By now you will have noticed the absence of Hermione Granger from Hogwarts for the past few days. Knowing you, you will almost certainly also have guessed who the responsible party is. Knowing you just as well, you will have assumed that Miss Granger's disappearance was the result of coercion. For the sake of what I am about to say, I will permit you to believe that.
Has it really only been a short few months since you arrived at Azkaban and, no doubt, discovered that our regular interrogations could no longer continue because I was no longer present? It feels so much longer.
Ah, but who am I to speak of the proper passage of time? I have been 17 for over half a century. By rights, I should be old enough to be the father of most of your teachers, let alone your students. In fact, when it comes to your Potions Master, I think I almost was his father. Pity that Eileen had to go and marry a Muggle. I don't remember anything about the two of us having a falling out, so I assume it must have happened after I was placed in the journal. Must have been truly awful if she then stooped to marrying a Muggle! But I digress.
Speaking of my other self, perhaps it is better that I have not experienced the many years I should have aged. Indeed, I am perhaps alone among humankind in having met the version of me that aged all those years. Too bad I had to kill him. He was a fool, but I have no doubt he could have taught me a few new tricks after all those years. In his own way, I suppose he did. Thanks to his failures, I now know the futility of trying to kill a child once a parent has died to protect that child. I know the stupidity of splitting the soul too many times, lest one piece fall into the wrong person. Incidentally, have you told Mr. Potter that he's part of my little extended family yet? Or were you planning on only doing that once you needed him to die? Dear, dear, what would poor, sweet Eileen Prince's son say to that, I wonder? And how would your students react if they knew you had every intention of turning them into sacrificial lambs in your war against me?
Which brings me to the most awkward part of this letter. I suppose I should start with the good news. Albus, your war is almost over. Lord Voldemort is dead. Tom Riddle killed him. That is to say, I killed him. And not only that, but I destroyed almost every Horcrux he currently possesses. Yes, including Ravenclaw's Diadem. I was able to stop in at the Room of Requirement and destroy that before taking Miss Granger. Yet one Horcrux remains, and you know very well which one: Harry Potter himself.
I could kill him myself, of course. I very nearly did when I came to Hogwarts. But I was far more interested in securing the existence of the one Horcrux that is mine at the time, and besides, it felt wrong to absolve you of the responsibility for what you did to that boy. You, after all, always intended for him to die in order that my other self should be exterminated. You fattened him up and groomed him to be the perfect sacrificial lamb. I now give you the opportunity to execute that sacrifice. Murder him, and end your battle with Lord Voldemort forever.
Aside from closure, I can offer you these incentives: Firstly, if you kill him yourself in the next week, I will give Miss Granger the opportunity to leave my side. I do not think it likely that she will, at least if you read the journal I have enclosed with this letter. Secondly, and more importantly, I will abandon the means that my other self used. I will still seek power over the wizarding world, and I expect to get it. They already revere Mr. Potter for being the Boy Who Lived. What kind of gratitude would they shower on the Man Who Killed? But even if I am not rewarded as I expect, I will confine my efforts to rule the wizarding world to the realm of the nonviolent. I will not return to the torture and murder that so many associate with Lord Voldemort. If you like, I will make an Unbreakable Vow with you to do all of this once Mr. Potter is dead, though it will be in a time and place of my choosing.
However, if Mr. Potter still lives in a week, then I will keep Miss Granger at my side until she is capable of carrying on as Lady Voldemort in the event of my death. Not only that, but I will invade your school and murder Harry Potter myself. You know I can do this. I have already broken through your defenses once, and unlike my other self, I have not been so foolish as to allow Mr. Potter's blood to run in my veins.
Moreover, once I have finished with this act, I shall wreak horror upon the world that my other self could only dream of. But this time, I will not target wizards. I now know that this is not necessary. Instead, I will target Muggles only. Miss Granger, as you will see from the enclosed journal, taught me about a lovely little thing called epidemiology. I will leave it to your imagination to think how I might apply that knowledge to exterminate the Muggle race. I doubt most wizards would be inclined to act to stop such a thing, but I know you, Albus Dumbledore, are the exception.
So consider carefully. You already allowed one of your brightest students to become the most dangerous dark wizard of all time. Can you permit a second to become the most dangerous dark witch? You already primed Mr. Potter to die. Can you stand to look him in the face and do it yourself, or are the deaths of millions of Muggles worth not facing up to the reality of your own plan?
I won, Albus. The only question is how badly you want to lose.
And one more thing. It was not me that won your war for you. It was Hermione Granger. She made me swear an unbreakable vow to do it, and I did. Not because I feared death. She was already a Horcrux keeping me tethered to this earth. No, I did it because I knew that if my body were destroyed, it would be longer before I saw her again. I did it to see my equal. So if you follow my instructions, Albus, and if you see her again, thank her.
Oh, I almost forgot! This letter bears an enchantment that will render it illegible to all but you, and that will render it illegible to you once you have read it through fully. If you have reached this sentence, then the enchantment should have begun taking effect three minutes ago, and all paragraphs but this one should have become gibberish by now. I hope, for your sake, that this is not our last correspondence.
Your old friend,
TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE
Your beauty was the cause of that effect—
Your beauty, that did haunt me in my sleep
To undertake the death of all the world,
So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom.
-William Shakespeare, "Richard III"