The bell above the entrance to Flourish and Blotts chimed, marking the entrance of Ginny Weasley. She levelled her wand, and the lights inside the shop magically illuminated.
She was more circumspect this time around, keeping her wand at the ready, and dressed in full Quidditch gear. Her uniform was pristine, save for a few splotches of days-old blood that stained her lapel. She paused at the threshold of the common area, her prey in clear view—Lord Voldemort, the Heir of Slytherin and the most powerful Dark Wizard of the modern age, known to Ginny simply as:
"Tom Riddle," Ginny greeted. "It's been a long time."
The sixteen-year-old incarnation of Tom Riddle smiled. "Actually it hasn't been that long at all, not for me, anyway."
"I can only surmise that by the time Harry destroyed the diary, you had already incorporated enough of yourself into my psyche to leech off of me all these years."
Tom pursed his lips in thought. "Hmm… I'll give you partial credit for that one, but you're not entirely correct. Ten points awarded to Gryffindor!" Tom approached closer.
Ginny's wand fired a warning shot, and Tom stopped. "Why here at Flourish and Blotts, Tom? Really, a rhinoceros would've had more subtlety."
"Because, my dear Ginerva, this is where our story begins," Tom said. "And while we're on the subject, let me just say that that bit with the squid was absolutely brilliant! Truly, a psychosis after my own heart."
"It ends tonight, Tom. You don't belong in this world." She aimed her wand.
But Tom was not impressed. "And what makes you think you can stop me, little girl?"
"That's where you're wrong." A spell ejected from her wand that sent Tom flying clear across the room. Ginny made no attempt to hide her satisfaction. "I'm not a little girl anymore. You have no power over me, and I know precisely how to hurt you."
Tom slowly rose to his feet and wiped a trickle of blood from his lip. "It appears as if we've both underestimated each other." His eyes gave away a figure standing behind her.
Ginny turned to face him, but Lucius was already in position. His cane came down hard on her wrist, and she dropped her wand. Lucius pushed her, and she slammed into the bookcase. Ginny started to rise, but Lucius had recovered her wand, and he pointed it directly at her.
Tom sneered. "I forgot to mention that Lucius also has an interest in our little drama, for if he hadn't've slipped you my diary in the first place, history would've been written very differently." He clapped his hands together and rubbed them together briskly. "So, now that we're all together, shall I tell you the spectacular series of events that brought this all to a head?"
Ginny glared at him while she massaged her sore wrist. "Don't tell me that you're going to start monologuing, Tom?"
"True, it is a tad cliché, but look at it from my perspective: I've had years to work all of this out in my head with no foil to bounce it off of. So, you'll forgive me if I exercise a little therapeutic release to bring the old body, mind and spirit into synch, will you?"
"Go to hell! Both of you!" Ginny spat.
"Hell wouldn't have me," Tom replied with a grin. "So, as I said, you are partially correct: before Potter attempted to destroy the diary, I had indeed transplanted a piece of myself into your psyche, but not enough to sustain me. If Potter had succeeded, I would've surely perished in the Chamber of Secrets."
"No." Ginny shook her head. "Harry did destroy the diary. I saw it with my own eyes."
Tom turned to his comrade. "Show her, Lucius."
With the wand still trained on Ginny, Lucius reached into the lining of his jacket and presented the artefact therein. "A single page remains intact; it was folded inward into the spine."
Ginny's eyes fell.
Tom clapped his hands. "Pay attention, Ginny, this is the fun part. It is my belief that you and that page from my diary formed a Binary Horcrux: neither one alone being viable—only when taken in the plural was I able to stay anchored to this world."
A single tear rolled down her cheek. "No. I don't believe you."
"Such lies, Ginny."
The daughter of Gryffindor wiped her cheek on her sleeve. "So, you had to wait until I was… incapacitated before you could take control of my body and orchestrate your resurrection. It must've been my being comatose after the accident that gave you the window that you needed."
Now Tom was impressed. "Observe, Lucius, how even now she struggles to piece together that which she does not fully understand. Her resolve is remarkable, don't you agree?"
"Yes, My Lord."
"As it turns out, Ginny my dear, you are wrong yet again. The problem with a Binary Horcrux is it split my essence in twain, thus diluting my consciousness. That's why Dumbledore found no trace of me when he examined you after your rescue from the Chamber of Secrets. It's also the reason why I never resurfaced until now."
"I don't understand." Ginny said. "What's changed?"
"The Horcruxes have ravaged my soul. I now know that Dark Magic is not the key to eternal life. Verily, I say unto you, dearest Ginerva, that the true cure for death is new life."
Rising to her feet, Ginny clenched her fists and held fast. "You know I'll kill myself before I let you take my body!"
Tom snorted. "You still don't get it, do you? It is not your life force that brought me back. As for your injury, someone in your condition had no business playing Quidditch in the first place… Mother."
The revelation, inspired by Tom's words, struck Ginny to the core of her being: the loss of focus that caused her to collide with the goal post, last night's nausea, the duality that Bunbley sensed in her...
Ginny fell to her knees. "You don't want to be resurrected. You want to be reborn."
"Only this time I will be born into a full blood family. With proper parents."
"Harry stopped you before; he'll find a way to stop you again."
Tom laughed out loud. "Harry couldn't zap his way out of a paper bag were it not for all the help he's gotten, especially from me!" He approached closer and knelt in front of her, concluding with, "It's only fitting that he—my enemy—played such an... intimate part in my return."
"I'll never love you, Tom," Ginny whispered with venom.
Tom's amusement left him. "Don't say such things, Mother."
"You're delusional if you think I'll be a mother to you." The pain in her head returned, and she instinctively put her hand to her forehead.
"That's where you're wrong, Mother dear. Once you are reunited with the page, the Horcrux will be complete. As a result, my essence will be whole again, whereby, I'll be able to graft myself fully onto your unborn foetus, but not before I use your wand to trigger an aneurysm in your brain." His sneer returned. "Don't worry, it won't do any real damage, but it will tweak your psyche to the point where you will be a stranger to your family and friends. You will alienate them—even your dearest Harry. Fortunately, Lucius will be there for you; he'll love you and cherish you as much as I…. We will be an honest-to-Merlin real family!"
"You're... insane." Ginny said, breathless.
Tom's response was merely a reassuring smile. She flinched at his touch when he brushed aside a lock of hair that dangled over her brow, saying, "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect."
"I think Edgar Allan Poe would've considered the question answered definitively in you, Tom," Ginny said in defiance.
Tom continued to regard her with that same empty smile. "Mother, you'll see... I will make you proud of me. Mother, you'll know... how I dearly love you so." His smile faded. "Mother, when you awake... your child you'll never forsake."
Ginny's chin quivered, and she shied away under the intensity of Tom's gaze. "How could you be a party to this, Lucius?"
"You will come to know that the bonds of family are irresistible, my love." Lucius replied.
Tom rose, and he put a confident hand on Lucius' shoulder. "Well said, my loyal friend. We all need a fresh start—even you, Mother."
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said.
"Don't pretend, Mother. Have you forgotten that I know your fears intimately? You fought your whole life to stay out of your brothers' shadows only to become a footnote in history: the girl who loved the boy who lived."
"Tom, please don't do this."
Tom frowned, seeing her entreatment as a weakness. "It's time, Lucius. Give her the page."
Lucius approached and knelt next to Ginny. Being a true Slytherin, it would have been apropos to rub his enemies defeat in her face first. "Do you know why you lost, Miss Weasley? It's because you didn't have a plan. Winning a battle is about sizing up an enemy and striking only when he is most vulnerable." He presented the object. "Now take it."
Ginny blinked. She obeyed, and Lucius returned to his master's side.
"Now the wand, Lucius…." Tom held out his hand, and Lucius obliged him. "Is she not magnificent, Lucius?"
Lucius regarded the young woman. "She is, My Lord."
"She will make a choice wife for you. I'll be sure to make her submissive and appreciative."
"You are most kind, My Lord."
With a sneer, Tom aimed the wand at Ginny, but nothing happened. He tried to invoke his dark spell again to no avail. Upon examining the wand, he sensed that something was amiss. The deception exposed, the visage of the wand was magically replaced by its true form: a rolled up piece of paper. He unrolled it—it was the page from the diary. Tom then glared at Lucius, for the only magic capable of such a deception is:
"A Confundus Charm!" Tom spat. "What is the meaning of this, Lucius?"
Lucius carefully returned Tom's glower. "Well, My Lord, I was curious to see if Miss Weasley would be willing to take a bit of Slytherin advice."
"I AM!" Ginny presented the page in her hand, and it magically regressed to its true form: her wand. "Avada Kedavra!"
The spell pierced the page in Tom's hand and hit him square on the chest. He fell to his knees, clutching at Lucius. "Why?"
Lucius beheld Tom's beautiful face, the tears welling in his eyes. "I already have a family, My Lord."
Tom fought the Killing Curse like no other. Blood streamed from his mouth, eyes and ears. "Do you think they'll ever accept you, Lucius? You will always belong to me!" However, he was forced to accept the reality that even he is not a god. At the end of his will, he abandoned Lucius and crawled his way toward, Ginny.
Ginny clenched her teeth. "Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra! AVADA KEDAVRA!"
Tom Riddle was no more.
After a brief stillness, Ginny found the wherewithal to rise and approach Lucius. She aimed her wand at the page, and it magically burst in ashes along with Tom's remains. "Cut it a little close, didn't you?"
"Sorry to scare you like that," Lucius said. "But, I had to wait until I was sure he could be killed"—he gave her a sideways glance—"and when you had the will to kill him."
"I can assure you the will was forthcoming."
"Take it from someone who knows," he said plainly. "The best Killing Curses come by desperation."
Ginny suppressed a smile, hiding the fact that for the first time in her life, she could actually stand to be in the same room with a Malfoy. The notion was fleeting, however, when she felt an odd sensation—a tinge—at the base of her abdomen. She looked to that area; a spot of red appeared between her legs that got larger as it bled through the fabric.
She collapsed, and Lucius caught her. "Are you all right, Miss Weasley?"
"I don't know," she said, grabbing her belly. "It h-hurts."
That was the last thing she said before she fainted.