He kills him every night. In the safety of his mind, he destroys him.
They are bloody and vicious: spine ripped from the skin; ribs splintered; neck twisted. They are never enough. No amount of broken bones and crushed hearts can make it enough. It is all he thinks off. All he longs for and yet the blood lust and anger and vengeance turn to ash in his mouth.
He still remembers the day when he stumbled upon the word in the Restricted Section at end of his fifth year. As everyone else lounged about in the sun eating ice mice, he remained cloistered in the library's corridors.
Such brilliance. Such perfection. His mortal heart pounded with deadly purpose.
And they were easy.
The spell work was simple — child's play. The sizzling burn in his chest only lingered a day afterward. Nothing worse than a pulled muscle. And with each slice, each flash of green, his salvation solidified. Death would never touch him.
And neither will it touch the boy.
In his mind the name echoes like a rung chime.
The days sprawl into years and in his mind, in his heart, in his soul — Harry.
Bewitched to slumber, he is hidden from all wizards and witches in a place no one will ever find him. Twenty-seven times he has stepped into the garden to pour Drought of Living Death down Harry's throat.
Does he remember, Voldemort wonders. In the bewildered moment when the potion wears off … does he remember that he failed? That the world he fought so hard to protect bows to a god?
He walks to the garden's heart. Harry lies in a coffin; its glass lid glistens in the garden's soft, ambient glow. Over the years, the plants have fed upon the magic keeping all life — even birds and insects — shunned. It is an oasis. A lush paradise. Even in the moonless night, the flowers and vegetation exude a bluish glow. Around Harry's coffin, an enormous lilac has grown into a wall. Its clustered blossoms are like paper lanterns. Its branches bend in arches, showering the coffin in shimmering purple. Voldemort steps up to it and brushes the petals from the glass.
Twenty-seven years and Harry has not aged a day.
What do you dream, Voldemort longs to ask. Do you think of me, for I am always thinking of you.
He vanishes the glass and his bone-white fingers card through Harry's hair. He looks like death. His skin lacks color, his chest hardly moves. He barely has a pulse. Voldemort's fingers drift from Harry's hair to his temple, trail down the side of his face, following the curve of his jaw and finally pausing upon his lips. Harry's slow, barely-there breath ghosts against his fingertips.
He kills him every night, but what if he …
Harry's right hand twitches, the potion's powerful haze finally thinning. His eyelashes — long, dark; Voldemort has spent hours studying how they splay against his skin — flutter. His lips part, lungs finally allowed to properly expand, and Voldemort leans down and tastes. Harry's lips are soft. His mouth is softer still. Harry does not resist. He is unyielding, letting Voldemort deepen it. Letting him explore the warm contours of his mouth.
But the potion is waning and Harry stirs against him, releasing a muffled sound of confusion and …
He must do it now, before he gains full consciousness.
But what if he …
Voldemort grabs his wrists before Harry can strike him, pinning them down above his head. How he wants to climb into the coffin and pin Harry's whole body beneath his, but he refrains. Harry wriggles like a worm on a hook, still half drugged, and before he can gain enough cohesiveness to truly fight, Voldemort speaks.
"There will be a meteor shower in five minutes. It would be a shame to miss it."
Harry is startled. He blinks at him comically.
"The Lyrid meteors. I want you to see it."
"Why?" Harry asks, hesitantly.
"Because it is beautiful."
Harry's eyes finally dart about him, taking in the overflowing greenery. His breath catches as he sees where he lies.
In visions, in dreams, he tears Harry apart, but no longer does the thought of killing him elicit joy. He doesn't know when that happened. He can recall so many things so clearly, but this … he does not understand this. He wants Harry awake, light reflecting in those vivid eyes.
Has he gone mad?
From Harry's expression, he knows he isn't alone in wondering it.
By how Harry glances about the garden, it is obvious that he is planning an escape, but there is no escape. He tells Harry such as he helps him sit up. Harry's throat constricts as he swallows and Voldemort will replay that simple movement again and again in his mind for the next year. He will recall how the lilac's petals shower him. He will remember Harry's lips with unwavering accuracy. For a year, he will stay away from this place, refusing to return while Harry is in slumber, for Voldemort does not trust himself. He is familiar with many lusts — power, glory, blood — but this lust … this lust for warmth and smiles and a body against his …
He fears it. He fears the damage it can bring. He does not trust himself and so, as the stars shoot across the sky and Harry sits stiffly and silently, Voldemort knows he will administer the potion tucked away in his pocket. Harry will fight him, but he is wandless. Easily, he will be overpowered. Voldemort will tuck him back inside his coffin, will press lips to his forehead, and will depart without a backward glance, dreading and yearning for the year to pass.
What is a dream and what is reality? Harry doesn't know anymore. He feels that he's in a constant state of delirium — sinking and rising and sinking again. He thinks … he thinks Voldemort kissed him. Which is insane and wrong. God. So wrong. Why would he think that? Why would he dream of a slick tongue moving against his?
There had been stars — an explosion of stars. Harry remembers that clearly. The entire sky blowing apart in a firework show. And there had been flowers. The sweet honeyed scent of lilac and … yew. Freshly bruised yew leaves.
"And what do you smell, Harry, my boy?" Slughorn asks encouragingly as cauldrons simmer and his classmates turn.
Voldemort, Harry replies.
Voldemort in my hair; Voldemort on my skin; Voldemort in my mouth.
Make it go away. Make it go away.
"It would be a shame to miss it."
Voldemort is strange. Stranger than usual. The way he looks at Harry … but it all falls away before Harry can get a firmer hold upon it. Dissolves into darkness as a vial is pressed to his mouth and thin fingers pull at the back of his head, forcing him to swallow. And it is as if time has not passed at all: He is blinking blearily. Voldemort helps him sit up and Harry doesn't even care. He is so confused. Is this what insanity feels like?
"What?" he asks, realizing that Voldemort has said something.
His mind feels like it is in a meat grinder. The heady flowers bombard his senses, turning his stomach. He grips the edge of the bed and with a sickening jolt he recognizes it for what it is. Not a bed. A coffin. Voldemort sits on its edge, watching him, speaking, but Harry's heartbeat is too loud to hear anything over the pulsing of his blood.
He's been here before. He's done this before.
Harry snaps back to attention as Voldemort takes hold of his chin.
"You are not listening."
Harry can't speak. He's shaking. He's hyperventilating because they've done this before.
"I don't want to leave you," Voldemort whispers, ensnaring Harry with his eyes. "You understand why that is troubling."
Harry swallows. The grinding in his head is making his eyes water. Every second that passes brings forth memories. How long has he been in this flower-filled coffin?
"You know," Harry breathes, cold with dread. "You know that I'm…"
Voldemort nods, still holding Harry's chin; still holding his gaze. "I know."
The grinding shifts to an old familiar pain: a searing, burning flare in his scar. He flinches back, clutching his forehead. Voldemort releases him. Watches him. He looks so strange. He looks … sad. From inside his robes, he pulls forth a small bottle. Harry knows what it is because this has happened before, so many times before; he scrambles backward. "No!" He remembers. He remembers everything. The war. Horcruxes. Ron. Hermione. Shooting stars and Voldemort's tongue. "No! Don't — don't—"
But Voldemort has magic. Harry is immobilized, the potion slides down his throat. He can do nothing to stop it. He wants to scream. He wants to vomit. The paralysis lifts and though he can move again, the potion is already spreading through him, quieting his heart, numbing his limbs. Voldemort cradles him to his chest, nuzzling the side of his face, kissing his cheek. His mouth. It is slow and deep. Like a curtain falling on a stage, his consciousness fades.
"Goodbye," Voldemort murmurs.
When next his heavy-lidded eyes fight to open it is to see the large, broad nose and comical bat ears of a house elf. Half-conscious, he drinks the offered cup without hesitation, noticing how dark the world is around him, how the wind rustles leaves, sending something sweet through the air. Honeyed lilac and …
Before oblivion takes him, his mind identifies it: Yew. Honeyed lilac and yew.