1. Some people think they will never grow up. When they do, they are suddenly faced with the terrifying prospect that they will one day die. Voldemort believed himself immortal.
2. Of course, he took steps to insure his survival. Spells, potions, transfigurations… he sought out myths of eternal life, immortality, conquering death, protecting the soul, splitting the soul, resurrection. Ever since he was fifteen, he was obsessed with fairy tales, from the wizarding world as well as the Muggle world. If magic was real, could there not be a chance…?
3. Slughorn was the first and last person he ever asked about his extracurricular activities. Slughorn first called them delusions when he was fourteen. By the time Voldemort reached sixteen, with the twenty eighth question, Slughorn called him a genius. But Voldemort knew that already, and he was past needing validation from his Head of House. After he left Hogwarts, he did not consider Slughorn again until decades later. And only when Dumbledore considered him first.
4. Harry Potter was not the first to defeat him. He was informally apprenticed to a warlock in Latvia. ‘Informally’ because Voldemort planned to kill the man when he entered that house. The man had an artifact that Voldemort was seeking, a chalice for a potions ritual. The nameless man also had a reputation, and Voldemort planned to shatter it. Two steps in, and the warlock had him coughing blood and screaming on the grey wood floor. The next two days were the longest of his human life, torture after torture, and not a single emotion came from the warlock, who was blind and mute, but held more power than Voldemort had yet to conceive. That he remained alive and asked for guidance – never pleaded – was the only reason the man kept him alive.
5. For his first year as an apprentice, the warlock stripped him of his clothes and let him freeze as he silently taught his young protégé things Voldemort had only ever dreamed of. Words, visions, spells unfurled in his head, and he saw his future. That was when he knew that he was never going to die.
6. He killed the warlock after five years of service. The man took it well – he seemed to know that it was his time. He did not struggle or cry or beg, simply stood before Voldemort’s wand, his white eyes gazing uncannily at Voldemort. There was no regret, but Voldemort was discomfited. He did not understand. He was glad when he left.
7. His first followers did not recognize him. He was still young, only slightly transformed from what he was, and yet although his first followers knew Tom Riddle, they did not know Voldemort. When they saw him on that platform in the conference hall (so mundane, but we must all start at the foot of the mountain, and no one would suspect), they fell in love with him. He had their loyalty from the very beginning. Many of them did not survive the first ten years. Only a few. So must it be – the first culling separates the chaff from the wheat. If their lives were not so precious to them that they would survive, they were not worthy of his dream.
8. So many of his followers did not understand his vision. They saw only the scattered pieces of sugar he offered and not the true goal. He did not mind so much. He would not have shared true immortality, and if they could not see what was supposed to be every man’s aspiration, that was their loss and his gain. They could be used and discarded. There were exceptions, as always, and he held them close, even if their ranks did not bespeak of favor.
9. Bellatrix never saw beyond the next day – she lived now, therefore she lived. Voldemort grudgingly admired her short-sightedness, for she was more full of life than anyone else he ever met.
10. Wormtail feared death, was perhaps the only Death Eater in his ranks with enough self-consciousness to realize his own weaknesses. Voldemort was more grateful to Wormtail’s cowardice than the rat ever knew.
11. The only Death Eater who believed life was bleak, short, and pointless was the one Voldemort thought desired it most of all. Severus was an intriguing man, and although even Voldemort knew he was not the most loyal, he might be said to be the favorite. He certainly kept his lord entertained. For a man with such bitterness, anger, hatred, grief, he certainly prized his own skin.
12. Those thirteen years when he never could rest unless he was inhabiting another creature’s soul. That was the most frightening time for him. Over and over, in his formless mind, he wondered, i could /i he die? It lasted only a moment, but the prospect terrified him. He would not die – to die would cause the world around him to fall apart, disappear. The world could not exist without him. So second by second, by the strength of his will, he lived.
13. The ecstasy of form is incomparable. Incorporeal, he felt nothing and could imagine that he was nothing. In his nightmares, he melted into the trees and lost consciousness, the last bit of him left. But in form… he stroked his head and reassured himself that he was Voldemort, that he was alive, that he would stay alive, and that he would win. Once again, his faith was restored. The moment of doubt was lost in the past, in the corpses of snakes that he left behind him.
14. Once he regained his body, he turned his attention to cementing his immortality – the moment may have been forgotten, but the impetus remained.
15. And for good measure, he turned his attention to completely destroying Dumbledore and Harry Potter. The best cover he could ask for was provided by the Ministry. According to them, he did not exist. But his whispers filled the halls. He had control. And he had Harry’s eyes.
16. He could appreciate the irony, but he did not think of it often. It gave him a headache to realize that he needed Harry to achieve his ends. However, he was a Slytherin. If Harry could be his pawn as much as Dumbledore’s, perhaps the irony would kill Dumbledore and not him.
17. He felt frustration, exaltation, damnation, ecstasy, humiliation… he had a sense of failure even with his success. He could not pinpoint its origin, and he could not shake the idea that Dumbledore was laughing at him, even after the old fool’s death.
18. He did not even see where Harry was following his tracks, and when it occurred to him to look behind, he believed he had picked up his pieces well enough. Either way, it was time for this game to end. Harry was becoming more than just a thorn. Even better if he could use Harry for his last Horcrux. He would enjoy preserving the lifeless body for his own amusement, hiding it away from anyone’s eyes but his own. Harry’s dead would mean his everlasting life.
19. At the last, he sincerely thought he was going to win. He was secure in his power, confident in his knowledge. There was no possibility that Harry would win – no matter how many times Voldemort almost killed him, he was confident that the wretch would finally fall. He never considered parallels, remorse, love, souls, collective power that Harry gained in what seemed the space of seconds rather than years. He did not know when the boy before him became a man, but he preferred the man anyway. When he raised his wand to finally kill Harry Potter, he knew Harry would fall at his feet. He knew.
20. When he died, no one was more surprised than Voldemort. Even now, he denies his own death. But that is another story and shall be told another time.