Title: Fireflies

Author: HelplessTurtle

Summary: From the beginnings of Voldemort's rise to power to the end of the Final Battle, characters are introduced to the powerful message of the gift of fireflies. The characters change according to the most recent chapter. Ch.5:Dumbledore&Voldemort

Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and all the characters, objects, and wonderfully magical ideas in it do not belong to me in any form or fashion.

Author's Notes: This fanfiction has been lurking about in my laptop for quite a few years, and I began writing this before I read OotP (quite a while after the book itself came out, however). Thus, many things may be non-canon or AU. Not OotP, HBP, or DH compliant!

Late summer evenings always held a peculiar mystery to those who had the time to dwell on nothing, he thought. The remnants of the oppressive midday heat would fade to a floating, comforting warmth, with just a whistle of the chilly autumn winds to come. No clouds littered the sky tonight, the myriad of colors on the palette above smooth and churned to a flawless rainbow of gold and purple. The wavering flames of the sun had already slipped behind the silhouetted trees, its glistening red shining in the last hour before fading away. Already, a few stars twinkled weakly on the shadowed side of the canopy, blurred together with the ever-stretching shadows cast by the ancient stones that sat upon the earth.

Only one occupant disturbed the cool, tickling breeze. His once auburn hair, now white, shone as the strands fluttered over his robes. Spread over the grass, the favored light blue cloth seemed to take a shape of its own. Indeed, that frail shape was the only form that stood out from the rest of the flat grounds that surrounded it.

He was able to identify the approaching footsteps from behind before the person had reached him. Sssh…sshh…the grass slid along worn feet, flitting from side to side. The ground shivered slightly, little clouds of dust rapidly floating up before settling down again with a sigh. Although he had long since been considered one of the elderly, his senses had not lost their keen shine.

"Albus Dumbledore?" a voice snarled. It was shrill, the octave high and nasally, but still resonant, as if accustomed to commanding others with words not to be disobeyed. However, this was not the reason that Hogwart's headmaster turned around to acknowledge the newcomer.

"Tom Riddle," he said genially, "What a surprise to see you. Come, sit." He patted the seat beside him in the grass, smoothing the blades under his weathered fingertips.

"I…" the figure growled, "am not Tom Riddle! And I will sit when I want, not before, not after, and certainly not at your beckoning!"

Headmaster Dumbledore seemed to contemplate the man before him, the corners of his eyes creasing thoughtfully, then in amusement. "No need to act so petulant, my dear boy. What would you have me call you? Voldemort?"

"Lord Voldemort!" The reply was immediate, automatic.

The old man shook his head slowly, as if in regret. Slowly, creakily, he pushed himself from his seat on the grass, wearily fluttering his robes to dislodge stray insects and loose blades of grass. Smoothing his sleeves, he peered over his half-moon spectacles, the crystal blue eyes piercing.

"How the times have changed. Tom Marvolo Riddle, all grown up. Whoever knew it would come to this?" he mumbled to himself.

Lord Voldemort did not appear to have noticed that the other man had spoken, and he immediately began speaking, his words harsh and demanding.

"Now tell me, omniscient old man, why am I here? Why is it that a little boy, so young, can best me in a duel? Why is it that magic no longer cooperates with me? How the times have changed! Lord Voldemort, at his apex, without magic! Did you know it would come to this?"

Albus Dumbledore smiled, a sad little smile that held no happiness. "Perhaps you might explain? A wizard cannot be deprived of his magic."

"Perhaps you might explain this!" With a flourish of his wand, a golden light spewed forth, twisting and twirling into a dancing helix of lights. Another swish and he lowered his wand, his breath emitting forth like harsh gasps. "What have you done?" he thundered.

The voice rang in the silence, hanging in the air before floating away. The air seemed to shudder, as if tainted by evil, and the lights began to flitter and disperse. They pulsed, individual sparkles of light, and slowly came to land on the headmaster. The miniature glows seemed to calm, their lights steady once more, lighting the old man in an almost surreal aura.

"I? I have done nothing, Tom Marvolo Riddle. It is you who have destroyed yourself. Your magic is not gone, but your darkness is. This is why you can cast no spells, only this." He gestured to the light that surrounded him. "I praise the young man who has banished the evil from you, because it is no simple thing to do. Perhaps you know what the golden light is that comes from your wand?"

"Fireflies," he spat, disgusted.

"Precisely! And do you know what they mean?"

Lord Voldemort opened his mouth, as if to answer, then shut it with a snap. His eyes narrowed, as if he could never be reduced to saying such a mundane answer. The headmaster, as a teacher and a mentor, took the opportunity to tell the answer himself.

"Their message is one of welcome. Their lights, however small they may be, float in the darkness to guide the way back home, like lanterns that never get lost. I don't suppose this is your home?" His eyes twinkled, filled with amusement once again.

"This?" he gestured wildly at the landscape about him, serene and calm and…simply beautiful. "This is not my home, and it never will be!"

With a swish of robes, the figure dashed away, head bent low as his robes swirled behind him. The remaining figure, still adorned with lights, watched until the other was but a speck in the distance, swallowed up by the landscape. Softly, he began to speak, his voice but a whisper to himself, the air, and the fireflies.

"He will be back, but never will he take away the home of another innocent in the other world. Have we all come to rest in our final places of welcome?" he wondered aloud, raising his head to look at the rapidly darkening night sky. Then he sighed, as if pondering such a matter would come to nothing. "I trust in the old ways of magic…welcome home."

As one, the fireflies lifted and flew away, their lights swirling ever up. As the night descended, the stars began to twinkle, looking exactly like the fireflies that had just returned home.

Author's Notes: Finished! I can't say I'm pleased with the result, but I suppose this is what happens when one stalls too long on something like this. Thank you to all of you who took the time to read this.