Notes: Thanks to those of you who reviewed and read. Last chapter and this chapter were two very difficult (but fun) chapters to write. A lot of emotions were put into them and I thank those of you who are still with me ;) Also, thanks to Verschollen and BloodDemonica for the wonderful fanart.

Warnings: GRAMMAR MISTAKES! Among others, like… *cough*

Chapter Thirty Eight

It felt like they were on a honeymoon, venturing out into the wilderness and taking a romantic hike through grassy hills. Izar kept his hands in his pockets, sullen as he followed behind Voldemort like a faithful servant. Their hike was anything but romantic. There was an impending air about and it set both wizards on edge. Though, neither would address it.

"Little Hangleton," Izar mused as he finally spoke to the man ahead of him. They were approaching the top of the hill where it overlooked the small town. "Why this location? What's its significance?" Voldemort paused in his trek, turning to survey Izar from over his shoulder. Both of them were dressed in appropriate Muggle wardrobes, a hint to Izar that they weren't anywhere that welcomed wizards with open arms.

"This town was the home to my Muggle father and my estranged mother and her family," Voldemort replied coolly before continuing up the hill.

Ah, that would explain the man's closed-off attitude. Merlin… it seemed like forever ago, but Izar remembered when he had first encountered Bellatrix Lestrange. His aunt had cruelly and sadistically pointed out Izar's heritage. Only a child at the time, Izar had run and hid in a small alcove, trying to cope with being an unwanted child. Voldemort had found him and had reassured him that he, himself, was a bastard and that he had killed his Muggle father.

It was one of the very few things Izar knew of Voldemort's childhood. With already so many similarities, it didn't surprise Izar that his and Voldemort's childhood paralleled one another. They were both Half-blood, had dysfunctional parents, and a life-long torment of being raised in an orphanage…

"And Dumbledore knew this was where your father was?"

"My mother and her father, the Gaunts," Voldemort corrected stiffly, as if he wanted to be anywhere but their current location. "Tom Riddle lived a mile or so from the Gaunts. We will be going to the shack the Gaunts once lived. Dumbledore will most likely believe I will come here to hide my last remaining 'Horcrux'."

It was apparent that Voldemort was upset coming here and Izar didn't even have to look at the man's unsettled aura to see that. The Dark Lord never talked about his family, his mother, his childhood… Izar would have taken it as an insult if he didn't already understand what it was like to have a troubled background. He knew Voldemort and he knew the man was ashamed of his bloodline.

"Why did you bring me with you?" Izar inquired innocently.

"You are my lover," the Dark Lord said simply. "If anyone should accompany me, it would be you."

"Touching," Izar quipped quietly, well aware the man can hear anyway. "But your passionate confessions don't correlate well with your actions. I don't know a thing about your past."

Voldemort stopped short, turning around and pointing a finger at Izar's face. "You know more than anyone, with the exception of the Albus Dumbledore. And look where that knowledge is taking him. He's using it against me."

Izar offered the man a calm and unabashed expression. "Do you honestly think so low of me that I would use your past against you? I thought you knew me better, Tom." Izar calmly walked past the Dark Lord. "At any rate, with the amount of dirt you have on my childhood, you could most likely destroy me from the inside out." He stopped, throwing a raised eyebrow and the sullen and brooding man. "I suppose that's what we're destined to be, though. We aim to destroy each other."

Voldemort lunged forward, grasping Izar around the shoulders and peering closely. "My mother was a good-for-nothing woman who was prisoner to an obsessive love with a handsome Muggle. She was abused at home by her brother and father. She was incredibly unattractive and had little to no magical abilities… with the exception of love potions." Crimson eyes stared unblinkingly at Izar. "It wasn't until after I hunted after my uncle and father that I realized she put my father under the bindings of a love potion and conceived me. When her guilt grew to such lengths, she released Tom Riddle from the potion. When he found out what she was, he abandoned her when she was swollen with child."

The Dark Lord exhaled through his nose and released Izar's shoulders. Standing tall, the man looked over Izar's head. "She then proceeded to sell off valuable heirlooms before giving birth to me. Her falsified love for Tom Riddle outweighed her love for me. She died soon after giving birth."

Izar watched from lowered lashes as Voldemort continued his trek up the hill. The man's bitterness toward his mother and father was tangible, but his disgust for his mother was overwhelming. Izar would have thought that Voldemort would have directed all his hate toward Tom Riddle. "Your mother," Izar started, catching Voldemort's eye. "You don't give her much credit, do you?"

Voldemort said nothing as they stood motionless, facing one another in the fierce and bitter winds. Izar's unruly waves flitted across his eyes but he did nothing to push them away.

"She must have been something remarkable, to create a son like you." Izar pressed his lips together, well aware it sounded horribly clichéd.

"Child," the man crooned, a smug smirk to his face. "I am a Dark Lord, a cruel—"

"Perhaps, that's what they see," Izar interrupted. "But I know the real you." It had taken Izar countless of interactions with the Dark Lord to see that the wizard wasn't an untouchable god. Underneath it all, Voldemort was just as human as everyone else. The man had his fears, his weaknesses, and his faults. Voldemort was afraid of death, he grew too defenseless during torture, and at times, the man was just too predictable. But above all else, Voldemort wanted to be just as wanted and loved as everyone else—only in a different way. He wanted a life partner for eternity, hence the reason Voldemort made it possible to obtain a mate.

Izar knew, without a doubt, that no one could ever be as good as a mate to Voldemort than himself. He knew how to keep Voldemort happy, he enjoyed the more sadistic side of their relationship, and he was strong enough to handle it.

For a moment, Izar admired the motionless Dark Lord before continuing forward. "At any rate, I think Tom Riddle had some sort of connection with your mother."

"You mean love?" Voldemort inquired at Izar's back. "The man was a proud and arrogant bastard. He only loved himself."

"He sounds remarkably like another man I know," Izar teased lightly before sobering. "He must have been able to hide his emotions. In their days, it was improper for a well-bred male to court or look fondly upon a lowly female. And with her family and her magic, I would think Tom Riddle was just frightened."

"Enlighten me with the reason you would think he harbored any positive emotions for her."

Izar pressed his hands into his pant pockets. The child who was conceived in the act of coercion rather than true love would never be able to love himself. Love potions were damaging not only to the individual ingesting them, but also the child conceived from it. It was a good example of Light Magic being just as destructive as Dark Magic.

Glancing at the man at his side, Izar thought Voldemort was capable of love. Perhaps being conceived under the influence of a love potion made Voldemort the sadistic Dark Lord that he was. But Izar would like to think Voldemort was capable of experiencing the powerful, yet destructive emotion of love. "I have my assumptions," Izar responded casually. "But I'm not going to share them in case I'm wrong."

Voldemort offered a lipless smile. "That is not like you, child. I thought you were never wrong."

"I'm not," Izar reassured smoothly. "I said in case I'm wrong. That is not the same thing as being wrong." He looked at the top of the hill, noticing they were edging closer. The trees were thick and Izar got a cold sensation looking at the forest. "Getting back to your mother, I think she was awfully strong for surviving that long with her abusive father and brother. And for her magic, you and I both know that undesirable living accommodations can muffle one's magic. She may have been as strong as you are. Don't be so disgusted with your parentage, My Lord, until you know the actual facts and not just the opinionated judgments."

A hand curled around the back of Izar's neck. "Why are you so insistent that I view my mother and father in good graces?" Voldemort whispered in Izar's ear with great interest.

Izar turned, their lips just barely brushing. The wind played with their hair, entwining the dark strands and forcing them to dance and twist around together. Izar smiled impishly. "Because your shame and disgust of your origins is anchoring you in a place that could destroy you," he said in all honesty. "Not all of us can have a father, an uncle, and a Dark Lord to help us accept our dark past." Izar reached out and placed the tips of his fingers against Voldemort's sharp cheekbone. "I only hope my warning to you is as well received as the help I attained was."

Voldemort stared. There was no other word to describe it. It was if the man had completely shut down.

Suddenly, the Dark Lord took hold of Izar's hand, removing it from his face and pressing his lips against the fingers. "Were would I be without you, love?"

Izar frowned, guilt tearing at him. But why should he feel guilt? For the decision he made? He had no reason to feel guilty. "Do you really want me to answer that?" Izar breathed, making light on the situation.

The Dark Lord pressed Izar's hand into his mouth and nose, inhaling. His eyes fluttered closed just briefly before he dropped Izar's hand and straightened. "Come, let's get this over with."

Izar slowly followed the Dark Lord. Before he could dwell too long on the current situation, Voldemort spoke up once again.

"Don't ever let your enemies know what you desire," Voldemort preached as they reached the thick trees. "It's easy for them to control you and your actions. Just look at Dumbledore. He's so hell-bent in obtaining the Resurrection Stone that he will willingly walk into a trap. Foolish man."

Izar absorbed the words carefully, all the while, uncertain what was about to transpire. Were they to wait until Dumbledore showed up? Or would Voldemort just place the fake Horcrux near the Gaunt residence and leave? Izar figured it would be the former. After all, if Dumbledore wanted the Resurrection Stone for a purpose, the old man would realize that the ring he was holding was not the actual ring.

"Why does he want the Resurrection Stone so badly?" Izar knew Dumbledore thought the Gaunt ring was Voldemort's last remaining Horcrux. Dumbledore assumed, by destroying the Gaunt ring, that he would destroy Voldemort once and for all. But would Dumbledore's desire for the ring outweigh his determination to put an end to the Dark Lord Voldemort?

Crimson eyes looked at Izar fondly. "That, child, is a story for another time."

Izar didn't press the topic, realizing that they were now entering the woods. The disconcertment from earlier was back with a greater force. Ghosts from times past were still lingering here, unhappy with their past lives and destined to haunt the area until they settled the impossible task of finding peace. Izar kept his hands in his pockets, feeling almost ill. The air was thick and humid despite the winter season. If he were human, he would have found it difficult to breathe.

When they finally stumbled across a structure, Izar didn't find comfort in the sight of it. Somehow, the cottage, or rather, the shack, blended in with the rest of the trees. Vines, moss, and dirt caked the small residence, making it appear more like an abandoned tree house and less like a house that was once occupied.

It was also the same shack that Izar remembered seeing in Aiden's vision. And the trees surrounding it were just as familiar.

Izar smiled bitterly, bowing his head.

"Stand guard," Voldemort ordered sharply as cautiously approached the shack with his wand drawn.

Izar stood motionless even when his whole body wanted to follow Voldemort like a frightened child would follow his parents. Green and charcoal eyes watched the Dark Lord. The man said he wanted Izar to stand guard but the Black heir knew the Dark Lord didn't want him inside the house. Voldemort truly thought Dumbledore was inside already and he was doing his duty of protecting Izar by entering first.

Nonetheless, Izar kept his senses open and ready. He couldn't sense Dumbledore's aura or hear anything beside the occasional animal skittering across the forest floor. If Izar could stop Dumbledore before the man attacked, perhaps he could avoid this whole situation.

Just as Voldemort entered the shack, Izar slowly pulled his wand out, prepared to cast more detection spells around the area. Only, his slow and cautious speed was probably his undoing.

"Punctum Virusi."

Dumbledore had come out of nowhere. The man's aura was absent, bringing no attention to his whereabouts other than the fact that he struck Izar from behind. The sudden spell hit Izar in the back of his head, piercing through his head and puncturing something… something of vital importance. For a long second, Izar stood clueless, unable to understand why Dumbledore would want to cast a spell on him meant to kill serpents.

And then it suddenly hit him. He was part Basilisk. He had venom sacs located somewhere in the back of his head, near his jaw. His head felt numb, painless, but he knew the back of his head must be blown away from Dumbledore's curse.

It was the only thought he could reasonably comprehend before the punctured venom sacs leaked toxic venom through his system, traveling places where it didn't belong and destroying his already damaged brain. Across from him, Voldemort slithered from the shack, staring at him in shock. Izar offered the man a child-like smile before his body suddenly turned hot, a second curse from Dumbledore setting his body aflame from the inside out.

{Death of Today}

The child…

It was only seconds that Voldemort stood motionless, but it felt like hours that he remained standing like a fool. Izar might have been able to survive if Voldemort would have moved after the first curse was cast, doubtless that the child's mind would have never been the same. Venom traveled through their system, it was just as natural to them as blood was to humans. Only, the venom behind their throat glands carried a far more toxic venom than the rest of their body.

While Voldemort and Izar could exchange bites with one another, it did not put them in any danger. The venom released from their bites was in small quantities. Having their venom sacs completely punctured would kill them.

Izar's mind would have been severely damaged, reverting to a child-like state or perhaps a vegetable. But Voldemort could have worked with it; he could have stopped the rest of the venom from flushing the boy's system and he could have sealed the punctured sacs. But Dumbledore was quicker. Somehow, Dumbledore was always quicker. And when it came to Izar's safety, Voldemort found he could never protect the boy properly enough. Why was it that the only thing he wanted to excel at, he failed?

Voldemort bellowed, throwing out his hand and reaching toward Izar. His magic pulled at the dying boy, hoping to move him as far away from the invisible Dumbledore as possible. Only, as soon as Voldemort wrapped his magic around Izar, the boy's Adonis features twisted into vulnerable fear before his body exploded into a cloud of ash from the inferno burning inside him.

He could have avoided the cloud of ash or he could have shielded himself from the approaching remnants, he did neither. He stood stiffly, allowing the ashes of his lover to cascade across his body and settle in the creases of his clothes and the strands of his hair.

At his sides, his fingers clenched tightly and trembled uncontrollably. A potent and alien emotion clogged his pores but he didn't let it settle. Instead, he used his anger and stepped further into the foggy environment.

Eyes burning, Voldemort slashed his arms backward, igniting an Anti-Apparation ward around the perimeter of the woods. Flames roared to life where the Anti-Apparation ward settled. The vegetation around the perimeter began to catch fire and spread to its neighbors. Voldemort walked confidently into the center, lifting his hands in mock expectance.

"You once claimed that Izar was more dangerous than me because he could control my actions as well as his own," Voldemort whispered into the cloudy forest. "That was true; he did control me to a certain degree. Only, by killing Izar, you haven't gotten rid of the threat. You have created a monster in the wake of his death!" Voldemort hissed lethally.

"You cannot love, Tom. It is entirely too late for you, my dear boy. You would have gotten rid of the boy as soon as you grew bored."

Voldemort gave a breathless chuckle. "By pretending you know all of life's secrets, you have only condemned this world to an eternity of hell. If I cannot have what I want, I will no longer play fair. By taking away Izar, you have not taken a step toward the greater good, you have destroyed what little morality I have left." His crimson eyes finally locked on the man standing across from him. A dark smile formed on his face as he pointed a tapered finger in the old fool's direction. "And after today, you will no longer be here to stand before me as protection to the rest of the world."

Dumbledore cocked his head to the side, a sad glint in those pitiful blue eyes. "If I had spared Izar, he would have either continued your legacy or he would have resurrected you." Dumbledore shook his head. "I should have known you would have twisted the poor boy's mind to the point of mindless servitude. To know he would sacrifice his humanity for you at the tender age of sixteen!"

Voldemort's eye twitched and his fingers danced toward his wand. He didn't want to hear the old fool speak about Izar when he knew nothing at all.

"When I heard the boy was a creature, I had thought you had him turned into a vampire. It would suit you. To tarnish a boy of Izar's intelligence and good humor and turn him into a mindless vampire. But no, the boy showed a remarkable sense of control when I dueled him." Dumbledore surveyed Voldemort strangely. "Knowing you, you were experimenting with new ways to become immortal. After all, you must be feeling desperate now that all of your Horcruxes has been destroyed but one. It dawned on me that you were using Izar as a lab rat to further your own supremacy. And what better creature to experiment on than a serpent?"

His black bangs, dotted with Izar's remains, drifted into his eyes as he stared dully at Dumbledore. "You enjoy the sound of your own voice," the Dark Lord murmured quietly, rage rising further to the surface. What would the man say if he knew Voldemort had tested his means of immortality on himself first before he even injected his venom into Izar?

To think that Voldemort thought so little of Izar…

"Tom—"

With reflexes only matched by his late lover, Voldemort grabbed his wand and willed his power toward the old man. In many ways, he could relate to Izar when it came to his enemies. Like Izar, Voldemort enjoyed playing with them. He also held a grudging respect for Dumbledore for being the only one powerful enough to challenge him—challenge him magically. When it came to the battle of the mind, Izar was the only one who had entertained Voldemort.

It was a combination of his trivial respect and his boredom that made him tolerate Dumbledore all these years. But the aging wizard had committed an unforgivable act and Voldemort could no longer allow the delusional man to live.

Dumbledore quickly dodged Voldemort's magic, throwing his own curse back at the Dark Lord.

Voldemort seethed, understanding that they were on the same level in terms of power. His unstable patience could not handle a drawn-out battle, no matter how appealing that idea may be.

Curling his wrists, Voldemort magically knotted the trees together. The branches groaned loudly as they interlocked above the two wizards, enforcing the Anti-Apparation wards and making a make-shift cage that would lock both himself and Dumbledore inside until one of them died. Voldemort allowed a dangerous smile to spread across his lips as he reached out a closed fist toward Dumbledore.

"Is this what you came here for?" Voldemort asked in a breathless whisper. His fingers uncurled, revealing the duplicated Gaunt ring Izar turned into a Horcrux. He drank in Dumbledore's expression, finding it amusing that the old man couldn't even hide his longing efficaciously. "Dead loved ones, back from the grave…"

"And also your Horcrux," Dumbledore responded grimly.

Voldemort raised his eyebrows, offering a mocking expression of wonder. "Is that what you see this ring as? My last remaining Horcrux?" Voldemort tsked. "I think you see this as means to get your sister back. Isn't that right, Albus?" Voldemort studied the man intensely. "I wonder… would you use it to keep your sister with you? Or would you do your duty and destroy it, getting rid of both of us in the process?"

And just as he predicted, Dumbledore attacked. Voldemort was thrown backwards, toward the Gaunt shack, and the Resurrection ring flew in the opposite direction. Voldemort curled his body around in midair, planting his hands into the ground and anchoring himself against Dumbledore's spell. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he bowed his torso forward and tugged at the Gaunt ring. The piece of jewelry fell in the middle of the two wizards, exhausted from the overuse of magic in its proximity.

Crimson and blue eyes dueled. Every ounce of respect Voldemort once held for the old man had turned sour. All he could see when he looked at the man was Izar's shadow…

Dumbledore thrust his wand out, twisting his elbow in order to get a clear shot of Voldemort. The Dark Lord threw his arms in front of his body, blocking the onslaught of magic. With a vicious growl, Voldemort rotated the magic around and threw it back at his enemy. The old fool took a startled step backward, able to deflect most of the magic but failing to cover his left side. Dumbledore grunted as his arm was ripped backward from his socket, making an audible crack across the caged-in area.

Voldemort rocked to his heels, realizing that his heightened rage and loss was fueling his attacks. But he didn't want to kill Dumbledore magically. No. He wanted it to be a hands-on experience for the both of them. He wanted blood. He needed a just vengeance.

Before Voldemort could continue offensively, Dumbledore took an aggressive move forward and sent a wall of magic in his direction. The spell stretched from one end of the perimeter to the other, making it impossible to dodge or side-step. Even when Voldemort stood yards away from the oncoming barricade, he could feel the scalding heat omitting from the crimson curse.

Voldemort scrambled backward, using Dumbledore's curse as means to put his strategy in motion. Cloaking himself in protective magic, Voldemort braced his forearms against the wall of burning heat. While he was able to resist getting consumed by the curse, he wasn't able to prevent himself from being pushed backward. His feet made trails in the ground as he was forcibly pulled away from Dumbledore and the Gaunt ring.

As soon as he was within distance of the Gaunt shack, he entered the open door and crouched down, placing his arms over his head and reinforcing the protective barrier around himself. Seconds later, as soon as Dumbledore's curse made contact with the small cottage, the whole structure trembled violently before exploding. Voldemort seethed in the middle of the explosion, watching as the house his ancestors lived in crumbled and destroyed within seconds.

There was something… oddly bittersweet about watching the destruction from beneath a shield. Was it liberating? Yes, he believed it was. It was liberating to see a house full of past ghosts and past memories so easily destroyed. None of the memories this house held were worth living on for eternity. It was meant to be destroyed. And Voldemort felt almost lighter when the roof cascaded down on him, showering him with sandy debris that misted past his barrier.

As he remained crouched within the settled rubble, he thought back to Izar's words to him just moments ago. His shame for Tom Riddle's past was anchoring him somewhere where it was easy for his enemies to destroy him. It was time to accept his origins for what they were. He may never look fondly upon his mother or father, but Voldemort came to respect how his past shaped him.

Izar…

What would the child say if he knew Voldemort had taken his words into consideration? A cocky smirk would likely cross the boy's flawless features and a cheeky comment would pass those perfectly sculptured lips.

Instead, there was silence.

Crimson eyes sharpened as he stood from the remains of the Gaunt cottage. Slowly, he turned, staring at Dumbledore's turned shoulder. The old fool clutched the Gaunt ring, turning it around in his palm. Even from Voldemort's position, he could see a shocked frown cross the man's features.

Making certain the Anti-Apparation wards were still intact, Voldemort dropped the glamour around his body, revealing his creature attributes to anyone who cared to look his way. With measured steps he approached Dumbledore, clenching and unclenching his claws. He could almost taste the old man's shock as he continued to roll the Gaunt ring in his palm.

"Be patient," Voldemort whispered silkily. "You will be with your sister shortly."

Dumbledore turned, his eyes widening only a fraction when he spied Voldemort's appearance. "It was a misconception from the beginning," Dumbledore breathed. "There were no Horcruxes." Dumbledore's shoulders hunched forward just slightly. "Izar's idea, I presume? What a brilliant mind he was…"

Voldemort appeared at Dumbledore's shoulder without the older man tracking his movements. "And what a predictable mind you have, Albus. Your interminable sorrow over your sister's death led you here by the throat."

Blue eyes surveyed him sadly. "You'll eat your words, Tom. Even though you hide it well, I assume, now that you've experienced grief and overwhelming sorrow, you'll understand the lengths one would go to reconnect with their loved ones. Soon, you may just find yourself in my position—willing to enter a trap just to get a glimpse of Izar once again." Dumbledore stared down at the fake Gaunt ring with resigned acceptance. "Now that I know you haven't created Horcruxes, I understand that you do have emotions, albeit faint. Izar is the only one you have ever come to love. And because of that, I know you will not heed my warning. You will not be willing to let him rest in peace, and because of that, it just may be your downfall."

Voldemort reached forward, placing his sharp claw against Dumbledore's exposed throat. The old man did nothing to defend himself. "I have enough intelligence to bring him back without entering in any trap."

Dumbledore smiled grimly, as if amused with Voldemort's answer. With renowned courage, Dumbledore lifted his chin, staring Voldemort in the eye. "It must be eating at you, Tom. The way he died." Albus took a deep intake of air, refusing to defend himself against the sharp claw at his throat. "It is rather surprising that you couldn't protect him well enough. But then again, your protection is only absolute when you're protecting yourself."

Voldemort issued a moan in both furry and loss as he plunged all his claws into the man's neck. Warm blood cascaded down his arms as he held up Dumbledore's struggling form. The Gaunt ring Izar created dropped from Dumbledore's slack fingers and landed at their feet.

Only when Dumbledore's body turned limp did Voldemort allow himself to weep.

{Death of Today}

His steps were heavy and rigid as he approached the living quarters he had avoided for over four days.

Four days.

For four days, Tom Riddle worked constantly at the Ministry, never once allowing his mind to drift. And yet, the child was always in the back of his mind, taunting him, reminding him that he wouldn't be at the base when Riddle got a chance to pull away from the office. There would be no Izar to remind him that an eternity wasn't boring, wasn't so desolate.

Voldemort thumped his palms into the door, slamming it open in the process. He stood in the doorway, staring at the empty and grim living room. Cold crimson eyes swept across the kitchen where the table was still lying on the ground with porcelain cups scattered around it. The deafening silence stung his ears.

His robes rustled as he moved from the doorway and into the living room. Behind him, the door slammed shut, warding off any unwelcome visitors, mainly invading blondes. The first real hurdle after Izar's death had been the face of Lucius Malfoy. It was only natural for a wizard to sense the death of someone he owed a life-debt to. Just days after Lucius' name was cleared at the Ministry, the blond had stormed into Riddle's office and had passionately demanded to know what happened to Izar.

After dispassionately explaining to the blond that Izar had been killed by Dumbledore, Voldemort received a cold stare from Lucius. The blond cursed him for being so calm, so unaffected by Izar's passing. Tom Riddle did nothing but watch Lucius as the man spat at his feet before turning to leave.

If they hadn't been at the Ministry, Voldemort would have used Lucius Malfoy's blood for decoration in his new office.

There was a reason why Voldemort had been so expressionless. It was because he knew he could bring Izar back. There would be ways… he needed patience and a level head to accomplish such a feat. And he also needed time. Preferably uninterrupted time. Which is why he had worked over four days at the Ministry, getting things in line for the public to hear of the policies being put in place. Hogwarts was being reconstructed and the public would learn that the Dark Arts would be taught at the school.

That, among other things, is what Riddle had worked on in order to take a leave of absence. He requested to be contacted only in a case of an emergency. The public would have their policies and Britain would be strong once again.

He wouldn't bring Izar back in the middle of another war. No, things had to be done correctly.

Lucius, the fool, couldn't see reason. What did the blond expect Voldemort to do? Curl besides Izar's remains at the Gaunt shack and mourn? It was not possible, simply because Voldemort had no reason to mourn when Izar would be beside him once again.

And yet… the air which settled around him was dense and thick, reminding him of the morning he and Izar had walked through Little Hangleton. There was something amiss and he was missing a large piece of the puzzle.

Voldemort stared down at the broken porcelain before walking into the nearby bedroom where the real Gaunt ring was located. His steps were measured and slow. His eyes were unmoving. He told himself it was the real Gaunt ring, simply because he needed it to be. But his confidence wasn't nearly as strong as it should be as he reached for the small box.

As he curled his fingers around the ring box, he sat himself on a chair and contemplated it. He had all but admitted his true feelings for Izar the night before Little Hangleton. And he was certain Izar could decipher his own feelings that night. Voldemort wagered that if he was able convince the child that he did, indeed, hold the boy in such a strong light, Izar would realize that an eternity with him would not be such a burden. He thought—no—he believed that Izar would think twice about being resurrected. It was a simple game he played with the child. And it was the only reason Voldemort had risked so much by giving Izar the real Gaunt ring. He had opened himself up to Izar completely and made himself vulnerable.

Certainly, if Izar felt just as strongly about Voldemort as he did for Izar, the boy would not betray him in such a way and destroy the Gaunt ring.

White fingers curled around the box and opened it. The onyx ring sat inside, glittering up at Voldemort. There was the familiar air around it and the scratches on the metal band were just as he remembered. But then again, Izar was known for being able to mold magic in any way he desired.

Forcing himself to remain composed, Voldemort took the ring from the box and held it in his palm.

His eyelids fluttered closed and he conjured up a picture of Izar in his mind. It wasn't easy to forget the boy's Adonis features, the seemingly innocent and harmless face but the sharp and piercing eyes that told another story.

One

The boy and his quick wit, his cheeky remarks, and sarcasm. The unmistakable charm that seemed to enthrall everyone he encountered. The remarkable grace the boy carried.

Two

The way Izar liked to pretend he didn't enjoy soft and loving caresses, the way he laughed and made light of situations at the most inappropriate times, the way he rose up to any challenge and never gave up, the way he made Voldemort feel completely out of control…

Everything, he thought of it all.

Three

Voldemort snapped open his eyes, expecting the emptiness that greeted him. Though, he hadn't expected to feel the sharp sting of betrayal. Izar had made two duplicate rings. Izar had destroyed the Gaunt ring, readily abandoning Voldemort to an eternity of isolation. After all, how could someone chose an eternity with him when they could escape a life-long torture by resting in the hands of death?

It was for just a minute that Voldemort lost complete control. His face morphed into an expression of potent sorrow and he gave a roar of desperation. With one hand, he clutched his face, refusing to show any ghosts his unshed tears. His opposite hand became lax, allowing the fake Gaunt ring to slip from his fingers and roll across the floor. This… this raw emotion was difficult to experience. He had never believed he would fall to such depths. He had looked down on Izar for gracelessly mourning his uncle's death, but how could he preach to the boy about not showing emotions when he was no better?

Voldemort's fingers tore at his face before he hissed angrily. He lifted his chin away from his hand and seethed at the far wall. His sorrow and the sense of betrayal slowly burned away to cold anger.

He had given the boy too much leverage—too much trust. He had mistakenly believed love was enough to keep the boy at his side.

"The challenge has just begun, child," Voldemort vowed to the empty room. "Don't get too arrogant. The Resurrection Stone was just a preferred method of bringing you back. It is not the only method."

The chair he was sitting on was knocked backwards as soon as he stood. His eyes were fixated on the nightstand Izar used as his own. With a predatory glide, Voldemort approached the nightstand and grabbed the photograph lying on top of a hand-written letter. He remembered seeing it a few nights ago. It had been enclosed with the letter Lily Potter sent her son.

Completely disregarding the letter, Voldemort studied the photograph, finding his attention absorbed on the small baby in the picture. Izar Black was nestled in his mother's arms, completely oblivious to what he would become and who he would gain the attention of. Tracing a fingernail over the small baby, Voldemort smiled gleefully as an idea began to take foundation.

Surely, bringing back a lost soul would be easier to accomplish if it was just a fetus. A grown body would be more difficult, certainly. Izar would have to be brought back to this life as a newborn. Granted, the memories wouldn't accompany the newborn right away. It would take maturing of the child before he regained the memories of his past life. But Voldemort could only imagine the possibilities of raising Izar himself.

Coolly, he reminded himself that details on Izar's upbringing would be for later assessment.

What he needed now was deoxyribonucleic acid from Izar, Regulus Black, and Lily Potter. It would only work if he had the DNA; otherwise, it would take him years to find an alternative. Already, he knew he would need months, if not more, to draft a successful potion that would resurrect Izar. He knew he would also need a female strong enough to ingest the potion and carry Izar. Obviously, the female who carried Izar would have no effect on the boy's fetus. Izar would be a replica of his past self. His parents would be the same, his appearance, his memories…

It would be extremely difficult, complex, and above all else, Dark. However, he viewed it as a challenge between himself and Izar. He could not allow the boy to win this round. Izar may have more intelligence than Voldemort, but above all else, Voldemort had never been this determined before.

He rolled his neck in an act of alleviation before folding the photo and placing it in his robe pocket. With confident steps, he escaped the bedroom and into the living room. Subconsciously, he pressed his wand to his left forearm and called Lucius.

There were many things he needed to get in order. There would need to be experiments done before the potion could be safely administered to the female in question. Though, there were an endless amount of females he could pick from if one did not survive the process. And after analyzing and pinpointing what ingredients he needed, he then had to test the ingredients for their purity and potency and gauge what would work for him. It was an endless task, and while Voldemort detested the thought, he knew he would need assistance.

Lucius would assist him by collecting the DNA. Rookwood, also, would be a tolerable candidate. Having two different set of eyes would be a resourceful move. Despite Lucius' dislike for him at present time, Voldemort was well aware he held all of the blonde's strings in his hands. The man was a smart, yet submissive puppet.

Voldemort sat at the desk, pressing his fingers against the parchment to smooth it. The first thing was to research the human body and the properties of the deoxyribonucleic acid. What little understanding he had on the topic was elementary. He would need to intensify his knowledge if he ever wanted a proper start on selecting the necessary ingredients for the potion.

If he could cheat death by creating a trihybrid creature, he could resurrect a lost soul from the grave and nurture it through a fetus. There were already processes that were able to bring someone back from the dead, but they were faulty in that the subject in question either lost their memories or were completely unstable. If Voldemort was going to do this, he wanted Izar returned just as he was. After all, he wanted the child competent enough to understand that Voldemort was the victor in their dance.

A tap at the window stilled Voldemort's line of thinking. Crimson eyes narrowed as he flicked his wrist, allowing the tawny owl entrance. The Ministry seal was enough to set Voldemort's teeth on edge. He took the post from the owl, ignoring the bird as it quickly fled the room without waiting for a reply.

Minister Riddle,

You have requested I contact you only in case of an emergency. We firmly believe you need rest from your endless hard work, but this is a matter that needs to be handled by you alone.

A healing Hogwarts and the village of Hogsmeade were attacked this evening. As much as I would like to reassure you that it was a group of Dumbledore's men, I regret to inform you that it was the French. It does not appear as if the Dark Lady is willing to back off her attacks on Britain now that there is a new Minister and no longer an active Dark Lord.

The public is waiting for reassurances that there won't be a new war. The Board is also eager to work with you on this new threat.

Regards,
Undersecretary Swenson

Slapping the letter down, Voldemort stared sinisterly at the far wall. Marjolaine. The woman was an attention-seeker and also the last one who held the power to claim that Tom Riddle and Lord Voldemort was the same person. It was unlikely the public would believe her, but she was a hazard that needed to be destroyed. To think that she had the idiocy to step foot on Britain soil and challenge him!

Her refusal to back down in this war couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time. He was just rebuilding Britain and obtaining the public's trust and respect. And he was also focused on Izar.

The sudden knock at the door pulled Voldemort's attention back to the present. Composing himself, he opened the door wandlessly, watching through lowered lids as Lucius Malfoy stepped inside. The blonde's shoulders were rigid as the man approached him.

"My Lord." Lucius went to his knees.

His long blond hair fell across his shoulders, suddenly reminding Voldemort of the time Izar confessed he had a 'thing' for blondes. Of course, it was said to get a rise out of him. The memory brought with it another round of anger and determination. "I need you to collect something for me," Voldemort whispered softly, eyeing the man's hair in distaste. He didn't see anything remarkably special about blondes. "Go to the Potter household and collect anything you can find that would contain DNA from Lily Potter."

Lucius' head shot up. It was clear from looking at the man that the blond hadn't slept. Humans. They were so easily damaged. And yet, Lucius' eyes weren't lethargic and distant, they were wide in horror.

As quickly as the shock came, the blond was able to hide it well, swallowing thickly. Voldemort narrowed his gaze. It was something to watch, which is why he was having Rookwood do the same task as Lucius. It was due time to test the blonde's loyalty.

"Do you… plan on resurrecting him…My Lord?"

Voldemort stood from his position at the desk, refusing to allow Lucius to rise from his kneeling position. "I don't think that is any of your business, Lucius. Your usefulness is beginning to deplete, as is my tolerance for your existence." Voldemort reached out and grabbed Lucius' jaw none too gently. "The only reason you are alive is because Izar wished it to be so. If I had half a sense, you would have been dead the moment you laid hands on him."

"I understand, My Lord," Lucius breathed, his brows creasing. "It is my unconditional hope that you can succeed—"

"I will succeed in resurrecting him," Voldemort spat, throwing Lucius' jaw away in disgust. "Do not think so lowly of me."

"Forgive me, Master." Lucius kept his head bowed. "My thoughts are not clear since the death of Izar and my son's continued condition. But I will do as you ask. Am I to go to Regulus Black's home and do the same?"

Voldemort surveyed Lucius closely. "Does Black know of his son's passing? Who else knows? I am certain you most likely told as many willing ears as you could find." It made no difference who knew. Izar would be returned as a baby, it was best if 'Izar Black' was erased from existence. In all actuality, this was a perfect ending to their first phase of immortality.

The tips of Lucius' ears turned red but the blond remained stoned-face. "Regulus and Severus know, yes. As does my wife and… Daphne Greengrass." Grey eyes shot up to Voldemort. Both of them knew Greengrass would be the one to spread the word around more than necessary.

Really, he was surprised Regulus Black hadn't come tearing down his door. The man had always wanted to be a part of his son's life and had always taken Izar's safety personally.

The Dark Lord swept past him and moved a few papers around on his desk. For a long moment, he let the blond stay kneeling in silence. "You will find me Lily Potter's and Regulus Black's DNA. After which, I want you to fetch me Bellatrix. She is not responding to the Mark." Crimson eyes glanced at the sullen form. "I will most likely be in my office when you are completed. You are dismissed."

Through narrowed eyes, he watched as Lucius escaped the room. There was something amiss with the blond. Voldemort would get to the bottom of it.

After…

His eyes fell on the letter from his Undersecretary. Lucius would come after he addressed the press that Marjolaine was no threat.

{Death of Today}

Dear Tom Riddle,

Or should I say, Lord Voldemort? Doubtless of your current façade, I have a proposition for the both of you.

Britain has currently been experiencing the brute of our strength the past few days. These attacks will not continue as is, they will only intensify. Recently, my army has gone through a renovation. While we are stronger, we do not hold all the power I had hoped to obtain. You see, despite the French Ministry being labeled as the most diplomatic government in the world, it is far from the truth. We do not hold a democracy here. Instead, it is a well-crafted monarchy. Here in the Wizarding community, the people do not have the freedom Britain has so rightfully claimed for themselves.

It has taken me years to build a trusted army. But even I am not delusional. The government here is resilient, unbinding, and growing stronger every day. Which is why I write to you. I must ask for your alliance.

Our partnership will benefit the both of us. Please, let me explain.

For Tom Riddle, if you lend a hand, the attacks will stop on your soil and your reputation will no longer tarnish. The Britain public has already experienced one incompetent Minister; they will no doubt have more confidence this time around to kick you out of office if you do not hold to their standards. The last thing Britain wants is another war. I am more than prepared to challenge you. Your spies within my ranks have been killed and I am confident that you are at a disadvantage. You wouldn't know how to trace my whereabouts. And if you were to attack France, I am not a Minister like yourself. Your attacks will be an insult to France, not me personally.

Second, if Tom Riddle were to cooperate, Britain would be gaining a strong supporter. Once I have infiltrated the Ministry, we will make a treaty together. Britain and France would be unstoppable and both our citizens will feel safer from any future threat.

And of course, there is also Lord Voldemort I have to appease. For him, it is far more rewarding. I am not interested in immortality. Recently, I have obtained a small blood-red stone that goes by the name of the Philosopher's Stone. The Stone will transform any metal into pure gold, but most importantly, it is also produces the Elixir of Life which grants immortality to the drinker. I have just been informed that your boy has passed on to the other side. This Stone could be means to bring him back, yes? The Stone is also believed to amplify the user's knowledge of alchemy, so much that anything is attainable.

I will leave you to ponder the benefits of such a Stone.

If you decide such an alliance is worth your while, then owl me. The only request I have of you is that you come alone. You're more than welcome to bring your army with you, so long as they stay out of sight. The negotiation is between you and I.

Regards,

Lady Marjolaine

Tom Riddle tossed the letter aside. Crossing his fingers together, he pressed his chin on top his folded hands and contemplated the recent turn of events. He had a vague understanding that the French weren't what they boasted to be. Their Ministry was horribly corrupt and Marjolaine wanted to infiltrate the powerhouse.

His first reaction was to burn the letter. Fool woman that she was. She was also Izar's sworn enemy. Working with her was out of the question, there was no doubt about it. However, there were… possibilities of turning this alliance around for his own benefit. And the Philosopher's Stone was extremely tempting to him. It would increase his knowledge of alchemy. He could return Izar quicker than he thought possible.

There was also the option of assisting her until they succeeded in tearing down the French government. Only then could Voldemort turn on her and take France as his own. Surely Izar would enjoy France. The boy had once commented on the beauty of France's Wizarding community and their unique and breathtaking architecture that wasn't found in Britain.

If he ignored her letter entirely, he knew she would keep her promise and continue attacking Britain. Already, the public was growing forgetful of the terror that was 'Lord Voldemort' and were crying foul over Hogwarts teaching Dark Arts to the students. Humans were never adaptable to change. And they were rather forgetful. Perhaps it was time for Lord Voldemort to make another appearance. If the Dark Lady began attacking Britain, Tom Riddle would become another Rufus Scrimgeour.

He closed his eyes.

Why was scheming suddenly so tedious? Why was he no longer experiencing a burning thrill?

"I need you," Riddle confessed softly to the quiet office. "Even if you betrayed me."

He flicked the letter further away from him. There were ways to return Izar without the Stone. And Britain could use another wake up call. He couldn't care a less about the public or the lives that would be lost. Marjolaine was already weak. Voldemort was certain he could take down her and her army once they stepped foot in Britain. This 'alliance' was for her benefit, not his.

Tapping came from the other side of the door. Riddle adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. "Enter."

Lucius Malfoy entered his office, appearing prim and proper. He had a thick cloak around his shoulders and his hair was tied tightly to the nape of his neck. Although his appearance was put together, Riddle was quick to notice the sickly pallor on the man's face and the tension around the lips.

With a gesture to sit from Riddle, Lucius settled gracefully on the chair opposite of his desk. "Minister," Lucius whispered silkily, yet, there was a shaky tremor in the man's voice. "I am here to come clean with you."

Riddle pressed his hand into his cheek and observed Lucius jadedly.

"Izar…" Lucius swallowed thickly, raising his eyebrows in order to control his expression. "Came to me the night before he died."

Silence met his statement. Riddle could say nothing, could do nothing when he felt a dark sensation settle. His gaze turned dangerous as he watched Lucius struggle for the right words.

"To clear up any misconceptions, I want Izar resurrected as much as you do. I will do anything possible to obtain that. With that being said, I have to confess that I have made a grave error." Lucius pressed his lips together. "That night, six days ago, he came to me and asked me this… unusual favor. If I had any idea what he was planning, I would have refused. I would—"

"What did he ask you?" Riddle interrupted threateningly.

Lucius' eyes dropped to his cupped hands. "He asked me to destroy every trace of Lily Potter at James Potter's household. I… Potter was out of town that night and I got rid of every piece of her that I summoned. In short, he asked me to make certain that her DNA was eradicated." Lucius breathed deeply. "When you gave me the order to collect her DNA, I suddenly realized why Izar had asked me. I searched desperately for anything I missed at the Potter household, but I knew it was impossible. So I went to every place I remembered seeing Lily Potter, like the Department of Mysteries. When I cast a summoning charm, nothing came to me."

Riddle remained motionless, staring blankly at Lucius.

"I assume that Izar had more than one person destroying DNA, Minister," Lucius continued gently. "Because I… couldn't find Regulus' DNA either. In fact, Regulus and Severus are no longer in Britain. They disappeared and so did his DNA. I even looked at Hogwarts for Black's DNA and couldn't find anything." The blond blinked at Riddle's blank expression. "Izar must have foreseen this, he must have wanted it this way. He covered his tracks expertly…"

"Bellatrix," Riddle barked out.

Lucius bowed his head, clutching his gloved hands together. "She's dead. The Black tapestry at Grimmauld Place declares her dead."

Riddle stood up abruptly, throwing his arm out and causing Lucius to jump. "Get out."

Malfoy stood up just as quickly. With a bow, the blond turned his heel and exited the office.

Wandlessly casting silencing charm across his office, Riddle gave a hoarse roar and slammed his hands down on his desk. "Fuck," he breathed viciously. "Even from the grave you're playing your games!" Crimson eyes burned fiercely from behind his glasses. "You're laughing at me, aren't you?"

He straightened suddenly, staring at his desk. Somehow Izar had the ability to pull everything off the night before they went to Little Hangleton. He even had time to stop by Riddle's office for sex. And Voldemort remembered specifically that Izar's seed had stained the desk he was currently leaning against. Afterward, the boy had cleaned himself and the office. At the time, Voldemort hadn't thought anything of it.

Even when they were laying together, Izar was deceiving him.

Hissing continuously, Voldemort bowed his head and braced himself against the desk. There was no DNA. He knew Rookwood would report to him with the same results. He had sent the man out before Malfoy and Rookwood was most likely still looking for any traces of DNA. But there wouldn't be any for him to collect.

Without DNA…

For a fleeting second, and for the first time of his existence, Voldemort contemplated suicide.

No!

He would come out on top. Izar hadn't won just yet.

Ever since this had all started, Voldemort had known Izar had seen his own death and he knew the boy saw the Gaunt ring as means of resurrection. But these recent turn of events made Voldemort realize that Izar had seen further than that. The boy must have seen Voldemort's plan of resurrecting the boy through means of Bellatrix and a fetus. The child had thwarted Voldemort's every step!

If he wasn't in such a mood, he would congratulate the boy on a job well done.

Instead, he grabbed Marjolaine's letter and dipped his quill in ink.


Next chapter will most likely be uploaded tomorrow or the day after. Which also happens to be the last chapter. *Throws confetti*