Author’s Notes: Thanks to Chreechree for exploring something different with me (again). Thanks also to moshpit, Jonathan Avery, regdc, and Sherylyn for their assistance in making this fit to read.
Sixteen years and one month after his first encounter with Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter burst through the front door of his relatives’ house on Privet Drive with Ron and Hermione close behind. His friends walked backwards, casting shields and hurling curses at the Death Eaters massed on the front lawn. The distant sounds of Apparition announced new arrivals. They might be more of Voldemort’s followers, or they might be Aurors responding to the message Harry had hurriedly sent to the Ministry. He did not know, and he could not spare a moment to care. Whoever they were, they would be the last additions to the battle. Harry felt Anti-Apparition wards snap into existence around the house and garden a moment later.
The familiar stench of death led him to look into the sitting room, where his aunt, uncle, and cousin lay in a lifeless heap in the middle of the floor. Again, he could not afford the time to care.
The instant he had crossed the threshold into the Dursleys’ house, he had felt a difference. Just as he had somehow known many things in the last few months, he knew that Tom Riddle was waiting for him in the smallest bedroom.
“He’s upstairs,” Harry said in a harsh whisper.
“Go on, then,” Ron said, pushing the door closed in front of him and sealing it with a spell. Harry started up to the first floor, and he looked over his shoulder to see Hermione and Ron taking up a defensive stance at the bottom of the stairs with their backs to him. They stood shoulder to shoulder, physically blocking the staircase, and waited for the Death Eaters to break through Ron’s hasty charm on the door.
“Good luck, Harry,” Hermione said. “He’s nothing compared to you.”
He wanted to tell them what it meant to him to have them there, giving him the chance to finish the war that had started so long ago. He wanted to say that he could not imagine his life without them. He wanted to tell them that, whatever happened, they were the best friends he could ever have asked for, and he wanted them to live long and happy lives together. But he had no time.
“See you soon,” Harry said.
He ran up the stairs and down the short hallway to the door of his room. In a moment of misplaced clarity, he noticed that all of the locks on his door were secured. He had never seen it that way from this side. Shaking his head to clear it, he unlatched the locks with a simple charm. Breathing deeply, he pushed the door open.
Tom Riddle, wearing his midnight-black cloak and rolling his wand between unnaturally long fingers, was standing in the middle of Harry’s room. Voldemort was looking out through the window, and from the multicoloured light playing across his pallid skin, Harry could only guess that there was a battle in progress on the lawn. The new arrivals must have been Aurors after all.
“Hello, Harry,” Voldemort said, his voice mockingly light, without bothering to turn around. “Please, do come in.”
Knowing he could not and would not avoid what was coming, Harry stepped into the room with his wand ready. “Hello, Tom.”
Riddle hissed, the slits of his nostrils flaring momentarily. Without any other warning, he turned his head towards Harry and flicked his wrist, sending a bright yellow spell unerringly towards Harry. With a slight wave of his wand, Harry summoned a shield which absorbed Voldemort’s spell.
“I see that you’ve learned something at last, Harry,” the snake-like man said. “Let’s skip the formalities this time, shall we? Crucio!”
Harry ducked to the side, avoiding the Unforgivable, and responded with a wordless Stunning spell. Voldemort blocked it easily, and their duel began in earnest.
The two combatants spent the next few minutes exchanging spells in the cramped confines of Harry’s bedroom. Riddle was far too canny to use only the Unforgivable curses, which meant that Harry could shield himself from some spells instead of avoiding them all. Unfortunately, it also meant that Harry never knew what to expect, and a handful of bludgeoning and cutting hexes that he had never before encountered soon left him battered and bleeding.
For the first time, however, the fight was not entirely one-sided. Harry grazed Voldemort with a Slicing Spell, tearing the evil wizard’s robes and cutting bloodlessly into the pale flesh of his torso. Buoyed by that minor success, Harry redoubled his efforts and ignored the increasing pain of his own body.
He dropped to the floor to avoid a Killing Curse and regained his feet in front of the open door. It was time, he decided, to try something different.
“Tun!” he shouted. As Voldemort turned to face him, a blue light shot out of Harry’s wand and struck the taller wizard’s left shoulder. The impact was not as great as that of a normal Bludgeoning Hex, but it caused the Dark Lord to hiss and take a half-step backwards.
Over and over, as fast as he could, he cast the spell Hermione had found for him. Voldemort raised a shield to block the spells, but he was unable to retaliate without exposing himself to the barrage. After stopping nearly twenty casts of the same spell, Riddle sneered behind his shield.
After a few more repetitions, Harry non-verbally cast a Summoning Charm between two shouted curses. The heavy lamp on his bedside table flew through the air and struck the Dark Lord in the back, causing the taller man’s shield to falter for a moment as he reacted to the impact. Seizing his chance, Harry silently cast the Disarming Hex, and to his surprise Voldemort’s wand flew from his hand to land at Harry’s feet.
“Incarcerous!” Harry shouted. Thick chains sprang into existence and wrapped themselves around Riddle’s body from his shoulders to his ankles. With a loud crash, Voldemort fell stiffly to the wooden floor.
Panting, Harry put his heel over the handle of the wand at his feet. With his free hand, he grasped the tip and pulled sharply upwards, snapping the slender length of yew into two pieces. Magical sparks flew out from the broken shards. Leaving the halves on the floor, Harry stepped over to Tom’s bound form, keeping his wand trained on his opponent’s head.
“Very good, Potter,” Voldemort wheezed. “Very good, indeed. But you are an ignorant fool. I have gone far beyond mortality, and you have no more chance of killing me than you did sixteen years ago.”
“You’re wrong there,” Harry said harshly. “I know all about your Horcruxes, and I’ve destroyed them all. The diary, the ring, the locket, the staff, the cup, and the snake. There’s only you now, Tom.”
Tom Riddle’s red eyes widened, but his sneer remained in place. “Why should I believe you? You may know about them, but to have found and destroyed them all? I am the only wizard alive in the world with the power to do that. You couldn’t possibly have done it.”
Harry shrugged with one shoulder. “There’s one quick way to find out, isn’t there?”
“You will try to destroy me, then?” Voldemort asked. Surprisingly, the vile creature laughed. It was a cold, insane sound, and it contrasted sharply with the growing fear in his inhuman red eyes. “Do you know what will happen if you kill me, Harry? Do you have any idea?”
“You’ll die,” Harry stated.
“If you have done as you say, then perhaps I will. But there is enough magical energy in my body to do things you cannot imagine, and if you kill me, that energy will be released. You will die, and so will everyone else in this house or outside of it.” His lipless mouth shifted into an evil leer. “Your precious friends are here, Harry. Will you destroy them? And what of the innocents outside? Will you murder all of them, too?”
As Harry watched, the chains around Voldemort’s body began to slowly shift. The captive wizard was trying to loosen them, and Harry could see the links of the chains stretch even as his spell tightened them and fought to maintain their restraint. He knew he was running out of time.
“Decide quickly, Harry Potter. Is my life worth those of the blood traitor and the Mudblood? Is my life worth the lives of everyone around us?”
Harry’s mind froze. How could he do it? How could he knowingly kill Ron, Hermione, and the Aurors outside?
He closed his eyes, and some part of his mind spoke to him in a way that he always associated with Hermione. His friends loved him, the voice said, and they would understand. If he loved them in return, he could not do anything except end their journey. The past four months had been a time of honesty and harsh truths. Each of them knew that if it meant winning in the end, their own lives were expendable. Ron and Hermione would be waiting with open arms to begin the next great adventure. Could it be any different with the other innocents? They, too, would understand.
In a quiet corner of his mind, he was devoutly thankful that Ginny was not with them. She was safe, and she would remain so even after the end of all things for Harry.
“Is it worth your life, Harry Potter?”
Voldemort had demonstrated once again that he did not understand Harry at all. Yes, it was worth his life to rid the world of such filth. His eyes snapped open, and he raised his wand to his throat. “Sonorus,” he whispered. Then, he took a deep breath and yelled, “Everyone get down and put up shields!”
He pulled his wand away from his throat, cancelling the amplification spell, and aimed it back at Voldemort’s neck. He summoned all the energy he could find in his body, and just before he released it, he whispered, “Goodbye, Tom.”
“Reducto!” Harry shouted. As the spell flashed towards its target, Harry knew that he would not survive if Riddle had been telling the truth about the imminent explosion.
He regretted his death, but he had accepted long ago that he might have to sacrifice his life. He only hoped that his warning had given his friends time to find shelter.
As the light of his spell vanished into Voldemort’s body, Ginny’s voice from months ago played through Harry’s mind. “Just come back to me, alright?”
Ginny. Sweet Ginny.
He had to try to survive for her.
A shockwave of magical energy burst towards him from where Tom Riddle had been, and just before it struck him, Harry raised his wand one last time.
A/N: ‘Tun’ is a truncation of a Latin word for ‘hit or strike.’