A/N: And so this thirty day love affair comes to an end. It feels like it's taken longer, but really it's only been thirty days (how proud I am to have completed something longer than a one-shot in less than a month!). I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for the last time to all of you have reviewed, especially those of you who always take the time to review each chapter with such wonderful praise and observations. The fast updating is without a shadow of a doubt completely down to all of you and the way in which you motivate me so wonderful that writing seems to have taken over my Christmas and New Year. This is the end, I'm afraid, there will be no sequel, I promise you that now. Thanks to those who have hopped on over to Eclairs, which is my main project now. I will be writing more Tom very soon though, I get withdrawal symptoms if I don't. Anyway, this rambling note has finished, so all that remains is for me to say that I hope you enjoy it and I eagerly await your thoughts. Thanks again for being so fantastic.
"Ron wants to see her."
"He's welcome to. As long as he stays ten feet away from me at all times. I'm worried his stupidity might be contagious."
"You did possess his little sister and ruin her first year at Hogwarts, be fair."
"And be fair, he's the reason that she's in this state in the first place. Do try and keep him from making another attempt at murdering her, will you?"
"Ten minutes, please, just give him ten minutes."
"I'm not leaving her. Besides, Ginny comes in here, she's fine with my presence, so he should be too."
"Ginny's used to you...in a weird way."
She was tired and sore. Her limbs felt heavy and the light which shone through her eyelids hurt the nerves at the back of her eye. The pain travelled all the way into the back of her head, which was already exceedingly painful without the light making it worse. The only good thing, the only comfort amongst all the discomfort was that she was incredibly warm and snug, wrapped up in thick blankets and clothed in what felt like her favourite soft pyjamas.
"Too bright," she murmured. Her throat was dry and the words seemed like they had to rip their way out of her vocal cords, leaving them a ragged mess.
The light beyond her closed eyes disappeared as the sound of curtains being pulled shut assaulted her head. The darkness felt cooling to her aching eyes.
"Hermione? Can you open your eyes?"
It was the last thing she wanted to do, but the softness and familiarity of the voice convinced her that it would be the right thing to do. She couldn't make out much in the dark. She moaned as she was gently moved into a sitting position, her limbs aching from lack of use.
"Drink this," Harry's voice was recognisable in the dark. He pressed a small cup into her hands and Hermione raised it to her lips with shaking hands.
It tasted awful but the effect was far from it. A shiver passed through her whole body, depositing little pieces of energy as it went, leaving Hermione feeling like she just had a bad hangover rather than like she'd been in a coma.
"How do you feel?" Tom asked, frowning in concern.
"Great," Hermione replied dully. "Terrific, actually."
"There will be time for sarcasm later, Hermione. Truth is what I'm looking for at the moment."
Hermione looked at Tom with tired eyes. "I feel awful," she settled back into her pillows and glanced at Harry.
"Don't give him your blood ever again, will you?" Harry said with a sigh.
"How about you keep your pet monkey away from the fangs of my late basilisk in future?"
"Ron thought he was just destroying your horcrux, he was doing the right thing," Harry argued in defence of his best friend.
"Not in my book," Tom replied. "I'm rather fond of my horcruxes."
"Hope it hurt when he stabbed it."
"Can you stop? I've got an awful headache and you two aren't helping in the slightest."
"At least he's not trying to kill me, Hermione. Makes a nice change, actually," Harry grinned at her and Hermione smiled weakly in return.
Tom's face twisted awkwardly and he looked like he wanted to reach for his wand and amend the situation of Harry's well-being.
"What happened?" Hermione asked. "Did Fawkes -"
"It wasn't Fawkes," Harry interrupted. "But he saved you nonetheless."
"Saved? She wouldn't have been in here for the last week if you and that bloody bird hadn't been faffing around making bargains with her life!" Tom's eyes flashed angrily.
Harry put his fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly, causing Hermione to wince as the sound ripped through her head. It was soon replaced by soft, soothing music and a brilliantly coloured bird fluttered through the open window of the hospital wing. The bird landed on Harry's knee and cooed softly as he stroked its feathers.
"He wouldn't save your life unless Tom thought it was really worth it," Harry explained, nodding towards the phoenix. "Well, that's what he wanted Tom to think, anyway."
Hermione frowned. "What d'you mean?"
"He means you'd better be bloody grateful because I've lost everything, thanks to you," Tom's expression was sour.
"He saw a chance for bettering you, Tom, and he took it. You said she was the only person that actually mattered to you, and if she matters to you then it's worth it, isn't it? He saw a chance and he took it. He wouldn't really have let her die. Come on, think who you're talking about..."
Tom huffed angrily.
"What are you talking about?" Hermione asked, more confused than ever.
"Look at his eyes, Hermione," Harry told her, nodding towards the head of the phoenix.
Hermione followed instructions and met the gaze of the phoenix. Bright twinkling blue eyes stared back at her.
"How?" she asked simply.
"Phoenixes are born from fire, most commonly at the funeral of a witch or wizard. It's rare – that's why there are so few phoenixes. Annoyingly, it happened with your dead headmaster. He decided to show off just one more time," Tom sneered at the phoenix which cooed softly in response.
"You remember the phoenix that rose from his tomb, Hermione?" Harry prompted. "On the day of the funeral?"
"I thought that was Fawkes," Hermione said.
"So did I. Everyone did."
"Is it actually him?" Hermione asked, frowning slightly at the phoenix. "Is it his mind trapped inside the body of a phoenix or -"
"He's moved on," Harry said.
"It's like a portrait. Just because it can talk and think the same as the living person did, it doesn't mean that the person is living inside the portrait," Tom explained. "But that bird is still just as irritating as -"
"What did you lose? You said you lost everything. What was 'everything'?" Hermione asked, interrupting Tom, bored of his petty insults.
Tom stopped talking instantly and scowled at the polished wooden floor.
"Tell her," Harry prompted, grinning smugly.
"The bird decided, with help from Potter," he spat Harry's surname, "that you would die unless I gave everything up. All my dreams, all my ambition, gone. No more horcruxes, no more killing, no more torture and no more power. Nice for your friend and dead headmaster to play with your life like that, don't you think?"
"We wouldn't have really let you die," Harry assured her quickly. "I'd never be able to let that happen. We needed to give Tom a chance though, now that he's got someone to care about. Somebody worth sacrificing things for."
"Stop it, Potter, you're making me wretch."
"You agreed?" Hermione said, turning to Tom. She could barely believe it. Of course she had no idea how different Tom was this time around, not having really spent too much time in his company yet. Yes, he had listened to Hermione and as a result, a great number of people were alive who hadn't been alive before. Even so, to give up on everything he had worked for over the last half a century, for her measly little life, particularly astonishing when she considered how very little regard he had for life in general...
"Yes," Tom said stiffly. "Of course I did."
"Barely even thought about it actually," Harry added, struggling to conceal a grin.
The door of the hospital wing opened and Ginny trotted in, her hair tied up in a pony tail, swinging from side to side as she walked.
"Morning!" she said cheerfully. "Oh! You're awake!" she dashed over to Hermione and threw her arms around Hermione's neck, hugging her tightly.
"Ginny, give her some space, she's only just woken up."
"Sorry," Ginny apologised, moving back towards Harry and sitting in the empty chair next to him. "How do you feel?"
"Fine," Hermione told her, despite it being a mild lie. She was, after all, as fine as could be expected after being poisoned by basilisk venom, but she still felt like she had fallen out of the tallest tree in the forbidden forest and hit every single branch on the way down.
"So Tom, drawn up any new career plans?" Ginny asked conversationally.
Tom narrowed his eyes at her.
"You could always go back to writing for Cheeky Charms," Hermione suggested, biting her lip as she smiled.
Tom's look of displeasure moved from Ginny to Hermione.
"Well what about teaching? You said you wanted to teach."
"Oh, because they're going to let me be a teacher," Tom replied sarcastically, his lip curled in a sneer. "It's all Dumbledore's fault. If he'd have given me a job all those years ago -"
"You were too young, though," Hermione said reasonably.
The phoenix hooted again and Tom hissed quietly.
"Oh that's really nice..." Ginny cooed, taking Hermione's hand and examining it closely, tilting it so she could see it at different angles. "Are they real diamonds?"
Hermione frowned, confused, then saw that the ring Tom had conjured so long ago was on her finger. "Who put that on?" she asked.
"Me. I took it from your robes. It was exactly where I left it. And yes, they are real diamonds, I don't conjure any cheap rubbish," Tom's smirk had returned.
"You've got good taste, Tom," Ginny told him. "It's pretty."
"Slytherins always have immaculate taste, I'll have you know, Ginevra."
Ginny scowled at the use of her full name.
"But he's You-Know-"
"Oh change the record, Ron," Hermione sighed, folding her arms across her chest. "You have no idea what Voldemort was like in my memory, and Tom's a billion times better than he was. He wasn't even human before, Ron. Tom's still human. It makes all the difference."
"Yeah, but -"
"If you're just going to argue then you can go away."
Ron sighed, giving in for the time being. He ran a hand nervously through his flaming red hair. "I'm really sorry about the whole almost killing you thing."
"It's all right. I didn't know, you couldn't have possibly known. No damage was done," Hermione smiled at him reassuringly.
Ron picked at a loose stitch on his jeans. "You really gave him your blood?"
"Yes," Hermione replied. That had been the most common enquiry from all of her friends. Why had she given her blood to Lord Voldemort? How could she be so stupid? Hermione provided her usual answer. "I trusted him. I still do."
"Yeah, well I think you're an idiot," Ron said, although his tone suggested he had given up arguing.
"That makes two of us then," Hermione replied airily.
Ron laughed softly and grinned.