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RP Log: Whole Again - The XanaDawn Experience [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Freeform RPGing Amongst Friends

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RP Log: Whole Again [Jan. 20th, 2005|05:53 am]
Freeform RPGing Amongst Friends

xanadawn

[gypseian]
Characters: Ginny Weasley and Tom Riddle
Setting: Diagon Alley, Flourish and Blotts, and a partridge in a pear treen alley near Knockturn.
Summary: Slightly AU. Ginny mourns for the loss of Tom so badly in her youth that her parents decide a memory charm is the only thing to cure her. Some scars are too deep to hide, even when you can't remember them entirely. There has been a spell put into action that has brought a very serious deja vu-inducing person into the book store the day Ginny decides she'd like to start "her very first diary".
Rating: PG-13/R
A/N: BE PREPARED FOR AN EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER!

Sixth year. That last deep breath before the plunge. It would be NEWTs for Harry, Ron, and Hermione this year. Ginny couldn't help but be slightly smug about it, knowing fully well that Ron was terrified that he wouldn't make enough NEWTs for his fall-back job. Maybe it was a harsh thing, to be amused at her brother's turmoil. But hey, he started it when he frightened her about the OWL exams.

They'd all received their letters for this year's supplies only a few days ago, and Harry had agreed to meet Hermione, Ron and herself at Flourish and Blotts. He'd stayed at Grimmauld for the entire summer training with the Order, learning all the spells they had to offer him. Remus had agreed to take him, but he was in Cairo and wouldn't be Apparating in until 3:30. Ginny couldn't wait until 3:30. She'd pestered Hermione and Ron into going an hour early, and the three of them had parted just upon entrance to Diagon Alley.

Perhaps it was Hermione's influences, but Ginny had become particularly interested in journalling the summer of her fifth year. Hermione carried a leather-bound journal with her everywhere, writing things down constantly when she thought no one was looking. Ginny asked her once what she was writing, and the older girl had coloured a little and told her that it was her diary. When Ginny asked Hermione's opinion about starting one of her own, Hermione's face had blanched and she'd stopped talking. It was curious.

So Ginny decided that she would buy one before term of her 6th year. Fresh start, and all that. Maybe a page a day? Or maybe a paragraph. Whichever came easier. Flourish and Blotts had a wonderful selection of blank tomes, and Ginny was currently running her thumb along the backs of the various colours and bindings, searching for the right one.

She stopped three stacks to the left of the entrance, on the fourth shelf. The leather shone dark ebony and felt almost like suede against her fingertips, and the parchment still was very clean. Ginny traced her thumbs along the edge, her eyes unfocusing on it. It felt.. familiar, somehow. Comfortable. Like an old jumper you found at the bottom of an empty box of things that still fit.

The book shop was older than he was, thankfully, and as Tom stepped from one aisle to the next, he caught sight of a familiar head of red hair. Of course, she was older now. Five years older, in fact. He was wearing his best Hogwarts robes, his Head Boy badge pinned neatly at his shoulder. Glancing about the shop, he strode over to her, hands clasped behind his back. Tom stopped just shy of her, looking up at the leather bound journals and smirking to himself. She'd chosen one that looked spectacularly similar to the one he'd placed his memory in. Funny, that.

A strange sensation came over her. She'd had it before, but it always remained strange no matter how often it happened. All the hairs raised on the back of her neck and up her arms, and she knew in an instant that someone was watching her. She felt a burning creep into her ears and she turned in the most inconspicuous way she could, so that she could only see just behind her out of the corner of her eye. All she managed to see through the semi-blur was a shock of black hair, and she turned the rest of the way with a full smile. "You're early, Har--" the words died when she saw that the face was glasses-less, and the eyes weren't green. "Oh. Sorry. I thought.. you were someone I knew." But he looked so familiar somehow..

Tom turned his gaze from the journals on the top shelf to the girl before him with a slight nod. "I get that all the time," came the low, silky voice. He smiled slightly, revealing his perfect white teeth - something that came from his illegal experiments into Charms. His dark hazel eyes turned back to the shelves, even though his head did not turn. "You're interested in journals?"

"A little," Ginny answered, her eyes still focused on the boys face for a moment before she realized she was staring. She turned her eyes away to look at the one in her hands. "A friend of mine journals. I thought I'd give it a go, see how I take to it. Supposed to be very calming to the nerves, from what my friend says." Ginny gave a little laugh. "Though anything that requires an unknown but possibly volumous amount of writing would, naturally, interest her. I'm surprised hers isn't bigger, actually."

There was that laugh again, and Tom straightened up. Unclasping his hands, he reached out to touch the spines of several of the journals. He remembered her, even though, by all rights, he shouldn't given that he was originally destroyed. How he'd been resurrected was still a bit of a mystery, even to him, but he was thoroughly enjoying it. He'd taken a few walks down memory lane. "Journalling is quite soothing. I've done - " he chuckled again "-quite a bit of it myself. You're certain you've never had a journal?"

Something about the tone of his voice made her feel rather odd. His voice sounded familiar too, now that she thought about it. Her brows knit as she stared into the dark leather, her thumbs tracing nonsense symbols into it. "I.. yes.. I think. I.. maybe not a real one. I must've.. written in things when I was younger.." When I was younger..? She brought her brown eyes up to look at him, noticing a glint from his robes. Her gaze refocused. "You're Head Boy this year?"

Oh, this was brilliant. She had no idea who he was. Someone must have modified her memories. Tom smirked, pressing his tongue against the back of his teeth lightly. He glanced at her our of the corner of his eye. His dark hair was perfectly coiled, as it should be, and he could just make out the bottom of one coil as he looked at her. "Something like that, yes."

Ginny felt a little shiver work its way between her shoulders. He really had lovely eyes... not nearly as green as Harry's were, but smoky.. like a snake skin. "Do I know you? I have the strangest feeling that I know you from somewhere," She said in a soft voice, staring quite openly into his eyes. "But I can't place it.."

"We're all from somewhere, aren't we?" Tom replied evasively, now clasping his hands in front of him, the manner he usually took with other students who were below him. Of course, they never knew he was being condescending; he had such a way with people. He was, however, quite enjoying her being enthralled with him. He never could stomach it when people did not take notice of him.

"Ah, but where are my manners. I hope you do forgive me. I'm Tom Riddle," he said, reaching out to shake her hand.

"Tom Riddle.." She echoed, again feeling that strong sense of deja vu. That name was.. why was that name so.. "Ginny. Ginny Weasley." She clasped his hand, though she didn't quite shake it. She couldn't stop looking at his face. It was like remembering something from a dream.

Tom gave her a rather confident smile, bowing his head slightly. "The pleasure is all mine, Miss Weasley." He released her hand and turned to the shelf behind them under the pretence that she would follow. It was quite certain that she would, given that she couldn't stop looking at him, and he wondered exactly how he could use this meeting to his advantage.

Ginny blinked rapidly when he suddenly turned away from her, having half a mind to gently protest against his leaving, but he didn't seem to be in a hurry. It was almost as if he was daring her to pursue him. Ginny blinked in surprised, her eyes travelling across his form for a moment as he moved. There was a silent elegance there. Perfect poise, quiet steps. Nothing like her brothers. Maybe like Harry. Why was she still thinking about Harry? The similarities between them had ended the moment she looked at this Tom Riddle. Tom Riddle...

Ginny slid the journal back into its proper place and hastened to follow. Where do I know him from?

He tapped a finger to his lips, the faintest hint of a smile on his lips. He could still read people after all those years of being trapped in a diary. However, he was surprised to find that while he could use the memory loss to his advantage, he rather wanted to toy with her. "I once knew a girl with red hair," he said idly, ducking his head the smallest bit to look at the titles on the shelf. It was a pity they were in the history section now. "Of course, this was some years ago, and I'm afraid I've lost touch with her. She'd be about your age."

It sounded like the beginnings of poetry, and Ginny arched her eyebrows a little at it before he continued on. He knew someone with red hair who was similar to her age? Well, there weren't any other red haired girls her age at Hogwarts that she could recall. Maybe a childhood friend, or a muggle or something? "You remember her because her hair was red, then?" She asked in a slightly teasing voice, a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. "Have a thing with redheads, then?"

"I do indeed," Tom replied casually, even though he was smiling. He picked up a particular book, one entitled The Rise and Fall of You Know Who and opened to the chapter contents, curious about himself.

She'd only meant to play a little; Ginny hadn't expected such an honest-sounding answer. She coloured a little. "Oh..."

Ginny looked over at the book he'd pulled out, her eyes widening a little at the title. He was interested in You-Know-Who..? Ginny took a subconscious side-step, the strange sort of pull towards him lessening a little.

"It's fascinating, all these books about a wizard no one will name. You'd think the wizarding world needed something to fear," he said. Tom knew she would become uneasy. By now, he'd already begun the study of Legilmency, but he always had a talent for reading people. "It's a pity He's back, isn't it? For you.

A twist of defiance rose at his tone. He was a Supporter then, this Tom Riddle. So much for that idea....what, what am I thinking? "He has a name," Ginny said, her voice firm. Harry had told them about it. Yes, Voldemort was a powerful wizard, but much of his power came from fear, and overcoming fear was the first step to conquering darkness. "His name is Voldemort, and he is a ruthless murderer." She barely flinched at the sound of her own voice making the words form, but her eyes betrayed her confidence of saying it if only slightly.

Tom quirked an eyebrow at the girl, masking his anger almost perfectly. He'd had to hone the talent at Hogwarts, especially with Dumbledore breathing down his neck. "He is a murderer. Oh dear," he said, letting his demeanour falter only slightly. He let a look of stunned hurt cross his face. "You must be very brave. I've never seen anyone say His name. I think we would get along wonderfully, Ginny Weasley. You could almost say that we're... kindred spirits."

Kindred.. kindred spirits? Does he mean him and me..? Ginny's own expression shifted a little. He'd called her brave. Her own brothers hadn't called her brave in her entire life. "Wicked devil child" once or twice, but never brave. "I think I should go. I need to find my friends."

"Pity," he said, tisking and shaking his head. "You need to do what you need to do. If you need to go, then by all means," he waved an arm in the direction he knew the door to be, "go."

Again, that burst of angry defiance. "What, no 'nice to meet you's? No 'See you around, perhaps'es? Only a moment ago you were a bundle of charm. What's the matter, your mother not teach you proper manners?" She leered, her eyes flashing.

He turned to face her, a subtle trace of anger in his eyes. He narrowed his eyes at her, leaning over so that she could feel his breath on her face. "Correct me if I'm mistaken, but you were the one who informed me that you need to take your leave of me to find your friends. After all my kind words and charm, you dismissed me. I think I'm the one who has the right to be upset." He gave a small pout, fixing a look of pure sadness across his features. "And I assure you, I wouldn't have let you leave without asking if I might be able to owl you."

"Your tone spoke differently," She returned, her voice half an exhale at his sudden closeness. She tried her best to sound haughty, but the way he had looked after calling her brave.. it was such a strange look. She remembered a look before. Half condescending, half understanding, with just a hint of..

His breath smelled faintly of peppermint, she noticed. She felt another little shiver. "I'm... sorry," She said at last. "I just.. I.. I don't support pureblood nonsense. I thought maybe you.. it would've.." Coherent much, Ginevra? Shut up shut up shut up.

"How could I if I'm Half Blood? My father was a Muggle," he replied, tilting his head slightly. Oh, that trick had fooled a great many people, hadn't it? He wouldn't have to say another word about it after this. "My mother was a witch."

Was? Ginny felt a full blush make its way across her face. "Oh piss it.." She hissed, taking a step back and covering her mouth a little. Was. Past tense. "I.. I'm so sorry, I didn't..."

"My mother died shortly after I was born," Tom said with a heavy sigh. He stood up straighter., looking down his nose at his feet. "I never knew my father." As expert as he was at lying, sometimes the truth was much more useful tool. He let his shoulders slack, gazing off to her side as though talking about it pained him.

You are the most stupid and heartless wench this side of England! Her inner voice screeched at her, sounding painfully like her own mother. Ginny winced even at the thought. How could she have been so thoughtless? "I'm so terribly sorry, I wasn't even thinking." It sounded so awful! He'd never known either of his parents? Harry hadn't known his parents, either. Ginny couldn't even imagine life without her mum and dad.

"So now you know," he said stiffly, raising a hand to swipe at the side of his nose. Tom loved to play the poor, broken-hearted boy. It was almost as fun as the dominate, apathetic monster. Sometimes, even more so, considering people invested emotions in him. Watching them break was infinitely more engaging. "And when I said fascinating, I meant it in the strictest sense of the word: being held spellbound by some irresistible power. He's a murderer, and he's somehow managed to have us all cowering, and we don't even realise it."

Ginny straightened a little, though she kept her face down to try and hide her blush at least a little bit. She still felt horribly embarrassed for her outburst, even though she could recognize the subject change. She twisted her fingers around the bottoms of her shoulder-length red hair. "Spellbound," She said, as if testing the word, her eyes closed for a moment. Spellbound by some irresistible power..

'You're the only one who's ever understood me..'

Her hand dropped from her hair and came to touch the corner of her mouth. "Some spells wear off," She whispered.

"They do, and I'm surprised you haven't realised it yet," he remarked casually. Already, he was tired of this game. "You know, we have met," he smirked. "Once or twice."

"I think I would've remembered a name like Tom Riddle," She said in a slightly louder voice, the nail of her left thumb slipping between her lips and teeth so she could give it a hard tug. It separated easily. "You don't look much older than me, but I can't ever remember having seen you before. Are you sure we've met and you're not just confusing me with your old acquaintance redhead?"

"I'm quite certain that I know you, Ginevra Molly Weasley," Tom said silkily. He raised a hand, letting his finger trace from her cheekbone to her jaw. "I could never forget you."

Her breath caught, and she suddenly forgot how to breath properly. Normally she would've been outraged to hear someone speak her full name out loud, but his voice made it sound like rich velvet. A name to be proud of. Her shiver came much more noticeable. "Oh..."

"Still think I'm mistaken?" He asked, quirking an eyebrow and glancing down at her lips. The girl was so naive it almost hurt to take advantage of her. Somewhere in the back of his head, he heard cackling. He leaned even close to her.

Oh yeah, know she remembered. Except it seemed that in order to catch up with the not-breathing, she was breathing so shallow she felt a little dizzy. He was much to close to her, and they were standing in the bloody book store. Where Harry, Hermione and Ron were going to be meeting her. "I.. can we.. can we walk a bit? It's.. I.." CONSTANTLY COHERENT! "My brother would have kittens if he.. saw us."

Tom smiled again, revealing those perfect white teeth. It was only a matter of time before she'd warm to him again, considering the state of things. He held out his arm with a nod. "As you wish."

Again, that same sort of pleasant surprise. She wasn't exactly used to such cordial treatment. If anyone wanted to walk with her, they just walked. Him offering her arm to him wasn't just polite, but intimate. They would walk close, and it would be obvious that she was with him. She blushed just slightly, taking his arm with only the slightest of caution.

With as much grace as Tom had, he walked them slowly to the door, nodding his head to a man in the far corner of the shop. He looked aristocratic, but there was something about him. "That man, in the corner," he whispered to her, "has been following me for quite some time."

Ginny's eyes widened a little at this claim, turning her head just barely so that she could catch a glimpse of the man. He had a dark look around his eyes, and Ginny knew immediately that he wasn't good news. "Would he have reason to?" She asked, just to be sure.

"I wouldn't think so," Tom replied, letting paranoia slip into his voice. He dared another backwards glance as they stepped out of the store. "I've got no idea why, to be honest. "

There really wasn't exactly many places to go in Diagon where you really had your privacy. Unless you maybe went to the Leaky Cauldron and had a room, but did he have a room? "Are you here alone? Do you not have a place to go away to?"

"I do, but I need my school supplies, you see," Tom replied, placing his hand gingerly on top of the hand looped through his arm. He sidestepped them into an alley near Knockturn. "I know this place is unsavoury, but wait a moment here with me?"

His suggestion brought immediate protest to her mind, until his hand felt rather nice. And it wasn't a good idea to go anywhere alone in Knockturn Alley. "Just don't leave me alone," She said, a hint of apprehension in her voice.

"Why on earth would I do that?" He responded, hurt edging into his voice. He hadn't planned to leave her alone at all. In fact, he hadn't planned to leave her ever. If it hadn't been for this girl, this girl that he could smell loneliness on even from within the pages of a diary, he wouldn't be where he was today. "You really don't remember me, do you?"

"It's not that I.. I just don't want to be alone here, in this place. It's not safe." And again, he asked her that question. She was almost frustrated with herself for not being able to place him.

'You're the only one who's ever understood me.. I wish you were a real person..

"No..." She said in a soft voice. "I don't. But you obviously remember me. Obviously I did something for you to remember me, and my full name."

"Close your eyes," Tom whispered, turning to face her. He waited silently for her to comply.

Ginny's brows furrowed a little. Close her eyes? She felt awkward at simply the idea of standing in front of him with her eyes closed. Especially with the thought that he might..

She blushed again, swallowing before closing her eyes as directed.

He leant forward, placing his hands on the side of her face, brushing his lips against her ear as he whispered. "We wrote to each other for nearly a year. You told me things you'd never told anyone before. They've modified your memory. Ask your dear brother or your precious Harry Potter. They took away your memories and replaced them with something else. I was the only one who ever understood you, and I assure you that I am real."

It was all Ginny could do to keep breathing normally. Had he read her mind, just now? How was it possible that someone as young as she was be that skilled in Legilimency?

'What's your name?' 'My name is Tom Riddle. What's your name?' 'Ginevra Molly Weasley. But I hate it. Most of my friends call me Ginny.'

Tom Riddle.. Tom Marvolo Riddle.. the name on the..

She sucked a harsh breath.

Tom closed his eyes and concentrated. He took one hand from the side of her face, pulling out his wand. Under his breath, he whispered, "Legilmens," and suddenly memories came flooding through him. He channelled them into her, reversing the flow of the spell.

Ginny was writing in the journal, her fist balled up beneath her chin. She looked utter bored and lonely. She began writing, and her eyes widened. Aloud, she whispered, "How can you... you're just a diary?" Words on paper. They don't understand you like I do. I will always be here for you. Do you understand me? I will never turn my back - or in this case, my pages - on you.

And then Tom felt a sting. He'd meant those words at that particular moment, and he was hoping she couldn't feel that as an effect of the spell. He tried to conceal it the best he could, but even he knew that it was a tricky thing.

Hermione had taken them to a muggle film once, when they'd had her over a few days before Harry came. It was the closest thing she could use to describe what was going on behind her closed eyes. She saw herself, six years younger, her younger self writing into the journal beneath her hands. His journal. Their journal. He'd been her only friend. He'd always been there, waiting for her. She felt a pang of emotion in her chest that was unassociated with her own but not far from what she, herself, had felt. He'd missed her. He hadn't spoken to anyone but her. He'd felt alone, too.

Her arm went out quite against her will, gripping the arm that's hand still rested on her face to steady herself. She felt her knees quaking. But you.. you're.. He was Voldemort. Or he would be. Or maybe he already was, at seventeen. He'd killed a girl, and harmed others. He'd grown up killing. The Tom in her diary only knew what she'd told him.

Had he cared? He used me. He was going to kill me, too... Then why do I feel this? Why do I feel his emotion? She gave a faint moan, struggling against all the new memories that were flooding into her mind. Words on paper, words of kindness and understanding and maybe even more than that.. Promises..

Tom struggled against the spell, but she'd somehow latched onto him, pulling out even more than he'd wanted to show her. He only wanted to put the fear of Voldemort into her, and now he'd gone and shown her too much. Still, he couldn't take his hand away from her.

"No!" he yelled, but it was drowned out by his own writing somehow.

Ginny was not there, was not writing in him. He'd been disposed, and that scared him more than he could have imagined. Worse than that, she'd left him, tossed him away like his father. In the dark bathroom, he wrote frantic messages, Ginny? Are you there? Ginny, come back! I didn't mean to frighten you!

"NO!" he yelled, more forceful than before. She was strong now, stronger than he had counted on. So he tried to turn the tide, pull emotions from her, find out what had gone on in her life since he'd been gone.

Nightmares.. nightmares of being in the cold, of being in the dark.. Aloneness, nothingness.. Screaming until her lungs had gone raw. No one ever came for her in her nightmares. No one was there for her. She'd stopped sleeping. She'd stopped eating. They were afraid she was going to die even though Harry had saved her. Her father had taken her to a room with a kind-faced man who had lulled her into a dreamless sleep, and then...

Second year. A new start. Even though there was no memories of it, there was a quiet emptiness. She'd seen girls writing to each other in class and felt envious of their ties to each other. Ginny kept to herself. She didn't know how to make friends with people her own age. Harry was there.. She remembered Harry. She still thought he was so much more than 'That Boy who Defeated the Dark Lord'. But he never looked at her, even when she'd written him the poem. No, he liked the pretty Ravenclaw. Ginny would never be pretty. She would always be the Little Sister.

The Yule Ball. Third year. No one asked her to the ball. All her brothers could go, but she couldn't. Unless he asked her. But he never did. Ginny hated herself even more. She didn't have friends to spend time with, only Hermione, and even Hermione had gotten a date. She'd gone with Neville Longbottom, the sweet, shy boy who didn't have that many friends either.

Every time she saw him, his eyes were focused somewhere else. On Cho Chang, on Ron or Hermione, on Quidditch, on Snape, but never her. She stopped trying so hard. It was pointless to try. The longing to be accepted by someone grew more and more, but she kept it hidden somewhere behind her eyes that no one could quite decipher. She always had an inquisitive look, they'd say. But that was never what it really was.

The other years blurred together. She'd dated a few boys, but none of them could fill that deep empty space she had. She ached for someone to fill that place, but even the one person she had hoped would had never noticed. No one would ever notice. Nightmares started again, the same as before, but sometimes with a soft voice trying to calm her. A boy's voice..

"Stop it.." She cried quietly, tears flowing down her face. It felt like she was being torn away piece by piece. "Stop.. please.."

And that was all it took. Tom released her, staring at her in horror. This girl he'd taken from granted, and something stirred inside him that he'd never felt before. What had he said earlier? Kindred spirits? Yes, they were, weren't they? He backed away, nearly tripping in his haste. The only thing he couldn't handle was her knowing how much he'd needed her, and not just to open the Chamber. Without her, he would cease to exist. Suddenly Tom knew how he'd come back. All her wishing, her aching had brought him here. When he'd appeared in the Chamber that very summer, he couldn't handle it. He's spent a month, watching the broken, crumbling bones of the basilisk. Watched the ink that would never dry on the cold stone floor. He could hear every rumble of the castle as if he had been inside his head. And most of all, he longed to kill Harry Potter. But as the weeks spun into a month, he let it go, finally able to listen to his gut and emerge from the Chamber. Moaning Myrte had scolded him, told him he didn't belong. He was a ghost, a memory, and that was far worse than being dead, and he couldn't have agreed more.

Now, as he watched the girl before him, wand at his side, he seemed to shrink. It was her that had brought him back. Her who had made it all possible. Her who he needed to find the most. And now, for once in his life, Tom Riddle was speechless. There were no words echoing through his head, only memories of a past he wanted to disconnect from, and finding it terribly difficult to.

"You just wanted to throw me away, like everyone else," She cried, hurt and betrayal in her voice. "Use me and throw me aside like I was nothing. I'm nothing to anyone and all you did was make it worse. You made me believe in you, and when you were gone I had no one." The tears continued to stream down her face, but they didn't even register to her. "No one. How could you? How could you be like that? What had I ever done to you?"

Her words struck a nerve, but as much as he tried to keep it a secret, he felt his resolve crumbling. He'd come here to finish the work he started, or so he told himself over and over until the words hung thick in his throat. Had he been lying to himself? He'd said something similar to his father only moments before he killed him. And his grandparents.

"WHY?" He yelled, his voice hoarse. He stepped forward, grabbing her arms. His face loomed into hers. "BECAUSE I HAD NO ONE! I NEVER DID! YOUR PRECIOUS POTTER HAD SOMEWHERE TO GO! I HAD A MUGGLE ORPHANAGE AND FATHER WHO'D RATHER KILL ME THAN LOOK AT ME!" He threw her hands down suddenly, turning away from her, then turning back. "There's a reason I became Lord Voldemort, and it had nothing to do with killing mudbloods. It had nothing to do with the fact that Salazar Slytherin's blood flows through my veins. It had nothing to do with my being a half-blood. It had nothing to do with any of you until you picked up that diary. I was content being a murderer. I was content with myself until YOU CAME ALONG!"

"I'm sorry!" She cried back, her voice suddenly much stronger. She moved forward and took his hands, looking back up into his face. "I'm sorry they did that to you! I'm sorry for all of it! Not everyone is so horrible, Tom!" Her words were passionate, and the anger in her eyes at his leaving her - of using her - melted away. "There is some good in people. There are people who will truly love you, even though the rest of the world doesn't seem to care."

He wretched his hands from her, staring at her in horror. Partially from what he'd said, partially from what she'd said. "Well, it's too late now, isn't it? The world wants me dead, and I can feel it... coming from you. I can feel it as tangible - " he took a lock of her hair, twirling it in his fingers "-as this." And I haven't felt any of this in over fifty years.

He'd moved his hands, but he still kept so close. As if he couldn't leave now, even if he'd wanted to. She could still taste the bitter tang of tears in her mouth. "You killed people. People who fought for equality. People who fought for the ones they loved. And if not you directly, than people you ordered. Innocent people. All because you had no love?" She shook her head, new tears coming. "I loved you. I didn't even know who you were, who you would be come, what you would do to people. My own relatives! People I'll never even get to meet! But I still loved you." And I still do.

He let the air hang thick between them, his gaze boring into hers. And suddenly, there was numbness. He didn't feel anything, and it was comforting and strange all at once. This memory she'd brought back was not the true Voldemort. He was still Tom Riddle, the Heir of Slytherin. Still Tom Riddle, who'd set the basilisk on Myrtle. Still Tom Riddle. Something was changed, and he couldn't pinpoint it at all. He didn't want to. More to the point, he'd failed. His lifelong goals had vanished before his very eyes, and there was nothing but agony and remorse.

Remorse, he thought, nearly convulsing with disgust. He'd never felt remorse once, except that he'd never gotten to finish what he'd started so many years ago. His thoughts were convoluted, polluted with this girl. Yes, he was hatred and bigotry. Yes, he was dangerous and loathsome. Yes, he was vengeful and bloody. Yes, he was tormented with the thought of what he'd become, what he'd let himself become.

"Don't tell anyone you saw me here. My plans have changed. I won't come looking for you again, and I doubt any of you will ever find me. My presence will go unnoticed, and I do mean... completely unnoticed. As Tom, and I don't plan to go back to that... way. For my sake, please." It was said in all honesty and virtue, something he'd never once been. He tucked his wand into the pocket of his robes, catching the familiar glint of his Head Boy badge. Maybe he had changed after all, despite all his claimings to the contrary. He plucked the badge off and reached for her hand. Setting the small silvery pin onto her palm, he closed her fist around it.

Something changed in his eyes that she had never expected to see. Her words had found his heart, like his had so long ago for her. Words she could remember so well now, as if they'd always been there. 'I'll always be there for you.' She made a choked sound, covering his hand with hers with a painful sob. "Please," She begged, "Please don't leave me again!"

He gave a short laugh that wasn't completely mirthless, shaking his head and smiling again, albeit forlornly. "Do you really think that Dumbledore and Potter would ever accept that Tom Riddle has taken a different path?" Tenderly, something he had no idea if he was doing right, he touched her cheek. He shook his head again. "No. We both know that not only would I not be welcome, I'd be hated and feared, and I... I can't go back to that. The moment I felt that, it would start all over again. Do you understand?" Tom tilted his head. "I know you do."

Ginny leaned into his touch as if it was her leaning into her own hand. Natural. She understood. And at the same time, she didn't care. "Then I'll go with you." Don't leave me behind. Don't leave me with nothing, now that you've claimed me again, she wanted to cry, could already feel fresh tears come to her eyes.

Again, she'd left him speechless. He stared at her for a moment, unable to form any words. When he finally found his voice, he licked his lips. "Come... with me? You'd leave your family? Potter? All of it?" I can't ask you to do that, he added to himself.

"You were the only one who knew me for who I was," She said in a soft, quaking voice. It was so hard, keeping her emotions in check. A losing battle, in the end. She brought her own hand up and cradled his cheek, her slender, long fingers twisting in the dark hair so easily in reach. This was real. This was the real Tom that she'd always wanted, always needed, always loved. "I don't care about anyone else. I just want to be with you."

"But you see, taking you with me would cost you more than I could ever ask of you," he replied. "I thought I'd been brought back to finish what I started those years ago. I thought I was pulled out of the pages to finish you, but you've finished me. I can't go back, and I can't take you with me." His voice was soft but firm. He reached up, taking her hand in his, threading his fingers through hers. "If I did, I'd be doing you a disservice, and you deserve better than the ghost of a man I could never be. He's stronger now that I'm back. Infinitely stronger, and Potter will not be able to survive him. No one will be able to survive him. There's only one way to fix this thing I started, and I think you know what I'm about to ask you to do."

"No!" She cried instantly, shaking her head in furious protest. "I can't! I will not!" She ended the last few inches between them, pressing her forehead against his and giving into the tears that so readily came to her. "There has to be a way.. there must be a way.. I can't live knowing that you aren't here with me. I won't do it!"

"Damnit, Ginny," Tom replied through gritted teeth. She was the only thing making him want to cling to his life and never let it go. He had half a mind to do himself but the Curse didn't work like that; someone else had to do it. "I'll show you what will happen. Will you let me at least do that before you decide?"

She gave a hollow, bitter laugh. Nothing like the Happy Ginny, which was music and bells and giggling. This was nothing but dead nerves and angry regret. "Not if I show you first."

She didn't care any more. Nothing else mattered but that urge to make him know. To make him feel the words with every sense he had. She'd snogged boys before, and it wasn't an entirely foreign sensation. But this..

Ginny pressed her body to his until each curve of her had meshed with him. She moved her empty hand up his chest and around his neck, up into his hair. She poured every ounce of longing and adoration and love into her kiss, the tip of her tongue tracing a question against his lower lip.

Tom's eyes closed automatically, his hands bunching up her robes. He pulled her as close as he could, and as his lips parted, he saw flashes of what was to come if he stayed. Voldemort wouldn't rest until he'd found him as well, and if he found him, he'd find Ginny. And there would be hell to pay. First he'd take Tom's power, and then judgement day would be upon them all. If only for this brief moment, Tom felt a contentment he'd never felt before, and he was losing his nerve to let her go.

Ginny gave a barely-there moan, a surge of something completely new. Indescribable but so sweet it was almost too much to bear. The tang of tears was gone now, only a passing memory that had drowned in the sweet taste of his mouth. She fought with herself in this, wanting to ravage what was given and yet wanting to take it slow. To fully explain just how deeply the metaphorical rabbit hole went when it came to her love for him. He was the start to her story. The beginning of her end. Life without him was as empty as the pages of his diary, and only he could fill her up with words and ink again.

In the course of things, Tom had forgotten that he needed to show her what would happen if he was allowed to live. He pulled away, kissing her once more for good measure, and he was surprised to find that there were tears in his eyes. He looked down at her, brushing away a few stray strands of her ginger hair from her forehead. "You're making this very difficult," he croaked. "You're making me want to stay, despite what will become of everything. Think about your loved ones. If I stay - " his voice was quiet and desperate "-they'll all die horribly. That bloke in the the book shop? He's just the start of it. He's been tailing me because he thought I was going to kill you. You see, even Voldemort knows I'm here. It's only a matter of time before it begins."

Again, he said, "Let me show you?"

"I don't want to see it," She answered in a cracking voice, turning her cheek into his and feeling a dampness there that wasn't hers. "There's always a way.."

"There might be, but how many will die while we try to find it?"

She gave a choked noise, hugging him fiercely. Why must you always know exactly what to say? "As many that will die as there would if you were to go. It makes no difference, in the end."

He closed his eyes again, leaning his forehead against hers. "I don't want to go," he told her slowly. "But he will start with your family. That's the cost I was telling you about before. In the end, I will die for you, either way. I'd rather it be at your hand."

"I can't," She gasped. Her family.. her mother, and her father, and her brothers that even though they had teased her and pulled her hair and laughed at her that she had loved so much. They may not have been there, truly known her or understood her the way Tom had, but they were all she had ever had before and after he had left her life. But kill him? She shuddered, her fingers twisting in the cloth on his shoulders as another hard sob wracked her body. "Please don't make me do it.."

"I'm not going to make you do anything ever again, Ginny, but this has got to stop. I never wanted to care - least of all, about you - but I can't stop it now. I can't do it myself," Tom replied, growing angrier by the second. If he couldn't get her to do it one way, he'd have to make her angry enough to do it. He didn't want to die knowing that she hated him again. "If... you did it, you'll survive. You'll get to have your normal life, and I guarantee that Potter will have no choice but to see who you are."

"I hate him!" She cried into his neck, shaking her head in anger and resentment. She loved Harry, loved him with everything there ever was, but he didn't love her! He would never love her, and no amount of magic would make him see. "I hate him so much. He never even spoke to me like.. like I was good enough! I'm not, and I won't be!" She gave a half-sob, half-laugh. "I know what you're doing. I know what you're trying to do, and it won't work this time." She pulled back enough so that she could look into his eyes.

Her family would die, if she let him live. They would die at her hands, if she let him live. Ginny was sure by now her eyes were red from crying so much. "I love you. I can't kill you. I'd rather kill myself."

He couldn't decide if he should be flattered or horrified. All these aliens emotions were coursing through his body, and he had no idea how to handle it. His first instinct was to kill her. Just kill her and be done with it. He could spend the rest of his days mourning her. He raised his head up, contemplating his next step. "You'd rather they were all dead then? You'd rather watch me die in the most painful manner ever? I wouldn't call that love, dear one. I'd call it selfishness." And the words were spiteful to his ears. He hated saying them, and he hated her for hearing them. He hated her for making him say them, and then he found himself wrapping his arms around her, as though he had to make up for them. "I should have told you who I was without telling you anything more. Foolish mistake on my part."

Ginny felt her heart give a painful stab at his words. Selfish? She'd never asked for anything in her whole life except for someone to appreciate her, and even that she never said aloud. It had always been a secret wish. Everyone will die because of me. Everyone will die because I love you, and there's nothing I can do? Nothing I can do to keep you and know that somehow the world will survive? She wanted so desperately to say it aloud, to tell him all her thoughts like she once could, but did she need to? He had been the only one who could think her thoughts before she even thought them. Maybe he knew that and it was why he'd said it, because then he had embraced her again and she found herself crying even harder.

There were ways to kill that didn't require hatred. Even if she could cast the Killing Curse, it wouldn't form. She felt no anger towards him that was strong enough to kill him, and as much as she knew he was trying to stir her emotions, she still couldn't do it. She took a gulp of air, pulling his scent into her with her breath. It filled her with a conflicting emotion. "One night," She croaked, her voice breaking. "One night, and I'll brew a potion for you to take. You won't feel an ounce of pain. It'll put you to sleep, and you won't wake." Maybe I'll take some too..

He couldn't tell her how afraid he'd been that it would be painful, being ripped from his body. The other him had been ripped from his body in a completely different manner, but he'd read a good deal about it. He nodded silently, arms still wrapped around her. He kissed the top of her hair lightly. "Thank you."

She made another choked sound, holding him tighter and muffling into his neck. "Don't thank me. Don't make me hate myself any more than I ever could." Her body gave a small series of hard shakes as she forced back the urge to break in his arms. I wish I'd never been born. "Say it. Please say it."

"Say what?" Tom asked, letting out a deep breath. He knew exactly what she wanted to hear, but he was having a hard time forming the words. It was difficult when one had never actually said them. "You should know that better than anyone. You probably knew it back in the shop before you knew who I was." There was a light pause, a wavering as he licked his lips and opened his mouth. "I love you."

Her breath stuck again in the middle of an exhale and she had to force herself to take another breath. "Mean it," She said into his skin, breathing him in. She clenched her fingers around the cloth on his shoulder, needing to hear him say it like she did for him.

"I'm asking you to do the one thing I never wanted to happen to me. You're the person I came to, because I trust you," Tom said laboriously. "I do love you. I've never said that to anyone. Not my mother when she was alive, not my father. Never to any girl in my time. And I will spend the rest of my life proving it to you. One night, Ginny. I'll give that to you. You'll be giving me a lifetime in that one night."

She swallowed around the thick, dry ache of her throat. Once, twice. "Where will you be? When should I come? We're staying the night in the Leaky Cauldron, the four of us. Are you there, or are you somewhere else?" It came out in a breathy, unbroken whisper.

"I'll meet you there, but..." Tom said thickly, emotion choking his voice. "Not there, all right? We'll go somewhere else. Potter can't see me. If he does, he'll know what's happened."

She nodded as he spoke, bitter resentment pulling at her heart when she heard him speak of Harry. She hated when people spoke about Harry around her, but Ginny knew Tom had right to worry. This Tom was only 17 and though he was powerful even now, he and Harry were equally matched. "When?" It would take her most of the night to brew the potion. She would have to start it right away.

"I'll need to secure a location for the evening. A few hours is all I'll need." It was funny, the places he thought of for the evening. He hadn't yet left Hogwarts yet to kill his father, and so it was the first place he thought of. Probably wouldn't be good to take her there. Maybe the Three Broomsticks? It had been a long time since he'd been there, and he was certain he'd like a bit of nostalgia that wasn't tied into anything too bad. They could get a room for the evening, and then... His heart constricted in his chest, and he found he could barely breathe. And then nothing. "I suppose you'd need longer than that, wouldn't you?"

For the potion. "You know about the potion, then." Persephone's Tears. Why wouldn't he know it? It was an OWL-level potion. There was an antidote, but it needed to be taken at precisely 15 minutes after ingestion. Any earlier, and it would be as useful as drinking a glass of water. Any later, and death would come so quickly that only an eye blink after it was swallowed you'd be dead. Snape had shown them in class on pufferskins, and Ginny had been sick for days. "I can start it when I get.. back." Ginny gave him a painful look. She didn't want to think about this. She didn't want to even do it! "I hate this."

"I don't like it any more than you do," Tom said casually, as if they were talking about a professor they didn't particularly care for. Yet, beneath the surface, there were doubts, and his mind tried to find any alternative. He'd chosen the name Lord Voldemort for a reason, and his fear of death was far greater than anything else he might possibly fear. "And yes, I know the potion you're referring to. Do you need any ingredients? Do you think you can do this without your parents finding out?"

"It's the farthest thing from their mind," She said in a hollow voice. She gave another sad laugh, hugging herself into his neck again. Merlin, you smell so good.. and I'll never.. Ginny gave a deep, shuddering sigh. Enough for two people. No antidote ingredients.

"I know what you're thinking," Tom monotoned quietly, pulling her out of the embrace and ducking his head to look at her. "You're vital to this, Ginny, and if you do what you're planning to do... It will all have been in vain."

"I'm not important," She said in a murmur, her tone almost cold.

"If you weren't, do you think I'd be here right now? Don't you think I would have walked right up to Potter myself?"

"I don't know," She said in the same mumble, her eyes avoiding his now. But maybe it was true. Maybe because of her ties to him it gave her some sort of strength. Some sort of power over his alter-ego that Harry didn't have. Maybe even needed. Rubbish.

He leant down and gave her another quick kiss, his lips lingering over hers, hoping that she would get her answers from that. "I'll see you in a few hours."

Her eyes fluttered closed for just a moment when he kissed her, making the faintest of noises. Ginny met his eyes at last, her thoughts warring. Was she important. "See you."

"You're important," he said firmly, letting go of her hands. "To me."

"I'll be alone again," She whispered, choking on her own breath.

"No," Tom whispered back, shaking his head. "I'm going to give you something so you'll never be alone again." And this time, it won't make you do terrible things.

She embraced him again, kissing him with such intensity she startled herself. It'd always been her biggest fear, more than anything else in the world. To be alone. To be forgotten. To be unwanted. Her mum always told her she'd only meant to have six children, not seven. In a sense, she had been the mistake. Even if she had been the girl her father had always hoped for, she was the last child. The most neglected. It isn't fair.. "Go, before I change my mind and be selfish," She said when she pulled away, her lips bumping against his when she spoke.

"I love you."

There was a loud Crack!, and suddenly he was gone.

Her heart lurched in her chest, and Ginny reached out at the empty space he'd left her. The air felt alive, like touching static cling. She bit into her thumbnail again and walked very briskly into the darkness that was Knockturn alley, her hand in her wand pocket while her brain began prattling about the ingredients she'd need and how much she was going to have to not-buy in order to get them..
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