Final Chapter.

Chapter Thirty Nine

Voldemort's bone-like fingers clutched his cloak against his frame, bracing against the abnormally strong winds that howled and tugged playfully at his robes. The hood covering his features shuddered against the fierce elements, debating whether to sneak further upon his head or give into the winds and reveal him. Voldemort refused to give it a choice as he clutched his cloak near his throat, keeping the hood firmly in place.

He tipped his neck back, observing the small manor he had been instructed to arrive at. His current location was a minor Wizarding community in France. There were no important landmarks near the town and the population was few. Small shops lined the stone-paved street and were parallel to the small manor Voldemort currently stood in front of. It appeared more like a church than anything else with its tall arches and stained-glass windows.

Red eyes narrowed as he climbed the stairs to the entrance. He couldn't sense any Anti-Apparation wards around the structure. The manor also looked too small to house a significant number of wizards. Marjolaine was most likely still wounded from her earlier encounter with Izar. Or, perhaps she was just recovering. No matter what her physical status was, Voldemort believed she wouldn't go far without her followers nearby.

In contrast, Voldemort had opted to keep his Death Eaters in Britain. He didn't want his servants to catch wind of his negotiations with Marjolaine unless it worked out accordingly. He had half the mind to kill her and obtain the Philosopher's Stone for himself. It was all he wanted from her. Though, if it didn't work out his way, he was more than prepared to use her to gain possession of France himself.

And if this was a trap set to kill him?

If that were the case, Voldemort would be prepared to defend himself. He had an emergency Portkey in his cloak in case he had to flee like a coward.

In many ways, he felt like Dumbledore as he took hold of the door knocker and knocked thrice. The man's words came back to him, taunting him. Voldemort had boasted to Dumbledore that he was too intelligent to willingly walk into a trap. Though, at the time, what he hadn't comprehended was that he had a prodigy as a lover, a prodigy who would do anything in his power to remain at rest and thwart every last move Voldemort made to resurrect him.

Before he could knock again, the large door opened. A young blond man stood on the other side and assessed Voldemort coldly. "Puis-je vous aider?"

The Dark Lord understood French easily, yet he refused to speak it. "I am here for Marjolaine."

The blonde's lips twitched upward and his eyes gleamed. "Yes, come in," he invited in broken English.

Voldemort stepped into the ridiculously grand manor. The ceilings were painted and there was gold molding pressed near the ceiling and above the floor. The floors themselves were a deep-colored wood and the rugs were richly sewn. Yet, no matter how luxurious the manor appeared, Voldemort began to feel disquieted as he was led toward the back of the house and toward a set of narrow staircases.

They encountered little if any wizards on their way up the stairs. The only wizards and witches present were dressed in white and grey robes, their eyes cautious and distrustful as they watched Voldemort follow the blond upstairs. Voldemort ignored them easily, but kept himself aware of each and every movement they made. Distinctively, he thought back to the attack on Hogwarts. He was certain he remembered Marjolaine's forces as being clothed in dark green.

What game was she playing? She had mentioned in her letter that she had revamped her army; did the new color scheme fit into such renovation?

Such silliness…

No matter her intentions with her army, Voldemort found his apprehension heightening the further they ventured up the stairs. The walls were becoming narrow and the grand luxury disappeared. Instead of polished wood floors and marble stairs, rickety wood took its place. The temperature dropped many degrees and the atmosphere darkened considerably. They must have been nearing the top floor of the manor when Voldemort's guide suddenly stopped.

You'll understand the lengths one would go to reconnect with their loved ones…

The blond motioned toward the last flight of stairs. "Up there," he instructed, but otherwise remained motionless.

Soon, you may just find yourself in my position—willing to enter a trap just to get a glimpse of Izar once again…

Voldemort eyed the French guide suspiciously before he leisurely made his way up the narrow steps. Damned Dumbledore, damned Izar. He was doing exactly what Dumbledore had advised him not to do, but when had he ever listened to the old fool? He needed the Stone. He was more powerful than she was. Certainly there wasn't a trap set up for him on the top of the stairs.

Nonetheless, his ears frantically searched for anything that would alert him to what waited from him on the top level. He felt the cool breeze coming from what appeared to be an open balcony and his ears picked up the sound of a rustling cloak.

But most importantly… the smell…

Voldemort wavered on the staircase for a split-second before hurriedly taking the last step upward. He braced his hands on the unsteady railing, knowing that this had to be a trap if the smell was anything to go by. At the moment, he suddenly realized that he could accept his death. Dumbledore was right. He was willing to continue walking this path of his demise as long as he could inhale that scent one last time.

He planted his feet at the very edge of the stairs, staring incredulity at the figure standing confidently on the balcony. It wasn't a vengeful Marjolaine who was waiting for him, no. A young and lithe male was bracing his arms against the railing of the balcony, looking out at the cityscape with his back facing Voldemort. The boy was dressed in white, a beautiful and startling contrast to his dark, curly hair.

The boy had already sensed Voldemort's presence, yet he remained facing away. As if to tease a little longer.

"You know," the young man began. "I find myself a bit disappointed at how easy it was to lure you here, yet at the same time, smug." There, in the young man's hand, was the blood-red Philosopher's Stone. Slowly, the young wizard turned around. "What did you once say to me?" Mockingly, the boy tapped the blood-red stone against his chin. "Ah, yes. Don't ever let your enemies know what you desire, because it's easy for them to control you and your actions."


{Death of Today}

"Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy?"

Lucius blinked from his deep stupor and sluggishly turned his torso around to face the newcomer who entered Draco's hospital room. The stranger was a man with slicked-back auburn hair and a set of thick-framed glasses. Despite the thick spectacles, the man had aristocratic features and an air of overwhelming importance about him. He didn't look familiar and the heavy French accent made Lucius even more suspicious to this man's identity.

"Yes?" Narcissa was the first to stand. Her hand rested on Draco's bedside as she turned to face the stranger fully. Subconsciously, she pressed her opposite hand to her blond locks, desperately trying to recover her flawless composure.

Lucius remained sitting. He found little to no point in using his charm. Nowadays, his depression took hold of his regal grace. With Izar…

With Draco's continued condition, Lucius and Narcissa had begun planning when they should take Draco off his life support. It was a heavy decision and they both struggled with the consequences. Neither of them was too eager to walk back into society as if nothing had transpired.

"I'm sorry to intrude without a proper notice of my arrival," the man continued. "I'm Healer Lefevre, from the France Medical Institute."

Narcissa gasped sharply and Lucius sat up suddenly. Originating in France, Healer Lefevre specialized in burn victims. Lucius and Narcissa had tried to book the wizard as soon as they learned the extent of Draco's condition. The French Healer was renowned across Europe for treating victims who were severely damaged by fire. And more often than not, Lefevre's patients recovered fully and were able to function as well as they did before their accidents.

Unfortunately, Lefevre had declined the Malfoy's plea, for he was working on another patient in France. No matter how much gold they offered the Healer, Lefevre's answer remained the same.

Narcissa and Lucius shook hands with the middle-aged wizard, both still in quiet shock.

"If you still need me, I'd like to work with Draco." Lefevre looked over his glasses at the bandaged boy. "If he's held on this long, I believe he has the strength to make a recovery. However, I cannot make a guarantee that he will survive the treatments I put him through. It is a chance you must be willing to make."

"I believe my husband and I are willing to make that sacrifice," Narcissa spoke for the both of them with a hand to her throat. "Forgive me for being forward, Healer Lefevre, but I thought you were tending to a patient in France?"

The man offered her a thin smile that appeared more rapacious than comforting. "I'm afraid my patient, Lady Marjolaine, has… passed on more than a week ago. The cause of her death was not related to my treatment, so you need not worry." The Healer paused, looking directly at Lucius. "Lord Black sends his regards to you, Mr. Malfoy."

For the first time since hearing of Draco's condition, Narcissa began to cry. She must have been overwhelmed with relief and could no longer keep her emotions properly in check. Throughout Draco's continued fight for survival, Narcissa had sat beside him, refusing to allow her grief to come through just in case Draco was aware of his surroundings. Now that a miracle has arrived, Narcissa's resolve crumbled.

Lucius fell clumsily into his chair, pressing a hand to his face as he slowly connected the dots. A shaky smile spread across his face and he chuckled merrily. He believed he would have to visit France as soon as possible. There was a wizard taking residence there who Lucius owed his entire life to.

"Izar," Lucius breathed in reverence.

{Death of Today}


Voldemort's call possessed such raw emotion, Izar pondered if it was really the Dark Lord who whispered his name.

He stared at Voldemort with just as much intensity as the other man, basking in the familiar sight of the wizard. It had only been a few days more than a week since he had seen Voldemort. And yet, it felt like years. As much as he would love to admire the sight of a dazed Lord Voldemort, Izar had to remind himself that everything that had transpired up until now was for a specific reason.

Snapping his feet together in an offensive stance, he reached out his arm, conjuring up flames that licked the skin on his hand. "You should be rightfully dead," Izar whispered straightforwardly. The fire jumped from his fingertips and curled lazily around Voldemort's feet. It wasn't meant to harm, only startle. Yet Voldemort only continued to stare at Izar, paying no attention to the fire around his shoes.

"I have an undetected Anti-Apparation ward charmed around this manor; you most likely couldn't sense it." Izar smiled thinly. "I also imagined you would bring an emergency Portkey with you. I'm afraid that it won't work in this room. And knowing you, you didn't bring your army for backup. If I were Marjolaine, you would be six feet under by now."

Voldemort's lips creased into a dark smile.

"I hope you know how ridiculous you look," Izar continued, peeved. He had planned this encounter for many days, and this certainly wasn't how he imagined Voldemort would act. The Dark Lord was just standing there, staring. "You have just…" he trailed off when Voldemort merely stepped over the flames and approached him. "You've just entered in the same trap you arranged for Dumbledore…"

Izar dropped his arm as Voldemort closed in on him. The passion coming from those crimson eyes almost made Izar dissolve. "Damnit, Tom," Izar growled. "Don't try to take away my triumph of finally being the one to reprimand you—" he trailed off as Voldemort cupped his face.

"And you're doing a job well done. I feel deeply ashamed." Voldemort's tone suggested he was anything but ashamed.

Izar grasped what little composure he could find when his anger started to get the better of him. In the past, whenever Izar lost to Voldemort, he had vowed revenge and raved. Now that Izar was the one to win a round, a large round, mind, Voldemort was acting as if he had won the game. There was no ire coming from the Dark Lord. Only visible complacency.

Before either of them could continue their altercation, Voldemort spun quickly, throwing his arm out in irritation. Izar watched in disapproval as Moreau, his blond follower, charged up the stairs at the Dark Lord. The French wizard had his wand out, ready to attack Voldemort for touching Izar so informally. Obviously Voldemort didn't find the wizard worth his time, for he forcibly threw Moreau into a wall. The blond landed awkwardly, no longer conscious but still alive.

Despite Izar hearing the heartbeat of the French wizard, he knew Moreau would need medical attention. But at the moment, it was Voldemort who demanded Izar's undivided attention.

"Another blond doting on you?" Voldemort inquired cruelly.

Izar crossed his arms firmly, eyeing the Dark Lord critically. There was more to the man's explosive actions, and it wasn't just from another male taking a liking to Izar. No, Voldemort was… slighted? Slighted that he actually lost a vital challenge.

Izar grew more confident when he finally saw the real Voldemort, the same Voldemort he had been prepared to face today. "I believe, despite your relief that I'm alive, you are angry that I made an efficacious move in our next phase of immortality without your help. Don't get your knickers in a twist because you're a sore loser."

"Sore loser?" Voldemort demanded sharply, turning an eye on Izar.

"Sore loser," Izar mocked, caressing the Stone with the pad of his thumb. "Just admit it, love. You lost unbearably in this game between you and me." Izar cocked his head to this side. "Admit it," he repeated again with more force. "I won."

Voldemort stood a few feet away from Izar, a stubborn line to his lips. "I will not admit anything until you tell me exactly what you did." His eyes traced over Izar's features, his mind too quick and too intelligent to miss the features that were out of place. "Your hair is lighter and your lips and eyes are pale." Eyes narrowed. "There are cracks around your face."

Izar ran a vain hand through his hair, peeking conceitedly at Dark Lord. "My features will go back to normal within a few days."

A skeletal finger rose and pointed accusingly at Izar. "You created a Doppelganger that night. You are only now recovering from it." Voldemort squared his shoulders. "You foolish idiot. How close were you to dying?"

It didn't surprise Izar that Voldemort was smart enough to notice the signs of a Doppelganger. In fact, he would have been disappointed if the man hadn't figured it out. "I didn't have much time to create it," Izar began lowly. "I had to ask Severus and Regulus for assistance. Three sets of hands are more efficient than one. However, because we didn't have very long to spend on the Doppelganger, I knew I was taking a risk. As soon as I went into the trance, I didn't awaken until Severus forcibly pulled me back to reality."

There were two types of Doppelgangers. The most common and easiest to construct was the Doppelganger that was a direct copy of the caster. If Izar were to create the common Doppelganger, there would be two Izar's walking around Britain. The Izar Doppelganger would have the same mannerisms as the real Izar, but they wouldn't have a direct connection. It was more challenging to control and interact with.

Which is why Izar created the darker and more complex version of the Doppelganger. The Doppelganger he conjured was also a physical duplicate of him. However, in order for the Doppelganger to function, the real Izar had to be put into a magical trance in order to transfer a part of himself into the Doppelganger. It was an odd experience. He felt as if he had been locked inside a stranger's body despite the fact that the Doppelganger was an exact replica of himself.

He was not physically with Voldemort that day in Little Hangelton, but he was with him mentally and emotionally. The process was also similar to a Horcrux, only, when the Doppelganger was destroyed, the other half of Izar would merge back with him.

Having a piece of him inside the Doppelganger was the only way he could have the Dark Lord feel his death. And Lucius, with his life-debt, would also sense Izar's passing.

"After getting rid of the necessary DNA, I left for France with Severus, Regulus, Aiden… and Bellatrix." Izar smirked. "It was easy to manipulate the Black Tapestry. Lucius would, of course, see that Bellatrix was 'dead'. I knew that you would have used her as your lab rat when trying ways to resurrect me, so I brought her with us."

Speaking of Bellatrix, Izar knew he should probably send Severus out to find her at his earliest convenience. She was most likely wreaking havoc across France. She had been left in the dark when it came to Izar's true intentions. Despite her loyalty to Izar, she had an even stronger loyalty to the Dark Lord. Izar only told her that they were playing a game with the Dark Lord. She had been suspicious, but satisfied when Izar reassured her that Voldemort would be coming to France.

"When we arrived in France, I was put into the trance and transported to the Doppelganger back in Britain. Because Dumbledore's attack had been so sudden, I was left in… limbo for a time." Izar lifted his face into the wind that blew from the open balcony. "Despite our physical bodies being dead, our souls still live inside us. It was frightening to be floating in nothingness," he confessed softly. He hoped, beyond hope, that death was not similar to the limbo he experienced. "I couldn't feel anything, I couldn't think, I couldn't see, I didn't have an identity…" he trailed off hoarsely, shivering. "If it hadn't been for Severus, I would have been left there."

A lukewarm hand pressed to his check, bringing him back from his stupor.

"If you knew the consequences of creating a Doppelganger, then why did you go through with the process?" Voldemort queried, his body sheltering Izar from the open window.

Izar offered the man a dry smile. "You knew, almost as soon as it happened, that I received a vision from Aiden. I saw myself being resurrected. Aiden told me that I couldn't avoid it. At the time, I wanted to ignore his warning and scheme ways to get around it. Eventually, at the last moment, I finally realized that if I tried to prevent myself from being returned from the dead, it would only prolong the process and make it even more painful for me to return."

He hesitated, studying Voldemort's closed off expression. The Dark Lord's hand pressed itself against Izar's cheek before it dropped to the man's side.

"Regulus had also told me about another vision Aiden had. Apparently Marjolaine would have killed you if I would have fought the resurrection. So, I was faced with two decisions. I could either get rid of the DNA and Gaunt ring and let you walk into Marjolaine's trap, or I could leave you the Gaunt ring and DNA and allow you to resurrect me."

"But you did neither," Voldemort pointed out unnecessarily.

"Yes," Izar conceded. "Though, truth be told, I formed this plan before I heard of Aiden's second vision. Hearing about it only enforced my decision to create a Doppelganger."

A sly smirk crossed the man's lips. They both knew why Izar had decided to think harder on a solution to the problem.

Turning away from the other wizard, Izar stared dully at the cityscape beyond Voldemort's shoulder. "I want you to understand that I didn't create a Doppelganger because I was afraid of death, Tom." His pale eyes locked with searching crimson. "If anything, this whole situation has made me accept death more than I thought possible."

Voldemort raised his eyebrows mockingly. "I do not fear death. You will not convince me with your immature wisdom."

"You don't fear death?" Izar gave a laugh and walked away from the Dark Lord. "Please don't insult me, Tom." The Black heir sneered at the far wall. "I'm not telling you this as a lesson; I'm telling you this to be brutally honest with you." Izar pointed a finger at the Dark Lord. "I chose to create a Doppelganger because I knew, no matter what happened, I would never be the same if I were resurrected. I wondered why Aiden showed me the vision in the first place and I realized it was because I could have never accepted you again if you went against my wishes by bringing me back to life. He wanted me to come up with an alternative plan.

"I also recognized that he showed me the vision in order to make me understand your way of showing affection."

The Dark Lord glowered menacingly. Before he could make an offensive retort, Izar continued.

"We both love each other, let's stop dancing around that issue, shall we?" Izar turned, facing the Dark Lord fully. His voice rose fervently as he made certain Voldemort was paying attention and wasn't lost in his own mind. "While I created the Doppelganger to avoid being resurrected and to prevent you from being killed by Marjolaine, above all else, I created it because I didn't want to curse you to an eternity of loneliness. I wanted to spend more time with you. Risking a chance of falling into limbo just to be with you was a sacrifice I was willing to make."

Voldemort clutched his cloak in his fist and began advancing closer to Izar. "It is not like you to confess such emotion," Voldemort crooned. A black eyebrow arched. "What you are trying to get at?"

Izar shook his head, knowing that it was impossible to confess anything without the Dark Lord looking for an ulterior motive. And yet, the man was right to be suspicious. "I risked my sanity for you because I cared for you. It's what people do when they care deeply about someone, which is why I want you to promise me that you will never try to resurrect me if I were to truly die. Because it's something I would expect you to respect."

Voldemort stopped short, dropping the side of his cloak and letting the black material pool around his feet. His eyelids were lowered and he stared despondently at Izar. "This whole… situation was just a game, child. Why must you make it a life-learned lesson? There should be no moral of the story. You won this round. That is all there is to it." The man's raven hair toppled to the side as he peered sideways at Izar. "Boast if you'd like."

"You're not taking me seriously." Izar clenched the stone in his hand, a treasure he had received after killing Marjolaine. "You never do."

"Now you just sound like a spoilt child."

Izar hissed. "When will you see that I am my own person? I am not a replica of you. I am not someone you can make decisions for." Was it even worth arguing with the Dark Lord? The man would always be overbearing. But Izar realized he didn't care about that. He just wanted Voldemort to promise one thing. "I sacrificed a great deal for you and did a lot of things you wanted. You turned me into an immortal sixteen-year-old—"

"This again?" Voldemort sneered. "We've already discussed this."

"Perhaps," Izar grinned cruelly. "But I've been thinking about this for a long time. There were other ways to save me from Cygnus. He claimed Legilimency wouldn't work, but you were a master at Legilimency, you were a Lord. You also told me that you didn't want a human mate on the battlefield. For some reason, you wanted to turn me at a young age. And I think it was because you wanted a permanent advantage over me."

Voldemort sniffed, looking away from Izar and smiling strangely at the ceiling. "You think so lowly of me, child." But he didn't deny it.

He stared at Voldemort's turned face. "Promise me," Izar tried again, this time, in a gentler tone. It wouldn't do to exert force against Voldemort when the man would rise to the challenge and bring his own dominance into the game.

"I can't promise you something like that." Remarkably, Voldemort didn't sound irritated, only… disconcerted. "Put yourself in my position—"

"I have, My Lord. And I understand why you think that way." Izar placed the stone in his pocket and reached for the Dark Lord. He curled his hands into Voldemort's robes, causing the older wizard to snap his attention down on him. "But this is my decision and I have a right to have a say when it concerns my life. I promise to stay by your side until we both agree to end our games. If it doesn't last that long, I want you to leave me to rest."

Voldemort stared at him long and hard before leaning forward and placing his forehead against Izar's. His fingertips danced up Izar's neck before taking residence on his face. Wordlessly, the man nodded.

Izar's eyes only widened a fraction. He had believed it would have taken Voldemort longer to agree with Izar's wishes. After all, the man wasn't known to agree to anything if it was against his own desires. And while the Dark Lord hadn't gone out of his way to reassure Izar that he wouldn't consider resurrecting him, Izar knew the man was candid.

These past few days had been good for the both of them. Izar had really grasped what Voldemort meant to him and the way they complemented each other. There was no one else who could keep Izar as entertained as Voldemort could. Regulus had subtly hinted that Izar could take advantage of Voldemort being oblivious of his survival and move on without him. Obviously Izar had turned down his father's advice. The man had no idea what Voldemort and Izar were together.

And it wasn't just Izar who needed this, he could also see a visible change in the Dark Lord.

While they would never be romantic with one another, they had obtained the confidence their relationship needed in order to move forward.

And move forward they would.

"After creating your Doppelganger, you came to France to kill the Dark Lady," Voldemort hinted, keeping himself pressed against Izar. A crooked smile graced the man's features. "Tell me how you managed that when you were so weak."

"Weak?" Izar admonished before grinning. "I was nothing compared to how Marjolaine was fairing. Back in Britain, when you told me she had to prove herself to her followers after her duel with me, I realized that there may be a chance that her supporters would accept me if I were to knock her off her pedestal. Even though they remembered me, they weren't too keen to let me get too close to her. It was a bit messy…" Izar confessed, grimacing when he thought back to it.

Voldemort gave a deep hum and pushed off from Izar. His steps were confident as they walked toward the unconscious Moreau. The disdain the Dark Lord felt toward the blond was obvious from the sneer planted firmly on his lips. He toed the blond with his boot. "It appears it wasn't too messy. You have a faithful blond to replace Lucius."

Izar scoffed loudly. "No one could ever replace Lucius." He continued quickly when he noticed Voldemort's aura darken. "But you're correct. When I was able to get to Marjolaine, I used my magic-sensitivity to close off her magic. She died quickly. The very few who wouldn't accept me in her stead rushed at me and I had to use my magic-sensitivity on them also. After which, the majority of her followers were scared silly that I could take their magic away." Izar snickered lowly before sobering.

He hadn't been proud of his decision to use his magic-sensitivity on the followers. While he was for an equal fight, he had also been weak. And he needed something that would set himself apart from any other wizard. The French wouldn't accept him if he was a simple wizard who got lucky with Marjolaine.

Voldemort snapped his head to the side, gazing at Izar with barely hidden surprise. "I never pegged you as a Lord who ruled by fear."

"It had to be done. I'm only now starting to get to know everyone and gaining their trust." Izar tossed Voldemort a sly expression. "There is nothing wrong with installing a bit of fear in them. They can't get too comfortable and think of me as one of their comrades."

The Dark Lord suddenly moved away from Moreau and began to circle Izar like an eager child. There was a predatory gleam in the man's eyes as he watched Izar from the shadows. "And you were the one to attack Britain and send me that letter," the man purred. "You, child, had already started our second game while still executing your first scheme. I really must applaud you."

Izar kept still, refusing to spin like a mindless puppet but never really keeping himself open and vulnerable to the circling man.

"Yet," Voldemort continued with a breathless whisper. "You are not ready for this."

Rolling his neck up at the ceiling, Izar remained silent. He wouldn't argue with Voldemort's observation, simply because he agreed with the man himself. He hadn't planned on taking Marjolaine's position as the Lord of France. His hunger at challenging Voldemort and starting something by himself drove Izar's decision to take Marjolaine's mantle. His decision had only strengthened when Moreau and a few other followers informed Izar that Marjolaine hadn't been the most dedicated Lady. She hid behind too many people and was too concerned with her own interests to really bestow herself to their cause.

The Ministry was corrupt and Marjolaine's followers had wanted a change in the government.

The first thing Izar was going to do differently from Marjolaine was accept both Light and Dark followers into his army. It would certainly cause a clash between the old followers and the new followers he inducted. But the Ministry in France was overwhelmingly strong. Marjolaine had strong ties with the Ministry; it had been her only smart move Izar could see. However, now that she was dead, those ties were most likely severed. Izar needed a strong army to keep his ground against the Ministry and that meant he needed wizards from both ends of the spectrum.

"You're right," Izar admitted airily.

Voldemort paused in his task of intimidating Izar. "Then what now?"

Voldemort's question echoed across the top floor of the manor. It was more of an attic than anything else and Izar's preferred room to collect himself. It was also the same room Izar spent most of his day, brainstorming his decisions and weighing each choice with alternative consequences and benefits.

Izar closed his eyes, knowing Voldemort had his attention on him. Now that everything was put into perfect place, there was an overwhelming sense of calamity that settled within Izar. Things were exactly how they should be. Loose ends were tied back in Britain, precisely what Voldemort wanted.

It was time for their second phase of immortality to begin. And it was Izar's turn to pick what that entitled.

"What now…" Izar bowed his head before looking sharply at Voldemort, catching the man's position in the shadows immediately. A true smile crossed his lips. "Just because I admitted I wasn't ready doesn't mean I am not willing to go onward headfirst." There was a sudden stillness coming from both the man and his aura. "You are going to defend Britain or assist me with France."

It would be very difficult to balance Britain and the French Ministry, but it was a challenge Izar was eager to pick up. It seemed impossible, an ambitious strategy that was destined to fail even before it even began properly. And that's why Izar was so determined to try it out. Already, a plan was forming, and he knew it would only grow and broaden the more he learned in France.

As if to match Izar's enthusiasm, the Dark Lord's aura spiked excitingly and a leer crossed the man's chiseled features. "Are you sure you wish to challenge me, child? You are only just picking up the pieces of Marjolaine's death. It will take you months just to get a general understanding."

Crossing his arms across his chest, Izar stood his ground. "To admit I am not ready would be to admit defeat, Tom," he drawled.

There was a sudden change in atmosphere in the attic. It was if the grim events from the past few days had swept away, leaving only the memories and the lessons learned and replacing it with a dense excitement. They were both prepared to move forward and into this next challenge. Izar especially.

Voldemort considered Izar's words and stance, looking far too pleased with himself. Whatever was on the Dark Lord's mind, Izar had to prepare himself.

"Because you have won the last round, I will play fair and allow you to catch up to speed in France before I strike."

Izar balked at the offer. "Don't insult me." Nevertheless, he admitted being curious and tempted to take that offer up. Though, he was suspicious of the man's motives. Perhaps even the Dark Lord needed time to get things straightened? Were they rushing into this too quickly?

He straightened when Voldemort clapped his hands together.

"Well then," the man began optimistically. "I will be leaving. I must prepare for France."

Pale charcoal and green eyes watched in muted anger as Voldemort turned to leave. "You are not leaving," Izar hissed lowly. "You're spending the night. With me." He didn't care if it was what the Dark Lord had been waiting for. And he also ignored the smug and arrogant glow surrounding Voldemort as he turned to face him. They hadn't spent a night together for what seemed like ages. Izar intended to take advantage of what time they had together.

Taking a step closer to the tall wizard, Izar easily bypassed the barrier of Voldemort's conceit. "Give me five months," he began, accepting Voldemort's earlier offer. "Until then, we will have a neutral place to meet and spend time together. That way you won't snoop in any of my business here in France."

Voldemort was the one to take the advancing step this time. He still wore his ridiculous smirk, proof of his playful mood. "Just because I won't snoop, doesn't mean I won't find other means to find out what you're doing."

"Oh, I welcome as much, Tom."

Voldemort chuckled breathlessly. "And instead of five months, I'll give you six to prepare yourself properly, you'll need it."

Izar narrowed his eyes at the suggestion of increased time. Did the man actually think he was being generous? Unlikely. It was if the man actually thought Izar was an invalid. "Four months," he boasted in challenge.

"Alright," the man conceded easily, almost too quickly. Obviously he had been intending for Izar to fall into his trap of lessening the time of preparation. "Four months it is. And I expect you to spend every night with me."

"If you can keep me entertained long enough," Izar seethed, silently chastising himself for falling for the man's deception. Of course he could prepare in four months, but five would have been preferred but Izar refused to bend his neck and ask for it.

"Of course, now that we decided on the time frame, where will our neutral… oasis be?" the man asked amiably, entirely ignoring Izar's earlier comment. "I think Britain will suffice. Unlike you, I'm capable of hiding my necessary schemes from you when you spend time in my country."

"You're a right bastard."

They were advancing closer to one another, drawn together by the initiation of the upcoming challenge. It was intoxicating to dance opposite of Voldemort. Now that Izar had gotten his own victory over Voldemort, he hoped the man could get just as excited as himself. And judging from the Dark Lord's aura, Izar would go as far and say Voldemort got off by things like this. It was a bit amusing at how easily Izar could influence the man's emotions.

"I never claimed I wasn't," Voldemort countered smugly.

Izar paused in his advance forward, choosing to survey the Dark Lord instead. The man's hood had fallen off during their earlier exchange, revealing the roguish features. Izar had always admired the man's subtle handsomeness. But above all else, the most eye-catching feature Voldemort possessed was his ability to move. The man had grace that cascaded around his tall and lithe figure. Instead of walking, Voldemort glided.

Izar derided himself for sinking so low by admiring the Dark Lord. Snapping himself back to the present, he was pleased to note that Voldemort was only inches from him. His fingers itched at his side, needing to touch but refusing to be the first to cave in. "You are at a disadvantage in this war, Tom," Izar continued, unwilling to lose their verbal spar. "I know Britain and your army from the inside out. You know little about France—"

"My knowledge on France is just as likely equivalent to your own knowledge. So I do not consider your threat worthwhile." Voldemort pressed a fingernail to Izar's chest. "I'm afraid you are at a disadvantage. There is no possible way you can handle your own Ministry and both Lord Voldemort and Tom Riddle."

"That is a feeble threat," Izar bragged sweetly. "Because I will be the one who will reveal you to Britain. Your reputation will crumble."

Voldemort and Izar stared each other down. The intensity only tapered when the corners of Voldemort's eyes began to crease. The Dark Lord's finger slowly slid up Izar's chest before taking captive of his chin. "I worship you," the man confessed in Parseltongue before he claimed Izar's lips roughly.

Izar moaned appreciatively into the kiss, curling his hands in the man's long hair. With a tug at the roots, Izar deepened the kiss, controlling the Dark Lord and the depth of the kiss. He smiled into Voldemort's mouth, knowing he had a remarkable amount of sway over the man. He knew he could use it to his advantage. Then again, he also knew as soon as he abused Voldemort's trust, it would be virtually impossible to retain it.

His mind felt clearer than it had ever felt before. Now that the results of Aiden's vision had passed, Izar was eager to continue advancing. He imagined the different things he would invent, the different cultures he would learn, the array of people he would meet, and above all else, the different games he would participate in with Voldemort.

Really, the possibilities were endless.



I know many of you will not be particularly fond of this ending, but I'm not a fan of killing off main characters. Plus, I thought it was fitting to have Izar finally claiming a victory over Voldemort. In writing the ending this way, I wanted to show you, the reader, that it will be a constant cycle. Once Tom and Izar are finished with one phase, they jump to the next. It won't necessarily be Lord vs. Lord, it may be something entirely different.

With that being said, as of right now, there will be no sequel. Also, there will be no Voldemort POV's (sorry Elelith!). Likewise, I know a few readers expressed an interest in continuing the story of Izar and Voldemort themselves, but I will have to ask you to respect my wishes and refrain from doing so.

As for my next project (those of you who asked), I am unsure of where I'm going next. My intention is to continue with Dreams & Darkness Collide and finish Goddess of Imaginary Light, but I may just take a long break. My muse has been rather lackluster the past few months.

It's been an incredibly long journey (honestly, I thought this would be my shortest story). And I want to thank every one of you for reading this far. Those of you who reviewed always inspired me. The translations of this story also meant a lot, as did those of you who submitted Fan Art. *Sheepish smile*

Thank you again, everyone. I enjoyed writing this.