Standard Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. Harry Potter and his universe are the property of the brilliant JK Rowling.

Redemption- as unattainable as it is alluring. I've spent innumerable hours trying to wrap my mind around the concept, but my thoughts always seem to return to the fact that it's beyond me; or rather, I'm beyond it. Truth be told, I'm not certain I desire it to begin with. On a primal level, perhaps I do. I remember my first few years of schooling, and the old fool telling me that people are innately good. Loathe as I am to admit it, perhaps I've taken some of my old transfiguration professor's words to heart. With enough drivel, some of it's bound to stick.

But in the end, it doesn't really matter, for I am irredeemable and have been for decades. Perhaps my soul has never been salvageable. I often wonder if I was born this way or created, and such thoughts nearly always lead to questions of morality. I've long known the concept of good and evil to be a false construct. The only reality is power. I know power. I cherish power. I can't help but wonder whether this belief is a result of my nature or my environment.

To be perfectly frank, I believe that I was made, not born. Just as I crafted my immortality, everything that I am has been forged by those around me. The children at the orphanage taught me hatred- pure, unadulterated hatred which has consumed me. Strange though it may sound, Dumbledore himself taught me that words are superfluous in the face of power. Power can be trusted, and I've spent my life seeking it. The fools I call servants have taught me self-reliance.

While not completely useless, the Death Eaters have never managed to appease me. Some say that my standards are unrealistically high, but those people never live long. I hold myself to an incredibly high standard, and to my eternal disappointment, expect the same of my followers. The Cruciatus Curse, while enjoyable, has little long term effect on my subjects. I learned long ago that I cannot curse them to competence.

I don't like to admit it, but when I look back on my life I realize that I've made several mistakes. But I don't regret anything. To regret is to show weakness, and I am not weak. No, while I may have gone about things differently had I known then what I know now, I regret nothing. And I suppose that's why I'm beyond redemption.

Guilt is another concept that fascinates me. Lesser men let it dictate their actions and define their lives, treating it as if it's a normal emotion. Guilt makes people weak, and thus it disgusts me. Naturally, I've never experienced it.

My birth name is Tom Marvolo Riddle, though I've gone by many others. But in the end, my name matters not, for it is too late for me.

Billy Stubbs stood over me, biting his lip in anger. I'd accidentally bumped into him in a hallway at the orphanage. He was a wiry boy with pronounced knuckles. Funny, I'd never noticed his knuckles before that day. He lunged at me, those knuckles scraping against my jaw and knocking the back of my head against the wooden floor. My vision blurred as he cocked his fist to swing again. Then, I lost consciousness. So powerless…

At this point, I was just beginning to develop some level of control over my magic. I had no name for it yet, but I knew it to be special. My control was not so great that I could manipulate little Billy or force him off of me- not yet, anyway- but people who mistreated me always seemed to have the worst luck.

I still vividly recall the look on poor Billy's face as he stared up at his rabbit, a thin nylon cord wrapped around its neck and suspending it from a rafter. The creature's eyes bulged and its body twitched. Billy's brow was furrowed in an expression of puzzlement. He did not yet comprehend death.

The other children quickly learned to grant me a wide berth, lest some unpleasant fate should befall them. Yet it did not keep them from speaking of me, expressions of distaste crossing their faces as my name passed their lips, acting as if they were somehow better than me. Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop were among the worst.

I followed them down the steep face of the cliff, their hands clinging frantically but needlessly to the rock as they descended. I wouldn't let them fall; not before I'd had my fun. I could have used my gift to take control of their fragile minds and they would have readily obeyed my commands, but I'd have missed their identical looks of terror as they got ever closer to the unforgiving sea.

"Into the water," I commanded, my voice magnified, as if by magic, over the sound of the crashing waves.

They locked eyes for a moment. He nodded, and together they jumped.

I dove in a short distance behind them. Spring had tempered the water's chill, but it had not yet become entirely tolerable. It felt warm to me, but I had always been special. My companions shivered, both looking dreadfully uncomfortable.

We swam forward until we reached the antechamber of what I was sure to be an extensive system of caves. There was no light, save for a crimson glow that emanated from my body.

"Close your eyes," I said, my words reverberating against the stone walls.

I cast my eyes downward as dozens of serpents slithered across the ground toward the terrified pair. Dennis' eyes snapped open as the first snake began to wrap itself around his leg. Amy trembled and her breathing became shallow, but her eyes remained closed. Neither moved, for I would not allow it. The creatures slithered across the two small orphans, encircling their bodies.

Amy's mouth opened and she tried to scream, but to no avail. No one would have heard her cries for assistance, but by restricting her voice I made her all the more helpless. Silent tears tracked down her cheeks as she realized that her life was in my hands.

Neither of them ever recounted exactly what I had done to them in the cave. I hadn't expected them to. Power drives the universe, but fear plays no insignificant role. That fear is what kept them, and so many others, quiet.

Not long after my jaunt to the cave, I met Albus Dumbledore for the first time. Strange, isn't it, that he would be the one to tell me what I really am?

My first years at Hogwarts, while remarkable by the school's standards, were uneventful. I was the perfect student and the perfect Slytherin, aside perhaps, from my insatiable thirst for forbidden knowledge. Not surprising, given my ancestry.

I took a perverse comfort in the darkened library's silence at this late hour. A single lamp illuminated the shelves of books in the Restricted Section. Dumbledore had almost caught me on more than one occasion, but I would not be deterred.

I ran my fingers down the spine of Magic Moste Foul, an ancient tome said to contain magical secrets of the forgotten past- secrets that were best left hidden. Gently- reverently, really- I removed the book from the shelf.

Horcruxes. Wonderful devices, aren't they? I made my first after Salazar's monster killed that mudblood. While the girl lie dead on the washroom floor, with as much dignity in death as she had ever possessed in life, I took my first step toward immortality. I never bothered to learn her name.

Tom Marvolo Riddle. I am Lord Voldemort. It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Well, you couldn't expect me to keep the name of my Muggle father, could you? I thought not.

I straddled the nubile form of Victoria Foster at the waist. She was a year ahead of me, an intelligent but gullible Hufflepuff. She looked up at me, her eyes open and trusting.

"I love you, Tom."

She'd said it before, on several occasions, each time looking at me with a hint of expectation, as if I should be thrilled that she deigned to love me. Each time, I remained silent.

I'd tried to love this girl, tried to unlock the power that Dumbledore held above all others. In the end, I merely found her to be slightly more tolerable than most.

But I did not need to convince her that I shared her feelings, that I loved her, for she had already convinced herself.

What is love, precisely? Dumbledore often spoke of the power of love as if it were some formidable weapon, but I've long believed that true power comes from the hate that love engenders.

I opened the door without knocking. Courtesy, after all, has very little to do with family. I couldn't even consider that word without a sneer.

My dear Uncle Morfin and I had a long conversation about the Muggles living in the big house. When I left his shack, I took with me the two things he held most dear: his wand and the ring of my ancestor.

The door swung open before me. It had been locked, of course, but Muggles never seemed to realize how vulnerable they were to men of real power.

They were gathered around the table, eating dinner and making polite, albeit uninspiring conversation.

My grandmother was the first to notice my presence. She stared at my face, looking confused as she analyzed my features. Her eyes roved to a man sitting across from her, and then back to me. His back was turned to me, but I knew him to be my father.

"Hello, grandmother." She swallowed nervously and the two men turned to face me.

"Father," I said, seeing the man for the first time. The resemblance really was striking.

His eyes widened as he looked at me, his expression shifting from one of incredulity to anger, before finally settling on fear.

"I have no son." His words were rushed, as if saying them quickly would somehow make them truer.

"That's quite all right," I said, my eyes narrowing at his audacity. My fingers tightened around my wand as I pointed the stick of yew at his heart. "For I have no father."

Love is what makes hate possible. My love of power is all-consuming, and the Riddles were a connection to something inherently powerless. For that, I hated them, and the death of my father marked the next step in my journey to immortality.

Most people claim that the Killing Curse is nauseating at first. I found it… intoxicating.

By my seventh year at Hogwarts, all of my plans were progressing swimmingly. My Death Eaters had become a group of able, if not overly-skilled followers. I was Head Boy. And Horace Slughorn had confirmed that splitting the soul seven times was not a magical impossibility.

I tend to think of people as belonging to one of two groups: those I would not kill without some provocation, and everyone else. Professor Slughorn was among the former.

"Helena Ravenclaw." The Grey Lady turned to face me. I'd never considered it before, but she would have been exceptionally attractive in life.

"You have learned my secret." I couldn't identify the emotion that laced her voice. Perhaps it was relief.

"Indeed," I said. "The Baron can be forthcoming to those he favors."

"You are a smart boy."

"Yes," I said, nodding politely, "But you can help make me smarter."

Her ghostly eyes widened, but only momentarily. "You are… mistaken."

"Your mother forgave you," I said, "And you're not helping anyone by keeping it hidden."

She observed me for a moment longer, but said nothing.

"You said it yourself. I'm a smart boy." I had to fight back a grimace as I referred to myself as a boy. "But I can be more, much more. And you can help."

She didn't concede immediately, but I eventually coaxed the location of her mother's Diadem out of her. Just in time, really, because my years at Hogwarts soon reached their end.

I rapped the door sharply, and waited for her to answer.

I did not hate her, for I had never loved her. I hated her memory, what she represented- a weakness driven by a desire for pleasures of the flesh. Truthfully, she was nothing to me but a reminder, a memento of a past that needed to be forgotten. I regretted the necessity of her death, but knew that she had brought it upon herself.

Our last conversation repeated itself in my mind as I waited for her at the door.

"I still love you," she had said, tears streaming down her cheeks. "But I fear for you."

The foolish girl should have been afraid of me, not for me.

The door opened, and she stood on the other side of the threshold, words of welcome dying on her lips.

I could see the fear etched clearly upon her pretty face, but in her eyes I saw acceptance. She understood that her death was needed. I believe she welcomed it.

Am I evil? It is a fair question, so I shall endeavor to answer it. Objectively, I suppose I am what lesser men would classify as evil. They consider the things I've done to be reprehensible. But I know better. Don't I? Yes, I think so.

"Professor Dippet?" The faux smile that I had perfected in my youth graced my lips as I pressed him for an answer.

"Tom," he began, meeting my eye and sighing. "I can't give you the position."

The bad luck that's plagued Defence professors since Dippet refused me the job hasn't been an accident, has it? No, I should think not.

From there, I went to Albania to find Ravenclaw's Diadem before returning to dear England to seek gainful employment.

Borgin and Burkes was very much a means to an end. The work was dreadfully boring, but it succeeded in putting me in contact with that disgusting Smith woman. She wasn't much for conversation, but she had some wonderful treasures, didn't she?

With my immortality secured for the time being, I scoured the globe looking for powerful magic that had been lost to time. The search went well.

I walked down a narrow brick walkway to a house that was shrouded in darkness. Who would have guessed that such an inconspicuous building would be home to the heir of one of the most influential families in England?

With a jab of my wand, the front door exploded off its hinges. Edgar Bones met me in the foyer, his face set with grim determination. Not that it would matter. A bolt of red light sailed over my head, missing me by more than a foot.

"A stunner, Edgar? Tsk-tsk." Ropes sprang out of the air, binding his arms to his sides. "That just won't do."

A streak of green ended the man's life before he could respond.

I walked up a flight of stairs, following the sound of a child's whimpering. A woman, his wife I supposed, stood in front of her two children. A single spell relieved her of her wand and she spread her arms in what I assumed was an effort to shield her progeny, a plea for mercy already forming on her lips.

I merely smiled.

Killing children? I think the distinction between killing a man and killing a child is overstated. Death is death, isn't it?

My war against England proceeded better than anyone could have expected. Years of peace had made them complacent, and I had no doubt that the country was mine for the taking. The only obstacle that I foresaw was Dumbledore.

Alas, Prophecy can derail even the best laid plans, can't it?

I stared down at Harry Potter, looking into his emerald eyes. The child was unnervingly calm, all things considered.

"Avada Kedavra!"

Unimaginable pain. It's what I recall most clearly from that evening, really.

I fled my homeland that very night, seeking solace in the black forest of Albania and did not return to England for many years. When I did, it was with a plan I believed to be infallible. It wasn't.

I've accomplished much over the past seven years. I've regained a body, orchestrated the death of Albus Dumbledore, and seized control of the Ministry for Magic. But it's taken me most of that time to learn what I believe may be the most important lesson of my life: Never underestimate the divine luck of Harry Potter.

My eyes open slowly, and I rise unsteadily from the forest floor. Harry Potter lies on the ground several metres away from me. I've finally done it.

Oh, how quickly we forget the most important of life's lessons.

My eyes widen as Harry Potter appears, somehow still amongst the living. The whelp is exceedingly difficult to kill, but the third time's a charm, isn't it?

Redemption? A novel concept, to be sure, but it's for the weak.

I see a brilliant flash of green, and then there is nothing.