Disclaimer: This is not a slash story. The iffy references throughout the story are merely to add to the creepiness and not to indicate a HP/TR ship. ALSO: A few lines are copied word-for-word from Chamber of Secrets. Die-hard fans will recognize them.

Author's note: This story is for DB. (She made me!) As I told her, I don't think this story has changed me, but it has certainly brought out my darker side. Please leave a comment if you have something constructive to say! :)

I. Lifeblood

Tom raised the holly wand in his hand. He was more than ready to destroy the tiresome twelve-year-old before him. To kill Harry Potter with his own wand.

Then that interfering phoenix flew back overhead and dropped something into Potter's lap—the diary.

For a split second, both Potter and Tom, wand still raised, stared at it. Then Potter seized the basilisk fang on the floor next to him and Tom's heart went cold.

"Wait!" Tom fairly shrieked, his voice sounding very different from the quiet confidence it had possessed moments before.

Miraculously, the boy hesitated.

Realizing what was at stake, Tom dropped the wand and fell to his knees. "Don't do it!" The next words came very hard. "Please, don't kill me."

"You were going to kill me!" Potter exclaimed, his young voice cracking slightly with exhaustion. "You tried to kill Hermione and Colin...and the longer you live, the worse off Ginny is, if she's even still alive! Where do you get the nerve to beg for mercy?"

Tom winced at the word "beg," but there was no time to worry about it. "She'll live," he said quickly, even as he subconsciously checked the flow of life from Ginny's soul to his own. He hated to, but this was not a moment for dishonesty. "There's a way we can both live. I can save her, but I'll need your help."

Potter was listening, but his hand still held the fang poised over the diary. "My help? What exactly do you need?"

"A little blood. A drop will do." Tom held his breath and waited.

Potter glanced toward Ginny's still form uncertainly. "How will my blood help her?"

This boy was proving annoyingly intelligent. Time to take a small chance on a lie. "Her life is tied to mine now. If I die, she will die. But if you wish her to regain her life force, then I will need a new source of strength—your blood. Otherwise, my memory will fade to nothing until Ginny loses her hold on this world."

"And what am I supposed to do with you afterwards—take you to prison?"

"Oh...no. You see, Potter, once I have your blood, your life will be tied to mine as well. I would think you'd want to keep me where you could observe me."

He could see the quiet horror on Potter's face. If the boy believed him, then it would be a terrible choice: to forever knit his soul to his greatest enemy, or to sacrifice Ginny in order to destroy all that was left of Tom Riddle.

"I am the heir of Slytherin," Tom said softly. "You could be the heir of Voldemort."

"What d'you mean?" Potter asked. It was a question he had posed to Tom a few times already that day. It was getting old.

"Look at the destruction our fighting has brought," Tom said, sweeping his gaze from Ginny to the slain basilisk and back to Potter's intense, green eyes. "The beast killed, Ginny dying—you and I have both nearly lost our lives. Think what we could do if we were not enemies—if we worked together, Harry!" He used the boy's Christian name this time and found himself liking its softness. Almost like the hiss of a snake.

"You're asking me to join you," Harry said harshly. "You want to make me as evil as you are. Well, I'm not a killer!"

"Says the boy ready to stab me in the heart! Please, Harry—I'm not evil..."

"Just powerful?" Harry asked, his voice laced with sarcasm. "Yes, your older self tried to convince me that good and evil don't exist."

"Well..." Tom groped for the right words. He had to be very careful. "Maybe I was wrong," he said at last. "Listen. Ginny told me you have to live with your horrid Muggle relatives. Wouldn't you be better off with someone who understands you? Who recognizes your talent?" He paused to let his words sink in.

Suddenly, Harry gave him a piercing look. "You're lonely, aren't you?"

"What?" Tom was caught off guard. The suggestion was ridiculous.

"What you said earlier," Harry persisted. "About your father abandoning you. That really bothers you, doesn't it?"

Tom took his eyes off Harry's and stared instead at his diary. He knew he should be insulted, but it would not be wise to upset the one person who could kill him at any moment. "Maybe it does," he said. He met Harry's gaze again. "And you're lonely too," he guessed. "You have friends, but...it's not the same as family."

He could see Harry making a brave effort to remain inscrutable, but his defenses were certainly coming down.

"Come with me, Harry," Tom murmured, adding as much pleasant softness to his voice as he could. "We can each have a chance at what we were robbed of. You'll be my ward and I'll take care of you."

"You're not even real," Harry argued feebly. "You're just a memory."

"But with your help, I'll be flesh and blood again. You know," he went on, more to himself than to Harry, "I've never allowed myself to truly care about anyone else. It never seemed like good use of my time or talents. But now...." He looked Harry over from his messy hair to the hem of his blood-soaked robes. "Now I'm sort of looking forward to it."

Harry was obviously struggling on the brink of the decision now. "Once I've given you my blood," he said slowly, "will you bring Ginny back?"

"Yes. Immediately."

"And she'll be free of you—completely?"

This was a potent question. When Ginny was free, would Harry be willing to sacrifice himself to destroy Tom? If so, then all was lost. For though it was true that their lives would be linked, Tom knew that neither Harry nor Ginny would really die if he were killed. Again, this mere boy would triumph over the greatest dark wizard in the world.

"She'll be free," he answered, "if I release her completely."

"How do I know you will?"

"You can't know, I'm afraid. I suppose my word is worthless to you."

"Well, it's not much. But maybe it's better than nothing."

Tom nodded. "I swear, I'll let her go. Completely."

"I don't want her to see you when she wakes."

"She won't." Tom marveled at how his fortunes had changed in so short a space of time. He had gone from triumphant to desperate to hopeful. Once he was himself again, he could bide his time until Harry truly trusted him. Then he could kill the boy easily. There would be no more underestimation, no more mistakes. It would not be the grand execution he had planned for Harry Potter, but it would be successful.

"Toss my wand over here," Harry instructed. "And be careful. One wrong move, and you're done for."

Tom didn't doubt it. He grasped the tapered end of Harry's wand between his thumb and forefinger and flicked it onto the stone floor in front of Harry, who picked it up and tucked it into his robes.

"I don't suppose you can use any of the blood I've already lost?"

"I'm afraid not. It has to be fresh."

"Right...." Harry looked around a little before getting to his feet. "Wait there," he said. Still holding the diary and basilisk fang, he backed toward the fallen monster. When he had gone far enough that Tom knew he could not cross the distance quickly enough to try anything, Harry set down fang and diary and reached into the basilisk's mouth. With a huge tug, he removed the glittering sword which he had put there what seemed such a long time ago. He wiped the sword on his robes and began studying his left arm. Choosing a less sensitive area on the back of his forearm, Harry drew the edge of the sword across it with a little hiss of pain.

Tom felt strange. No one had willingly caused themselves pain on his behalf before. He shoved the thought away for closer examination at a more appropriate time.

The phoenix swooped down to Harry's shoulder and made as if to cry on his arm.

"No, Fawkes," Harry said, reaching up to stroke the bird. "I'm all right."

Fawkes left Harry's shoulder in what Tom decided was an avian huff, and Harry set the sword aside to take up the fang and diary again. He returned to his previous position on the floor and set the diary down, his right hand holding the basilisk fang over it.

"All right, you can come over. But move slowly."

Tom nodded. He didn't think he had ever crawled before, even as a baby, but this was no time for pride. He made his way over the floor until he could grasp the wrist of the arm Harry was holding out to him.

It was an odd sensation: his immaterial fingers wrapping around Harry's solidity. He could also feel something like hot sparks against his skin, and he realized that the counter-charm Harry's mother had placed on him was repelling Tom, spitting at the memory of her killer. But that would go away soon, he knew; as soon as Harry's blood was inside him.

Forcing himself to move slowly as he'd been instructed, Tom lowered his mouth to Harry's self-inflicted wound. He felt Harry flinch at the point of contact, but otherwise he kept perfectly still. And why shouldn't he? There was no going back now.

Tom took more than a drop. He couldn't help it. He had always liked the taste of blood. And knowing the significance of this particular blood made him want more. He wanted to drink Harry Potter's veins dry. He could feel the pulse in Harry's wrist growing stronger under the pressure of his fingers. Then he felt the sinews contracting and he knew he had had all he was going to get. He pulled away with a parting lick that made Harry visibly recoil.

Tom felt warmth spreading through him—and cold. The room was very cold, but he could feel the life blossoming inside him. He was no longer a memory.

Pleeeeeease write something. Even an "I didn't really like this angle, but you're not terrible" note is better than nothing. :p