One-shot Harry Potter fanfic. What if Tom had, with a little help, accepted Harry's challenge to try for some remorse?
The soft glow of the orange sunset illuminated the Great Hall as a hush fell over the crowd. Despite the immense damage to Hogwarts' beloved castle in the preceding battle and the heartbreaking loss of lives, everyone's attention centered on two figures circling each other so intensely that it seemed nobody else existed to the two of them in that moment. Many who gathered around them clung to hope in the midst of their grief and anxiety, as not only had Harry Potter survived, but he proclaimed that he had eliminated the last remaining shreds of what had tied Voldemort to earth. Voldemort's horcruxes had been destroyed!
"It's your last chance," said Harry, "it's all you got left. . . . I've seen what you'll be otherwise. . . . Be a man . . . try . . . Try for some remorse. . . ."
Remorse? Of all Potter's revelations, of all the things Potter could have said to Voldemort in this moment, nothing could have been more shocking than this. The notion made Voldemort want to laugh, really. How childish of Potter to even suggest such a thing! Surely it was a delay tactic, to prolong the final moments of his life before he, Voldemort, delivered the final death strike to his prophesied nemesis. Yet, Voldemort couldn't help but wonder, if only out of a sense of idle curiosity, what Potter meant. What had Potter seen? Indulgently, Voldemort considered asking that very question, but quickly thought the better of it.
Voldemort's words died on his lips, and he fell silent as he suddenly, forcefully became aware of an almost chilling presence surrounding him. He could sense that someone was speaking something in his mind, but could not quite make out the words. Was Potter attempting to take advantage of their connection? But wait, that connection no longer existed. That presence…it wasn't Potter. Yet it was so familiar somehow.
"Tom, you have to stop this! Stop and listen! Harry's right! If you don't allow yourself to feel remorse for what you've done, you'll have as good as destroyed yourself!"
Unseen, the spirit circled close to Tom before eventually pausing in front of him, desperately searching for a way to drive her point home as she gazed into his eyes. Oh, why hadn't she been given more time than this to prepare? She had only ever once before attempted to connect with those to whom she was assigned in this way, and this time, it was all the more crucial that she succeed. This time it wasn't just a life on the line, it was Tom's very soul! Though she had never before been able to change the fate of one of her charges, this time she might have a hope of making a difference. And surely Tom of all people would hear her. She might not have been able to reach him before, long ago on the night of her death, but she would not fail now.
And so, the spirit girl redoubled her efforts to connect with Tom and repeated her urgent words. Knowing that it wouldn't be nearly enough to simply tell him, she showed him just what he would become if he gave up on his last chance. Perhaps nothing short of this would reach him. At first, Tom seemed doubtful and in denial, but she would not allow him to dispel the disturbing image. He needed to see and experience the truth for himself before he could even begin to consider taking the last chance he had.
"Trickery. You can't expect me to believe…"
"It's true, and you're down to your last chance, Tom. Continue on this path, and this is what you will be…forever!" Here, she paused to let her final word sink in, and she was pleased to feel a shiver of fear and a very slight willingness to hear her out from Tom. Then, she revealed herself to him.
Amid a white light and slight blurring around the edges, the vivid picture of a tall, slender girl of about sixteen years of age appeared before him. Her long blond hair fell in waves to about halfway down her back, and her vibrant blue eyes full of concern held his gaze intently. She was clad in her Hogwarts uniform, a Gryffindor crest upon her robe, and she looked whole and healthy in stark contrast to the last night he saw her. No evidence remained of the fatal injuries inflicted upon her.
"Elizabeth?" Tom asked in complete shock, staggering back from her. "But…you're dead! Why…how is it that you've come here?"
"I asked to be here, to do what I couldn't before," she replied simply, though by her expression it became clear that there was more to the story than this. It didn't matter how she was here, but what she came to do. "I came to save you from leaving your soul destroyed beyond repair. Surely you can feel how wrong everything's gone because of what you've done. Countless lives have been torn apart because of it….my…life and my family's lives were torn apart!"
With this, Elizabeth paused again to let her words sink in, as well as regain some of her composure. Her gaze never left his. She'd forgiven him long ago, but seeing him again like this made all of her emotions raw as though it had all just happened. But it gave her hope to see that he was experiencing the same mix of raw emotions upon seeing her again. He was beginning to feel the first stirrings of something beyond regret.
Would that be enough? Suddenly, Elizabeth worried that Tom wouldn't be able to do this, or that she wouldn't. She found herself glancing over at the spirits of James and Lily, Sirius, and Remus and Tonks for help. They stood by Harry, unseen by him because he no longer had the resurrection stone with him. There was no response from her fellow spirits, save for smiles and nods of encouragement. She had to trust herself, and trust that it would all work out. Hoping against hope that she could get Tom to understand despite how blindingly arrogant and stubborn he could be, Elizabeth returned her attention to Tom and continued.
"You have to face what you've done and allow yourself to feel remorse for it, or there'll remain almost nothing left of you. Your horcruxes are all gone, and this twisted and deformed fragment of soul in you is all that you have. This is your only chance to restore you to what you once were, and more…"
Luckily, Elizabeth had chosen her words wisely, for Tom was intrigued by the possibility of being restored to his former power. Indeed, this was something he wanted now that his horcruxes had all been taken from him. Though, knowing Elizabeth, she probably meant it differently than he had in mind. Yes, he was thinking of power, while she was thinking of a fully restored soul…the importance of which Tom still totally underestimated.
Well, now that Tom had agreed to attempt this, he was really at a loss of what to do. But then, he found himself remembering that night and how overwhelmingly remorseful he'd felt for his actions toward her. He'd held her in his arms and sobbed as she died, wanting to take back what he'd done if only she wouldn't leave him. It was the one and only time he'd allowed himself to feel more than a slight regret; after that, all emotions had been locked away to protect himself from their power, and nothing had succeeded in getting through that emotional barrier until now.
And now, Tom just wanted to lock those feelings away again, but found that he couldn't. Perhaps he simply didn't know how anymore, or Elizabeth wouldn't let him. Yes, it was better to blame her for it. After all, opening himself up to this had been her idea. "Stop this!" he cried out, for the first time almost in a panic. He could not bear the floodgate of raw guilt he was experiencing at all of the torture and anguish he'd caused now that he could feel it as his victims had. As the people they'd left behind had. "I cannot bear it!" His last words reverberated throughout the room, unwillingly ripped from within him.
"I'm not the one doing this. You are. And you won't bear it alone," Elizabeth promised, reaching out her hand to his as she again held his gaze with a look of reassurance and approval. "I'll face this with you to the end. Trust me, I won't let you go through this alone. There's nothing to be afraid of."
Searching her eyes, Tom was astonished to find that she was being truthful. How could she be willing to do this for him after what he'd done to her? After only a moment's hesitation, he reached out to grip her hand in his as though clinging to a lifeline. Faster and faster the images of the destruction he'd wreaked came, and with Elizabeth there he found that he was just strong enough to withstand the incredible burden of guilt and remorse that weighed so heavily on what remained of his soul. This revelation was probably the most profound and unexpected of his life, as he'd truly never understood until just now that having someone he cared for by his side could actually make him stronger.
Soon, Elizabeth was clinging to his hand just as hard, tears coursing down her cheeks at the pain of it all. It became so unbearable that she didn't understand how anyone could withstand it. If she just let go, the pain and suffocating guilt would end, but Elizabeth refused to give into that temptation. She wouldn't allow herself to let him down.
And then, the crushing weight of guilt, remorse, and pain began to ebb, replaced by a feeling of being cleansed. By this point, the two were holding onto each other tightly, their eyes closed. The crowd around them watched in astonishment, including Harry, as Voldemort transformed. The snakelike features slowly became more and more human, and his head regained its mane of curly black hair, now slightly greying with age. His eyes, when they finally opened once more, were no longer red but a clear grey.
Tom had one final glimpse of Harry, the crowd around them, and the Great Hall before something felt very wrong with his body. His lips parted to speak, but he had no time left to utter a sound before he sank into blackness. A golden-white glow surrounded him, and then his body collapsed to the floor, glassy eyes open and staring toward the enchanted ceiling.
When Tom regained awareness, he was standing beside his aged body, with Elizabeth right there to greet him. She now appeared dressed in a flowing white dress. He gazed upon his body lying on the floor, at first uncomprehendingly, and then looked down at himself to find his arms and hands smoothly unwrinkled. Instead of his black robe, he wore a tailored suit. As far as he could determine, he appeared as he had in his youth! But how?
Elizabeth gazed between the body and Tom, shocked. She knew nothing of horcruxes beyond what they were and how they were made, so she had not realized that the process of healing would do this. Of course, from experience Elizabeth knew that it was impossible to stop someone from dying when it was his or her time. But it had worked! He had healed his soul, which was the most important thing.
"I'm…dead?" Tom asked, astonished to ever be uttering these words. Oddly, he found that the thought didn't bother him nearly as much as he would have expected. He was content to be here with her for now. Though he felt much more healthy and whole than he could ever remember, something still felt missing within him. Perhaps he would find a way back one day, after all. With a slight smirk at the thought, he awaited Elizabeth's response.
To Elizabeth's surprise and relief, Tom didn't seem nearly as upset as she'd thought. With a slight smile, she nodded in confirmation. "Yes. Nothing could have stopped that, though I've tried. It's…why I was sent here, to prepare you. That's the work I've been doing here, helping people prepare to cross over."
"Well, shall we then?" he inquired, holding his arm out to her with a flourish and another smirk.
"Of course!" With this, Elizabeth turned and faced the nearest wall, where it seemed as though a golden gateway were appearing.
Beyond the gateway was a white, sandy beach. Tom could hear the soothing sounds of the surf, accompanied by seagulls. Though the two of them stepped toward their destination, they both couldn't help but turn back once more to view the place that had been home to them. Elizabeth scanned the crowd, as though hoping to catch a final glimpse of someone, but apparently that person wasn't there. Then, her gaze lingered sadly on Harry for a moment. Tom again had the impression that she knew something more than she cared to discuss, but decided not to ask. He gazed once more regretfully at Harry before turning away, hand in hand with Elizabeth.
As though feeling their gazes upon him, Harry stood up after confirming that Voldemort was dead and looked to where Tom and Elizabeth were standing. Though he could not see them, he could feel… something. He gave a slight nod, a recognition of the successful ending of this ordeal.
"Harry….what is it?" Hermione asked, making her way through the crowd and coming to stand by Harry's side.
"Nothing," he replied simply, shaking his head and turning toward her. Ron joined them, and the three embraced in a group hug, grateful to still have each other but with heavy hearts because of all the losses.
"It's beautiful!" Tom exclaimed in awe as he and Elizabeth approached the gateway to the beach. He hardly believed he could be going to a place like this after all he'd done.
"It's just like we imagined," Elizabeth smiled brightly, seeing his response. "This is my home here. Oh, you should see the castle of crystal by the cave overlooking the sea! It's even more incredible than we pictured."
"Last one there gets dunked in the ocean," Tom challenged, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "And it's not going to be me." At this, he took off running toward the boardwalk with long, graceful strides.
"We'll see about that!" Elizabeth retorted playfully, following right behind him. Their laughter echoed in the air as the gateway sealed itself shut and disappeared, unseen and unheard by those left in Hogwarts.