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For Wend-Writer and Leianora, for their birthdays. Beta by RiverOtter, with corrections from Fiondil.
Prepared to Live Indeed
The shining spirit once known variously as Frodo Baggins and Iorhael na i·lebid, and whose titles had included Cormacolindo, the Ringbearer, and Bronwe athan Harthad, Endurance Beyond Hope, as well as Prince of the West, rose from its work amongst the spirits of children preparing for their eventual birth into Arda, turning to present a visage filled with delight and joy.
I have a commission for you, child, if you will accept it.
When would I ever reject any commission you would offer me, Atto?
A terribly wounded spirit lies within a room within Námo’s halls, one he and his companions constructed from their own experiences within Arda. I would have you return him here, to this glade, as I would hope healing for his fëa would come to him more swiftly here than there.
Iorhael bowed deeply. It is long and long since I have crossed over the silver bridge, but at your word I would descend into the deepest places to bring out those you would have me fetch for you.
Then go, beloved child. There might have been two to fetch, but his one companion chose rather to return to his hröa once more, and finish the course set for him. This one, however, although given every chance to redeem himself, has suffered from the dragon sickness for much of his life, and resolutely refused to learn the lessons of compassion and empathy I had set for him. Perhaps he will do better with the tutelage of one in whom those lessons are so shiningly displayed as is true of yourself.
Then he has become much as Curumo came to?
Indeed so. And do not seek to take to yourself the guilt for what came of Curumo within Arda, for then you saw how wounded he was and offered him the chance to return. So it is that he chose his own fate, particularly as he had begun from greater knowledge than you had as to what his choices could bring him to.
Now go, and bring back this one, one who was never intended to be more than a mortal, that within this glade he might come at last once more to himself, and perhaps accept another chance to live and fulfill our hopes for his growth.
Iorhael bowed deeply, shimmering with joy and responsibility.
The chamber was strange to Iorhael’s eyes as he entered it. All here was white, sterile if shining with possibilities. The floor underfoot was bare, laid in squares not of marble but of some thin material over ancient stone. The room itself was long, set with lines of benches. A sign hung upon one wall, one that read, Waiting Room.
There was a hint that many spirits might have come and gone here, few waiting more than a brief spell of Time; but now the room was empty of life—or almost so. There was a tortured mewling, much muted, from some distance along it.
Iorhael sought high and low, and finally found his quarry lying under a bench, a huddled, twisted figure as if a crippled faunt had been abandoned there. Smiling, the shining one knelt to reach down to gather the creature to himself. So, here you are, then? Are you ready now to accept Love? For I have it in immeasurable amounts for your sustenance, if you will have it of me. Atto has seen to it that we are well supplied, you must understand. Now come, Tom Malvolo Riddle, back to the Garden.
“Let me go!” whispered the twisted creature. “I don’t want love! I want respect and obedience!”
Iorhael laughed, a mithril-pure paean of delight. And what is true respect other than love, Tom? And of what value is obedience if it is from aught other than love?
“But you could never understand me. I was raised as an orphan!”
As was I. The Brandywine took my parents from me.
“But I never knew love.”
Never? Truly never?
Iorhael could see glimpses of memories: the matron who’d tried to hold him close that Tom Riddle had rebuffed; the young boy who’d been enthralled by Tom’s ability to move things with his will who’d been one of his earliest victims; the pretty girl from Hufflepuff who had been drawn to him and had followed him about worshipfully who had been used by him; the concerned teacher who would have preferred to have guided him in exploring his talents fully to the guarded watch he was forced to take; the young men who had been his companions who had wished to be his friends. But Tom had held them all away, fearful of allowing them to come too close. He’d used them and manipulated them all, demanding obedience in preference to fealty, fear rather than love….
The creature whispered, “You cannot understand me!”
Iorhael shook his shining head. I held Sauron’s Ring for seventeen years. I doubt you can show me a perversion he did not perfect long before your people came to be as they are and that It then presented before me.
“I could kill you!”
Iorhael laughed. How can you kill what is already immortal? But then he became more solemn. I see that you have killed, and have delighted to do so. I, too, killed, and had no remorse at the time. And many—too many—died for my sake. But those you have killed merely found the immortality within their hearts, and the Imperishable Flame within them burns the brighter now it is no longer veiled in flesh. And those who died for my sake rejoice that their sacrifices were not in vain. And all that I sacrificed has been fulfilled as well.
“They are dead!” The whispered words were less than the declaration of triumph he’d intended. “Those killed for me—by me—they are no more!”
Again the negation of Tom’s claims of victory. You are no longer within Arda Marred, and neither are they. They are far beyond the Circles of Arda, and know the fuller life granted to the Father’s Children. You are no threat to them now, for they are held within Life Itself. The question is, are you willing to seek Life yourself, or do you intend to continue to seek power at the cost of all others? Atto wishes you back, you see.
“I don’t want Love!” The whisper was now desperate.
Iorhael’s thought was gentle as he held the wasted form to him: But Love wants you, child. It is time to give over being Voldemort, for he had not the power and immortality he’d thought to command. Remember how you have repeatedly lost the physical forms you once held. You held not true Power, not once you turned from your Source. Atto is the only true Source of Power we can draw upon, after all. All else is a sham—a mere conjuror’s parlor trick of misdirection, not true magic.
“If you think you know me, you are mistaken.”
A sigh. Oh, I know you better than you can yet appreciate. You see, I knew you when you were known as Lotho. You were my cousin then, and you fell even then to the false promise of another to grant you Power and Fame. He made you infamous instead, and then had you ignominiously murdered. You’ve had several chances to set things right, but you will keep trying to wrest power to yourself, and in so doing you keep allowing it to slip away from you. You have held political power and spiritual power at different times. You have been a series of bullies, and military commanders whose armies became increasingly impotent as you reached beyond the practical, seeking to become a tyrant based on a perversion of imagination rather than on Truth.
Oh, you have known some triumphs, but in the end have consistently lost all by forgetting that there is no true gain not founded on Love, Compassion, and Justice. And even the Elves, who will live until the end of Time as we knew it during our lives in Middle Earth, accept that within Time there is no constancy, but always ebb and flow. He who was once a King knows he may be the meanest of servants in the future, and then hold Rule within his grasp once more after that.
Iorhael’s expression became more intense. Are you not tired of it, Tom? Are you not tired of always being avoided and friendless, sought out only by those who want at least a portion of your power for themselves? You can be better! This last time you tore your very soul to pieces, and it will take much to bring you back to wholeness so that you can again hold your rightful share of the Imperishable Flame once more. Don’t you want to know friendship—true friendship—at least once? Don’t you want to have someone love you as much for your weaknesses as for your strengths? And Atto wants you back again! I can take you out of here, if you wish it. Or I could leave you.
He made as if to set his charge again on the cold floor, but it clawed at him, terrified to be abandoned again to what it saw as sterile whiteness. “No! Please—don’t leave me here! I am afraid to be alone…."
He who had once been Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry passed through the portion of the Gardens where Iorhael served as one who eased those children who had returned precipitously from the lives granted them and those preparing for new lives within the boundaries of Time. Iorhael laughed with a child who fair shone with potential, as handsome a lad as the former wizard had ever seen.
“And this is quite a fine one you have here, Iorhael,” he said.
Yes, and soon to be sent out once again to live, we hope fully this time.
“I see. And has he a name?”
He’s had several. But this time we feel he might do well to have a new one.
“I’d be honored to have him bear the name I once held.”
Iorhael shone with satisfaction, and the child with surprise. Would you like that? Do you think that you could live up to such a name?
The boy nodded, at first uncertainly. “I think I could—this time.”
“And what will we name him, Harry?”
“But you hated Snape, and he hated you!”
“That was only because he didn’t understand me. He looked at me and saw only the resemblance to my father, who after all at fifteen was able at times to be an insufferable git. And I saw only the hatred I didn’t deserve, and so I reacted to what I didn’t understand. But he was a great wizard himself, a far better wizard in every way than ever Voldemort was. He was what Tom Riddle could have been, Ginny, had he ever allowed a human emotion to grow within him. I can’t think of two better wizards to wish our son to be like.”
And the infant realized that the Love it had become accustomed to would continue to surround him—this time.
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