16 year old Tom Riddle stood leaning against one of the many pillars of the Chamber of Secrets, panting as if he had run several miles.
The pain had been excruciating. He had not been expecting that. The descriptions of the horcrux ritual he had found had said nothing of the pain. But it had worked! Tied to the tip of his wand was a pulsing fragment of his own soul. Now he just needed to find an anchor.
The girl's death had been accidental, but Riddle was nothing if not an opportunist. As soon as he realized what had happened, he had performed the first part of the ritual, causing his soul to tear, and then he had directed the basilisk to return to her lair, following so that he might finish in isolation.
The lack of planning had caught him ill prepared. Riddle had intended to seal a portion of his soul to something permanent, something that should last forever, but when he needed the soul anchor he was limited to what he had with him when he entered the chamber.
The Sixth year Slytherin prefect looked over what he had found upon emptying his pockets. A quill… no too vulnerable to breakage and far too likely to be picked up by some passerby and used.
Three sickles and seven knuts. Pocket change, again, no.
His handkerchief… possibly.
A comb… a cheap Muggle comb… no.
The pocket diary awarded to him by the staff of the orphanage for services he had performed the previous summer. In honesty, the only reason he had kept it was that it had his name embossed on the cover… There was something poetic about having a horcrux with his name embossed on it… perhaps.
His wallet, empty of cash and photos, having a prominent ring pressed through the cheap leather of the condom he had carried for the last three years in hope of an opportunity to use it… no. Besides, he might need that condom, Bethany McKinna had seemed to be more interested in his suggestions recently.
And finally… this. He picked up the final item and considered the possibilities. It was a favorite, that much was certain.
The horcrux had two purposes. The first was to tie him to this plane of existence, a tool to keep him from final death. The second was a failsafe in case the first option did not work. It would allow his aspect tied to the anchor to take possession of someone who used it. Either option ensured his continued existence, but it was the second option that made his decision for him.
That ruled the diary out. Riddle had never used the stupid thing beyond entering his contact information on the first page; he couldn't imagine any boy who would. Some stupid girl might pour her heart out to a diary, but that would mean that the great Lord Voldemort would return as a young girl.
Even with the lip service paid to the equality of the sexes in the Magical world, Riddle could not imagine returning as a female… gathering minions as a female… ruling as a female…
But this, he thought examining the winning choice in his hand. This was something a young man would make use of for an extended period. Yes, he decided. This would be his anchor.
Riddle guided the fragment of his soul into his chosen anchor, sealing the linkage with a splash of his own blood.
A feeling of deep satisfaction filled him as he stood away from his first horcrux. It was done. He was immortal. Lord Voldemort was born. Now all he had to do was make sure that no one suspected he was the one behind that stupid girl's death.
That stupid oafish Gryffindor, Hagrid, and the acromantula that the fool was raising in the castle... They would be the perfect patsies.
Lucius Malfoy was a wizard on a mission.
His instructions had been simple. If the Dark Lord was to go missing, he was to wait a decade and then get this 'gift' from the Dark Lord into the possession of a young boy.
Malfoy had not gotten to his place in the world by being a fool. It was obvious that the Dark Lord intended to return by possessing a child. This meant that Lucius needed to keep this… thing as far away from his heir as possible. This precluded delivering it to any of the boys of Slytherin house.
Which was too bad, really. Several of Draco's playmates could frankly use the upgrade.
Nevertheless, Lucius had in mind the son of a family of Gryffindors. His intelligence network had reported that the family was in Diagon Alley shopping for the upcoming school year, so a quick apparition later he was closing on his intended victim.
With false charm, Lucius taunted both the youngest daughter and her father on the state of her preowned books and equipment, provoking the man into a tussle. In the confusion, Malfoy planted the Dark Lord's 'gift' among the youngest son's purchases.
Ron Weasley dumped his armload of school supplies on his bed before opening his trunk and starting to shove them into it in a haphazard manner.
Then his eyes spotted the odd rectangle wrapped in a plain brown wrapper.
What was that? He wondered. He did not remember his mother selecting anything like that for his upcoming school year. Of course, all the attention had been on that cretin Lockhart manhandling Harry, and his dad's cool fight with Lucius Malfoy. With a shrug, he tore open the plain brown wrapping to expose his mystery school supply.
His eyes bugged out once he recognized what it was. No, Mum most certainly had not bought him this. Maybe dad had… or the twins? Why would the twins… Never mind. Ron made his way to the door and listened carefully. Harry was down stairs helping Mum with lunch, Ginny was hiding in her room, and the twins… well, he did not know where the twins were, and really did not care.
Ron carefully locked the door to his room to investigate his gift more fully.
Tom woke as soon as he felt the anchor coming into use. Soon, soon he would be free.
He extended his awareness from the anchor to 'meet' the wizard that was going to free him. Wait. What was he doing?
Horrified by what he found, Tom began to suspect that the choice of the anchor had not been well thought out.
Harry Potter lay on his cot with his pillow wrapped around his head, trying to drown out the sounds coming from his friend's bed.
Harry understood that Ron had discovered his favorite toy the year before in the dorms (and had insisted on talking about it) but really? Three a.m. and he was still going at it?
Moreover, as if his night was not bad enough, Harry's scar was aching even worse than it had when he faced off against Voldemort the previous May, and the pain was so bad Harry could almost swear he was hearing things. It was almost as if words were echoing in his head. "Stop… please stop…"
It was maddening.
The Twins found Harry sleeping while leaning on the palm of his left hand with his right hand was in his bowl of porridge to be highly amusing. They were busy attempting to flick blueberries into Harry's open mouth when a shriek echoed throughout the Weasley home.
"RONALD BILLIUS WEASLEY!"
"Ooh, ickle Ronnie is in for it now," George noted.
"Yeah," Fred agreed. "That's her 'Azkaban would be a vacation' voice."
"Even we haven't gotten her that mad recently," George concluded.
"HWha?" Ron asked his spoon still in his mouth as he wondered what he had done.
"Indeed," Percy noted as he nodded in agreement with his two next younger brothers. "Ronald, it seems, is doomed." He shook his head. "Well, at least we'll still have Harry… and Ginny of course."
"Hmm?" Harry asked, waking as he heard his name.
"But I haven't done anything," Ron protested. "Not recently anyway."
"Keep telling yourself that Ron," his father sighed. "Sometimes it helps."
Molly came thundering into the kitchen levitating a much used magazine in front of her as if she were afraid it would attack her.
"Ronald. Explain this," she said with deadly finality.
"Naughty Witch Magazine?" Fred asked incredulously.
"Ronnie, you dirty boy," George chimed in.
"March 1944?" Percy said. "Where did you find a magazine of this vintage?"
"I have that issue," Arthur noted quietly so that his raging wife could not hear. "But that one isn't mine…"
"What was that Arthur?"
"Ow!" Harry suddenly yelped, saving his best friend's father from having to explain himself. The raven-haired boy clutched at the famous scar on his forehead, "Ow… Ow… Ow!" Harry knew better than to tell anyone that along with the pain he could now hear that voice again. Only now, it was a voice full of horror, a voice pleading for someone, anyone, to kill him. It was the voice of someone who had seen too much.
"Are you alright Harry?" Molly asked, forgetting her rage for a moment.
"Yeah," Harry lied. "I'm fine," rising from the table; he made his way from the kitchen, not wanting any part of the family conflict that was coming. "I'm just going to lay down for a bit."
"Where did you get this… filth Ronald?" Molly asked wheeling to face her youngest son again.
"It was in my school stuff from yesterday," Ron protested. "I thought that Dad had got it for me, or maybe the twins."
"We would never," George protested.
"Ever!" Fred agreed.
"Buy you wank books," George finished.
"What's a wank book?" Ginny asked.
"You got this YESTERDAY?" Molly shrieked before turning for face Arthur again. "Arthur, ALL the pages are stuck together. All of them."
In spite of himself, Arthur was impressed. That particular issue had 226 pages. He remembered once having that kind of stamina. Yes, the boy was definitely a Weasley. "Ron," he said, "this is hardly the proper way for a young man to…"
"I want this thing out of my house!" Molly screamed as she cast the offending magazine into the kitchen's old wood burning heater and cast repeated incendios until the only thing that remained of the magazine was ash. It was only due to the woman's ranting that no one heard the cries of relief that issued from the former magazine as it was destroyed.
"Why did you stick the pages together in your wank book Ron," Ginny asked, more than a little upset that no one was telling her anything.
"Be quiet Ginny," Molly demanded. "You," she continued wheeling about to face her youngest son again. "Get yourself to your room and wait while your father and I decide what to do with you."
"But Mum," Ron protested.
"Get! NOW!" Molly demanded again. "And keep your hands off yourself. The rest of you, get out of the house or I'll find you something to do."
In the cool darkness of the sitting room, the pain in Harry's scar slowly faded as he lay on the sofa and listened to the Weasley children exiting the house. That was when he heard the oddest question of his young life.
"Come on Percy," Ginny asked in that whiney little sister way of hers. "Why did Ron stick the pages of his wank book together? Tell me."