The two standing figures peered at each other through the smoke. There were perhaps a dozen small fires still burning, one or two of which had once been living beings. Now all that lived on this battlefield was the two of them.
The taller figure laughed, its voice high, piping. “I’ve won, Potter. I’ve taken away everything that you had, everything you were fighting for.”
Harry looked silently at him for a long, long time. “You still don’t get it, do you, Tom?”
“DO NOT CALL ME THAT!” It was a howl of rage. “I am not my filthy Muggle father! I reject him, and I reject his name. I am Lord Voldemort!”
“No, Tom.” Harry shook his head sadly. “I understand how a frightened little boy can invent a powerful new identity, pretend to be someone different, more powerful than himself. But that time is over. It’s finished. There are no super-powered alter egos any more, Tom. Just you and me.”
“One too many!” the piping voice snarled. “Avada Kedavra!”
The green light struck Harry’s chest, and slid down on him, hot butter on a Teflon pan, to sink harmlessly into the earth.
“No, Tom,” Harry said. “All of your power comes from fear, and I have none left. What else can you do to me?”
He turned and walked a few paces to two smoking, charred shapes on the ground, their outlines barely human. What had been arms outstretched towards one another, what had been reaching fingers crisped, still inches apart, never to touch again. Harry’s tears flowed freely as he squatted on his haunches to regard those ruined digits. “Ron… Hermione…”
He looked at Riddle. “Even as they died, they loved, Tom. They loved each other--” he gestured at the reaching fingers, blackened and insensate. “They loved me. And I still love them.”
He stood again, and walked across the lawn of No. 4 Privet Drive. What had been Petunia resembled some of the more unappetizing school lunches he’d been served in the years before Hogwarts. Flames licked merrily from the large lump beside her. Left untended, Vernon Dursley’s body would probably burn for days. “She loved her sister enough, Tom, to take me in, even though all I represented to her was pain and death, and a world that terrified her. And he loved her enough to dive head-first into that world, to attack you in her defense.”
A few more steps, to another charred, smoking body. Again, Harry squatted down. “I’m sorry, Severus. I’m not my father. I’m ashamed of what he did to you. And I have to believe that, long before the end, so was he.” He looked longer at the corpse. “Poor, torn Severus. Did you ever know, in your own heart, which master you were serving?”
Harry reached out and grasped Snape’s shoulder, warm charcoal beneath his touch, and rolled the body over. Beneath it, white-blond hair, and terrified gray eyes. “Hello, Draco.”
He pulled the other boy to his feet. “Don’t, oh don’t kill me,” Draco Malfoy whined. “Oh, don’t, please, don’t.”
Harry shook his head. “Learn from this, Malfoy,” he said. “All the hate. All the fear. All he did, all he lost, all he sacrificed, and look what it got him. You never had much of a chance, Draco, and you still don’t have much, but you do have some chance. Look what it got him, and ask yourself if it’s worth the price.”
He walked back to the tall, frail figure, looked at the red serpent’s eyes. “And even now, at the end of all things, you still don’t get it. You’ve been killing yourself, a piece at a time, for your whole life, and you still…” Harry sighed. “You’re so afraid of dying, that in the end, fear is all you have. You’re so afraid of dying that you’re afraid to live.” He shook his head. “It’s over, Tom.”
“I don’t think so, Whelp. I am the mightier. I still hold my wand! Avada Kedavra!” Again the awful green light simply poured down Harry’s body and dissipated into the ground.
“It’s just a stick, Tom,” said Harry quietly. He gestured vaguely with his bare right hand in the general direction of London. “Accio veil.”
There was a pop, and a light puff of wind, what you might get from a door opening into a small building, and the stone archway suddenly stood alongside them, the tattered, dark fabric fluttering across its opening.
He looked back to the other. The serpent’s eyes were wide and terrified. “You can’t!” the high voice whined. “You won’t!”
He looked away again, looked at the dead. Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Snape and McGonagall, the Dursleys and the Weasleys, Remus and Tonks. And beyond them all, Ginny. Ginny who fell first, eyes still determined, heart still full of love as it burst wide within her breast. It was all such a waste. All this, for a frightened old man, who thought he could hold back death. All for nothing.
“It’s time, Tom,” he said, still quietly, before turning back to the black-robed form. “You know it is.”
Riddle stepped backwards, serpentine eyes wide. “I can’t, Harry,” he pleaded. “I’m so afraid.”
The voices whispered from behind the fluttering, tattered black cloth.
Harry held out a hand to the old wizard. “I know you are, Tom. It’s all right. I’ll be with you.”
The crimson eyes looked down at the reaching hand. “You… You will?”
“Of course I will, Tom. Why would I stay? What have I left?” He stepped closer to the frightened old man, and laid his hand gently on the shoulder, misshapen beneath the black robe. “I’m sorry, Tom. I really am. It must be a terrible thing to be so afraid of death – to give up all that made you human. All you had to trade for life was everything that made life worth living. And even at that price, you didn’t get the immortality you bargained it for.” He gestured toward the whispered voices. “There’s something for us there, Tom. And how could it possibly be worse than what you have here?”
The wide red eyes slowly closed. Harry took the other shoulder, and turned the old man toward the veil. He took a breath, and looked back again, across the field. Malfoy still stood, staring.
“Remember what I told you, Draco,” he called. “Goodbye.”
And he turned again, and took the wizened old hand in his.
“Come on, Tom,” he said, and they stepped together through the opening, leaving behind smoke, and the sound of rustling cloth