moment; then the Dark Lord's lipless mouth curled upwards into a grin. "Crucio."
A hundred white-hot rods boring into his body. Pain. Ultimate torture.
Harry grit his teeth, barely even thinking as he convulsed, but not a sound escaped him.
"Your sanity must be frayed indeed," Voldemort said, lifting the curse after a few seconds, his tone mocking, "Has the idea of opposing me done you so much harm?"
Opposing Voldemort. The old ideal. It used to mean something.
A life that once was – based on piteous, subjective notions of the world, ideals of a failed universe. A new world stood on a precipice, waiting for its god. Waiting for him. A well of power sat within him – within them both – that could usher in a revolution, if only they channelled it appropriately.
In another world, he would have followed the charismatic Tom Marvolo Riddle.
In this world – a world that was threatened by the demon standing before him – he was Tom Marvolo Riddle. And he was Harry Potter. The strengths of both, the weaknesses of neither. The youthful exuberance of one, the practised cynicism of the other. The power of one, the sanctity of thought of the other. The memories and experiences of both and the magic of the other. Him.
No. He would not go like this.
"I am immortal, boy," Voldemort said, staring at him, "You had no hope from the start."
"The horcruxes were flawed," Harry spat abruptly, "They always were. That path was sheer folly."
For a moment, even the Dark Lord was nonplussed. Then came the fear, followed shortly by rage. His features twisting in fury, Voldemort snapped his wand up and Harry rose into the air, his hands spread to both sides.
The world was falling away, and he was an ascending deity. Harry Potter was falling. Sinking. And the other was rising.
"The… horcruxes?" Voldemort practically shrieked, "What do you know, Potter? How much do you know?"
Harry merely stared back, hanging helplessly in mid-air.
"HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW?" The Dark Lord screamed.
"Everything," Harry replied, striving to feel something, anything.
Then, the Dark Lord slammed into his very mind, a battering ram of Legilimency that seared into his head, burrowing, seeking and ploughing for his secrets.
And Harry rammed right back.
Walls fell away. Scenes rose into the light and were discarded. He was whole and unholy again.
His hands on the cold stone floor, his body writhing and shrieking, a worm caught on a metaphysical hook, the firm lines of fate dangling him in place. A bait. The prey. The predator.
Shrieks of fear. Shrieks of rage. Shrieks of gods.
He was a single being and neither felt pain.
He was Voldemort – he was power given flesh, an erstwhile immortal, now a mere god, and it was all Harry Potter's fault. The boy would burn, his corpse would be deformed, his flesh fed to monsters hitherto unseen and the universe would learn to loathe his name.
He was Harry Potter – still struggling, still clawing, still striving, hanging onto frayed ideals that were slipping away into the night, never to be seen or heard from again. He had regrets, he had hopes, he wanted to live, he wanted to die, he wanted to be his own man, he wanted to hide in his own shadow, he wanted to have someone to live for, he wanted no one to die for him.
He wanted to destroy this annoyance, vanquish the world, conquer those that would oppose him, bring up a new world – his own – in its place, bring order to chaos.
He wanted to shirk all responsibility, sequester himself away in a dark corner, just breathing, living, basking unafraid in the sun, miles of sand stretching on unto the horizon, azure blue waters lapping away at his worries and taking them far, far away upon distant waves.
He was angry, furious, wrathful, vengeful, power sizzling at his fingertips, an avatar of the universe, a truly impartial being, unbound by ethics, a true god, with no allegiance to deification of himself, or of others, or of things. He was what the world really was – changing, shifting, powerful, sweeping everyone along in his wake.
He was worried, scarred, responsible, idealistic – everything that the other held in scorn. He was a boy who wanted to be just a boy, a man who shall want to be just a man, a pile of bones that shall just be a pile of bones in a grave. A human being living a wondrous dream.
Harry Potter was an apathetic demon.
Lord Voldemort was a pathetic devil.
And Harry Potter would never win. He was too small, too ordinary, too… menial to stand against such an overwhelming force of nature as the other. If he was fearful, the other was his worst nightmare given form. If he was angry, the other was a towering inferno of fury and hate that would annihilate all in its path. He was tiny, insignificant, a pawn. His emotions, his feelings, his sacrifice was too little compared to the Other's.
But there were others that had sacrificed for him.
No. Not for him.
Fierce red hair, warm green eyes, messy black hair, defiant brown eyes.
A shaggy mane, a barking laugh.
Twinkling blue eyes, a long flowing beard.
Lily Potter. James Potter. Sirius Black. Albus Dumbledore.
He was still living, and a human heart still beat in his broken body. An emotion that was forgotten had come to the fore. An emotion that meant nothing to the other. And everything to him.
A part of the man he once was.
He laughed. The Other screamed. The rage, which had towered over them all, splashed impotently against an unchanging world. The sorrow and the sacrifice, the ambition and power seemed meagre compared to the depth of the former emotion.
The world was not yet lost. The Other, au contraire, was utterly and entirely lost.
He pushed the powerful feeling – of an enduring love that could change the world – through to the fragile creature that flowed through him, ignoring its feeble threats. Love thrummed through their veins, burst through their thoughts and tore their minds asunder.
The Other screamed and shrivelled. Rage turned to sorrow, ambition turned to envy and the foul creature writhed in agony, its power diminished, its will to fight seeping away into the night sky.
For a moment, Harry was free, his heart bursting out of his chest, his soul untarnished, untouched, and he felt the cool night breeze ruffling his hair, the soothing touch of raindrops kissing his dry skin, the overpowering aroma of affection stifling his loneliness and the world was beautiful once more – an exquisite blue planet filled with wondrous oceans, rolling green meadows and snow-capped peaks that rose to touch the azure blue sky.
A poignant moment, frozen in time, where he experienced his life as it should have been. Where he was what he should have been. A hero. A man. A child.
And then, the world sank down upon him once more.
The Other and he lived. The Other and he would die. The threads of fate that bound them together were wound too tightly, the link too sturdy for even the universe to sever.
He had used the Other's power. He had used the Other's skill. He would succumb to the Other's thoughts, memories, experiences. He could not let go now. And the Other would not.
But he could defeat the Other nonetheless.
With the ultimate sacrifice. Harry Potter's capacity to love, to feel affection, his empathy, his pity, his concern, his adoration, his passion.
He poured all of his wholesome emotions into the Other's soul and it screamed to the heavens in agony.
And so, his world turned black for a moment that would stretch into an eternity.
A dark wisp arose and enveloped Voldemort's body like the halo of a demon. It wriggled and writhed, attempting to squeeze itself back in, the air around it whistling and shrieking, but it strove in vain. Instead, the wisp shattered into a thousand fragments as black as night and dispersed into the night sky - a dying star, collapsing upon itself, mourning the memory of a light that had long since fled its presence.
The reptilian body collapsed, its body smoking and writhing in agony.
And Harry Potter reappeared, sweating against the battlements, his eyes hollow and surveying the world blearily.
It was over.
He had won.
Minerva retreated, frantically blasting entire chunks of stone that the Carrows had sent flying at her – sweat dripped from her brow as she realised that her side was hanging by a fragile tether now; it would merely take a single paper cut to send them flying over the edge into oblivion.
They had retreated to the classrooms. The Death Eaters had swarmed all over the castle, though they were paying dearly for every inch of ground they managed to seize.
Then, there was a resounding boom from Minerva's right, and a massive gout of flame burst over them all. She flinched as the flames enveloped her, but she felt nothing. Instead, she heard the Carrows scream in pain as they were charred to the bone by the enchanted fire.
The bright burst of orange disappeared and Minerva stared at the resulting scene – the Carrows now lay on the floor before her, their bodies smoking and burning.
She turned around to see where the flame had come from, only to behold a grinning, but weary Harry Potter.
And Minerva could not help but smile.
The war had turned.
But then, as Harry advanced through the corpses, barely paying them any attention, and out into the corridor beyond, she could not help but feel a little disturbed at how easily he could ignore the stench of burning, shrieking human flesh.
Harry surveyed the battlefield dispassionately, his eyes burning with a fell light. He carved a goblin in two, watching its innards spill over the floor, and dimly noting that a goblin's intestines are nowhere near as long as a human's.
Narcissa Malfoy screamed in agony as her face was cloven in two with a swirl of his wand. He barely even registered the fact that his now insignificant schoolyard nemesis had fallen upon him with an inarticulate cry, screaming bloody revenge; Harry merely used Draco's momentum to spin on the spot and pin the blonde boy onto the stone floor. He then murmured a long-forgotten spell as he brought his magically enhanced fist crashing down on the Malfoy scion's face. The pureblood teen's face practically caved in as his facial bones fractured in nearly a dozen places. The next punch turned Draco's face to mush.
And Harry laughed. The world was a plaything for his amusement – Voldemort's spectre watched, shrieking in impotent rage as it was tagged along by its anchor, embedded deep in Harry's very soul.
But Harry was disappointed when he stood up again, his fist bathed in blood, only to see the Death Eaters disapparating. Retreating.
You commanded an army of cowards, Tom.
A vampire swooped down upon him with inhuman speed, but Harry reached out into his very magic and his body burst into flame at once. The so-called immortal shrieked as his mortality was tested and proved at once; its pale body was turned to ash, even as Harry's body took on its normal form.
Then, Harry turned only to see himself reflected in a dusty glass window, his facial features twisted in insane joy, his eyes burning with hellish desire and his body glowing with sheer power.
And that was when he remembered the last time he had seen himself in this shape and form.
The corporeal boggart waved its wand. Wisps of smoke burst forth, twining and threading their way towards Iris. She erected a shield but the wisps passed straight through. Harry frantically ran at her, attempting to shove her out of the way, but he was too late. Iris threw herself to the side, but in vain; the dark, thick wisps made contact with her body in a strange manner, almost caressing her as they coiled around her slender hips.
"No!" Harry screamed.
And the boggart turned, its familiar lips curving into a grin he had never before seen on his own face.
Iris dropped her wand, which fell to the ground with a dull clatter.
He cast a spell at his doppelganger, but the boggart was too powerful. It merely batted the spell back at him with its left palm and Harry was forced to roll to the side.
And then, the wisps that stretched from the boggart's wand to Iris' hips seemed to solidify before his very eyes. Dark, wicked spikes burst inwards from the magical wisps and Iris collapsed with a gasp, blood spurting from her stomach. The boggart raised its wand again.
Iris floated over, a wounded flower plucked from beauty by a malicious hand.
And Harry screamed inarticulately, casting a powerful Stunner at the figure, but his magic spilled harmlessly against his far more powerful doppelganger.
A gasping Iris floated over, inches away from the boggart, who seized her flawless chin with its left hand, pulled her towards him, and kissed the dying woman.
"NO!" Harry roared, as he waved his wand again, attempting to cast another spell, but he was thwarted as his wand was pushed to the side by an invisible hand.
Magic rippled across the chamber as Iris was flung aside, and the boggart turned to face Harry, its lips tinged with blood from its victim's mouth.
"A pity," the apparition said, "To see such beauty vanish from the world. Such a delicious little number, eh?"
"No!" Harry gasped, "You… you… basta…"
"I am you, Harry," the boggart rasped in a hideously familiar tone, "I am the man you have to become to beat the foe you seek to vanquish. I am your despair, your rage, your hate, your true power given form. I am your potential, Harry."
"Impossible", stammered Harry staggering away from the dreadful apparition, and not daring to look at where Iris lay on the ground.
"Not impossible. Did you never wonder how a mere Third Year managed to conjure a Patronus so powerful it could scare away a hundred dementors? Did you believe you were born with such immense power?" the boggart sneered.
Harry staggered back until he was leaning against the cold, unyielding stone wall.
The boggart smiled. "Or did you think that such power, the ability to speak Parseltongue were merely unintended consequences of a malfunctioned Killing Curse?"
Harry shook his head vehemently, his wand hand trembling violently.
"Yes," the boggart pressed, "You can feel it, even now, pulsing within you, yearning to be free, don't you? A gift any Death Eater would give their right arm for."
Harry stared at the boggart for another moment, before he finally mustered enough bravado to look at Iris' bloodied body, and his heart pulsed with rage. Blood pumped through his veins and he screamed in inhuman pain. The cave practically tingled with magic.
And the boggart smiled.
"A corpus magus," it said, as Harry got back onto his feet, planting himself firmly in front of his current nemesis, "Is a fascinating thing, is it not? The source of a man's magic, interwoven with his soul. And what's astonishing is that we had an extra one sitting within ourselves all this time. The difference between us, though, is this – I allowed that… excess… to exert its influence, while you floundered about like an idiot, hoping against hope that you'd succeed despite your meagre, ordinary magic."
Harry's eyes turned red for a fleeting instant, and the boggart's smile widened.
"Yes," it said, spreading its arms, "Welcome home, my Lord."
"Don't call me that!" Harry roared. The world blurred for an instant as he flung his hand back, grasping instinctively for something… anything, and his fingers met cold, unyielding metal. He whipped his right hand outward, casting a quick Stunner with his wand, while he simultaneously threw the heavy, unknown object in his left.
The boggart conjured a blue shield that absorbed the Stunner, but the physical object Harry had hurled went straight through. Harry saw his doppelganger's eyes widen for a fleeting moment, and then, a piercing scream echoed within the confines of the cave as the boggart dissolved into mist. And all that remained in its place was a sword with a glowing ruby lodged in its hilt, and a rune-covered blade that gleamed in the torchlight.
Harry smiled at his reflection in the window and turned, only to face Bellatrix Lestrange.
"You… you did not kill him," she gasped in disbelief, backing away, "You would not have dared."
"Bella, Bella, Bella," Harry crooned and advanced, even as the formerly intimidating woman backed away from him, "You remind me of a little wilting flower…"
Bellatrix turned on the spot, attempting desperately to disapparate – and she was successful in her apparition; only, Harry caught onto her arm and propelled himself along, tangling his own web of magic with hers so that he would go where she did.
An ear-splitting crack later, Bellatrix was flung onto a cold stone floor, gasping in pain even as Harry stood over her, caressing his wand.
"No, please, my Lord, please…" she cried, tears spilling from her eyes at a frantic pace, her face betraying both insanity and utter fear.
And Harry loved it. He looked around idly, taking in the sights of the bare stone walls and the high ceiling.
"Is this where you make camp, Bella?" Harry asked casually, his wand pointed at the floor, "With the rest of your little… family?"
"No, please," Bellatrix sobbed hysterically, "Please please please please please..."
"Imperio," Harry murmured fondly, his wand whipping upwards in a practised motion.
Bellatrix's eyes widened and she pointed her wand at her own throat.
"Sonorous," she murmured. Then, her voice resounded throughout the castle, "See yourselves to the assembly point! We have to discuss this turn of events! We can still save ourselves!"
Footfalls resounded throughout the former Death Eater hideout, as the black-robed army that had retreated regrouped at their designated point.
"Good girl," Harry said happily. His wand then flared an ugly brown.
Bellatrix screamed. Her fingers clawed through the air, as if they were trying to shred apart the immense pain that had stemmed within her, trying and failing to turn her agony to mere torture. And then, her skin started to peel itself off her body, writhing away like the coat of a snake during a shedding cycle. Blood oozed from underneath the parting skin, even as her face ripped itself off her bones, revealing the soft, ugly, pink flesh underneath.
Harry watched in fascination as Bellatrix was reduced to a pink, rancid, fleshy entity, no longer human – a ghastly parody of meat, blood and bone. And the screams went on and on.
"A pity," he sighed, "To see something so beautiful torn away from the world. Like a… wilting flower."
The world sharpened into focus, only for Harry to collapse to the ground, panting with exertion and staring at the sword that he had launched at the boggart only a few moments ago.
"What…?" he murmured, bewildered.
"You… are Gryffindor's heir, Harry… the sword will come when you need it most," came a weak female voice to his right.
Harry gasped. He quickly picked up the sword, marched over to Iris and knelt beside her. He stared at the woman's broken body, and his heart seemed to split open with pain.
"Iris," he sobbed, "I'm so sorry. I didn't… I didn't know that… that thing…""
"Harry," Iris said, her face pale, but still beautiful, even at death's doorstep, "Please. Promise me. Promise… promise… you'll never give in. Promise… you'll never let him win."
"I'll try," Harry said, clenching his fist and trying to leash his sorrow.
"No, not Voldemort," Iris said, and her right hand feebly pointed at his chest, "The… that thing… inside you…"
More tears. A gaping pain in his chest. Immense sorrow.
"Iris, I…," Harry whispered in a hushed tone, but the woman's eyes lost their lustre. And Harry knew, in that moment, that Iris would never listen to him again.
The world was a little less beautiful for her loss.
"A Fidelius Curse disappears when the Secret Keeper dies, you imbeciles," Harry proclaimed, smirking as he entered a large hall, "Which is very helpful when you want to side-along apparate to a secret hideout for Death Eaters."
Over a hundred Death Eaters, who had answered Bellatrix's summons, and had previously been engaged in frantic conversations with each other, turned to face the lone interloper.
Some tried to flee, the others charged right at him.
Harry smiled. He raised his wand and the room rippled as an enormous fount of magic erupted from him. His body glowed as if it were a miniature sun as he roared, "Solarus!"
And a blinding nova of light exploded outward, encasing the entire room, which filled with screams and shrieks and blinding light and searing heat for several moments, before the flame that had engulfed the room abated.
The scorched carcasses of nearly a hundred Death Eaters were all that remained in the room, which then echoed with the high, cold laughter of the lone survivor.
No. No. No. No. NO!
A voice – that he had thought was no longer a part of him – burst forth again. The castle fell away and the world, which had grown dull and ragged, now turned a warm, comforting white.
"Harry?" murmured a gentle, soft voice, in a tenor he had never heard before.
He whipped around, only to see a beautiful woman with rich, red hair smiling mournfully at him.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle was not the only one that left a part of himself in you, love," the woman said, walking up to him and cradling his face, her palm warm and soothing against his cold skin, "There was another that sacrificed herself to give life to you."
"I… I…" Harry murmured, his stomach churning.
"You have to stop, Harry," she continued, "You have to stop this. It's over. It's all over. You have won a peace for us all."
The castle reappeared, and the rancid scent of charred flesh wafted up his nostrils.
"No!" he snarled at the woman before him, "Never! It stops when I command it!"
"Why?" the woman asked plaintively as the white space re-asserted itself, "Why do this? Why continue this? When does the killing stop, Harry?"
"And what do you think these fools will do with peace?" Harry spat, "Nothing! The purebloods shall still be at the helm, muggleborns shall still be side-lined, the non-humans shall still be discriminated against and denied wands, our numbers shall still be low! It's only a matter of time before the muggles discover us – and then, our world shall be ruined!"
"Do you remember the first time you saw Diagon Alley?" the woman asked, smiling as her eyes lit up in fond remembrance.
A bright red brick wall parted to reveal a wondrous alley, with sights he had never before imagined filling his field of vision, and his heart nearly burst with joy as he imagined a world that still had such wonders to spare.
"And what happens when the muggles discover us?" he roared, slapping away the woman's hand, "What happens when they try to assert their supremacy over us? Would you revel in the sight of a Diagon Alley that burns as a thousand screams rend the air?"
"That has already happened, and not because of muggles," the woman asserted softly, and Harry's heart plunged at the pain in her voice, "And we were practically muggles before we entered that alley, Harry."
"But we belonged!" he argued, "We were the ones that truly belonged. The muggles shall know only envy and lust when they lay their eyes on what is ours by right."
"Or," the woman said with a shrug, "They would accept us into their fold, mingling our wonders with theirs, making the world more beautiful than it would ever have been. And we would work together once more – Merlins and Arthurs reborn – and our glory shall grow tenfold."
"You don't know that," Harry snarled.
"And neither do you," the woman replied, and her eyes glimmered with poignant love, "Do you truly believe, in your very soul, that you're fighting to preserve the sanctity of this world, Harry?"
Harry tried his utmost to say yes, but he found himself speechless. The woman smiled.
"I'm fading, Harry," she said, "My essence protected you for so long against him, but I can do so no longer – not when you've accepted him so thoroughly. Nonetheless, with the respect that your mother commands in your mind, Harry, I will ask you to come back. To me. To us. Please."
Harry struggled for words as a pit seemed to open up in his very heart. "I… I cannot," he gasped, screwing his eyes shut and hating the idea of disappointing the red-haired woman.
"You must," she insisted. And she touched his cheek again, only for his world to fill with colour once more.
He was five years old, sobbing as Piers Polkiss told him he would never have a mother like the other boys did. He tackled the other boy to the ground, only to discover that he was on his bed in an old orphanage, staring at his usurped collection of toys and wondering why they never filled the emptiness in his chest.
A red-headed woman stood before an avatar of death, staring defiantly at the figure as it spat out a Killing Curse. Harry flung himself into the curse's path, only to land on the cold floor of a large chamber in an ancient nunnery.
A frail, brown-haired woman lay on a hard bed, reaching out to touch her newborn boy for the last time. She caressed the forehead of the little baby, and her pain turned to pride for a fleeting moment as she smiled and wondered if the boy would be the one good thing she had inflicted unto the world.
"Tom," she whispered to the old nun that leaned over her, "I want his name to be… Tom. Tom Marvolo Riddle. After his… father. And… his family."
Then, she turned with great effort to face the little boy she had just borne and whispered, "Be good, Tom. Please be good." Her eyes shone with hope for the little boy – hope that her son would know happiness that she had never quite earned, and that her son would bring to a close the rot that plagued her line.
Harry felt the pit in his chest fill with sorrow as reached out to the woman helplessly, hoping against hope to save her from her agony, and help the lost little orphan keep a promise he had once made to his dying mother.
The red-headed woman clasped his hand. "Please be good, Harry," she said fondly, "You are my son."
A mournful moan burst from his throat as his hand closed over his mother's, only to discover that she was fading away. His magic sang of loss, of lament, and of pity – both at himself, and the men and women he had massacred with impunity.
He stared around him at the charred corpses in horror, only to discover that his sense of empathy was slowly seeping away. Harry Potter would soon fade away, and another would emerge in his place – an avatar of death. The spectre floating behind him laughed.
He had to end this.
Harry's wand hand trembled as he pointed it at himself. His left hand twitched as it clamped upon his right, struggling to pull it away. He had little time to mourn, little time to indulge in self-pity. He had given his all for his cause, and it had gotten away from him.
The wand straightened. The Other rebelled. Harry smiled.
A flash of green. And then, peace. For all.
He had to end this. Harry took a deep breath and focused – the cave grew silent as his magic swirled within him.
He had to win, at all costs. And he had to tame the foreign presence within himself, wield its power and turn it against its originator.
A fire raged within his very bones as his soul strove against the Other, fighting and clawing, the tangling of a million limbs, the shrieks of two souls. Sweat seeped from every pore of his body, his muscles spasmed and Harry grit his teeth as he strove to suppress his apprehension at his present course of action.
He had to win. He was weak. The Other would make him stronger. It was a simple enough mantra.
But a corpus magus – a piece of one's soul – did not come quietly. There were memories, thoughts, base instincts, primal desires associated with such things, and those were at odds with his own. His ideals were serrated blades that fervently opposed the entry of the Other; his very being protested at the incorporation of the Other.
So he dulled his ideals, his being was suppressed, and he murmured a select few, immensely powerful, ancient incantations that he had taken great pains to unearth. Like frozen fingers that refused to budge from their frost-bitten postures, the two disparate… beings… within him tangled, and step by step, bit by bit, began to unwind, with every disentangled string leeching away a little more of his indomitable will.
Swirling eddies of contrasting existences conjoined and intermingled, a filthy orgy of pain and dismemberment that would never yield a peaceful coexistence. But he tried nonetheless.
Eventually, the dust settled and he opened his eyes. His body pulsed with magic.
Harry sighed in relief as he flexed his fingers and the cave filled with light. After much pain and effort, he had succeeded. He could now defeat Lord Voldemort. Harry smiled.
And deep inside his very soul, so did the other.
A/N: I don't know if I expressed this before, but I'm very, very grateful to the people that reviewed this story - even the ones that were especially harsh with the quality of this story. Every single one of you were extremely instrumental in terms of motivating me to keep writing this. I hope my editing has done the past version of the story some justice.