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The sound of his name seemed to act like a stimulant. Ron swallowed, then still

Breathing hard through his long nose, moved back toward the rock.

"Tell me when," he croaked.

"On three," said Harry, looking back down at the locket and narrowing his eyes,

Concentrating on the letter S, imagining a serpent, while the contents of the locket rattled

Like a trapped cockroach. It would have been easy to pity it, except that the cut around

Harry's neck still burned.

"One . . . two . . . three . . .open."

The last word came as a hiss and a snarl and the golden doors of the locket swung

Wide open with a little click.

Behind both of the glass windows within blinked a living eye, dark and handsome

as Tom Riddle's eyes had been before he turned them scarlet and slit-pupiled

"Stab," said Harry, holding the locket steady on the rock.

Ron raised the sword in his shaking hands: The point dangled over the frantically

Swiveling eyes, and Harry gripped the locket tightly, bracing himself, already imagining

Blood pouring from the empty windows.

Then a voice hissed from out the Horcrux.

"I have seen your heart, and it is mine."

"Don't listen to it!" Harry said harshly. "Stab it!"

"I have seen your dreams, Ronald Weasley, and I have seen your fears. All you

desire is possible, but all that you dread is also possible...."

"Stab!" shouted Harry, his voice echoed off the surrounding trees, the sword point

trembled, and Ron gazed down into Riddle's eyes.

"Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter . . . Least loved, now,

by the girl who prefers your friend . . . Second best, always, eternally overshadowed . . ."

"Ron, stab it now!" Harry bellowed: He could feel the locket quivering in the grip and

Was scared of what was coming. Ron raised the sword still higher, and as he did so,

Riddle's eyes gleamed scarlet.

Out of the locket's two windows, out of the eyes, there bloomed like two grotesque

Bubbles, the heads of Harry and Hermione, weirdly distorted.

Ron yelled in shock and backed away as the figures blossomed out of the locket, first

Chests, then waists, then legs, until they stood in the locket, side by side like trees with a

Common root, swaying over Ron and the real Harry, who had snatched his fingers away

From the locket as it burned, suddenly, white-hot.

"Ron!" he shouted, but the Riddle-Harry was now speaking with Voldemort's voice and

Ron was gazing, mesmerized, into its face.

"Why return? We were better without you, happier without you, glad of your absence....

We laughed at your stupidity, your cowardice, your presumption--"

"Presumption!" echoed the Riddle-Hermione, who was more beautiful and yet more

terrible than the real Hermione: She swayed, cackling, before Ron, who looked horrified,

yet transfixed, the sword hanging pointlessly at his side. "Who could look at you, who

would ever look at you, beside Harry Potter? What have you ever done, compared with

the Chosen One? What are you, compared with the Boy Who Lived?"

"Ron, stab it, STAB IT!" Harry yelled, but Ron did not move. His eyes were wide, and

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 933

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An ideal place to see but not be seen. The ground around the roots, however, was free of | The Riddle-Harry and the Riddle-Hermione were reflected in them, their hair swirling like
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