He stands still in the graveyard. The night is chill but not freezing. There are leaves in shades of yellow and red some distance away. It's autumn, wherever this bit of Voldemort's soul is.
The pain in him shifts from the feeling of a million little bone fractures to feeling like his muscles are tearing, shredding, grinding together and then pulling apart. Just as he thinks he might scream the pain dulls, the relief of its absence is a kind of endorphin all on its own, only for the pain to slowly build again.
He looks around to the headstones in front of him, looks up to the dark house, only one light shining up on the hill, turns more, shouts to see Voldemort behind him, the hood of his dark black robe pulled over his face, only his red eyes gleaming.
And Harry can feel his feelings, the energy thrumming through him, the sense of righteous purpose, the thrill of expected murder.
He wants to throw up, but there's nothing to throw up, and so the nausea joins the hellish course of building and collapsing pain in him, a twisted harmony.
Voldemort takes a bizarrely affectionate look up at the manor, then turns, and the next thing He sees is Voldemort's quick stride as he makes his way down an ordinary looking muggle street.
There are children in costumes everywhere. One says something to Voldemort and Harry can feel it, the urge, the pull, to murder him, disappear him, leave the boy's mother wandering in a life of sad confusion, dashed hopes, endless loss. But he has to refocus, he instead thinks of the task at hand, and considers that a sign of his iron will, rather than a sign of his fraying grasp on anything human at all.
Harry shivers, watches the boy reunite with his mother with relief. The pain in his muscles is migrating now, to a thousand little cuts all over his skin. He hisses, his breath leaving low and long between his teeth.
The pain fades, only to build again.
Harry watches as Voldemort pauses in front of a house. He can feel his amusement, his ease, at whatever he sees. He thinks this will be an easy task.
He distracts himself from another swell of pain, gritting his teeth. He wonders what he's even doing. What does an evil wizard do on Halloween? Kick puppies? Brew a potion to suck the lives out of little child-
A realisation is dawning, rolling through him worse than any of the pain he's felt since being here and it does not relent.
"No. No. NO. NO. NO. Why? Why?"
He watches Voldemort glide up the walkway, grace in his long steps.
He races after him, pushes past the remains of the door Voldemort blew in a second before.
Just in time to see his father murdered.
He can't look away from James' crumpled form, his wandless hands, his blank hazel eyes.
There is a swell of pain.
He hears his mother's pleading voice, distant but somehow more clear than when the dementors are near.
He thinks this might be it.
This might be the thing that breaks him.
But he doesn't break, no matter how long he stares at his father's corpse, no matter how much he'd like to crumple away into nothing.
Instead, there a lot of shouting, screaming, keening wailing, a fire starts, he can smell the smoke, and Harry can feel it, still, somehow, even through the chaos in his own mind, that Voldemort is scared, terrified, he needs to flee, needs to leave, so that he can understand.
And then he's back in the graveyard. He turns to look at Voldemort's confident face, feels the glee he feels at the idea of upcoming violence, blood spilled by the power, the sheer power of his own magic, and it is just as deeply foreign to Harry as it was the first time he felt it minutes ago. The nausea rises just as his bones feel like they are filled with tiny fractions.
His Horcruxes are loops. Because of course they are.
Harry is filled with a profound hate. Something primal that echoes the emotion of Voldemort's blood-lust, but gives it depth, meaning, something denser than the shallow elation of a coward enjoying his false power. With a yell, he reaches his hands out, presses them artlessly to Voldemort's face, no clear intent in mind outside of the rage of what the man did to him, what he took away before he even knew what he lost.
He may not know them anymore, but he knows they loved him, and he loves them, easy and natural as breathing. And this stain on humanity, less than the dirt underneath their feet, which can at least help grow grass, less than the clothes they wear, which keep them comfortable, less than anything in existence, and far, far less than a human, can fucking die instead.
Voldemort screams, and Harry can feel his pain, feels the flesh boil under his hands, the bones crumple, collapsing inward, and then it all burns, and everything is ash, and Harry can feel it, all of it, and then there is nothing, nothing at all, just a deep and abiding chill, and coldness that grows in intensity, the photo negative of an inferno.
But then the muggle street is full of children, and he sees Voldemort's long even strides, as though he's gliding, only pausing for a second as the child speaks to him.
"No. No." He whispers it. He follows until his parent's front gate. He stares blankly, not even really taking in how his skin hurts, as though sliced open with a thousand tiny cuts. He watches one green light, then the other, through the windows, and can only shake and shake, crossing his arms over his chest like he's in a snow storm.
He can feel Voldemort's terror, his desire to retreat. Then there is a raging coldness, a deep absence, but they don't end up back in the graveyard again. He watches Voldemort stride up the street. Doesn't move to follow him. In the distance he can see two flashes of green light, he can still feel his terror. There is a deep coldness.
And then he's watching him stride up the street.
Harry ignores the way that it feels like his muscles are pulling apart, his mind thinking about something else, something other than his parents.
Did I get rid of a bit of his soul? Is that why the loop is shorter?
Maybe he can take care of this right now.
He watches Voldemort stride up the street. He runs in front of him as he pauses to look at the frightened child. He presses his hands to Voldemort's face, but nothing happens. He can not feel him, and he moves forward.
Harry can't touch him.
He stands outside, grimacing as his parent's shout their last words. He winces against the cold. He watches Voldemort stride up the street.
He can't do this again. He can't be stuck in this loop, this endless nightmare, forever.
But deep fear, desperation, doesn't stop Voldemort either.
He still can't touch him.
He grimaces, winces, and watches.
Grimaces, winces, and watches.
Grimace. Wince. Watch.
"No. No. I refuse. I refuse. This isn't the rest of my life now. This isn't it."
He walks alongside Voldemort, his heart hammering, pain swelling and breaking, he watches Voldemort kill his father, can't bring himself to follow him upstairs.
This isn't it. This isn't everything.
You learned, remember?
There were a lot of things outside of this. You laughed with your friends. You learned to joke with them. You flew through fresh spring air, you ate food that made you smile, there was a bird outside of your window one morning, resting in the ledge against heavy wind, and you looked at it and wished it well, and it looked at you, and you can't be sure, but you think it was wishing you well too. Once you sneezed while saying a spell and turned your own hair lime green, and the whole class laughed but it wasn't mean, they were just happy something silly happened, and you were happy they were happy. Ron would sling his arm over your shoulder, Hermione would take your hand. They love you and you love them. They were enough. It was enough.
Your life was enough.
Not with rage, but a strange sadness, uncertainty and pain wearing him down, he raises his shaking hands up to Voldemort's face as he pauses to look at the child.
His skin doesn't boil, his bones don't collapse. Instead his fingers, his palm sinks in like heat through ice, a hot knife through butter. Voldemort is clay, dead earth, too lumpy and sick to even make a pot. He oozes away.
And there is a deep coldness. A darkness so black as to make the concept of sight foreign. Harry thinks of deep space. It isn't anything at all. All nothing.
And then he's standing in his parent's living room, watching as Voldemort kills his father and then climbs the narrow flight of stairs.
There are shouts, he can feel Voldemort's terror, and then there is nothing, an icy absence that sits deeper in his bones than any pain.
And Harry can feel his own terror.
Because he will be stuck here, after he is done destroying this bit of soul.
He looks around the living room as Voldemort climbs the stairs. He can't find a mirror, but there is a dark obsidian rock on the mantle, he's not sure why.
He looks at his reflection in it.
He looks different, now. Older, ancient. His face is pale and warped in the reflective rock.
He wants to leave. He wants to live.
He had spent all that time wandering through his soul, coming to an understanding on how much he wants to live. He thought it had been hard, that that was pain, all that rejection, but it wasn't. He can see that now. His family didn't love him, but he knew that because in his heart of hearts he remembered his parent's love, and Dumbledore thought that Harry should sacrifice himself, but he was in agony because he loved him as well, just not enough. He learned that he and Ron aren't so different, that Sirius was a good godfather, and he misses him, that he had more than enough in the real world so that no pretty loop could tempt him.
Despite all the sadness and hard choices, the roughness of his life, every panel of it was colored with love.
God, he misses Hermione.
He doesn't want to die.
There is a long period of that horrible nothingness.
He watches Voldemort kill his father.
Before he can turn to talk up the stairs Harry places his hands on Voldemort's face, carefully, as though Harry is fragile, and moving quickly will shatter him. But it's not him that shatters. It's Voldemort. He shatters like he's a hollow figurine. Because he is.
And then there is a long period of nothing, absence that sucks everything from him. Not just nothing, but the opposite of being.
Harry shivers as he watches Voldemort climb the stairs. He follows.
He doesn't cry as Voldemort shouts for his mother to move aside. He's eyes are dry as he watches her fall to the floor. He thinks this might be it then, the thing that breaks him.
But he just won't break, no matter how much it feels like he should, no matter that it seems like that should be the end of the world. It isn't. Instead, he watches in curiosity as Voldemort points his wand at the little boy's head, the little boy who would grow up to be this ghost, chipping away at the very man's soul that he is so frightened of seeing now.
He and the little boy aren't really all that different from each other, really. They are both so scared.
There is a flash of blinding light, hot, filled with something, it might be the opposite, the entire opposite, of the nothingness that he descends into, right after.
But he remembers that warm flash of light, filled with something. He carries it in his mind, even when all that absence pulls and pulls at him.
And then he's watching Voldemort climb stairs and follows. He looks away at the flash of green light. He ignores his own small wailing. He stares, doesn't blink, as the room fills with bright light, warm, a carcass against his skin, filled with something, something he recognises, that he knows, learned more about while wandering through his own soul.
The long darkness makes him bitter. He wants to live so bad. There are so many things he wants.
He wants to go find Ron and yell at him. Feelings don't seem so hard now. He wants Ron to yell back, scream out his feelings until his ears are red. He wants them to yell and fight and understand. He wants to hug him, he's already forgiven him ages ago. He knows Ron forgives him too. He just needs to yell a little. It hardly matters, in the spectrum of things. It all seems so silly now.
He wants to write to Remus and Tonks.
He wants to hug Mrs. Weasley. Thank her for just being her. A mother. A warm person who takes another and puts them at her table, feeds them, gives them a home. He thinks of the Weasley's orchard. He can see the sunlight streaming through the trees, hear Fred and George laughing about something up ahead, Ron and Hermione bickering next to him, Ginny is a flash in the corner of his eye as she weaves through the trees on her broom. Mrs. Weasley shouts that Mr. Weasley is home and to come to supper. He can feel her warmth from here, still even in this darkness.
He wants to make a joke and have his friends laugh. He isn't all brooding doom and gloom all the time. He thinks he wouldn't have been at all if there hadn't been an evil wizard after him. He thinks maybe it isn't all so serious, life. He enjoys watching he friend's faces lighten, their eyes squint, their mouths open wide to show the back of their mouths as their laughter fills the air. He wants to hear their snorts as he says something under his breath in class. He wants puns, sarcasm, jokes, perfectly timed swear words, that feeling when you throw your head back and laugh and it comes out load and true from your stomach.
He wants to thank Luna for going to the party with him, for waltzing down the hallway, for believing him all on her own.
He wants to watch Ginny become a shooting star, a bright light soaring over everyone, flying above hoards of screaming fans.
He wants to visit Dumbledore's grave. Talk about how he was wrong. That there is no such thing as the greater good. That good is an action, not a destination. That his life is worth it.
He wants to leave here and kiss Hermione, first on her mouth, then her forehead, her cheeks, her ears. He wants to rest his head against her hair and breathe deep, again and again.
It hurts that it's not to be. But he knows now, that there is no way but forward, and that hell is in these endless loops.
He will break this thing that Voldemort would always be too much of a coward to face.
And he will remember love, even in all that pulling darkness, even when there is nothing of Voldemort left.
He watches Voldemort climb the stairs. He watches him yell at his mother to move aside. He watches as he casts her down with his wand.
He watches as he points his wand at the child's head.
He steps forward just as the white light fills the room.
He places his hands on Voldemort's face, staring into the frantic, confused eyes of the lowly slime, the grime of the earth, a disease of humanity, and feels pity for him. Because he will never feel all that white light, what it's made of.
He will only have absence and nothing, nothing at all.
That is the death he chose, sealing his own fate by avoiding it.
And then Voldemort disintegrates, particles falling away from each other.
And for a second he feels it, the other parts of Voldemort's soul screaming out in agony. They are always in agony, jagged and rotting chunks of what was only ever meant to be whole, but the loss of one of them pulls at them, they scream to be together, to go as one, but they can't, the are locked into their wrong bodies and he can see them; the locket, still on the coffee table, a small golden cup sitting among of stack of treasures, a coat of arms behind it on a wall in Gringotts, a small crown in the Room of Requirements, Nagini, circling and circling, in a dark room, Voldemort watching her with careful eyes.
And then there is nothing.
Almost nothing at all.
But three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.
And that's enough.
A/N: The last line is a slightly changed quote from the bible: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Also the chapter titles are all Shakespeare.