Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 1900 words
Summary: Voldemort's return at the end of GoF. From Voldemort's POV.
Note: Originally written for a canon POV challenge at hogwarts_elite. Second-place winner.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
"Kill the spare."
Wormtail's wand whipped upwards as he screeched, "Avada Kedavra!" into the still night air. Even in Wormtail's arms, Voldemort felt the shock of the boy's corpse hitting the ground -- this body was too frail, too susceptible... They had to hurry.
Harry Potter was retching -- Voldemort didn't fully understand it, but he guessed that his presence would affect the boy in some way, connected somehow to the scar on his forehead. All the better, if it meant Harry wouldn't be able to fight. Who had the other boy been? It didn't matter.
"Go on," said Voldemort to Wormtail. "Before he finds his wand again."
Wormtail lowered him to the ground and walked to Harry, pulled him to his feet, lit his wand and dragged the boy towards the headstone. The name on the grey stone shone in Wormtail's wand-light, and Voldemort burrowed deeper into his robes as a chill crept up his spine.
"I suppose you thought you were better than that wretched witch Merope's child, Father?" he whispered into the comfortable darkness. "How fitting, after all these years, that you should serve a purpose."
He heard a noise, and looked up to see that Wormtail was tying Harry from neck to ankles to the headstone. Voldemort could hear Wormtail's fast breathing but everything was becoming washed-out; Wormtail's hooded shape lurked somewhere at the edge of Voldemort's consciousness now. It was getting more and more difficult to keep hold on this body.
"You!" gasped the boy, his voice harsh and hateful; he must have recognised Wormtail.
The sudden noise snapped Voldemort's mind back into place for the moment. Wormtail said nothing; he checked the tightness of the cords that bound Harry, and then drew a rag from the inside of his cloak and stuffed it into the boy's mouth. His movements were hurried, sloppy, but Voldemort did not doubt him -- how could he? The man had been born a servant. His friends had simply not recognised his attitude for what it was -- and that had been their downfall. Men like Wormtail needed to be controlled, they craved it.
Wormtail shuffled off and Voldemort fidgeted inside the robes -- his focus was slipping again. He couldn't afford to think for too long; the threads of magic that held him together began to unravel the moment he stopped concentrating on keeping them there. He could feel Harry's pain, his confusion; the curious link between him and the boy was strong, too strong--
Nagini moved past him, circling the headstone to which Harry was tied, and Voldemort was able to relax -- her reptilian mind was simple and barren, and it created a sort of barrier between the boy and himself, enough to drown out the boy's anguish, which was causing him to lose focus. Wormtail returned with the cauldron, dragging it across the ground. Voldemort struggled to get a clearer view -- to see that Wormtail was doing everything as planned, but he was weak, impossibly weak.
There was a crackle of flames, and then Nagini disappeared from his consciousness, slithering off, doubtlessly in search of food. Voldemort wouldn't need her to protect him for much longer. The potion would heat up quickly; the snake knew it.
"Hurry!" hissed Voldemort, struggling in vain to free himself of the thick robes. He could feel time ebbing away as his hold on his body loosened.
"It is ready, Master," rasped Wormtail.
"Now," said Voldemort.
The surface of the potion should be dazzling, now, as though encrusted with shining jewels. He almost didn't want to look for fear that Wormtail had managed to make a mess of things again. Wormtail opened the robes, and the night air assaulted Voldemort's senses, bringing with it a faint chill, a stinging in the back of his throat, and the smell of a forest. The latter should have been bright and cleansing, but everything smelled like ashes in this pathetic body.
With an enormous struggle, Voldemort raised his arms and put them around Wormtail's neck. Wormtail lifted him, unease and revulsion coming off him in sickly, panicked waves. Voldemort could not see his features, but he knew that Wormtail was disgusted by what he was being asked to do, disgusted and terrified -- and at the same time anxious to please and servile. As Wormtail lowered him into the cauldron, Voldemort caught a glimpse of Harry Potter's bright green eyes -- they looked oddly familiar, but Voldemort could not place the image.
As the potion admitted Voldemort and the surface of it closed above his head, Voldemort held his breath, keeping his eyes open. This artificial body was accommodating in many ways that he might have found useful in human form -- he could survive without breathing for nearly four times as long as a common human, he could lose a limb and reattach it without so much as a wand-shake, and his eyes were protected from external irritants by a magical barrier. But the cost of maintaining this body was too high, and he could not accomplish much in such a wretched shape. No one would fear or respect a Dark Lord who looked like a deformed doll, and all his magic was tied up in maintaining the body; he had no power but to live. Tonight, that would end.
Something was happening. A thin stream of dust trickled into the potion, swirling around Voldemort's head. He caught a glimpse of the night sky as the potion began to activate; then a vivid electric blue replaced the stars. The colour filled Voldemort's vision completely, and he abandoned the struggle for control over his body. Everything was going exactly as it needed to be. Soon... soon.
There was a soft splashing noise and Voldemort watched as a severed hand fell down and rested beside him at the bottom. A finger was missing from the hand -- how fitting that Wormtail should choose to part with this hand. Voldemort imagined that it had served as a reminder of treachery to Wormtail, all these years.
A thin line of blood trailed down after Wormtail's hand, and then the thing exploded in a cascade of coppery blood, filling the potion around Voldemort with a deep, burning red. Voldemort's mind was beginning to drift and it was getting more and difficult to keep his eyes open. He would need to breathe, very soon. This was the final part of the spell, the final hurdle -- everything depended on Wormtail now, and whether he would keep true to his word.
If he didn't, Voldemort still had strength enough to break free of the cauldron and possess Wormtail. He'd been very specific in his instructions. If the Potter boy's blood did not break the surface of the potion in the next minute, Voldemort would kill Wormtail and force his soul out into nothingness, possessing his body.
A thought occurred to him -- he'd been too hasty in disposing of the other boy who'd arrived with Harry. That boy had seemed tall and strong and handsome, just like Voldemort had been before -- he should have kept the other boy alive until the spell was completed. He didn't want to spend an eternity in Wormtail's body, anything but that--
In the bright, searing redness before his eyes, Voldemort saw a darker red trickle -- so Wormtail had succeeded. The liquid around him turned white, eddies of magic penetrating his body -- he could feel the power of Lily Potter's blood sacrifice shooting up from his pelvis to his chest -- yes.
Excruciating, inhuman pain exploded behind Voldemort's eyes, and he felt his body transmute. Heavy fumes were rising from the cauldron bottom, aiming straight for Voldemort's face, seeping in through his nostrils like minuscule tornadoes. His limbs felt as though they were on fire from the inside; the new blood washing away the old, rebuilding him from a fragmented memory. The cauldron was beginning to be too small.
Voldemort moved the fingers on his right hand -- they obeyed. Voldemort gazed down at them -- long, skeletal and white, but they were his, and this pale, thin body was undeniably his own. Tentatively, he released his mind's grip on his magic, allowing it to seep freely back into him -- he no longer needed to control every aspect of his existence. His body was returned to him, and magic was flooding through his skin as the last of the potion disappeared and shot up into the sky in a column of thick white steam.
Voldemort kneeled on the stone bottom of the cauldron -- it was still warm from the fire below it, sending tingles up into his kneecaps. He gripped the sides of the cauldron with hesitant fingers, almost expecting them to break now that he wasn't controlling every movement. His hands were weak, but they did not break, and Voldemort tightened his shoulder muscles, forcing himself out of the cauldron.
He rose slowly, the night air cool but not stinging, the burning sensation at the back of his throat gone. Even the forest smelled like the forest now. Ashes and dust were but memories.
"Robe me," he said, and Wormtail pulled Voldemort's robes one-handed over his head. The robes stank of old sweat and felt alien on his skin, but that was to be expected. He had just been born out of nothing, after all.
Voldemort stepped out of the cauldron, staring at Harry Potter, who seemed like a rabbit frozen in a car's headlights -- suddenly, Voldemort remembered where he had seen those eyes.
"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"
Her eyes. The boy had his mother's eyes.
"I told you to stand aside, you silly girl..." murmured Voldemort as he turned away to examine his new body. He hadn't wanted to kill Lily Potter -- at least not then; she'd had talent he could have used, Mudblood or not...
Voldemort shook his head slightly. This was not the time to re-examine the past; he'd done nothing but that for the past fourteen years. He ran his new fingers down his chest, his arms, his face. His unfortunate mistake at Godric's Hollow was put right. The prophecy had either been false or incomplete -- he was not vanquished.
Voldemort held his hands up in front of his face and flexed the fingers. There was an imperceptible, nagging itch in them -- of course. He wanted to grasp his wand once more. He reached into his robe's pocket and pulled out his wand, immediately remembering every spell he thought he had forgotten. Memories flooded through him -- of wandless magic done in dark caves, of raw magical energy dancing at the edges of his mind when he learned Legilimency, of a host of Inferi ready to do his bidding at the mere flick of his wand...
Vanquished? No. The boy had lived, but he had not defeated Lord Voldemort.
Voldemort pointed his wand at Wormtail's sobbing, gibbering form and commanded it to slam against his father's headstone. Wormtail crumpled up at Harry Potter's feet and continued to cry, whimpering like a dog kicked in the stomach.
The fear in Harry's eyes was worth every moment of time spent waiting for the Triwizard Tournament to be over. Fourteen years ago, Voldemort had faced a witless infant whose only power was in being protected by ancient magic. Today, Voldemort was facing a scared boy who no longer had any power to resist him.
I will enjoy watching those eyes go blank in death again, thought Voldemort, and began to laugh.