Beware, here there be lots of dialogue! Some snarkiness, a dash of romance, and one helluva monologue by Tom await you.
A big part of this is Tom explaining his Horcruxes. Now, we readers know what they are, but Ginny was never told (that we know of). Some of this will be redundant, but read closely. Tom picks his words carefully and he might be hiding something else.
As always, please REVIEW.
"Hogwarts," Tom began, "is still standing." Ginny sighed in relief, then looked at him curiously. Wasn't he going to elaborate?
"Is that-" Wait, no. Don't ask a question. Don't be baited. "That's- this is a sentence, not a question- all you're going to tell me."
"Yes." His lips quirked at the corners, giving him the appearance of someone suppressing a snicker. Tom Riddle didn't snicker; something else must be going on in his mind.
Gritting her teeth, Ginny squealed frustrated. "You're insufferable. You're withholding information deliberately! Are you try- that is, you're trying to get a rise out of me!"
"It's working, isn't it?" Tom asked innocently. "It's simply adorable when you're flustered. Your ears turn pink."
Ginny clenched her fists. "You- you said- honesty-"
"Oh, quite right," Tom replied with a chuckle. "But I didn't say I'd be thorough or detailed. I'm in charge, little one. You can't submit me to your will. Surely you knew that I wouldn't simply spill all of my secrets to you." He stared at her firmly. "I've never used a diary, you know. I'm not so foolish as to leave myself open to being manipulated by putting my thoughts in the ether. Never tell anyone all of your secrets, little Ginny. Didn't I teach you that? Have you forgotten so easily what can happen? Not I. I've never trusted anyone, and I don't think I ever shall."
Tears threatened to trickle from Ginny's eyes, but she remained resolute. "You simply had to bring up the diary- that damn diary!" She pretended to sneeze in order to hide a sniffle. "I can't believe you'd- wait, yes I can. A decent person wouldn't bring back those memories, but you're not a decent person. You're disgusting, despicable, vile, and I hate you, Tom Riddle!"
"There, there, sweet Ginny," he mocked. "No need to cry, and no need to lie. Lying doesn't suit you." He put an arm around her shoulders. She didn't flinch. "You've never hated me. We both know it. Say it. Say you've never hated me."
"You just told me not to lie," Ginny spat ruefully. She began to hiccup.
"Say it," Tom pressed. "Say it and mean it." She said nothing. "I can read your thoughts; I'm the world's greatest Legilimens, remember? Don't make me punish you, little one. You're going through such a hard time. Just say it and we'll move on from this nasty little visit down memory lane."
"Fine," she sulked. "Fine. I never hated you, Tom. Happy?"
"Very." He patted her back soothingly for a silent moment before continuing. "That's two questions down. Which shall I answer next?"
"You only answered one question!" Ginny exclaimed, pulling away from him as if she'd only just noticed how intimately they were sitting.
"After you asked about Hogwarts, you asked if I was happy," Tom explained, "and I told you that I was very happy. That's two questions."
"But that's not fair!"
"According to whom? You agreed to my terms. You knew to choose your words wisely, but in that single second of vulnerability, you forgot. How regrettable."
"It's not even worth it if you're going to be so contrary," she said. "Forget I asked anything. Just forget it."
"But I must keep my word; a gentleman always does."
Ginny snorted. Tom pulled her close again. She only struggled for a second.
"Moving on. Your second question was about your family. They are alive, all but one, and relatively well."
"Tell me who the dead one is," Ginny demanded.
"Tone," Tom warned. "Muriel Prewett died in October. She died in her sleep, of old age- no curses, hexes, poisons- if that's any consolation."
"Auntie Muriel…" she whispered. At least it wasn't another of my brothers. Blearily she looked up into Tom's deep blue eyes. "Thank you for telling me." The whisper elicited a spark in those eyes, one that Ginny couldn't explain.
"I shall skip your question about Potter, as I did answer the one about my happiness," Tom explained. "Questions four, six, and seven are all related, so I'll tackle those together. You want to know what a Horcrux is. I assume you heard Potter toss the word around, as it's not something Hogwarts has ever been keen on teaching. It's very Dark, you see. When you murder someone, Ginny dear, you injure your very soul. You split it. A Horcrux houses the splintered part of the soul. The first murder I committed was that of my father's family. I would have killed them even if I had no knowledge of Horcruxes, but having that knowledge proved very fortuitous. I lived in an orphanage, as you may know, and was given a small diary with my name on it for Christmas when I was fifteen. I turned sixteen one week later, still during the holidays, and took that diary to my father's house. I split my soul, put part of it in the diary, and began the search for other items, important items, to use as well. You see, as long as there is a Horcrux, one cannot truly die.
"That takes us to how I remember you and how I regained my looks. You used the diary, made a connection with what was essentially me, aged sixteen, and then it was destroyed. Now, as I stated, Horcruxes are very Dark, so not much is known about them. Optimists and fools like to think that when the Horcrux is destroyed, so too goes that bit of soul. It is not so. The piece of me that had been trapped inside the diary simply returned to the place at which it was torn asunder- my father's house. I hadn't realized that this had happened for another year or two. When I physically returned to the village, I felt myself there, if that makes sense to you. I felt a latent presence of strong magic and had my servant, now dead, take me to it. It melded into me seamlessly. That is how I know you.
"I realized what had happened, of course. Lucius Malfoy will forever bear the scars I gave him for that incident. What was that fool thinking, giving something of mine to a child? He did not know it was a Horcrux, nor do I believe he even now knows what a Horcrux is. About two years ago, I found out that Dumbledore was searching for my remaining Horcruxes throughout the country. I didn't for a moment believe that he would be able to find them all. To be perfectly honest, I didn't even know what one of them was. Another was destroyed. I didn't know which, but somehow I felt it. Still, I wasn't worried. Dumbledore was dead soon after; what had I to fear? Then I found out, less than a year ago, that Potter had destroyed all of my Horcruxes- save one. Potter himself was a Horcrux. I hadn't the foggiest until I killed him that night in the forest. I'm sure he told you all about that little incident. Knowing that I need only return to the spot at which the Horcrux was created to gain back my youth, I smelled victory. Every drop of blood, from Order members and Death Eaters alike, was a beautiful scent. Oh, it was said 'How sweet smells the corpse of an enemy!' and I learned it at that moment. So your Harry cast the Killing Curse at me, and I did not die. I returned to the places where I created the items and was reunited with pieces of myself I had long ago shelved away. Those pieces retained memories, as you know, but also physical remembrances, such as my appearance. I must say that I'm glad the physical assimilation took place.
"But how was I alive? Potter had found all of my Horcruxes and destroyed them, then I destroyed Potter. By all rights, I should be a rotting mass of flesh right now. I would be, if Potter had actually destroyed all of the Horcruxes. There were not six, as Dumbledore thought. There were not seven, as I thought, but eight. The diary, a locket, a cup, Nagini, a diadem, my grandfather's ring- these I made, and these were destroyed. Potter was an accident, but he matters little now. The seventh one that I made was something completely ordinary, something no one would expect from Tom Marvolo Riddle, the man obsessed with history. The seventh one is something that no man or woman will ever know. I'm perfectly happy with just the one Horcrux. I've found a much better means of gaining immortality."
A clock ticked.
Tom looked thoughtful.
Her mouth couldn't form words.
He raised an eyebrow.
Her lips were parted with confusion.
He took advantage of that.
It was like the first time he had kissed her, only more significant somehow. Her eyes opened in shock but she didn't struggle. She leaned into him and felt a smile from Tom as he wove his hand into her hair, pulling her closer. Her mind was all over the place. chicken feathers snakes blood prison harry ron chamber hagrid percy hermione diary dumbledore basilisk fred dad soup tom tom tom…
"Tom," she sighed.
She kissed him back.
He pulled away from her, ran his thumb over her lower lip, and whispered into her ear, "I knew you didn't hate me." She jerked away from him, utterly disgusted with herself. "You wouldn't kiss me like that if you didn't like me in some capacity."
"You kissed me first," she trembled, blushing, "and you don't like me at all."
"On the contrary," Tom replied. "I rather like you a lot." Ginny's jaw dropped.
"Liar." She regretted saying it as soon as it slipped from her mouth. Tom's pupils were so large that his beautiful blue eyes looked black as pitch; he frowned. "S-sorry," she stammered. He looked murderous. She flinched as he raised his hand, thinking he meant to strike her. He simply brushed a bit of fringe out of her eyes.
"You will not speak to your Lord that way," he said curtly. Tom turned stiffly and walked away, so tense that the tendons in his hands were visible.
Ginny swore. She hadn't gotten an answer to her last question.
Ginny cried that night, sobbed until after the sun peeked at the prison from the distant horizon. Why had she kissed him back? It was obvious that he'd only been trying to confuse her. That's all that boys had ever been: confusing.
Michael Corner, her first real boyfriend, her first kiss, had been confusing. One minute he wanted to snog, the next he brushed her off for his guy friends, then he would be upset that she was upset that he had needed "man-time". Sometimes he treated her like one of the boys, sometimes all he wanted was to touch the parts of her that were uniquely female. She recalled his hands, fumbling and inexperienced; she recalled his breathing, loud and heavy; she recalled his eyes, dark with longing. Sometimes he was in good humor and would blow up for no reason the next minute. Things had gotten really bad when he started an argument in the Great Hall. She wouldn't move fast enough for him; she twisted the words around to make it sound like a row about Quidditch, but she didn't think anyone was fooled.
Dean Thomas, her first sexual partner, probably dead now, was just as confusing. She didn't understand why he had always treated her like a doll when she'd repeatedly asked him not to. Of course, she was only a doll outside of his bed. Alone in the dormitory, curtains drawn, Silencing charms up, Dean was rough with her. She preferred it that way. The few times when their lovemaking was slow, his breathing was as steady as that of a sleeping baby and his eyes were closed. She only knew he was participating when he shuddered, grabbed her thighs, and reached orgasm.
Harry Potter, her first crush, was not so much confusing as he was confused. Did he want her? When the irises of those green eyes were eclipsed, he did. When he looked at her from across the Common Room, he didn't. When he was close enough to smell her perfume, he did. When Dumbledore had died, he didn't.
Most confusing of all… Tom Riddle. She recalled the pain he'd inflicted upon her, but also the kindnesses he had done. She recalled his sweet words in the diary and then the malicious grin given by the memory coming out of the little book. She recalled him kissing her forehead, her lips, letting her have a say in the sentence of Neville's killer. She remembered his hand in her hair, his tongue barely touching hers before she'd whispered his name…
He'd answered her question.
How could she not have understood it? He didn't answer explicitly, but:
"Why do you treat me differently than the other prisoners?"
"I rather like you a lot."
Could Tom, the Dark Lord, her captor, fancy her?
"Oh, Merlin," she moaned into her pillow, "I think I've gone insane!"
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Ooh, a little Easter Egg in this one as well. "How sweet smells the corpse of an enemy!" was announced by ____?