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That Haunts and Sleeps

Chapter Text

“I forgive you.”

The Dark Lord freezes, watching the green-eyed boy in shock. It’s been years. He killed the boy a long time ago, convinced that everything would be complete, sane, if he did so.

Yet here the boy still stands, translucent and flickering between life and death.

The boy looks at him now, with no hatred, only calm and… this warmth that Voldemort does not understand.

It hurts to look.

“Turn away from me, Potter—”

“No,” he says softly, and Voldemort flinches because he is not a weakling to be coddled, and yet, the boy’s eyes— “I forgive you, Tom.”

“Don’t say that name!” he hisses. Tom Riddle died the day he made that diary. But those green eyes are as inescapable as Avada Kedevra. “Stop looking at me, stop existing, stop staying that—”

The boy’s cold hand goes through the Dark Lord’s cheek. The cold feels like rot and rejuvenation settling into his skin.

“Tom… I forgive you.”

Potter takes another step forward and glides his hand towards the Dark Lord’s, like a trail of frost spreading across a window.

“I forgive the murder, the hate, the fear, because I know you. I’m your soul. I’m the one you can’t live without and… I forgive you.”

They stand in silence until the Dark Lord realizes that his tears are cold.

Chapter Text

The runes etched on the Dark Lord’s skin burn and disappear into deathly sparks. He hisses when the symbols fade into the air, erased by some invisible hand.

Yet another ritual rendered obsolete.

Voldemort grabs the cauldron and throws in the dragonheart and phoenix blood.

“That won’t work, you know,” the boy’s ghost floats upside-down. His slender hands fiddle with an unseen string, tangled against his fingers. “None of the last seventeen have.”

“Silence,” he hisses for the seventeenth time. And isn’t that insanity? Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? “I’ll be rid of you yet.”

Turning back right-side-up, the boy quirks his lips. “Is it really so bad, me hanging around?”

“Of course it is! You’re infuriating! I can’t—” can’t curse, can’t cast the Cruciatus, can’t tear blood into his enemies without seeing those green eyes watching watching JUDGING him with the words of forgive  forgive forgive (LiAr)—

“Not as if I can stop you,” the boy shrugs, passing his hand through the Dark Lord’s skull like trying to part the ocean. Nothing but cold sinking into his veins. “See? Harmless. I can’t do anything.”

The green watches him carefully.

The Dark Lord hisses back at him. This trickery, this strange power-he-knows-not, has to be a magic Voldemort has not mastered. He refuses to believe anything else.

Otherwise—

He throws the make-shift potion on himself, watches desperately as the potion fades into his skin, into nothing but air and a still-present boy.

—why else would Potter’s stare freeze him in place?

Chapter Text

Bellatrix rushes straight through the boy’s ghost, without a hint of frost or cold. “My lord,” she bows so low, she could touch his feet. “Hogsmeade continues to resist. The prisoners have still not broken their spirits.”

“Continue torturing them,” Voldemort orders, stepping over her towards the stairs. “Do whatever it takes to make them give up the location of the Order. But don’t kill them.”

“Of course,” Bellatrix’s eyes hunger for more screams. “I will make them talk.”

“See to it you do. Inform MacNair that he will lead the next raid on Hogsmeade. If he does not make the village surrender, raze it to the ground.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Potter hovers horizontally a few inches from the ground, lazily wading his hands forward to swim forward in the air. “The hag will ask questions.”

“You will not lead the raid yourself, my Lord?” Bellatrix asks in confusion.

“See?” Potter says just as Voldemort hisses, “I have far more important tasks to attend to! Now leave me!”

He leaves before Bellatrix can plead for mercy. As if a string connects them both, Potter’s ghost zips behind him.

“You’re not going to try to get rid of me again, are you? S’pretty boring after the first three times.”

“Silence.”

“Make me. Oh wait, spells don’t work on me anymore,” Potter shrugs.

“There must be some magic that—”

[Master?] Nagini uncurls from his throne. Potter’s lips twitch in distaste at what Voldemort has transformed the headmaster’s office into. Nothing but his dark throne and Dumbledore’s torn portrait. [Why is there another that smells like you?]

He stills. [You can smell him?]

[She can probably see me too.]

Voldemort’s head whips around towards him. [You speak Parseltongue?!] How much of his soul ended up in the boy? How much knowledge did the boy gain from him?

Potter’s ghost only shrugs, floating over to Nagini to stroke her scales. The brat has her snuggling into his icy touch, shivering in delight. How strange… how would this boy interact with his other horcruxes?

Voldemort nearly stops breathing.

“The other horcruxes…” he whispers.

Chapter Text

“Don’t do this, Tom. Don’t hurt them.”

“I am Lord Voldemort. I will do as I please.” The Dark Lord stalks down towards the dungeons, towards the prisoners he seeks.

“They don’t know anything, just stop!” Potter tries to grab onto the Dark Lord’s shoulders but passes through. Nagini snakes behind them, hissing in displeasure as her master and new plaything ignore her. “Just ask me what you want to know. I’ll tell you. Just don’t touch them!”

“No,” Voldemort answers, relishing in the helpless face Potter gives him. This is the face Potter should always have. Potter should never have power over him.

“I destroyed all your horcruxes myself! All but Nagini!” Potter shouts.

He freezes on the stairwell.

“That’s what you figured out, right? I burned the diadem in hellfire, stabbed the diary and cup with basilisk fangs, killed the locket with Gryffindor’s sword… and I…”

“And you walked to your death just so I could die,” Voldemort hisses.

Potter’s fists clench silver as moonlight passes through the window. “Yes.” His form flickers from silver to the stone of the stairs. Unstable. Steady. Liminal and permanent.

Voldemort feels his breath leave him. Is this the reason Potter has returned to him after so many years...?

“Look at you now,” a slow smile snakes across his face, “Neither dead or alive. The one horcrux I will never be rid of.”

Potter turns paler than a dead heart.

“Yes…” the Dark Lord moves closer, hands hovering over Potter’s cheek. “That’s right… you can never leave me. So I can never die.”

Potter doesn’t shiver, doesn’t breathe, doesn’t sweat or cry. He hovers and looks steadily at the Dark Lord.

“…Will you still hurt them?”

Voldemort laughs. “For this revelatory gift? No. Your filthy mudbloods will remain unharmed.”

For now.

Chapter Text

Bellatrix and Macnair throw Aberforth Dumbledore and Madame Rosmerta at the Dark Lord’s feet. He leans back on his throne and smiles at the wounds on their faces. Yet another remnant of the Order, of the Resistance, kneeling at his feet. They’ve been like a persistent infestation of insects during his rule, using Potter as a fallen martyr for their cause. But soon, after all these years since Potter’s death, he will be rid of them.

By his shoulder, Potter makes a tiny gasp.

The Dark Lord smiles widely at the sound. His little horcrux can do nothing to stop this. His horcrux’s words are merely echoes of a lost thing called a conscience that he shed when he first found the Chamber of Secrets. A being like him, he is greater than mortal flaws like a conscience.

His followers cackle and jeer, waiting to feel their Lord’s power, while the Malfoys stand quietly at the back. More ghostly than his little horcrux.

He leans back, feeling the cool presence of his little horcrux by his shoulder and Nagini slumbering by his feet.

Legimens,” Voldemort whispers, not bothering to tease out his prey. The sooner the rest of the Order is stomped out, the sooner he can turn his attentions to conquering the rest of Europe.

His little horcrux tenses as Aberforth and Rosmerta writhe in agony from the mental assault but says nothing, unlike the first few times Voldemort tried to torture someone when his horcrux’s ghost first appeared. The grating sound of his horcrux’s disapproving voice hasn’t sounded once. If not for the cold, Voldemort would think his horcrux wasn’t there at all.

Good. Now Voldemort can focus on his job.

He dives through the stream of Aberforth’s and Rosmerta’s memories, finding little mental blocks save for the location of the Order. Hidden from him yet again because of the Fidelius Charm. So these two weren’t the secret keepers.

Voldemort snatches up his wand, the word Cruciatus itching to rip from his lips, nothing to stop him, but—

The cold from his little horcrux itches up his spine, into his very bones, digging and digging the slow way water wears away stone.

His little horcrux has said nothing, and yet everything, in his silence.

“Take them to the dungeons,” Voldemort spits out. “I will deal with them personally later.”

He is not weak. He will not let his horcrux, his own soul, affect him so. He merely has better use of his time than to torture such lower beings.

He does not shiver when his little horcrux (finally) whispers a small thank you.

Chapter Text

Britain is practically under his rule already. Let the Order try and rebel. They are nothing but little flies, a minor inconvenience, but no great obstacle to his plan. Instead, he’ll focus on moving towards Europe.

Voldemort marches down the hall towards the Room of Requirement. There, he won’t be disturbed by any of his followers. As he passes by the empty classrooms, he hears a quiet gasp.

His little horcrux has stopped following him, hovering by the entrance to the Great Hall.

“Ah,” a slow smile snakes across the Dark Lord’s face. “So you’ve seen it.”

His little horcrux doesn’t answer. He doesn’t need to.

Gleeful, Voldemort walks into the Great Hall, past the rows of empty tables and the enchanted starry ceiling. The only light that shadows his steps comes from the pews of candles floating above the front of the Great Hall arranged like the pipes of a cathedral organ.

There, beneath the floating candles, lies the long glass coffin surrounded by black roses and spider lilies, by silver engraved snakes and the dark mark along the borders. There, still perfectly preserved, as if he were sleeping, the heroine of some twisted fairy tale, lies the Boy-Who-Lived. His body, dressed in fine robes and those hideous glasses. The scar, as delightfully red as ever.

“Why,” his horcrux’s ghost shakes, as if he can still feel. “Why do… any of this? I… I’m…?”

“Beautiful,” Voldemort strokes the edges of the glass, just above the body’s heart. “The perfect monument to my greatest victory. Forever immortalized.” Like me, he doesn’t say. Like you, he doesn’t add.

He lets himself bask in that feeling again, that triumph. He has never felt that much triumph since killing the Boy-Who-Lived. All that he has left is to pick apart the rest of the world, and to rule for eternity—with his horcrux by his side, of course. It’s poetic, in a way the Voldemort has never appreciated. He has everything and forever to enjoy it.

He waits for his horcrux to react, to show helplessness or joy or anger. Anything. He waits to soak it in.

But his little horcrux doesn’t move or cry or react at all. He merely stares down at his own body and whispers, “Is it really such a great victory? Killing someone who had barely six years of magical education? Someone who didn’t even duel you in the end? That’s your greatest triumph?”

Voldemort freezes. Then the anger comes. “How dare you? When you, a mere babe, destroyed me. Made me nothing but a wraithlike spirit, neither living or dead. When your touch burned me until I used you to resurrect me? When you destroyed my horcruxes? You call yourself weak?” He’d hurt his horcrux if he could, torture him, destroy him—

(But he already has—)

His horcrux only shrugs, unaffected by the tirade.

“I just find it a little sad, actually.”

For the rest of the night, his horcrux refuses to speak.

 

Chapter Text

Voldemort does not dread.

(they’ve locked him in the attic again, with nothing to eat, he claws and claws at the door but it never opens, those filthy caretakers, those disgusting orphans, he’s better than this, better than them, he is not afraid of the dark or the cold because he’s special, SPEciAl, spEciAl—)

His little horcrux’s silence is a godsend, gives Voldemort time to figure out how to make Nagini the same kind of creature as his little horcrux. Just as unkillable, unseeable, and unreachable by all but the Dark Lord. No one else will touch his soul again.

But how? How did Potter become his horcrux, much less this ghost? When Voldemort concentrates, he can feel the tether between himself and Nagini, between himself and his little ghost. How can Voldemort repeat the same process to keep Nagini with him?

“Potter,” Voldemort demands, because his little horcrux refuses to answer to any other name. A lingering attachment to his former host. It won't linger for long…

His little horcrux hovers by the bookcase, fingers tracing the worn scars on each spine.

“Potter!” Voldemort says louder.

His damned horcrux keeps staring at the bookcase.

“I said, Potter!”

Like a leaf caught in a stream, his little horcrux drifts towards the window, moonlight painting him in parts invisible and visible.

That’s it. Voldemort storms over. No one, not even part of his own soul, ignored him or turns away from him. He reaches out his hand, only—

His little horcrux turns then, and Voldemort’s hands fall through him, dipped in the ice cold of cemeteries and rot. His little horcrux’s eyes are blotted out, ink black with writhing worms and maggots dripping down like tears…!

“No!” Voldemort flinches and reaches up. “No, not you! Potter!”

His immortality, his soul, his companion—

“My Lord?!” his death eaters burst in, wands ready for possible assassination attempts, only to see Voldemort grasping at nothing at all.

His horcrux is gone and rotting and Voldemort feels…!

Feels…!

::

(“Wake up!”)

::

This terrible pain, this need to gouge out his eyes, what is this…?

::

(“WAKE UP!”)

::

The Dark Lord gasps, opening his eyes to piles of books and scrolls on horcruxes. Ancient texts he hid away in Albania and finally brought to his headquarters in Hogwarts.

He sees his little horcrux inches away from his face, staring at him with a frown.

For a moment, Voldemort only breathes, and watches his little horcrux pretend to do the same.

“You… your eyes…” Voldemort mutters. They’re still startingly green, even as a ghost, not inky with maggots. Another reason Potter cannot be a normal ghost. No this has something to do with horcrux magic, it must.

His little horcrux winces, “You aren't going to say they're like my mother's, are you? Because the last man I heard that from died…”

“Of course not!” Voldemort snaps. “What reason would I ever have to remember her eyes? To remember any victim's eyes?”

His horcrux’s frown deepens.

“Yet you pay attention to mine…”

“You’re the only one I would pay attention to.”

His little horcrux’s jaw falls open and Voldemort doesn't see why. Is his little horcrux not a part of his soul? His marked one? Why would Voldemort look at anyone else but him? He who is essentially himself?

Yet something distant enters his little horcrux’s eyes. Irrationally, Voldemort thinks of the dream, of watching his little horcrux rot away to nothing, gone, while Voldemort remains with that terrible pain (likely related to losing part of your soul, and nothing else so weak—) forever staring at empty space-

“You!” Voldemort finds himself grasping at his horcrux’s limbs, at cold air and death. “You can never leave me because of the magic, because of our souls!” Right? Potter can never leave him! “We’re bound together. Tell me that you will never leave!”

Potter looks as shaken as the wind could ever look. “Tom…”

Tell me!”

Slowly, Potter puts a hand against the Dark Lord’s. “...I will stay for as long as I can.”

That’s all the Dark Lord needs to hear.

Chapter Text

Death eaters hover by his door. They whisper amongst themselves and hush as soon as he steps out of the room.

Voldemort silences their hearts with one glare before he storms down the hall.

“They think you’ve gone mad,” his little horcrux comments.

“Let them think what they will.” He shrugs.

It isn't as if they have any power to stop him. No one does anymore. He’s locked his enemies up (because scum does not need to be dealt with by his hands, not because Potter requested it) and his equal has become his horcrux.

“I hear them wondering when you’ll go out and conquer the rest of Europe. They’ve noticed you talking to me.” Talking to nothing, he doesn’t say.

“Let them.” No mortal will ever be able to comprehend the intricacies and brilliance of his mind. “Unless they plot an uprising, I have no care for what they gossip.”

“Oh. Well.” His horcrux stops, making Voldemort nearly step through him. “That’s going to be a problem.”

What.” Voldemort whirls around, facing his horcrux (and, consequently, his spooked Death Eaters who fly to the ground, expecting a Cruciatus.)

“Nothing! It’s just. Well. What did you expect after months of just… storming back and forth in your office doing nothing? People talk. Maybe fear isn’t the greatest motivator anymore. Ever try putting in a loyalty card?”

You would betray me?!” (Neither of them notice the cowering Death Eaters, heads pressed against the stone floors, begging for mercy.) How long has his horcrux known of these plans to usurp him? How long was his horcrux going to stay quiet? Were the I forgive yous lies? Pretty poetry spoken because of horcrux magic or even—

“Now, hang on! What would I betray you to? No one but Nagini can speak or see me. Besides, I thought you knew! You torture anyone who even thinks of betraying you. You read minds!

The red rage in him subsides, but only just. Like a tsunami being held back by a mere bit of string. “Then tell me who plots against me. Prove yourself.”

(The forgotten Death Eaters begin wailing random names and I have no idea what’s happening—)

Potter’s green eyes spark dangerously, the light of curses about to go out. “Or what?” he hisses. “You can’t hurt me. I have no reason to help you hurt others.”

[You said you forgave me,] Voldemort hisses in Parseltongue. Was that a lie?

(“Oh great, he’s going to get his snake to kill us! This is your fault, Greyson!” Death Eater 1 says to Death Eater 2.)

[I may forgive you, but I never said I’d help you keep going down the same path. That’s your choice alone.]

[Fine then!] He doesn’t need to hurt Potter. There are his friends, still in the dungeons… That mudblood and her Weasley… Hurt them, and Potter will talk…

(“We’re all going to die!” Death Eater 2 wails.)

Voldemort raises his wand, pointing at the incessant blubbering Death Eaters in front of him. They need to shut up. The whole world needs to shut up and listen to him…!

… But will Potter keep forgiving him?

His spell falters.

The Cruciatus misses its mark.

Chapter Text

He doesn’t care.

Voldemort casts the Fiendfrye deep into the forest, listening to the fire cackle as it eats wood and animal alike. The grounds, the half-giant’s empty hut, the corrals for empty Care of Magical Creatures lessons—the hungry glow of fire devours them all.

He doesn’t care

(His Death Eaters stare at him in silence when the Cruciatus hits stone instead of flesh, and Voldemort can only roar, “LEAVE!” because he does not make mistakes. He is not weak. He is not tied to Potter’s ghost, he can break free anytime and yet—)

The fire reaches for Voldemort’s face, still so hungry. It grows and grows but can never be satisfied. The more fuel to burn, the more fuel to live, the better. Sparks die against the Dark Lord’s face.

“Hey stop! Stay back! You’ll burn!” Potter’s ghost shouts, his pearly form practically shining in the fire’s light. The fire will never reach him.

Voldemort starts to laugh.

Tom!” Potter’s hands are so cold against this terrible heat.

“You’re just trying to control me.” Voldemort sees it now, his weakness. Potter’s so-called forgiveness is a spell, some cultish magic, that ties Voldemort down and limits his actions. But he won’t be limited now. He won’t be tied down by some attachment to Potter’s eyes. Let it all burn then. Nagini will bring Voldemort back to life, so long as Potter is gone.

“You’re not thinking clearly! You don’t even know if this will work! So you die and come back, what if I’m still here? What then? You’ve only one horcrux left after that. Me!

“I don’t CARE!” Voldemort roars, about humanity, about forgiveness, about this leech of a ghost—!

“Well I CARE!

Voldemort stops. He swears that his heart nearly stops beating. The only thing that breathes or roars is the fire.

Potter hovers in front of him, looking as small and defeated as he did when Voldemort killed him. The silver outlines of his body glimmer in the fire, like a flickering mirage. He looks like a lost soul in hell. He… is he crying?

The Dark Lord’s hands reach out, yet they pass through Potter’s cheeks.

“Please…” Potter whispers. “Step away from here. Let’s talk about this. Let’s find a solution together.”

No, he refuses to be weak. No, he refuses to be controlled. No, he refuses to be powerless to work his spells.

And yet… those tears…

Voldemort steps away from the fire.

He does not see the unhappy frowns on his Death Eaters’ faces in the distance. He does not know that they whisper for greater leadership, saner leadership. He does not feel their thirst for power.

(No one has ever cried for the Dark Lord before.)

Chapter Text

“What are you?” Voldemort demands, as soon as they enter private quarters (at Potter’s insistence.)

Potter rolls his eyes. “Now you ask that? Maybe we should talk about something else… like your desire to burn down the forest, instead.”

Voldemort glowers down at him. “I could hurt your friends.”

“But that wouldn’t give you the same satisfaction, would it? You like things to be a bit more personal with us.”

The Dark Lord scowls.

“Thought so.”

“We’re enemies marked by prophecy. I had to get rid of you myself.” No one else can take Potter’s pain from him, his struggles or his battles. Voldemort would destroy them.

“Right… I thought I was a ‘part of you’, as you went on about for the last month. Your ‘little horcrux.’”

“You are my horcrux. But that’s not all you are, is it?” Voldemort ignores the burning heat on his face. If Potter was purely his horcrux, he could never make Voldemort feel this… this…?

“Well. No. I’m Harry Potter. Took you long enough to see that.”

Voldemort scowls.

“I could walk into the fire again. I don’t need to waste my time speaking with you if you won’t give me information.”

No, no, wait. I’ll tell you what I know,” Potter looks so distraught that Voldemort can’t help but… preen. This feeling might be a weakness, but at least it’s one that Potter shares and Voldemort can still exploit.

“Then answer my question. What are you? Why do you...” Voldemort refuses to finish the question. Why do you pretend to care?

“…I guess I’m like a ghost. But not really.”

Voldemort narrows his eyes, wishing the action could burn some incentive into Potter’s words. “Elaborate.”

“Well, as far as I know, ghosts come about when someone doesn’t choose to pass on. So some part of them remains… but it’s not really them, is it? Maybe it’s their magic, looking for an anchor…” Potter stares at some distant spot, just beyond Voldemort’s shoulder. “They don’t know what it’s like on the other side.”

Voldemort’s chest constricts, as if feral moths have woken inside his ribcage and have begun trying to claw their way out.

“…You know what it’s like on the other side?”

Quietly, Potter nods.

Voldemort steps back. It occurs to Voldemort then, that Potter is more dead than alive. When Voldemort was killed by his own Avada Kedevra two decades ago, his soul merely ripped apart from his body and clung to the nearest host. He knew the agony of living because he refused to see the other side.

And yet this boy has been there and back, unlike any ghost.

“…Why are you here?” And how. How has Potter evaded death?

Potter’s smile is bitter moonlight. “I told you. To forgive you.”

I don’t know what that means!” Voldemort hisses.

“S’alright.” Potter shrugs. “You don’t have to. I came back for you. Nothing else, really. I’ll stay for as long as I’m allowed to. That’s all I know.”

Voldemort scoffs. Potter will always remain, he’s not allowed to leave. So that won’t be a problem. “This… forgiveness… What does it mean?”

For a long time, Potter doesn’t answer.

“…As long as you keep trying to live. I’ll try to show you. But only if you try to listen.”