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Tom Riddle and Harry Potter, an ouroboros in three acts

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The thought struck him, with time lingering bitter and effervescent on his tongue, that perhaps he ought to have taken Dumbledore's advice over McGonagall's. Then he exhaled, a last gasp from fifty years in the future, feeling his lungs fill with the thickness of the Chamber's wartime air. The room looked no different, the smells of damp and the taste of faded grandeur were the same, as was the touch of stale air along his arms. The Time Turner lay cool against his chest once more. It was almost enough to entertain the fantasy that he might run to the Headmaster's study and beg him to take him hunting for Horcruxes as he had planned, even if it meant confessing his Deputy's treason.
"I mean to keep you safe, Potter!" she had snapped. "Gallivanting around the countryside searching for Horcruxes—"
"—is what Professor Dumbledore wants me to do! How else am I going to learn how to destroy them?" he had spluttered.
"First we need to find them. Why not look where we know they were, not go blindly stumbling after where they might be now?" she had asked crisply.
"That will take years," he had protested weakly.
"Only four," Professor McGonagall had retorted. "More to the point, it will only place you in danger—and me, perhaps, once Albus hears what I have done."
Sirius, the sharp ache in his chest seemed to say. He had thought of Ginny and Hermione and Ron, of Dumbledore's Army and the Order, all risking their lives for the sake of one prophecy. All it had taken to keep them safe was a nod. Then the ring on Professor McGonagall's desk had twisted from gold into golden powder and the thin hourglass surrounding it. He looked around the Chamber once more. Harry had known, instinctively, that this was the right place to arrive.
"Give me your wand, interloper."
He turned, hands outstretched at his sides. There stood Tom Riddle, wand drawn.
"Of course," Harry hissed.
Something flicked behind Riddle's eyes at the Parseltongue. Harry handed over the wand, followed by all the answers to Riddle's questions, assembled with sharp brilliance by a Professor who had been the young Dark Lord's rival. The lies slid easily from his tongue, fear moistening his lips, despite the evidence that Riddle had not yet mastered the Cruciatus, nor Imperius, or else why would he resort to mere Legilimancy? Harry left the Chamber at Riddle's side, eyes caught by the prefect's badge gleaming silver on his chest, perhaps not quite Lord Voldemort, not yet.

The Sorting was when Harry realised the extent of his problems. He had only gone to 1943, instead of the meagre year earlier he had required. Harry watched the Slytherin sixth-year prefect throughout the feast. He tried his best to ignore the Hufflepuff table, where Myrtle ought to have sat, had the Time-Turner only done its work properly. Gryffindor Tower was no comfort. He found himself lying awake to unfamiliar snores. The table by the fireplace was strewn with Moody's contraptions instead of Fred and George's inventions, the space a trophy to the many duels he had fought—and detentions endured—to win it. The figure perched in the squishiest of armchairs with a forest of parchment wasn't Hermione but McGonagall. Outside his House's domain, Pomona Sprout had usurped Neville's place as recipient of the Tansy Aspidistra Award for Herbology, but promptly had it taken away by re-potting her Venemous Tentacula from the Hufflepuff Chambers to Greenhouse Three. At their first Higher Astronomy lesson, Aurora Sinistra smacked Malfoy, Lestrange and Avery over the head with the very telescope they had attempted to fling from the Astronomy Tower. The next morning Harry had applauded as hard as any Gryffindor or Hufflepuff. The Ravenclaws had been less pleased, after Tom Riddle docked them thirty house points for assault. It all left a hollow ache inside him for the first few weeks. The autumn slid by in frantic exam preparation—which Harry ought to have known already, having teacher's copies of all the assignments—and he clawed his way furiously from "Acceptable" to the confounding, time-consuming rank of "Outstanding." He wanted Riddle to find him useful, he told himself, every night he was bent over scrolls of parchment in the library, glancing at the dim glow of "Lumous" in the Restricted Section to wonder what Riddle was reading now. He was rewarded every night by nothing more than the tall figure elegantly collapsing his limbs to perch on a library stool, the long fingers wandering the ancient manuscripts, the blue light tracing the sharp heights of Riddle's cheeks and fine hollows of his slender neck. Without fail, the sight sent a strange current through Harry's limbs, snapping him awake like the best Pepper-Up Potion imaginable, warmth settling in his stomach like Felix Felicis. Soon, a Yule Slug Club invitation slid between the pages of his latest Potions essay. Yet if Tom Riddle had any charitable inclinations to the talented orphan, so like himself in so many carefully-constructed ways, he showed none of them. The young man had more interest in Transfiguring his party-goers's mulled wine into mulled whisky, while he left their Galleons in their purses and picked secrets from their minds instead. All except Harry.

Both orphans signed up to stay over the Christmas holidays. So too did the fifth- and seventh-years of the future Death Eaters, begging off their stuffy, Pure-blood celebrations with claims of impending O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s. The sight of them in the castle grounds sent a trickle of apprehension down his spine, as cold as the snowballs the Slytherins enchanted to pursue the Gryffindors without mercy. They were just snow…mostly. More than a few carried nasty jinxes. It was no coincidence that the vast majority of nose-bleeding, jig-dancing, tongue-tied occupants of the Hospital Wing were Muggle-lovers and Mudbloods.
Despite a depleted student population, Riddle continued to ignore him.
Whenever he risked visiting the Chamber, Riddle was not there. His nocturnal haunt was no longer the Library. Consulting the Marauder's Map was no use: Harry chased Riddle through a hundred secret passages, always a charmed entrance behind. The holiday Slug Club appealed little to Harry in Riddle's absence, roast goose sticking in his throat. He had less than a year, he realised with a jolt, before Riddle murdered his grandparents, his uncle and his father. Perhaps he had already asked Slughorn about Horcruxes. The dereliction of duty gnawed at him, no matter how much elderflower wine he drank. When his intoxicated recklessness led him to barge into the Room of Requirement, he lingered when he should have fled. As if Imperiused, his eyes followed the trail of Tom's wand while he traced runes onto his victim's back in her own blood. Whether it took minutes or days to outline the Dark Mark, nothing mattered except satisfying the fragment of him that was so inexplicably drawn to such power. Riddle's amused hiss to "Get out…unless you want the same done to you?" made him weak at the knees, but not from cowardice, and in half his subsequent dreams he was the victor and half the victim, until he felt that his soul was folding in on itself.

A glimmer of hope propelled Harry into winter term. Potions was—as ever—with the Slytherins, but this time Slughorn paired Harry and Riddle together, no doubt hoping for a combined brilliance to outshine their separate efforts. Harry had better luck than Slughorn in that regard. At least he was now talking to his target, exchanging books and crowding together over the same parchment and finding excuses to derail Tom's not-always-nocturnal excursions in all manner of innocent ways.
One evening, Tom brought with him a small, black diary.
It was already blank.

No matter how he tried, the diary never came into Harry's possession. Nothing short of Imperius would compel Riddle to give it up. Part of Harry desperately wanted him to try. Was that how he had pushed Riddle into discussing the Unforgivables? Just for defence, Harry had asked, perhaps it was worth learning how to repel them, especially with Grindelwald's forces massing in France…?
Riddle's self-mocking objection that they would have to learn the Curses to block them was one thing to repel; the red, devouring stare that he turned upon Harry was quite another. The ferocity with which it lighted his features had transfigured itself from revulsion into fascination for Harry. So, it seemed, had Harry become something for Tom to scrutinise in not-unpleasant detail. Tom was able to kindle in Harry the necessary, blinding rage for Cruciatus just as easily as he coaxed the longing to be dominated which fed the Imperius Curse.
To his alarm, Harry found that he was rather good at the Unforgivables.
Tom, of course, needed no coaxing at all. It was just as well then, Harry joked one evening, that there was no defence to learn against the Killing Curse. Tom extended a hand to help him from the floor of the Room of Requirement, black-and-gold ring brushing against Harry's fingers.

In the summer, when it was far too late to do anything about the diary, Harry at last discovered the hiding-place for the ring. At the big house over the hill, some of the villagers had left a wreath for the anniversary of the Riddles's death.
"I ought to have come sooner," Harry thought, fingering the Horcrux in his pocket.
Tom ran a long, pale finger against the white roses, a crafted display of remorse for his once-relatives. For Harry's benefit, of course. Surely the young Lord Voldemort did not feel remorse.

Thankfully, their seventh year passed without relative incident. (Inside Hogwarts, at least.) Outside, both orphans had spent the summer in London watching the Second Blitz. The Times was full of articles on D-Day and the invasion of Anzio and the fall of the Third Reich in the East. The Daily Prophet carried reassurances that the hunt for Grindelwald was in full swing. Why, even the famous Albus Dumbledore had resigned his teaching post! This, to hunt down the Darkest of wizards, despite Britain having been spared the horrors on the Continent.
"Glory hunter," Tom hissed. "The old man's wiping out any traces of his youthful misdeeds."
"Nothing that either of us would know about?" Harry asked laconically.
The air raid warden had pointedly told them to shut up and stop wasting the air in the bunker. Muggles were regrettably creative in ways to kill large number of their own kind, the pair of them at least agreed on that.

When term started, Tom sought out the company of his remaining Death Eaters less and less. Harry felt a glimmer of hope.
He had forgotten that Tom Riddle was Head Boy in his day. When one had overt power, there was far less need to revert to more secretive means. Glimpses of Hagrid stomping around the grounds with the Keeper of the Keys and Grounds only made the guilt eat away at him further. The diary, the ring, the cup, the locket, something of Ravenclaw's, something of Gryffindor's. Professor McGonagall's list kept him awake at night, as he jinxed the would-be Death Eaters to interrupt their attempts to regain overt favour with Tom. At least he had delivered the ring, he reminded himself. At least the diary would be destroyed in his second year. At least the cup and the locket were safe for two years.

Somehow two years became twelve months. To no-one's surprise, Alastor Moody received an early offer for Auror training. To everyone's surprise, so too did Tom. Harry scrambled to find a place, finally scoring one in the last days of the second round. The next day, Tom declined his offer and the place went to McGonagall. Harry swore at himself, but it was too late to back out now. What fantasy had he woven, convinced that Tom was no longer about to throw everything away for a job at Borgin and Burkes? Had he really thought that he might have changed history so early? The fact that Lord Voldemort had learned to overcome the Aurors without inside information was not comforting in the least.

One evening after a week's remote-area training, Harry found Tom living in Harry's very own flat. "Squatting" was too vulgar a term for the graceful, careless habitation that pervaded every surface. Horace Slughorn would have been envious, Harry considered, mouth quirking at a memory from his present. The next evening, nothing had changed. After six months, Harry would have sworn that Tom had placed his house-mate under Imperius, were it not for the fact that Harry was able to repel it easily by now.
When Tom slithered from the sofa into Harry's bed, he wasn't quite so certain.
The splinters of time that were his alone, Harry spent at Borgin and Burkes. He frittered them away looking for Hepzibah Smith, under the pretense of browsing the shelves. When that paled, Tom introduced him as a collector to Mr. Burke, prompting Harry to rattle off a choice list of items from Grimmauld Place. Young Mr. Riddle had failed to pique his godfather's interest, but perhaps Messers. Borgin and Burke themselves might be of assistance? What special item might round off his collection? Why, a fine suit of goblin-made armour, of course. Trap laid, he returned to Auror training.

When the trap was sprung, Harry was surprised to find that Tom had appended—almost in afterthought—that his godfather might improve his domestic standing with an antique silver tiara. (To his consternation, Mr. Riddle was encountering certain resistance in the acquisition of the goblin-forged armour, all the more unexpected from a doddery, old lady. Oh, he would have it by Christmas, of course, but Samhain was far more important in the Black household, as Messers Borgin and Burke knew, naturally…)
"Just a little something," Tom had smiled when questioned.
"Something of Ravenclaw's?" Harry wondered.
Harry submerged the murky unease beneath the mind's wanderings, like an oil-slick rainbow disguising a pool of stagnant effluent. Instead he distracted himself by watching Tom. He shrugged off the suit jacket with the duellist's effortless ease. Harry found the motion endlessly, disconcertingly fascinating. So it was that he lingered on the sharp tugs Riddle used to un-knot his tie and the curl of his long fingers around a Summoned wineglass. He was too enthralled to protest when Tom Summoned the Daily Prophet from under Harry's nose. The crossword went zooming. In the brief, non-verbal, tug-of-war which followed, Tom spoiled his triumphant victory by knocking over his wineglass.
"Blast," Tom muttered.
He reached for the nearest wand. Harry's, as it happened. A smudge of cocoa powder stained the cuff of his shirt.
"Reparo, Desicato," Tom snapped.
He retrieved the intact wineglass from the now-clean carpet by hand, a comfortingly Muggle gesture.
"More wine?"
Mouth dry, Harry pushed his glass forward. He felt like drinking the bottle—or better still, breaking it over the ink-dark hair and that pale, sculpted face. Hokey had poisoned her mistress after all. Surely it was safest to do the same to Lord Voldemort? Hastily, he picked up his glass. Some foetid corner of his brain urged him to finish his four-year stint in the Grindelwald Crisis by simply finishing off the young Dark Lord. He toasted to a year as flat-mates instead.

"Can you sense it?" Tom asked him one day. "Time," the not-quite Voldemort continued.
A raised eyebrow from behind The Auror's Companion to "Secrets of the Darkest Art" and its Derivative Volumes was clearly not the response expected. He drained his coffee and went to receive the bequest of Hepzibah Smith.

Time, of course Harry felt it. He felt the seconds crawling along his skin, the creak of the staircase marking another hour, the dull ache of minutes without success.
"Should you not bend the Dark Lord from his path, at least your time will not be wasted," McGonagall had said crisply.
He wanted to laugh, the shattered glass sounds that Tom made when he thought no-one might hear, the noise of imminent defeat. Perhaps he knew enough to defeat the Death Eaters in the field, now. But Voldemort? All Harry had accomplished was delivering one Horcrux. Now there were three at large in the world. It was no wonder that McGonagall beat him solidly in their last practical Defence exams. She told him off briskly for not concentrating on the mission at hand. That was all Harry was doing.

Later, his fingers stumbling blindly through the miscellany on the hall table, he found a black box. He willed his trembling fingers to open a lid. The whiff of Dark Magic caught him just in time.
"Look what the cat dragged in!" Tom exclaimed. "Usually only Moody roughs you up that much."
He leaned against the doorway, arms folded in the textbook undercover duelling pose, one foot tapping absently to Siegfried's Rhinefahrt. Tom liked Wagner in the evenings. Harry preferred the Weird Sisters, but they hadn't yet been invented.
"Have we run out of Lucius Tiddlypuss's Soothe-Everything Sensory Salve?" Harry mumbled through his remaining teeth.
"Sadly," Tom noted dryly. "But I do have a consolation prize."
Tom wasn't half as disappointed as Harry expected him to be, upon hearing the news that the Auror department's idea of fieldwork was to send Harry to Hogwarts to mark Defence N.E.W.T.s. Speaking of Hogwarts…
"The outrageous old hag left me two items in her will," Tom remarked lazily.
Stretched out in repose, Tom had commandeered the sofa, one arm behind his head and his feet propped on the cushions. For once, Harry was glad of it. The pouffe made him sit bolt-upright, and he was in no mood for relaxation.
"Family not happy?" Harry asked.
"As surprised as you looked, actually! The family house-elf finds her passed away in her sleep, then the next thing they know, she's giving away a family heirloom!"
A smile slithered across Tom's features. It appeared to be strangling Harry at a distance.
"To be honest, I think she just wanted an excuse to keep it away from the family gold-diggers."
Impatiently, Tom sprang to his feet. Some minutes later, he returned with the black box. Harry could taste the Dark Magic protecting its contents. Tom's long fingers deactivated the wards from the box and lifted the lid. Gold. Helga Hufflepuff's cup, gleaming pain-bright against the black velvet. He reached out a hand to take it and felt a piece of him slide into place.
"Is that all?" he questioned dizzily.
"All?" Tom spluttered. "Months of stirring cocoa powder into some doddery great-grandmother's hot milk, enduring her idle chatter every mind-numbing day, for which I find my time reimbursed with Hufflepuff's own heirloom, and you find this miracle inconsequential?"
Harry sank into the sofa, deaf to the further tirade. There was no locket. The smudge of cocoa he had seen was as innocent as it appeared. He was still clutching the cup.
"If you're so attached to that, perhaps you ought to take it with you," Tom mused. "Return it to Hogwarts, where it belongs."
"For a price?" Harry thought.
Laughing, Tom plucked the fleeting thought from his mind. Flush with victory, he untangled the cup from Harry's fingers and set it back into the box. Wandering back into the hall, he kissed Harry's jawline in recompense.
"Of course for a price."

Harry deposited the cup not in Hufflepuff Chambers, but in the pre-arranged location where he had left the Peverell ring. He dutifully wrote to Mr. Borgin how pleased his great-aunt had been with her new tiara, and left the Ravenclaw heirloom in the Room of Requirement too. Upon his return to the shop, there was a note.
Don't bother dropping in to B&B. Gone to Albania for research. Back in several months.

A year later, Harry disliked the wilds of Albania immensely. The Forbidden Forest would have been an improvement. Yet here he stood, wand in hand, over the slumbering form of a wizard he had known so well, only to find that he didn't.
Two items, Riddle had said. Yet he had only shown Harry the cup. The locket he had kept for himself. Had he lied about the death too? He brushed the tip of his wand against the sleeping wizard's temple. A dozen attempts later, no silver wisp of memory had been extracted for Harry's porta-Pensive. Guiltily, his eyes strayed to the Auror's kit stuffed in one corner of the tent. Why not just report him and let the Dementors… He shook his head and tried again. The vision drowned him unaware: silver and emeralds dripping through the Slytherin heir's grasp, clinging like honey.
"Go on," Tom whispered, voice as dark and cloying as the memory.
His eyes were open.
"The diary, the ring, the cup, the locket, the diadem. What's the last, the Gryffindor Horcrux?"
"I don't—" Harry whispered.
The high, cold laugh prickled the back of his neck.
"Yes, you do. You've always known, haven't you? Godric's possessions, the Hat and the sword, both out of my reach. Godric's Hollow, on the other hand—"
"I am not! I am not Gryffindor's heir, that would be—"
"One similarity too many?"
This time the laughter stole across his face like a man walking over Harry's grave. Light and swift and deadly.
"Of course you aren't! Did you never bother to read Hogwarts: A History? Three of the Founders decided that the School would be their legacy; only mine decided to write theirs in flesh and blood as well. Gryffindor's heir, you utter fool!"
The young Voldemort's smile cut.
"Is that all it takes to conquer the greatest wizard this century? One half-Muggle? Is that how I really end up?" Tom brooded. "Serpent made flesh, half-mad and half-witted? Obsessed by a prophecy I've never even seen?"
"When did you let anything command you?" Harry snapped. "How is time different?"
His fingers closed tighter around his wand. The young Dark Lord had made no move for his own.
"Did you really think that the past is mutable? If it were, if I had the power to bend it to my will…"
Tom trailed off into silence.
"I always dreamed that if I laid my hands on a Time-Turner, I would have my mother back. Even my thrice-cursed father! If I wanted that bitch who would not even live for her son, why not the filth who made her that way? I wanted… No, I thought I wanted to find him, to explain…
His jaw worked, but no sounds emerged for several seconds.
"I killed him. The sight of that Muggle looking so content, not a sliver of remorse for murdering my mother, nothing but fear for his proper heir at the sight of his son… Can you imagine how wondrous it felt, to raise my wand and say those two words? Thrice! And the Horcrux, there's beauty in that magic, if you only knew!"
Harry shook his head. He didn't dare speak.
"It can't be done, you see. Changing the past. If I had never made the diary and the ring—but of course I had to, for I knew that I was able to make you…"
A shadow crossed his face.
"I suppose you've come for the locket?" he sighed.
All Harry could do was nod. He couldn't tear his eyes from the silver that suddenly wound serpent-like around Tom's fingers. If Tom wasn't prepared to give it up, Harry's wand was still drawn, he could—
"But you won't," Tom said.
Harry felt a warm glow against his chest. Four years. He lunged forward, reaching blindly for Tom. No, he wasn't ready, Tom wasn't ready, Harry might still save him if only he had more time

He came to in the Room of Requirement.
"Mr. Potter—"
"I'm not, Professor! I'm Tom Riddle, he made he a Horcrux!" he said wildly.
Wisely, he clamped his jaw shut. Harry struggled to his feet with the help of his former professor. While McGonagall untangled the locket from his fingers, he felt as if Voldemort's serpent had wound itself around his ribs and started to squeeze. Profesor McGonagall conjured a chair. Harry didn't think his legs would support him any longer. Another flick of her wand, and before Harry appeared a large whisky. He took a swallow. It was like breathing camp-fire. Better than the lingering, damp scent of the past clinging to his clothes.
"Professor," he tried again. "It didn't work. I changed nothing."
"No, Potter?"
A fleeting smile crossed her face. He saw the four Horcruxes he had delivered—five, he reminded himself, with another swallow of courage—sitting beside the battered remains of the diary. The ring, the cup, the locket, himself.
"Basilisks only have four fangs," he said. "There are only three left in the Chamber."
Harry tried slumping against the chair, but it held him upright. A longing for Dumbledore and his squishy armchairs must have shown on his face.
"We are fortunate that Albus mentioned another way," she said. "Remorse."
"Surely not," Harry thought. "No, I can't—"
"You will, Mr. Potter, unless you wish the Dark Lord to have the immortality he so desires!"
"I would have to let him have control," he said.
"Yes."
"Ginny recovered, didn't she?"
Her Head of House nodded.
"Eventually. I won't pretend that it did not leave scars, Potter."
Harry resisted the urge to brush his own.
"If I do this, will the Horcruxes be destroyed, or can Voldemort make more?" he probed.
"Professor Dumbledore doubts that there is enough soul left to the Dark Lord to attempt any more. As for the artefacts, the soul will be removed, so that they will be nothing more—or less—that they appear. Provided, of course, that the Tom Riddle you knew had enough remorse. Provided that you can conjure that in the piece of soul he left you."
He thought of Ginny again. Soon I grew strong enough to start pouring a little of my soul back into her, the diary Riddle had boasted.
"I'd be destroying him with his own weapon!" Harry laughed.
The smile lighted McGonagall's stern face. The memories flickered like candle flame, of a younger Minerva beaming at one of many Quidditch triumphs, or relishing a well-fought duel in Defence.
"I rather hoped that you would see it that way, Potter."
Her smile sharpened.
"Let it not be said that Gryffindors lack for courage."
It was the last thing Harry heard before he let Tom Riddle's soul wash over him and pull him under like a breaking wave, drowning in memory and grief and hope.

"Mr. Potter, a smile here please!"
"Mr. Potter, can you comment on the rumours that you'll be the next Minister for Magic?"
"Mr. Potter, is being Head of the Auror Department a little tame after destroying He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
"Mr. Potter, is there any truth that you'll resign from Magical Law Enforcement to teach at Hogwarts?"
"Can you comment on the Ministry's new Reproductive Statutes? Are you disappointed with the ancestry registration?"
"Have the increasingly strict regulations on wand use reduced serious magical crime? Are we exchanging freedom to bear arms for nothing?"
"What about the Death Eater repatriation programme? Is this a sop to the old families in your bid to become Minister?"
"Does Mrs. Ginevra Potter approve of your dangerous career? Is it time to slow down and rule the Quidditch pitch instead of Magical Law Enforcement?"
"Mr. Potter, how will you celebrate the ten year anniversary of the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
The tall, lithe figure waved at the assembled reporters. Mounting his broom, he brushed a stray lock of hair from his forehead. He smiled, the way Tom used to, the way that made Gilderoy Lockhart a fading memory to witches everywhere. Then he took off with daredevil precision. Instead of returning south to Godric's Hollow, some nostalgia directed his broom north to Hogwarts.

"Ten years," he toasted, ensconced in Headmaster Snape's study.
Ten years for the pieces of soul in him to jostle for power with the soul of another. Ten years of uneasy truce, conscience and pride balancing, sliding and shifting like the golden beads along Harry and Voldemort's wands, all those years ago.
"Tomorrow, you will be Minister for Magic," Minerva commented.
"My first announcement will be that Minerva McGonagall is finally leaving the Transfiguration post to take up the role of Headmistress."
She nodded in satisfaction. And to teach seventh-year Understanding the Dark Arts. And anything else which took her fancy, she had added blandly to the Board of Governors. A smile curled his lips.
"That sort of special project might be best left off comments to the Daily Prophet," she remarked tartly.
"True."
He leaned forward, catching her eye.
"Minerva, I have a favour to ask…as a Gryffindor, I don't suppose that you can draw the sword from the Hat?"
She hissed softly through her teeth.
"Now that Severus Snape is of no use to you, have you finally worked up the courage to kill him?"
"Not yet," he admitted. "My…conscience…keeps holding me back."
"Am I remiss in imagining that Snape's death might enable the sword to…be put to good use?"
He rose from the desk and refilled their glasses.
"What better use than to store a Gryffindor conscience?"
"To Tom Marvolo Riddle, Minister for Magic!" his first Death Eater toasted.
He lifted the glass with Harry's hands, tasted with Harry's tongue, wondering whether he could really cut off that soul, whole and intact, which had so ably bound the fragments of his own.
"You might very well think that, Minerva, I couldn't possibly comment."