The Nameless materialized at his side in a second, cradling his head as Harry gasped in raw breaths.
"You saved my life…" the Prophecy said. "You hate me. Why would you help me?"
"Everyone deserves a –" Harry began.
"No inspirational speeches." The Nameless squeezed his hand. The sounds of battle tore beneath the balcony, the screams, the howls of the Beast, the clash of knives. "Now, Harry. It's time. My name…"
Blood bubbled at the corner of Harry's mouth. "You are Tom...Marvolo...Riddle. Lord Voldemort. Always … always both."
White light filled the hall, blinding the whole world away.
It hurt. It hurt more than anything Tom had ever felt before – burning through his chest and swallowing him whole.
His head spun. The last fifty years of his life coalesced, the memories knitting fresh through his mind as the shards weaved together again.
So many offerings, that didn't really offer at all. People who tried, and people who looked at him, them, like all they ever could be was a Nameless Monster, a Beast, judged by everything that came before, to never be understood. Like his future was hopeless – like all he was and could be, was an adversary to be destroyed.
It was a funny thing to become aware so abruptly of a lifetime of one's own loneliness, even as the thought of relying on anyone else still tasted like poison in his mouth.
His ears rang. He was nothing, and everything, and then he was TomMarvoloRiddleIamLordVoldemort.
He panted for breath against the floors of the manor, examining his body with reverence. Slowly, a smile lit his face, eyes shining. "You did it Harry! You actually did it!"
None of the villagers mattered anymore, as he scrambled to Harry's side, kneeling beside him.
A hole still gaped in the boy's chest. No heart – not even a rose.
His eyes were as glassy as a doll's. Empty, unseeing.
Tom's heart stopped. "Harry? Offering? Harry Potter?" He shook him, hard. "Harry James Potter." Was this payback? Some kind of joke? It wasn't funny by any means...
The walls of the manor continued to crumble, even as a true dawn burst over Tom's skin. Warm, nourishing sunlight that so many of them hadn't seen for decades now.
His chest shriveled, mind racing.
Harry wasn't dead. There was absolutely no way that Harry Potter could be dead now, after everything. He just needed…
All the stories had the prince waking his love with a kiss.
He wasted no time in crushing his lips to Harry's, stroking dark strands, melting in relief.
He stared down at Harry, picking up the withered rose petal from the floor. It disintegrated at his touch.
Tom's stomach lurched. He leaned down to kiss Harry again, hands trembling through his hair, caressing his cheek.
Was it because there was no time? That the magic of the curse had faded away?
Or was it because, even now, whole, his soul and his heart was too rotten for such a thing as true love.
Bile flooded his mouth.
"Harry, please." He tightened his fingers on the pliant body, every raw piece of his soul aching.
"And they all lived happily ever after."
The voice drifted from behind him, the familiarity of it spreading warm through his blood. Harry's voice.
Tom whipped around so fast that he got a crick in his neck, as the manor continued to fall to ruin around him. Then his stomach plummeted, jaw clenching. "Eurydice."
The young boy seemed so innocent on first glance, messy-haired and green-eyed. Those lovely green eyes, that had expressed so much from the second Tom first saw them, when his offering stepped through the gate – as if one person could really feel that much.
Eurydice lugged the tattered portrait of the Offering behind him. It seemed faded, the colours of the painting bleeding out onto the floor.
Tom had never hated anyone more in his life than this mockery of what he'd lost, especially as green eyes flashed scarlet.
He turned his gaze back to his Harry, body broken on the floor. Blood smeared across Tom's hands, along his lips. "What do you want?" he asked.
"It's not about what I want," Eurydice said.
"Then what is it?" he spat.
"Mind, body and soul." The child moved closer to him, head tilted with an almost birdlike curiosity. Small fingers threaded through Tom's hair. "The body of the offering. The mind of the offering...and the soul of the offering. Those were always your demands of love."
"I don't understand."
"How shocking. How novel. You understand so much about love, I simply cannot comprehend how the complexities of the situation are surpassing you," Eurydice said.
"The mind of the offering," Eurydice tapped the ruined portrait. "The inversion that physically reflects what is happening to his corporeal body." It glanced down at Harry on the floor.
Tom's mouth dried. "And...the soul of the offering?"
Both the portrait of the Offering and Harry's body were ruined by all that had happened.
"When you love somebody, it can be said you give them part of your soul," Eurydice murmured. Green eyes flashed scarlet again. Tom froze.
He surged to his feet in a moment, fists clenched, heart hammering in his chest. He'd forgotten how that felt – a heart. Wasn't sure he liked it, when it felt like thorns plunged through him all the same. "Can you bring him back?"
"That is not for me to say," Eurydice said, smiling. "But I can give you the opportunity to have him, if you want to look back."
"I'd turn to stone."
Eurydice shrugged. "It's your choice. He did his part, you can leave. Go and be Lord Voldemort, there is nothing stopping you anymore. He gave you yourself back already, how much do you really need some mudblood boy who was stupid enough to die for you?"
Voldemort lashed out in the space of a heartbeat, the slap cracking across the manor house. His hand throbbed, as the child's cheek bloomed as red as a rose petal.
Eurydice grinned back at him, eyes gleaming, running his tongue across his teeth.
"Love can be poison, can't it? But it can also save him." The child held out a hand out to him, waggling his fingers. "What would you do for love, Tom Marvolo Riddle?"
Tom hoisted Harry's body into his arms, cradling him close, and followed Eurydice into his painting.
Wool's Orphanage loomed grey and uninviting in the rain. Although, to be fair to Wool's Orphanage, it would have loomed grey and uninviting on even the bluest of summer days.
Tom stiffened, grip tightening as Harry vanished from his arms.
His clothes plastered to his skin in a matter of seconds.
Was this a punishment? Had he done something wrong? Would Harry appear somewhere?
His heart quickened as he strode towards Eurydice, hands bared as if he still had claws.
"Where is he?" he demanded. "You promised –"
"He died," Eurydice said. "And now you must recover him."
Eurydice merely smiled at him, walking forwards into the orphanage and vanishing.
Tom's nails dug into his palms again as he exhaled a breath. Warily, he followed – studying his surroundings. Feeling the memories twist visceral in his gut, blurring behind his eyes.
The wall Dennis Bishop shoved him into. The crevice from which he first heard Billy Stubbs call him a freak.
How the hell was he supposed to recover anything of Harry here? Harry would never have seen such a grim a place as this, and no heart so pure could have been in these walls.
His eyes flashed.
He moved through the corridors, dodging the ghosts of children. Shoulders tensing still at the clink of gin bottles from Mrs Cole's office.
Of course, he found his way to his old room, empty even in memory as he pushed the creaking door open. Dust tickled his nose, a chill in his spine.
He'd thought he'd never have to see this place again.
Everything looked as it always was...utterly without Harry Potter. This was useless! He had no idea what he was supposed to be doing.
Eurydice appeared on his bed, tossing black pebbles in the air.
Tom's eyes narrowed, as he considered his options. "How am I supposed to find Harry here?" Was he supposed to be under the bloody bed or something?
"Infuriating, isn't it?" Eurydice said.
"You're forcing me to look back at my past, to turn me to stone. You're punishing me."
"You let most of the world believe you were stone anyway. Maybe it's fitting."
Tom nearly went for the brat's throat. "You are nothing like Harry. Harry wouldn't do this – what type of trick are you?"
"Try the wardrobe."
Tom wrenched open the closet doors, not flinching at the dead rabbit hanging from the clothes rack. At the bottom, rested a familiar box. He glanced at Eurydice, who bloody beamed at him again.
He pulled the box out, removing the lid.
A ring. A diary. A locket. A cup. A diadem. A snake's tooth. A beating heart that smeared the items bloody.
His hand hovered over them, not sure what he was supposed to do with this.
"Is this supposed to be my riddle?" he asked.
"That is your life," Eurydice said. "Life or death, there is always a fee. A ferrying fee, so to speak. You demanded your payments, I have mine."
"You want me to give you one of these tokens? Turning me to stone isn't bloody payment enough?"
"You want an offerings body, mind, soul and heart...demanding the memories of their first kiss or several fingers is just an extra then?" Eurydice returned.
Tom's jaw clenched, fingers flexing at his sides.
"This isn't my heart," he said, after a moment.
He'd spent fifty years with his heart sitting in a glass box in his lap, of course he would recognize it. This wasn't his heart.
"No, it's not," Eurydice said.
Tom studied it for a moment, head tilted. His fingers tightened around the box. "It's Harry's." Did that mean Harry's heart was his to give as he pleased?
A grin crossed his lips, eyes gleaming.
Eurydice tossed a pebble at him. "Don't smile like that, it's terrifying. And yes, you can give his heart away as the fee. He will live. You will live without repercussion."
Then that seemed the obvious choice. By far.
There had to be some kind of catch, it was too easy.
He stroked his fingers over the pulsating organ, squashing the hunger that still flared in his mouth.
"And Harry? Will he face repercussions?"
"Obviously, he won't have a heart. Metaphorically speaking."
Tom still couldn't say he was convinced that was a repercussion so much as a gift.
Did Harry really need a heart? Clearly, someone could live just fine without a heart. He'd managed fine, so long as the actual physical heart was there it wasn't like he'd be in pain.
And wasn't Tom sacrificing himself enough by risking turning into stone for the boy?
What was he supposed to do, give up his own heritage? His own power? He'd give his own heart happily enough, but apparently that wasn't an option.
Or...his nose wrinkled. "You could take my heart instead."
"The price is the price."
"The price is the price."
Tom's eyes narrowed. Eurydice smiled no longer, watching him in silence, head tilted to one side. There was something in those breathtakingly familiar eyes, as if Harry had any right to hold him under judgment. He'd made his choice.
"He does not love me, so it's not as if he really needs his heart," Voldemort said. He didn't think he'd be able to stomach Harry giving his heart to somebody else, like that red-headed girl in his memories.
Oh no. If he couldn't have his offerings heart, why should anyone else get to have so precious a treasure?
"No, he doesn't," Eurydice said. "Not yet."
Tom turned the snake fang over in his hand, eyes tight with the way Eurydice looked at him. That this Harry looked at him. "...Will he ever?" Could anyone ever?
Eurydice's expression didn't change – it looked unnatural on Harry's face, let alone a child Harry's. "Make your choice and find out. A better question might be...what do you love him for?"
Tom scowled. Reached into the box, and paid his fee.
Harry's head throbbed with pain. He blinked blearily into focus, blood drying sticky on his forehead.
"Harry! Harry? Are you alright?" Ron's face loomed above him, along with many others.
Harry grimaced, mind racing. The last thing he remembered was the villagers attacking Riddle manor, the knife searing straight through his heart. His hand patted along his chest, expecting some kind of gaping hole. "What happened?"
Instead, a gold and black ring hung on a chain around his neck.
"You fell from the statue, mate," Ron said.
"I've told you a thousand times not to climb it," someone else said.
Statue? What bloody statue? None of this made sense! But Harry followed their gestures to the stone looming above them.
His mouth ran dry, eyes widening.
They were all there – Past, Prophecy, Riddle, Monster, Beast, Nameless. Frozen in the rock, the centerpiece of Little Hangleton's square.
Did that mean...was Tom dead?
It felt like thorns were constricting around his chest, gouging through his ribcage, all over again.
"But the curse…"
"Curse?" Ginny's brow furrowed, head tilting.
There were murmurs of 'that's a story', 'how hard did he hit his head?' 'Are you sure you're alright?'
Harry couldn't take his eyes off the statues. His heart slammed, aching.
Tom had been a git, and so many people had died because of him, but...well, he'd sort of been Harry's git by the end?
"He saved me…"
"What?" Ron peered at his face. "Look, can you stand? We need to get you to Madame Pomfrey."
Nausea bubbled in his throat, as he stood shakily. Still staring at the statue.
Tom wasn't one for the sacrifice play. If Harry had learned anything about him, he just wasn't. But by the end...one final grand sacrifice didn't make up for everything that had happened in the last fifty years.
But Tom had made the sacrifice for him.
Harry's jaw clenched – and god, why were the corners of his eyes stinging? His throat thickened.
"Harry?" Ginny touched his shoulder. They all clamoured around him – too much, too little air. People he'd never even seen or heard of before, the whole village thriving with people.
Lit in sunlight so bright that it burned him...he'd never even known that the sun could shine so bright, that the grass could burst so lush and verdant out of the ground. That the flowers could bloom for more than a scarce, withering couple of weeks.
And Tom Riddle wasn't there to see any of it.
Voices swarmed around him, but he couldn't hear a word. Harry's ears rang. He touched a hand to his forehead, fingers coming back crimson. Stained with blood.
"Don't worry," Ginny tried a grin at him. "I still think you look handsome."
"You're very pale," someone fussed. "Do you need to sit down?"
Harry's knees wobbled, jellied. He squared his shoulders, because if he somehow survived the Riddle House, he was not swooning now. That was ridiculous.
Apparently the Kisses Cursed was just a story.
"Harry, dear – oh my, what happened to your forehead?" Someone asked.
God knew who they were, Harry just smiled and nodding at everyone at this point. Trying to remember how to breathe.
"It's bloody wicked, isn't it?" Ron grinned. "Looks like a lightning bolt!"
Harry smoothed his fringe down over his face as all the patrons – it looked like the Hanged Man, but the sign outside said the Three Broomsticks and the Hanged Man had never been this cheery – stared at him.
There was much discussion over the lightning bolt scar. Harry wanted to shrink through the floorboards, somewhere quiet where he could absorb everything that had happened.
"Some young gentleman was looking for you," the barmaid – Rosie, or something like that – seemed to remember her original comment as she slid them lemonade over the counter.
Harry apparently had change in his pockets, Ron (unsurprisingly, at least some things didn't change) had none. Either way, the glass cooled wonderfully against his throbbing forehead.
He glanced up at the words, opening his eyes again.
"A gentleman?" Ron snorted. "Since when do you know any strange gentlemen?"
Harry's breath quickened, barely daring to hope. "What did he look like? Did he leave a name?"
"I told him he'd find you at the statue," Rosie – Rosmerta – said.
Harry surged to his feet, whilst Ron's brow furrowed all over again, staring at him.
"He left this for you," she continued, reaching behind the counter.
Harry stopped, chest heaving as she held out a flower. A single rose. Blooming scarlet and lovely, complete with the thorns that pricked sharp against his thumb as he accepted it.
Someone made some comment on "ooh Potter's got an admirer."
Harry swallowed thickly, lightheaded.
"Excuse me – I need to go – sorry."
"There's no point," Draco Malfoy said, an infuriatingly knowing look in his eyes. "Besides, haven't you heard the news of the week? Where have you been?" Something mocking to the tone, to the twist of his lips. "The Lord of the Manor is throwing a ball tonight. Any strange young gentlemen are bound to be there. It's the event of the season."
Harry's heart stopped.
Harry stood before the open gates of Riddle manor, feeling absolutely ridiculous. He smoothed down the lines of his suit, and struggled to flatten his hair.
His hair, unsurprisingly, didn't stay put. At least some things in the world didn't change.
Apparently, the Lord of the Manor was very rarely actually at his manor, and even more rarely threw parties. Especially parties for all the villagers in his area.
Apparently, the family was very private, and very little was heard about them. Ever.
Unlike on his first trip, all the lights were on and bathed a neatly trimmed garden with their radiance. He didn't feel watched. The darkness seemed too light – he had no idea how anyone slept when it was always so light.
He wiped his clammy hands on his trousers and squared his shoulders.
"Harry?" Ginny called back, brow furrowed. "Are you coming or not?"
He walked through the winding path through the garden, no longer needing to pick his way around a writhing mass of vines and rose bushes.
Yet, maybe he was wrong, but he could have sworn that magic still throbbed in the air. That one coy vine twirled as he watched it, before stilling. Maybe it was the wind.
Fairylights illuminated the way, shimmering in the moonlight. It looked more like Prince Charming's palace than the Beast's Lair.
Harry didn't quite know what to do with that.
The entrance room gleamed, polished from floor to ceiling. It reminded Harry of the manor he'd seen in the Riddle's portrait, before the curse ever happened. Which made sense, now.
Except it had happened.
Harry caught himself rubbing his chest.
The ballroom – the room he'd eaten in, during his stay – spread huge and magnificent before them too, soon enough. A diamond chandelier sparkled above them, dappling shards of light across the crowds milling around.
Chiffon and silk and fine fabrics, feathers and beads and carefully knotted ties.
It was more grandeur than Harry had ever seen. Ever. More colour too.
In the village, all clothes had been darned and re-used to death. Rags. At least, in the village he'd grown up in. This seemed a different world.
Harry couldn't stop his gaze from roving the crowd in search of their host. For dark or scarlet eyes, for a pale serpentine figure or the suave handsomeness of Riddle. He wetted his lips.
His breath lodged in his throat.
"Beautiful, isn't it? Do you want to dance?" Ginny asked, squeezing his hand. "Lots of other people are."
He wanted a drink.
The dancers swirled too hot and cramped around him, faces flashing and the music floating through the cavernous space.
It overwhelmed him. Sweat beaded Harry's hairline, shoulders tensing more and more every second he didn't manage to spot Tom among the crowds.
Too many people. Far too many people, all chattering by drinks tables, or by the buffet spread as gorgeous as Harry's own dining experiences at the manor.
He needed air.
A hand pressed into his arm, interrupting his current, nauseating dance.
"Do you mind if I cut in?"
He would have recognized the voice anywhere, and Lavender looked a little starstruck.
Heat rushed to Harry's stomach.
"Of course," Lavender breathed a smile. "I'd be honoured –"
Her face dropped when arms wrapped around Harry's waist and stepped him smoothly into a continued waltz, fingers gripping his own tight as they spun away.
Lips pressed warm against his ear, dark curls brushing his cheek. "Hello, my offering."
Harry could hear the smirk in the words.
"I'm not quite sure what to call you these days," he replied, heart slamming in his chest. "Unless there are five more of you stashed in a room upstairs."
The man looked older than the Riddle, and younger than the Nameless. Pale as the Beast, and scarlet eyed, with those long fingers that Harry first saw. Face shaped like the Riddle's, aristocratic and handsome. Dark hair like the Riddle's.
Harry's head spun.
"My lord in public, or Lord Voldemort. You may call me Tom, privately," Riddle said. His arm pressed firmly against Harry's back, and the scent of some expensive cologne wafted in Harry's noise.
The Monster had smelled like...like the forbidden forest.
"What happened?" Harry hated his voice for cracking. "I...everything's different. There was a knife, there –"
"Breathe, Harry," Tom said, tightening his grip.
"The statue in the village square…"
"To look back is to turn to stone," Tom murmured. "But now is not the time to talk about such things."
"I thought solving the riddle was supposed to leave me with less questions."
Riddle's laugh rumbled through his chest, and the room twirled around them. Blurring as he tightened his grip on the...man. He was a man now, wasn't he?
Harry had done it, he'd solved the curse on Riddle Manor.
Everything felt surreal. Maybe he was dreaming, comatose, dribbling mad bound to a nursery bed as shadows spread and his heart beat in a glass cage. "You sent me a rose."
"Did you like it?"
"I need air."
Voldemort frowned at him as he pulled away from the dance, to weave through the crowds of people.
Harry headed for the garden, for the fresh air and the moonlight which still seemed so pure and strange a thing.
He could see his room from outside – the only light in the house that was off.
The cool night rattled through his chest with each breath, as he fled the soft fairylights and the scent of that cologne.
Even outside, the sounds of the waltz drifted sweet and melodious through the undergrowth.
Harry pressed his hands over his ears and concentrated on breathing.
It was too much. He'd never made plans for winning, for everything changing.
His ears rang.
"You'll catch cold," Tom's voice came from behind him again, some time later. "Here." The man draped a robe over his shoulders, stopping to stand next to him. Head tipped back to examine the vast expanse of stars glittering above them.
"Cold?" Harry glanced at him. "I've never felt a day this warm in my life. Everything's so...light." He felt exposed by it, pinned beneath the constant sear of some huge spotlight.
"It takes a while to get used to," Tom said.
"And how long have you had to get used to it?"
"A little over fifty years. I've been...waiting for you."
Harry turned to look at him at that, mouth utterly dry with that statement. Tom had been waiting for him? "You don't look fifty."
Tom's lips twitched. "One of the perks of immortality."
"You're still immortal then? But you – your soul is pieced together."
"All but one." Tom stepped closer, gaze dipping over his lips. Harry wetted them instinctively as Tom's thumb traced over his cheek. "When you love someone, you give them a piece of your soul, don't you?"
"I'm pretty sure that's metaphorical," Harry whispered. Tom's touch didn't burn like the Monster's, nor freeze like the Beast's had. It seemed so normal.
And yet goosebumps rose on his skin.
"You said the same about giving me your heart." Tom's other hand settled on his hip, drawing him closer. "Tell me, do I still have it? Your heart?"
Harry surged up on his toes and crushed their lips together, fingers seeking a grip in Tom's hair.
Tom's breath caught muffled against Harry's mouth, head tilting to deepen the kiss as his thumb pressed against the hinge of Harry's jaw.
Harry's other hand curled around Tom's back, fisting into the fine material of his suit.
He pulled back breathless, lips kiss-slick and reddened.
Tom's pupils devoured his eyes as black as the Monster's had been, almost – a little glazed too. "That's a yes?"
"That's an I've done too much to let you go," Harry said. "For better or worse."
To his surprise, Tom's smile broadened. The man leaned in, kissing his neck before biting hard. Heat sparked down Harry's spine as he bit back a groan, clutching him tighter.
Tom soothed the flash of pain with his tongue.
"Then, I suppose," Tom said. "I should change my question."
"Yeah?" Harry studied him closely, half expecting to see the gleam of razor sharp teeth. It was ridiculous that the man could still half have the air of someone who could rip a person's lungs out in a heartbeat...though maybe Harry was biased, with knowledge of other lives.
Tom pressed a kiss to the scar on his forehead, before straightening.
"Will you give me the opportunity to make you fall in love with me in turn?"
Harry shouldn't smile. He failed utterly at smothering a smile, but pretended to contemplate. "I feel like I should hire a couple of assassins or something, you know – just to make the odds more fair."
And this time, it wasn't in the voice of someone else.
A/N: It's done. I finished a story. Omg. Is this the real life or is this just fantasy? Hope you enjoyed it! If you did, I would love feedback as much as our Dark Lord loves Harry. Which is a ridiculous amount. Ahbdshb. I feel giddy. It is done! Although I did consider a sequel, but let's not even go there. I feel we are good and anything more would be kicking a dead horse. But yes, anyway. Thank you all for sticking with me through this confusing mess! Hopefully the ending was satisfying.