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Chapter Twenty-One

"Quiet," Conner hissed. His voice was shaking and it came out barely audible to his own ears. "Do you want us to get caught before the others arrive?" If they were caught, Conner could only imagine what would happen.

Peering through the thick brush, his eyes absorbed the sight of the burning homes and the screaming… and the blood and the gore. It was all in front of him. He'd seen it before when he accompanied the Aurors on their missions to stop the Death Eaters, but he had never been here. Alone. Vulnerable. Inactive. Watching this all unfold. Without doing a thing to stop it.

He swallowed thickly as he watched a wizard try in vain to defend his family and his home against the brutal and callous attack. The Death Eaters laughed, their metallic masks reflecting eerily off the flames of their victims' houses. Conner was too far to see their eyes, but he knew they would be twinkling with suppressed insanity and blood-lust. They were monsters. All of them were monsters as they tortured and maimed their targets.

They didn't deserve magic. None of them did. If he were having doubts before about his invention, he certainly didn't now. Albus Dumbledore helped him through his uncertainties. As did Rufus Scrimgeour tonight.

Conner had to blink away the furious and horrified tears that sprang to his eyes as he watched a human get skinned. The skin peeled away with simplicity, revealing muscle and ligaments beneath. Hurriedly leaning over, Conner gave a dry-heave, well aware of the Unspeakables' eyes on him. Only ten accompanied him. Two would carry one post and create a perimeter around the Death Eaters while Conner would be ready to activate the shield as quickly as possible.

The idea was to surround the Death Eaters before the Ministry arrived, all the while, trying to remain concealed.

"You alright?" one of the Unspeakables murmured.

Conner flushed, wiping his mouth and nodding. "Just fine."

Grudgingly, he turned his eyes back to the scene beneath him and immediately zeroed in on the leader. The Dark Lord. The tall figure seemed absorbed on the Muggles at his feet and nothing else surrounding him. Conner felt his knees tremble. If he wasn't already kneeling, he would have gone to the ground in fright.

Pushing away his fear, he reminded himself that other men could fight against the Dark Lord.

Conner would do the same. Only… from a distance.

"Let's get going while they're still focused on their targets. Hurry."

{Death of Today}

Izar sat beside Regulus. With one ear, he could hear his father recount the watered-down incident in France. However, his attention was tuned into his own thoughts. The atmosphere tonight was thick and heavy, a warning.

A warning, but to whom?

His fingers lightly stroked his wand as he wondered if it would be possible to clone Aiden and then shrink him. That way, he could carry around a portable Seer without having to pay attention to the boy. Every hour, he could check the status of the clone and hear if there were any new visions Aiden had. After which, he could shut the boy up by placing him back in his pocket until he was needed again.

Very desirable but also very impossible.

"I'm sorry," Regulus mused in false delight. "Am I boring you?"

"Yes, you are," Izar spoke sardonically. He blinked at Regulus, finally snapping himself out of his musings. "When are you getting out of here?"

Regulus rubbed his naked jaw and studied Izar thoughtfully. "I'm apparently being evaluated. The Healers find it astonishing that I came out of my coma in such a good mood. Heaven forbid someone actually looking at the positive than the negative. They think I should go through therapy."

Izar grunted, standing from the bed and cracking his back. "I'd say they just want to squeeze a bit more gold from your vault." Izar flashed a look at the hovering nurse and offered her a heavy sneer. "Bloody Healers don't know a thing. They just hand out medication and expect gold in return."

Regulus watched in intrigue as the nurse huffed and stormed out of the room.

"If it's up to me, which I believe it is, I will hire you a private therapist to come to our home," Izar informed, straightening his Unspeakable robes. "A thorough background check will need to be done, of course. I want nothing but the best until you can walk again."

He came to a stop next to his father before placing his hand on Regulus' cheek in farewell.

"You're leaving?" Regulus asked, reaching up and pressing Izar's hand further into his skin. The man acted as if Izar hadn't just sat here for a good handful of hours. "I've enjoyed speaking to you. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to visit with your wounded father."

"Wounded?" Izar grinned. "It looks to me like your glowing from interacting with Severus for so long. I don't know whether to believe that's a good or bad thing."

"That may be," Regulus agreed with a smug smile. But then his face clouded. "Are you going to Lily's home tonight? I've heard that you've been visiting her lately these past few weeks." The man's face was hard as stone and unreadable. Even Izar had trouble discerning what his father was thinking.

"It's not what you think," Izar started to defend himself. He didn't want Regulus to believe he had forgiven Lily for all that she did to him. "She and I—"

"Hey," Regulus interrupted him gently. "I believe it's a good thing you're getting to know her. Despite everything she's done in the past, she is your mother. That is not something I can take away. I told you I came to terms with things during my recovery. She was one of them. I only hope, one day, you can do the same."

"I can't believe you are…"

Izar trailed off abruptly, clenching his jaw when an excruciating burn exploded through his Dark Mark. Moments later, his gold Ministry bracelet began to warm far more comfortably than the Dark Mark. Staring straight ahead of him, Izar allowed just one minute of frozen panic and alarm to wash across his mind and body.

He was standing at a crossroads this very moment. With the ban still set in place over Izar's participation with the Death Eaters, the Dark Lord wouldn't be calling him if it wasn't of the utmost importance. And Izar knew what Voldemort needed him for, he just couldn't believe or come to terms with it.

The invention couldn't be completed already. He thought he was guaranteed at least a day before they put it to use. Tonight, he was going to suggest to Lily to part ways with him unless she wanted to get caught. For he knew he would have to do something extreme in order to stop the invention for being used. She shouldn't have to be caught in the middle of it while he destroyed it. Dancing around and trying to setback the date of completion had been a novel idea but in the end, it just rendered Izar oblivious.

But now it was too late to abolish it.

Or was it?

"Izar?" Regulus questioned, concerned. "What is it?"

Izar pulled his hand from Regulus' face and turned. "I have to leave. I will likely be back tonight if things don't go according to plan…"

Izar would arrive at the Ministry as an Unspeakable. He believed he would have a greater advantage with destroying the invention if he was guised as an Unspeakable rather than a Death Eater. Nonetheless, if things turned out for the worse, Izar would have no qualms with revealing his true allegiances. Whatever it took to make certain the Dark Lord and his servants did not get their magical cores' damaged beyond repair, Izar would take that chance.

As he swept through the length of the corridors, Izar wondered how he was going to destroy it.

While Izar was considered a prodigy, he was no match against twenty Unspeakables. With their minds all merged together, they were just as brilliant as himself. It had been a challenge just to try to keep them off track with Lily as his partner. And all twenty Unspeakables who were working on Oran's invention were handpicked because of their intelligence and loyalty to the Minister. If and when Izar destroyed the invention, he knew he would have to hunt down each Unspeakable and kill them before they had a chance to reconstruct another device.

But that was to consider for later. He needed to come up with a solution to terminate the device itself.

The invention had layers of spells on it when the force-field was activated. Spells that would ensure that the posts could not be tampered with while it was holding their intended victims inside. If Izar could get there in time, he may catch the invention before it was triggered. Only then, he would have a chance at destroying it through the Dark Arts. But judging from the intense burn in his Mark, Izar was already too late. He just hoped that they wouldn't run the radiation anytime soon.

Manipulating the control panel was what Izar would aim for.

Of course, Izar could throw away his original plan and opt for his second choice of Apparating where Voldemort was as a Death Eater. The only problem with that, however, would be his lack of support. On sight, in his Death Eater robes, Izar would be a targeted enemy. Whereas this way, as an Unspeakable, he wouldn't be immediately attacked.

Despite his suspicions about Scrimgeour's plans, Izar needed to push away his insecurities and see where tonight took him.

And who knew?

This could be incredibly… fun.

{Death of Today}

"Mr. Black…you finally showed up, I see," Owen Welder, the Head Unspeakable, grunted from across the hall.

Izar's steps were cat-like as he approached the group of Unspeakables. His eyes took in the lack of Aurors and only the Department of Unspeakables awaiting his presence. Lily stood off from the group, her arms crossed and her attention on someone down the hall. Turning, Izar saw James Potter eyeing the proceedings with suspicion before nodding once to Lily and taking off down the corridor.

"Minister Scrimgeour asked to wait for you specifically," Owen continued, stroking his bushy orange beard. His dark eyes narrowed. "Any idea why?"

"I was just about to ask you why," Izar murmured as he stopped in front of the crowd of observant Unspeakables. "The Aurors? Are they not accompanying us?"

"Scrimgeour has expressed his confidence that we won't need the Aurors for this," Owen barked, appearing a bit frazzled as he stroked more heavily on his beard, pulling at the small hairs and twisting them.

"Ah," Izar tsked. "Of course." Of course it would make perfect sense that Scrimgeour did not want the Aurors with them. Rufus wanted this invention to be kept a secret, to stay under wraps. The Minister thought that this way, he would have a better chance of activating the invention and 'destroying' it before anyone but the Unspeakables was the wisest. But did the man truly think that would work?

There had only been twenty Unspeakables that were knowledgeable about the invention. That left over thirty oblivious Unspeakables that would most likely be curious about seeing this invention tonight and thirty potential men and women who would try to mimic what they saw.

Izar caught Rookwood's gaze, surprised to find only nonchalance. The past few weeks, Izar had experienced nothing but contempt from the Death Eaters in public. They would sneer at him in passing, murmur insulting invectives, and the bolder ones even spit at his feet. They were all aware of his absence within the Death Eater ranks and they heard whispers about the time he spent at the Potter household.

Nodding to Rookwood, Izar knew he had at least two allies.

The first?

He turned to Lily. There was a hint of green pallor across her face and Izar knew she was more than aware of what was transpiring. That was the reason why she silently warned James Potter. Izar didn't know what to think about that. Did he want the Aurors to arrive at the scene and see the invention? There would the possibility that the Aurors would see Rufus as a conniving man and assist Izar and Lily, but it was unlikely.

"Well," Owen murmured, snapping Izar out of his musings. "Let's get this over with, shall we?"

Without warning, Izar's bracelet gave a sharp tug and the Unspeakables vanished from the Ministry hall before Izar could get a solid opinion or plan on the matter.

The first thing he saw when his feet landed on the cold ground was Rufus Scrimgeour's face highlighted unnervingly by the orange flames from the surrounding houses. The Minister was standing peacefully near the scorching house, his hands clasped confidently behind his back as he grinned widely at Izar. A sharp spasm of thrill raced across Izar's belly at Rufus' expression. The man wanted to play and Izar found himself rising up to the invitation.

But his ecstasy didn't last long. The surprised and bemused murmurs from the Unspeakables caught his attention and he whirled around to see a good portion of the Dark Army trapped within the glimmering force-field of Conner Oran's invention. The perimeter was done rather sloppily, as it trapped a few stray Muggles and wizards inside. But what Izar found the most disturbing was the fact that Voldemort had been so caught off guard and taken by surprise.

The Death Eaters were trying their best to throw spells at the surrounding perimeter but Izar knew well enough that nothing could break out of that contraption. Lord Voldemort stood amongst his army, appearing oddly frozen in place.

Izar took a step forward, trying to spark a reaction from the Dark Lord. The man's hooded figure remained motionless, only his robes fluttering with the force of the spells being thrown inside the perimeter. His wand stayed lowered, hovering over the dead Muggle at his feet. Izar's eyes narrowed in suspicion. All the other Death Eaters were seemingly frantic at being trapped. They rivaled the appearance of wild animals being enclosed in a cage for the first time, unsuccessfully trying to escape. But Voldemort was oddly acceptable.

"What the hell is this?" Owen Welder yelled. Around him, the other Unspeakables gazed at the contraption through wide and inquisitive eyes.

"This," Rufus began, stepping closer to the Unspeakables. "Is the invention that will finally bring peace to our country. And it's all thanks to Izar Black."

Eyes shot to the motionless figure of Izar. He remained facing forward, watching as the Death Eaters hissed under their breath as they caught sight of him.

Exactly what was Rufus playing at? Did the man wish to tame him? Make Izar stand here and watch as his comrades' magical cores were shriveled beyond repair? Did Rufus think he could force Izar to the Light Side by telling the Death Eaters he had everything to do with their imprisonment? If Izar attacked back and defended the Death Eaters, Rufus would have his wand down Izar's throat in a matter of seconds.

The Minister had backed Izar into a corner.

And Izar finally understood Voldemort when the man warned him that his claws would get tangled in the ball of yarn. The very same man who Izar believed he knew through and through had backtracked completely on his character and did something that surprised even Izar. It was… both amusing and sickening.

He had been manipulated by… by Rufus Scrimgeour. The very same man known to carry a hot temper and act out of impatience.

Izar chuckled softly. Nonetheless, he wasn't finished yet with his side of the playing field. And while Voldemort wanted Rufus alive long enough to extract his political maneuvers, Izar would do everything else in his power to bring down the Minister. Crack his barriers and rattle the man.

"That's not true…" a woman's hoarse and raspy voice called Rufus' bluff from inside the perimeter. Izar knew right away, from her slouched and animalistic posture that it was Bellatrix. "You're lying through those pointed teeth of yours Rufus."

"Izar Black?" Someone called out weakly, disgustingly. "You're saying… that Izar Black had everything to do with this? Are… are you serious?"

Izar turned away from Bellatrix, spying Conner Oran standing weakly at the front of the perimeter. In his shaking hands he clutched the control panel. The boy didn't look very controlled if his trembling and white face had anything to do with it. His eyes were wide, almost deranged as he looked at Rufus Scrimgeour in betrayal.

"This was my invention. Mine."

Raising his eyebrows, Izar offered Rufus a thin smile. Apparently Scrimgeour hadn't done the most important thing while planning a surprise confrontation. He hadn't trained his puppets. Conner Oran had been oblivious to Rufus' scheme and the Minister looked like an idiot because of that.

The Unspeakables were quietly observing what was transpiring before them. Izar kept his attention divided between the motionless Voldemort, the unbalanced Oran, and the struggling Rufus. Something had to give. Voldemort wasn't doing anything but stare at Izar. Had the man really turned so cold this past month that Izar didn't… feel anything with this close of proximity? The Dark Lord was completely closed off, stoic. Did the man really believe Izar had something to do with the invention?

"Don't play coy," Rufus started as he advanced closer to Izar. The younger wizard stiffened and let his hand brush across his wand in his pocket. "You know you had everything to do with this invention, Izar. Don't hide behind Conner's bold declaration." The lion-like man cocked his head. "This is something you should be proud of, not ashamed of. Why don't we activate our device and prove where your true loyalties stand, yes?"

Izar's lips curled in response. Before he had a chance of replying, a sharp crack sounded in the small town that they were currently standing in. Judging from the Death Eater's renowned viciousness, Izar could only assume that whoever Apparated behind him was not extra help. And suddenly, as if noticing for the first time, Izar gazed deeper within the perimeter of Conner's invention and noticed the full army was not included at tonight's raid.

Odd…

"What do you think you're doing, Rufus?" Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Head Auror, announced his presence along with the Aurors Apparating behind him. His dark eyes were narrowed suspiciously on Scrimgeour before they widened on the activated invention further beyond the Minister.

"I'll be kind enough to inform you of what he's doing, Auror Shacklebolt," Izar suddenly announced. He turned sharply, eyeing the dark man. "He's grown power-hungry the day he was elected into office. Ever since that day, he's molded the Department of Mysteries into his own fancy. He's ruined our jobs, he's ruined our lives…." Here, Izar looked at the Unspeakables, speaking passionately in order to catch their undivided attention. "He's challenged our morals and most importantly, he's taken away what we most desire. Secrecy and freedom."

Sick glee warped his chest as he noticed a few Unspeakables nod in agreement. Izar focused primarily on Owen Welder, knowing the man's true feelings about Scrimgeour's takeover in the Department. "And now," he continued. "He's forced many of our hands to create an invention that will destroy the Wizarding World." The contract of silence forbade him from speaking specifics, but that wouldn't stop him from speaking what he could say. "With this invention, Minister Scrimgeour has too much control—too much power. It is against every moral I possess."

The Unspeakables were whispering at his back and Owen Welder's eyes hardened. Turning back to Kingsley, Izar smirked. In the back of his mind, he wondered at Rufus' continued silence. The man was doing nothing to stop him.

"It does not simply kill the wizards within the perimeter. It destroys them."

"It also goes against my morals," Lily Potter spoke up, standing beside Izar with a determined air about her. "I stand with Izar on this issue completely."

Shacklebolt raised his eyebrows; surprise washing his features at Lily's joined word. Kingsley had the common sense to recognize the seriousness of the situation. Izar also knew both were part of Dumbledore's Order and worked close together.

"Enough," Rufus roared as the Unspeakables became too rowdy. The Aurors remained silent, their expressions only mirroring curiosity. "Would you trust his word if you knew he was a loyal Death Eater?"

Suddenly, Izar's left sleeve cut off at the elbow, revealing the black Dark Mark. Izar stared down at it, his ears catching Bellatrix's gleeful laugh. Surprisingly, Izar didn't feel so mortified to be revealed like this despite the way it was done so cowardly. He was aware of multiple wands being drawn and pointed in his direction. Looking up, Izar caught Lily's wide eyes, almost as if she had to see the Dark Mark to really come to terms with Izar's loyalties.

Izar chuckled, raising his hands as his wand was forced from his pocket and in the hand of the advancing Rufus Scrimgeour. A cruel light danced beneath those yellow eyes as the Minister continued to point his wand directly between Izar's eyes.

"I never did like these robes…" Izar drawled with glee.

"You think this is a joke, Black?" Rufus snarled. "I finally have the evidence I need to throw your arse in Azkaban. You can finally lower that proud chin of yours."

"On the contrary," Izar whispered. "I can hold it even higher knowing that I finally got to you."

He could feel the Aurors slowly close in; their wands lifted at the ready just in case Izar had something up his sleeve. In reality, Izar didn't really know what he would do at this point. Something dramatic, no doubt. He wouldn't go down without a fight. But first, a little mocking would lighten his spirits even more.

"How does it feel, Minister?" Izar murmured softly, raising a single eyebrow as Rufus' wand pressed deeply between his eyes. "That you have become the very same thing you vowed to hate?" Izar squinted his eyes. "Does it even occur to you that you've become that man that uses power against others in such a discriminating way? You were all about justice and Light. You are just as Dark as any other wizard I know. You've disappointed me."

Rufus lifted his top lip, growling. "What you think of me is hardly a concern."

"I find that doubtful," Izar teased breathlessly, gaining courage from Bellatrix's continued whispers of sweet encouragements and promises. "I can see that this has weighed heavily on you. You know that you're a changed man because of it. Tarnished. Stained."

"Enough," Rufus seethed.

"Lily, why don't you step away from him and we can bring Black into custody," Shacklebolt ordered softly.

"She's not going anywhere but back at the Ministry for questioning," Rufus interrupted, his eyes still on Izar. "I have reason to believe she has assisted Black with his deceit."

"And what deceit is that?" Izar chuckled lowly.

Rufus loomed closer, his elbow bending in order to press his wand more firmly against Izar's forehead. "Don't attempt to protect her. I know just as well that there was no Unforgivables cast on her. She is just as guilty as you, minus the hideous tattoo on her arm."

"Ah, Minister," Izar tsked. "Imperius Curse isn't the only way to get someone to do something. Blackmail is rather… appropriate and it gets things done far more efficiently than the Imperius could ever do. A whispered threat on her husband's life is all that was needed."

Lily made a noise of disagreement in her throat, but Izar reached back and pressed her arm painfully. The action went unseen to Rufus' eyes, for his attention was all on Izar.

"Activate the invention, Mr. Oran," Rufus called, grinning broadly in Izar's face.

"I really don't think that's necessary, Rufus," Shacklebolt reasoned. "The Death Eaters are very well trapped. We can take it from here. Black will be brought back in our custody and the Death Eaters will be well-guarded. We even have the Dark Lord…"

Izar smiled thinly. "Oh, but that's not enough for you, is it Rufus?"

"Izar…" Lily hissed.

"Activate it!" Rufus roared.

"You hate it when you're not in control," Izar mused mockingly despite his uncertainty of the situation.

A dangerous shadow clouded Rufus' eyes as he pulled back his arm and prepared to cast something most likely nasty at Izar. But the shouts from the Death Eater's distracted both their attention. Izar quickly looked, afraid the invention had already been activated, but found himself frowning as the Dark Lord's form began to blink before dissolving completely before their eyes.

It had been a Duplicating Charm, Izar finally realized. That hadn't been the real Dark Lord. Judging from the Death Eaters' surprised reaction, they hadn't known about the man's plan to fool the spectators. Which only made sense. The Dark Lord wouldn't trust anyone with the knowledge that he was using a decoy.

"If that's not the Dark Lord…" an Auror started a bit shakily. "Then where is the real one?"

A cold chuckle danced across the group of Aurors before everything… exploded in chaos.

Izar threw back his fist and caught Rufus directly in the face. The Minister stumbled back and Izar ducked down, racing through the throngs of bemused Unspeakables and toward Conner Oran. The young man spied Izar approaching and quickly activated the invention.

"No!" Izar yelled, colliding with Oran and sending them to the ground. Around them, the Death Eaters who had been absent beforehand emerged from the surrounding houses, engaging the Aurors in battle. It gave Izar a little more confidence, especially because his wand was still with Scrimgeour.

Taking a trembling Conner by the collar, Izar pulled the boy up to his face. "You need to stop the radiation. What is the code?" He was wary of destroying the control panel, only because if it was already activated, it would continue to be activated until the cycle was finished. He needed the code to stop the radiation.

With a sharp glance to his left, Izar watched as the Death Eaters remained standing within the perimeter. It would take only a matter of minutes before the radiation did its job of destroying their magical cores. He didn't have very long to stop it.

"I… they don't deserve the magic…" Oran stuttered. "They don't. Dumbledore and Scrimgeour told me…"

"Dumbledore?" Izar demanded, tightening his hold on the boy. "He knew?" Of course, Scrimgeour couldn't be acting alone. He got the idea of manipulation from Voldemort but Dumbledore had been whispering in his ear as well. "Don't you realize you were just a pawn in this?"

"I've been dabbling with this idea for a few years," Oran spat. "I only got enough courage to construct it because I had the support. I know this is right. Don't try to be condescending." Conner looked down at the Dark Mark on Izar's arm. "You should be in there with them."

Before Izar could use physical means to get the code from Oran, a spell came racing toward them. Izar rolled, but it was unnecessary as Augustus Rookwood stepped in front of him, blocking the curse with a strong shield.

"I got your back, little Black."

Izar slammed his fist against the street, reaching out to pull a retreating Oran back down. The boy slipped, falling ungracefully to the ground before slamming his head hard on the pavement. Conner remained motionless, oblivious to his surroundings. Izar stared, unable to believe the boy was unconscious.

"Bloody hell," Izar snarled, slapping Oran hard across the face, all the while, reaching for the control panel. His hands were steady despite his bundling nerves.

The control panel was locked, just as Izar suspected. Quickly, he tried a few codes he remembered from the weeks they worked on the invention. None of them worked and only continued to frustrate him. As a last resort, Izar slammed the control panel against the ground, shattering it. The pieces flew in every which direction and with light hopes, Izar glanced back at the invention, only to find it still activated.

"Those are some elite Death Eaters inside. Find a way to destroy it. Now," a voice drawled next to him, dripping of arrogance and haughtiness.

Izar turned his head sharply, narrowing his eyes on a Second Tier Death Eater hovering over him. The Death Eater had to be around Izar's age, judging from the voice and shorter stature. "Why don't you make yourself useful and get me a wand?"

The brown eyes watching him were piercing, the same shade and intensity as Riddle's. The Death Eater threw a wand at Izar, hitting him in the chest. "That is the last time I am handing back your wand, child. Keep better track over it."

Child. Child. Obviously, it was the Dark Lord in disguise. No one else could possess that much arrogance and confidence, all the while, carrying an aura most wizards could sense from miles away.

Izar threw the Dark Lord a glowering look. He could have used the man's presence earlier while he searched for the code. Voldemort could have used Legilimency on Oran to rip the information out from the fool's mind. But now there was no control panel. Izar was a fool.

He breathed deeply, focusing on the invention. "There isn't anything to stop it until it runs its cycle," Izar whispered mostly to himself. "The Unspeakables made sure of that."

Around him, screams and shouts sounded as the battle intensified. Some of the Death Eaters who arrived later with a disguised Voldemort were trying to bring down the perimeter around the trapped Death Eaters—but to no avail. Behind Izar, Rookwood gave a pained gasp as a hex caught him viciously across the chest and he fell heavily to the ground. Riddle abandoned Izar's side and took Rookwood's earlier position of protecting Izar's exposed back.

Everything was spinning so quickly. Izar's lips pressed together as he focused forcefully on the activated invention. Inside, the Death Eaters slowly sunk to their knees, their postures reading shock and fear. Izar knew what they were feeling. They were feeling their magic ripped from their bodies, rendering them vulnerable. Just like Regulus and Sirius when Cygnus pinched their magical cores…

Izar's head shot up and he focused internally on his magical core, searching for his gift of magic-sensitivity. Never before had he ripped through his own defenses so brutally. Some wizards entered a mind-trance in order to protect themselves and their mind from experiencing pain or trauma. Izar was doing something similar and he was only achieving such an act out of pure desperation.

Trusting the man at his back, Izar's world dissolved into nothingness as he focused on his magical core. He grew dizzy with how quickly his mind moved around the magical core and he marveled at the sight of the glowing branch-like core split into two; one for the wizard side of him and the other for the creature side. Izar bypassed the wizarding core, knowing full well his magic-sensitivity no longer dwelled inside it.

With renowned determination, Izar stumbled upon a darkened portion of his core and knew where he needed to unlock his gift. The lock holding his gift at bay was feeble, barely strong enough to hold it back. It appeared as if it was just recently reassembled, which would explain how Izar was able to possess his magic-sensitivity at random times since his transformation into a creature.

Despite his wish to explore longer, Izar pulled at the lock and promptly yanked his magic-sensitivity upward as he left his mind.

Pulling his magic-sensitivity out of its confined zone felt as if a hook was lodged deep within his intestines before ripping upward. Izar blinked past the burning in his eyes and gave a pained whimper as he was thrust back into reality.

Around him, past the haziness, Izar could see the magic in the air. It had been far too long since he'd seen auras and felt the magic like this. It was blissful and it eased the pain in his head and stomach. Despite the beauty, Izar forced his attention back on the invention and immediately spied the point where all the spells protecting the invention overlapped. It looked similar to a glowing knot that kept all the magic cloaked over the invention and neatly combined together.

Raising his wand and opposite hand, Izar shakily pulled at the knot. The invention made a grinding noise and the four posts trembled at his experimental pull. He dared not to look too long at the occupants inside the perimeter, for their shouts were enough for him to know how much damage was already done.

Izar heaved an angry breath and abruptly pulled the magical knot apart. The magic seemed to purr at his contact and licked hotly across his skin as it unraveled. Izar closed his eyes against the sudden onslaught of magic as the invention came down uselessly. The posts clattered to the ground, the glass embedded in the generators shattering across the ground. Izar was sprinkled with a few shards of glass but otherwise remained standing tall despite the exhaustion intertwined through his bones.

An uncanny silence followed the destruction and Izar's body quivered with fatigue. His attention was on the Death Eaters slowly beginning to stand. With his magic-sensitivity, he could see their dim magical cores, but they still possessed magic and it would eventually heal to full power. There was just enough magic in their cores to make one solid Apparation before they likely blacked out. Izar had destroyed the invention just in time.

"Retreat!" Voldemort yelled from behind Izar.

The burn in his Mark was back but Izar paid it no heed. He continued to stare numbly at the invention, unable to believe that it had almost been operational.

"Come, child," a hand snaked around his waist, pulling at him. "You, specifically, must come."

Izar barely resisted, feeling a spark of familiarity with the man despite the alien body. A large part of him just wanted to collapse and have Voldemort take care of him. It had been a long month. But it was an even longer night ahead of him. "Not yet," he whispered, distinctively hearing the painful cracks of Disapparating around him. "I have things to attend to before…"

Before? Before what? He went into hiding? It was surreal to him, especially with such a heavy head at the moment.

"I think not," Voldemort argued back, laying his masked forehead against Izar's.

It just occurred to them both that the Dark Lord was shorter in this guise. Izar wondered briefly what face the man was using before he pulled away sharply. "Take care of Rookwood," Izar ordered lightly before he stepped back away from Voldemort's beckoning hand. He threw one look at the motionless form of Rookwood before Disapparating.

He had things to do before he crawled in the hole. After all, Yuletide was still a few days away and Izar would not be arriving at the Malfoy Manor before then.

{Death of Today}

It had almost been a success.

Izar sat upon the wood table at the Department of Mysteries, staring at the rolls of parchments and the test-generators of the quantity of radiation. All the rolls of parchment had calculations on them. Whether it was trial-and-error or the correct numbers, they all had to be destroyed. Unfortunately, Izar was smart enough to know that destroying the evidence wouldn't be a reassurance that this invention was never built again.

Who knew what Oran had done with the knowledge of the final product? And the boy was still alive—as were the other Unspeakables who worked on the invention. It was another job Izar needed to complete before Yuletide. It would stain his hands of blood, but Izar couldn't find himself to feel pity for his targeted victims. In fact, he was delighted with the hunt.

But now, Izar was trying to calm himself as he sat at the Ministry. He wouldn't have long before Rufus sent men around Britain looking for him.

He stared at the Department, wondering if this was the last time he would see it. Now that he was a wanted criminal, would he have to be cooped up at the Dark Lord's base at all times besides raids?

No.

He wouldn't allow himself to hide. In fact, baiting Rufus with his constant appearance in public would most likely be a good pastime. And who knew? Maybe Undersecretary Riddle could come up with a solution to clear his name?

It was doubtful, but Izar wouldn't let his warrant for arrest get in the way of his life. He had unfinished business to attend to. And that didn't involve hiding under Voldemort's protection.

Izar picked up the sound of footsteps approaching him from behind. Turning sharply, Izar held up his wand, only to see Owen Welder holding up his hands in surrender. "Reassure me, please," Izar whispered coolly. "That you did not come here to foolishly stop me."

"No," Owen denied with a shake to his head. "I just wanted to confirm my suspicions."

"Suspicions?" Izar repeated thickly. "Suspicions about what?"

Owen appeared far more lethargic than Izar had ever seen him. "That the invention Rufus had my Unspeakables create really destroyed someone's magic." The Head Unspeakable bowed his head, an angry and disgusted light to his eye. "You don't need to answer that. I already know the answer."

Izar studied the man before sliding off the table. "Why did you allow this? Not only the invention but the sheer invasion of the Department?" His boots made a soft clink against the black stone floor as he approached Owen.

The large man didn't appear frightened of Izar's approach, only mournful. "What was I supposed to do? He's the Minister."

"You can take a stand. That's what you can do. It's your Department. They are your Unspeakables." Izar came to a stop before the burly man. He made sure Owen was looking at him in the eye before offering the man an intense stare. "Contact me when you want your Department back, Owen. Under Rufus' rule, you will never see the return of the old Department of Mysteries. I can guarantee that."

Like he did with Sirius, Izar planted the seed of doubt and deep consideration. The Black heir then turned his back on Owen, staring at the room he tried hours to throw the Unspeakables off-track with his mother. Would he ever see Lily again? Face to face?

"Until then," Izar broke the heavy silence, keeping his attention on the room. "I suggest you quickly leave this room. We wouldn't want the Head Unspeakable going up in flames, eh?"

"How will I contact you?" Owen spoke just as Izar was about to raise his wand to ignite the room.

Izar smiled thinly, knowing he would eventually snag the Unspeakables for either Undersecretary Riddle or Lord Voldemort. Izar must admit, he was rather good at swaying others. Perhaps that's what his new task should be from now on?

"You're a smart man, Owen. I'm sure you can figure out a way…"

Izar slashed his wand through the air, fire escaping the tip. It started small, catching on the paper parchment. Eventually, it would make its way to the more explosive items in the room. And Izar would stay until he made sure the whole room and part of the Department was destroyed.

"Do you need assistance leaving the Ministry undetected?" Owen questioned in true concern.

The young wizard chuckled lowly, throwing a look at his boss over his shoulder. "That is an insult, Mr. Welder."

{Death of Today}

Izar's steps were hurried as he made his way through St. Mungo's and toward his father's room. He had thrown off his Unspeakable robes to his simple shirt and slacks beneath while tying a piece of cloth over his burning Dark Mark. He had little time to disappear before the public was aware of his warrant.

"We're leaving," Izar announced boldly, entering Regulus' room. His father appeared startled at Izar's appearance.

The man's charcoal eyes danced across Izar's torn clothes before jumping back to his son's face. "Leaving?" Regulus repeated rather distantly. "What do you mean?"

Izar pressed his palms into Regulus' mattress, leaning closer to his father. "I have been found out as a Death Eater," he murmured. "It won't take long until Britain is aware of my warrant. I want to take you and Aiden with me in hiding. They will likely come after you for questioning, I don't—"

He paused when something similar to devastation washed across Regulus' face. "Izar," his father whispered hoarsely. "I'm not coming with you."

Izar pulled away as if he had been burned. "Excuse me?"

Regulus leaned back against his pillows, his face hollow with the shadows of the past. "You seem… almost happy that you are on the run, Izar. There is the same insanity in your eyes that Bellatrix had when she found out she was a wanted criminal. Both of you long for something that is not healthy. This is a short war, Izar. It will be over before you realize it. Before you realize what you sacrificed to support it."

Izar stood rooted on the spot, unable to believe what he was hearing.

Regulus offered Izar a wretched smile. "You once had a long life in front of you, Izar. But what life do you have now? I'm sure the evidence is overwhelming against your favor. You don't realize what a hard life it is to always hide and run." His father sighed, frowning at his son. "You look as if I'm slowly murdering you, my son. I love you. I will always love you."

"You're speaking as if you don't support our cause anymore," Izar accused numbly.

"I don't," Regulus admitted softly. "I have never felt happier than I do now. I no longer have a Master to answer to. Despite just being Marked, I have lived my whole life in fear of what he would do if he got his hands on me again. Now that I'm useless in his eyes, I'm free to do anything I want without restriction. I can live again. Freely." Regulus tapped his fingers helplessly against his sheets as he gazed at Izar. "You have no idea what you sacrificed for a man who will never appreciate it."

Izar took a step back, his chest heavy with rejection. "You're betraying me?" his voice came out small, almost pitiful to his ears.

The charcoal eyes of Regulus widened comically. "No. No. Never you. I don't support Dumbledore or the Ministry, Izar. I'm still Dark, just… I just don't serve him."

A small part of Izar knew it was selfish of him to be angry at Regulus. His father deserved every ounce of happiness he could get his hands on from the horrible past he experienced. But at the moment, Izar felt betrayed—almost deceived. Not angry. How could Regulus make him believe he supported the Dark Lord and then turn his back on his allegiance? If anything, Izar needed his father now more than ever. Only, it seemed as if Regulus was so far out of his reach.

Unable to form any coherent accusations without hurting Regulus, Izar turned his back on his father and made his way out of the hospital room.

"Izar!"

Regulus' desperate call sounded painfully similar to Sirius'. Though, whereas Sirius' call amused him, Regulus' plea only sent a sharp pain through his chest.

When Izar rounded the corner, he leaned his head against the wall, squeezing his eyes shut. He could feel Regulus' darkening and miserable aura coming from his hospital room. Although Izar would never be able to see his own aura, he was sure it mimicked his father's in appearance this very moment.

He gained the majority of the Unspeakables as possible allies tonight and he also lost his father's support in the war.

Izar would give anything to reverse that.