A girl with silver hair clutched at a slim chain about her neck, twisting it so tight over her knuckles it drew blood. Dust settled over the blank green eyes and dark robes at her feet.
‘For you,’ he murmured. ‘He did this for you.’
As always. A soft little whisper welled up in the back of his mind.
‘You were real.’ He thrust out a hand and the pale wand floated to his fingers from beside the corpse. ‘One last dream still remained.’
The silver-haired girl gathered the body beneath her into her arms. White feathers bristled from her skin and tears trickled from irises as dark as night. Azure flames flickered up about her feet, dancing on the stones like little candle flames.
‘He was more than you will ever be,’ she hissed.
He levelled his new wand at her, but the breath caught in his throat and the words died on his tongue. Sacrifice. A soft smooth thought rose up from the base of his skull.
‘You are protected by his sacrifice,’ he said. ‘And Lord Voldemort does not forget his mistakes, he learns from them.’
She wavered to nothing.
A strange melancholy fell upon him as he stared over the rubble and the ash, a thick, grey shroud smothering all sense of triumph.
‘Fleur.’ The name slipped from his lips. ‘Fleur Delacour.’
How could he choose to die for her? She would’ve only betrayed him in the end.
Red-robed aurors and hit-wizards appeared among the rubble, spells flashing between them and his dark-robed Death Eaters. A one-armed auror jumped up atop the rubble, hurling curses. He swatted them aside and closed the air around him like a fist, ripping the man’s spinal column out and watching him roll away down into the dust. Azure flames crept across the stones and the stink of burning flesh filled his nostrils. The stark, grey walls of the orphanage burnt before the eye of his mind, orange tiles crumbling into flame and smoke swirling across London streets.
A witch in tattered red robes scrambled up the mound and threw herself at him. ‘Avada kedavra,’ she screamed.
A single black butterfly exploded from his wand and swallowed the flash of green, bursting into black smoke. He opened her throat with a flick of his wand and a cutting curse, watching the bright crimson liquid spurt out onto the stones.
The world stretched off into the distance as the witch clutched at her neck, gasping and collapsing back into the rubble, her heels kicking in the dust.
It’s lonely, isn’t it? A girl’s voice echoed up from the back of his mind, her heels swinging from the top bunk. Like not quite being real.
He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head but wide-framed, cheap glasses hovered behind his eyelids. ‘What magic is this?’ he whispered. ‘What did he do?’
I’ve no horcruxes to anchor me. A stab of fear lanced through him. If I die, I’ll be nothing again.
Azure flames curled across the stones, Death Eaters and hit wizards duelled among them and the dead burnt, filling the air with the reek of scorched flesh. A flash of white light burst at the courtyard’s edge, searing his eyes.
Stupid boy. In his mind’s eye, his blistered, raw hands scrubbed burnt bacon from the bottom of the pan. If you’ve ruined the Teflon, you’ll have no breakfast all week to make up the cost of it.
A dull, low ache bit into his temple, throbbing with each beat of his heart.
The scorched figure of a dark-haired witch appeared on the crumbling roof with a loud crack and poured cherry-red flames at him from the tip of her wand. He ripped the Fiendfyre from her control and set it free.
Burn. The throbbing intensified and his head spun. Let them all burn.
He clapped a hand to his forehead and dug his fingers into his skull until the pain drowned the ache and blood trickled down his scalp. The witch burnt as the fire rushed over her, screaming and flailing and leaping from the roof to splatter across the stones at his feet.
Thick, black smoke closed over him, stinging his eyes.
He squeezed them shut. I’m sorry, Tom. Hot tears burnt against his lashes and the throbbing in his skull began to pound. I still love you.
‘Love me?’ he whispered, the words slipping off his tongue. ‘If you loved me, you wouldn’t have done it.’
White tiles flashed before his eyes. The girl with glasses sobbed over silver taps and pale basins. A slim dark book echoed his thoughts back at him off its pages, resting upon a pile of old tomes.
If she couldn’t understand, none of them will. The thought rose up from the dark of his mind like mist curling off the pool in the Chamber of Secrets. There’re no dreams left.
A painted figure turned its back on him as he ripped threads of magic from its canvas and a girl of grey mist wailed into a puddle of water on the bathroom floor. Red eyes burnt like coals in the sockets of his reflection, stained scarlet as his soul. His followers shrank back, wide-eyed and pale.
There’s only power. The power to do something great. A name hung on the tip of his tongue, dancing out of reach with a green-eyed girl beyond cold glass. And her.
The silver-haired girl smiled beneath a summer sky, framed by bright, green leaves. Her lips tasting of marzipan; her eyes shining with soft, warm light.
His heart lurched.
A desperate yearning ripped through him, sharp as razors, hot as flame. The shadow of the grey girl with glasses hovered beyond her beneath dark skies.
One of two. He tore open his eyes and clutched at his head, but the pounding ripped deeper, crashing like thunder with each beat of his heart. One of us was betrayed by the girl in the bathroom. The other found a girl beneath a summer sky.
A flicker of white snatched the Elder Wand from his hand in a flash of pain. Hot blood trickled down his wrist, dripping into the flames around his feet with a soft hissing.
Which am I? He slipped the long, pale yew wand from his sleeve and stared at it, spinning it ’round in his fingers as the inferno swallowed the world around him.
And either must die at the hand of the other. A hoarse rasp rose from the back of his mind over a tangle of cold fury and hot hate. The words seeped through the stilted, twisted, warped memories of two shattered souls. For neither can live while the other survives.
He closed his eyes.
Scattered, tattered shadows clawed at one another in the dark; bound in foreign flesh, thrust together, mutilated and merged.
But which am I? How do I win?
Above white tiles, the girl of grey mist faded to nothing with a tearful smile.
Heat licked at him, biting at his skin. He opened his eyes.
Red flames ran along the length of his wand, flickering in his dark robes. He thrust his wand at them, but the pale yew crumbled to ash, slipping through his fingers. The fire ate into him in searing hot waves, curling into his flesh like burning hooks.
Dark mist swirled amidst the smoke.
It doesn’t matter which I am. He closed his eyes and pictured the green-eyed little girl smiling behind cold glass, letting the world and its agony drift far into the distance. Perfect wishes don’t come true.