"Will you stop that infernal noise-making?" Tom snapped one late August evening.
"Sorry," Ginny snorted. "I can't eat soup without making noise. I think it's impossible."
"You just need to learn proper table manners," he retorted.
"Never needed them before," she sighed. "It may be a lost cause. You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks."
"You're not an animal, you're a witch, and manners aren't tricks. We'll have to get you up to snuff before the banquet, else I'm leaving you home."
"Banquet?" Ginny asked, arching an eyebrow. "What banquet?"
"My celebration for ruling the world. We got the Antarctic holdouts last week. I've finally done it. More than seventy years of work, and I've done it. The work was strenuous at times, but the end made the means worth it."
"Even when you accidentally made Harry a Horcrux and lost your powers?" she challenged.
"A minor setback," he said somewhat angrily. "Don't ruin this moment for me, Ginny."
"Sorry," she spat. "It was just a question."
She silently swallowed her soup. Tom gave her an approving smile.
"What are you doing in that bowl that's making it take you so long to eat? You're eating as slowly as a flobberworm."
"Flobberworms are disgusting," Ginny replied. "I like to spell the names of people I miss."
"Your dad?" Tom asked. She nodded sadly as an answer. "Fathers are overrated. I killed mine the first time I met him."
"Good for you," she said quietly. "If my dad hadn't been so wonderful… Well, I suppose I'd still miss him even if he was mediocre. You only get one, after all."
"Yeah," Tom replied acerbically. "Just one." He moved about the table to stand behind Ginny as she spelled
"Who's Fred?" he asked with a semblance of true curiosity. The name rang a bell.
"My brother," Ginny said, swirling the letters around and around, looking for new names to spell. "He's dead now. A wall fell on him during the battle at Hogwarts. There are worse ways to go, I suppose. I just hope it was quick." She sounded nonplussed, but Tom probed her thoughts. Her consciousness was focusing on the elder Malfoy, now deceased.
"What about him?" Tom inquired.
"I hate when you use Legilimency on me," she muttered. "I just want to know how he felt when he… you know. Did the fall do it, or was it drowning?"
"I couldn't say," Tom answered, "and I couldn't really care less. Honestly, Ginevra, you focus on the most unimportant things."
"My father was not unimportant!" came a snarl from the doorway. There stood Draco Malfoy, a red handprint staining his cheek. Ginny leapt from her chair and clung to Tom's arm.
"How did you get in here?" she demanded. Tom didn't speak.
"Nothing to say, big man?" Draco taunted. "You turned the Dark Lord against my father, you've been protecting this little chit from every terrifying splinter in this complex- and wherever else you've taken her. When she got here, she was under the Dark Lord's protection. How did someone like you, barely twenty, manage to finagle her out of his grasp?" He drew his wand and pointed it straight at Tom's chest. Smiling, Tom gently urged Ginny to sit again. Were they going to fight? Draco had made a big mistake coming there, Ginny knew. The handprint on his face was beginning to fade; now tear marks were visible running down his cheeks. The back of his robe was torn.
"You'll never get the honor of wearing a Death Eater's mask if you keep behaving this way," Tom said conversationally. "Where's your keeper, little ferret? Has she lost you? A miserable failure it seems, that one."
"Mona," Ginny insisted, "can't be expected to work miracles. No one could be expected to break him of his attitude."
"Stuff it, Weasley. Men are talking," Draco sneered. Suddenly he was jerked back by some unseen force.
"Crucio!" His cries of pain could be heard through many of the camp's corridors. "Watch your mouth, you useless lump! You don't know who you're dealing with."
Draco's prone form, worse for the wear, was shoved into the dining hall and pushed unceremoniously to the wall by the lady in question. "My Lord," rasped the woman, genuflecting. "I know I don't deserve forgiveness for his actions- I know I've failed you."
"You have indeed, Mona."
"And I know I must pay the price, my Lord-"
"But I ask for the privilege of punishing my pupil before you enact your own punishment on me, my Lord."
"Why is she… Lord?" Draco croaked almost unintelligibly, hands fumbling at the seams of his robes.
"Obviously, and I'm sure even Ginny here has to agree," Tom began, "your punishments have not been effective. Ginny, dear, has Malfoy acted properly?"
"What Death Eater has?" she asked dryly in return. Tom answered her with a stern glare.
"No, I think I'll dole out all of the necessary punishments for misdeeds here. You're a loyal follower and have kept many secrets, the most important of all being my face, Mona. You shan't be punished too harshly. Now, Crucio!"
"Tom, no!" Ginny cried. As shrieks, screams, and moans filled the room, Ginny buried her head in Tom's chest, crying softly. "Stop it, stop it! She was kind to me!"
A strange gurgling noise began to emanate from Mona's throat.
"On my command!"
"I don't care! Please make it stop!"
And it stopped. Tom's wand was still pointed at Mona, but she had ceased to move. Ginny fell to her knees and began to choke on her sobs. "She's dead…" Ginny moaned. "By all that's holy, she's dead…"
"Not dead," Tom corrected stiffly, "merely knocked out from pain."
Ginny heard the most awful rushing noise in her ears as her head fell to the ground. She felt a fissure open in her skull, felt the blood become matted in her beautiful red hair. She'd heard the words, felt the pain in her chest. Shouldn't she be dead?
"Fatal mistake, Malfoy," she heard Tom say wryly. She heard a snap and an outcry.
"My wand!" Malfoy cried out. "But no matter," he smirked. "Your little pet is already dead."
"Dead? No, I think not. Did you think Lord Voldemort would not keep his confidante alive? Your Lord can have mercy. I'll admit, she didn't want the immortality, found it distasteful, a curse, even. The Dark Lord would hear none of it. Stand up, Ginevra."
"I'm hurt, Tom…" she whimpered. He glared at her. Her hands slipped in blood as she grasped for the chair to pull herself from the ground. Wobbling a bit and using the table for support, she stood tall.
"But there's no counter curse!" Malfoy exclaimed. He looked from Tom to Ginny to Mona and back again. "What the bleeding hell is going on here? Who are you? What are you?"
"I am Lord Voldemort, and I am immortal."
"My Lord…" Mona coughed from the ground. "He must die. You've… revealed yourself to him."
"Ginny," Tom said softly, "show him your power. Hurt him without a wand."
Not wanting to actually further injure the boy, she called out the first jinx she could think of. "Tarantallegra!"
"I won't go out without a fight!" Draco declared, flailing. He fell onto to Mona and grabbed the wand from her impotent hands. "I don't believe for a moment that you're the Dark Lord. Avada Kedavra!"
Tom laughed as the spell bounced off of him.
"You can't… you can't be Him!"
"Shut up now, before you dig yourself in deeper," Mona rasped. Sputum was dribbling from her lips and she looked rather pale. Her wand hand, useless, showed a tremor.
"He can't get in any deeper," Tom said calmly. "Mona was right; he must die now."
"Wait! I have something to say before you try to kill me!" Malfoy exclaimed, chest puffed out.
Twirling his wand idly in his left hand, Tom raised his eyebrows. "Try? Okay, I'll indulge you."
"Two things," he declared. "I can't kill you or Weasley, but can I kill my teacher? Let's find out. Avada-"
"No!" Ginny screamed. She covered her eyes.
"Accio wand," Tom drawled just in time. Malfoy glared daggers at his Lord, knelt down next to Mona. He felt around her neck. Tom watched with amused interest. Ginny was confused. What was he doing? Malfoy swiftly moved his hands in a circular jerking motion. A sickening crack echoed.
"Mortal," he muttered. "I should have done that ages ago."
Ginny staggered, head pounding, and fell forward onto the ornate table. She gave a dry heave and continued to gag.
"Item number two," Malfoy drawled confidently. "I can't kill Weasley, but can I injure her? Accio Mona's wand." Tom let the deceased woman's wand slip through his fingers and into Malfoy's.
"I don't know what you expect to do to a witch so powerful with only a primary education," Tom stated confidently.
"I learned this from Saint Potter," Malfoy said, pointing the wand at a trembling Ginny.
"I only had the one dose of Xanthan, Tom," she whispered. "My extra lifetime is gone."
"Don't worry, little one. He can't hurt you. Not with me here."
"How wrong you are, My Lord. Your arrogance is going to get her killed."
"On the off chance that you so much as harm a hair on her little head, you'll be dead before you can blink. If you don't harm her, as I suspect, you'll die anyway. On three, then."
Malfoy fell over, dead, eyes rolled back in his head. His corpse lay next to that of Mona. The beautiful dining hall that was only an hour before serving a quiet meal for two lovers was now a graveyard. Tom smiled. "You see, Ginny? Everything worked out. Malfoy's dead and- oh, but he's injured you."
Ginny's chest was leaking blood. It flowed from her quickly and with sharp pains. "It hurts, Tom," she whispered meekly.
"It's alright, Ginny; we'll just staunch this." He ripped open the front of her robes and pressed dining napkins to the gash across her chest. "This isn't enough," he thought aloud. "Medics!" he called loudly. "I need medics immediately!"
"But it'll be okay, Tom," Ginny said with labored breathing. "You said he couldn't hurt me as long as you were with me. And you're with me."
"Yes, I'm right here…" He replied absent-mindedly. "Where are my bloody medics? No, Ginny, don't you dare! Don't close your eyes. I was never any good at Healing, but I'll give it a go until the professionals get their lazy…"
He didn't trust himself to free-hand this operation, so he pulled his wand from an inside pocket and began to recite incantations he thought he'd long forgotten.
"That's yew, isn't it?" Ginny murmured. "I was sitting under a yew tree when I said your name. Isn't that funny?"
"Yes, yes, very funny… Where are they?" He snapped his fingers in front of her face. "Open your eyes, Ginny. If you die, I'll kill every last Healer in this building, I swear to you."
"But I'm not going to die, am I Fred?" she said, looking somewhere over Tom's left shoulder.
"Here, My Lord, here!"
"That's a nasty wound…"
"…lost a lot of blood already…"
"It might take a miracle…"
Tom ran to the kitchen. He threw open the pantry, breathing hard, heart pounding. He began throwing out every bottle he could reach until he found the Xanthan. Maybe, just maybe it could work. He muscled past the Healers and began pouring bottle upon bottle of Xanthan on Ginny's wounds. "Work, damn it!"
Because what would he do without her? With whom would he speak? Mona had been companionable enough, but she was dead. There were plenty of sycophants who would certainly like to mold themselves into his newest confidante, but they hadn't been there. They hadn't been there for those feather-covered nights seven years prior. None of them had heard him drunkenly rant about his past and keep the secret. He had never kissed any of them, or been intimate with any of them. Oh, Bellatrix had been more than willing, but she just wasn't Ginny. The mouthy little brat couldn't die now, not from a stupid spell cast by a mediocre wizard.
"Your concoction seems to be helping a bit, My Lord…"
"Hold my hand, Tom. Please." He did so. "Am I crazy again, Tom? I can see Fred. He wants me to take his hand. Tell me what to do."
"I… don't know what you should do. Just keep talking, I guess. Is that right?" he asked one of the medics. The man nodded in assent.
"The bleeding is slowing, but we need more blood-replenishing potion or she'll succumb. We need her conscious. Keeping her awake is a good idea, My Lord."
"Ginny? Talk to me, little one."
"Dad's here too now. He keeps waving for me. It's so bright… It hurts, Tom," she sobbed weakly.
"Don't go to your Dad or Fred. Stay here with me. You're going to be an aunt soon, remember? Isn't that worth living for?"
"Promise me something," she coughed. He nodded. "Promise me that Luna will get to stay with her baby. Don't take that from her."
"Only if you decide to live."
"It's out of my hands now, isn't it, Fred?"
"Lie to me, Tom Riddle! You lie to me right now!"
"What the devil are you talking about, woman?"
"Look me in the eyes and tell me you love me. Then I can die happy." She shook ferociously; Tom had a hard time keeping her hand steady.
His piercing blue eyes peered into her rapidly dulling hazel ones. "I love you," he said.
"Now tell me it was the truth," she insisted, coughing more violently.
"I meant every word," he replied.
"I told you, Fred. I told you he loved… Oh, it hurts…"
"We were too late," one of the medics cursed. "My Lord, there's almost no chance…"
"Okay, Fred. Let me just…"
The room was filled with the sound of the Killing Curse flying.
Tom crouched beside the still-bleeding Ginny. Her eyes were almost closed and her breathing was uneven and heavy. "Tom, I love…"
He didn't shed a tear as he lay coins over her eyes. He almost regretted lying to her as she died. Almost. She had been a faithful companion and it had been her dying wish. It was only proper. He idly wondered if anyone had bothered to try to save his mother. Sighing, he surveyed the room. Its opulence was marred by the corpses of Mona, Malfoy, and half a dozen Healers. Then there was his little Ginny, so tiny in death. She and the others would have to be cleared out quickly so the hall could be prepared for the banquet.
"Only I can live forever," he murmured.
He sat in the chair next to his own- Ginny's chair. He peered into the now cold bowl of soup and rearranged the letters.
One of three endings.
The first ending had Gin and Tom sitting on a balcony a few years later watching Luna play with her children Apollo and Stella. Too happy of an ending for this couple, amirite?
The second ending had Tom kill Gin as an act of mercy because Malfoy had fatally injured her. I don't think Tom's really capable of mercy and there were other issues as well, so I rewrote it again.
This is what you got. A long Shakespearean death is needed once in a while.
Well, I hope you enjoyed. It was a long journey. You guys have stuck with this story through weekly updates, sporadic updates, monthly updates; through death and illness; through what was honestly the worst time in my life. The idea of leaving a story that so many people enjoyed unfinished bothered me, so I kept going. You all (and your HUNDREDS of reviews) kept me going, kept me inspired. Your ideas impacted the story more than you know. Even if I didn't personally respond to each review, please know that I cherish every one.
Even though this journey is at an end, I'd really like reviews. How was it as an overall piece? Would you read it again? Tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly so I may better myself as a writer.
I love you all, and thanks so much!
...years later, in 2015: I'd just like to say how astounded I am that this story has held up for so long. I'm sincerely surprised when I get a review or a favorite for it. I started this monster over six years ago; I hardly remember who I was then! Going back and reading (also deleting...) ANs has been both fun and embarrassing. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it. Many, many, many thanks and much love to everybody!
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