Date: 18-24 May 2011

Notes: I hate getting to this stage of a story sometimes. You want things over and done with, but you shy back from doing it, your mind goes blank again (or mine often does, anyway), and you fret and waste time and generally do nothing productive. I had so many notes for this story, a huge timeline set up in an HTML file so I could refer to it at a moment's notice... and the one thing I never actually did back then was figure out the ending.

Locus: Twelve (of 12)

Joshua was shocked to realize over the next few weeks that the subtle flash of amusement displayed by Lucius was not a fluke. The man had a genuine sense of humor and he obviously relished telling the tales of Fudge's efforts to track down Dumbledore. Granted, it was mainly his eyes which leaked that information, as the man's face was generally the usual stoic mask of a Slytherin, but he was nevertheless laughing on the inside. He had a certain dry way of recounting these episodes that, had Joshua not had strict control over himself, would have seen him reduced to helpless laughter. He definitely understood why Voldemort was almost fond of the man, or as much as he could hold genuine feeling about anyone aside from Joshua himself.

Fudge was in a pother, naturally. He hated being made a fool of, especially by the man he had so often solicited advice from. That the aurors could not find Dumbledore no matter what they tried was driving Fudge mad. Even his most trusted lackeys were getting tired of the fat fool. The media had been all over the report of Aberforth Dumbledore's murder and were placing the blame squarely on Albus. It only made Fudge more flustered and crazed, shouting more ineffective orders as a way to be seen doing something.

'I wonder what would be a fitting end for him. I know you've gotten a lot of use out of him, but for him to abruptly do an about-face on policy would be rather suspicious. Perhaps he could have a nasty accident?'

'I'm sure we can come up with something appropriate,' Voldemort responded. 'And ghastly.'

Joshua's mouth twitched. 'Since we're getting close how about we call a quick meeting and see what the minions have come up with, if anything?'

Voldemort nodded slightly and gestured toward Lucius's arm, and the man promptly hitched up his sleeve to reveal the Dark Mark. Within moments the call had been sent out, and within minutes the assorted Death Eaters were gathered to hear the words of their lords. "So, my faithful, I had given you all a task. If you have not yet already you will write down your ideas and give them to Lucius. When you are done you may leave. We will meet again later to discuss this." A wave of his hand produced piles of parchment on one of the tables, along with quills and ink.

'If nothing else this may give us an idea of which Death Eaters are no longer suited for this organization.'

'Agreed.' "Lucius, come to the study when this is completed," Voldemort ordered, then rose and swept off, Joshua at his side. Once there Voldemort dropped into a seat and pursed his lips. "I have to wonder how many of them will bother to include their names."

He hummed in amusement and sat down. "The ones who are convinced they're writing down ideas you're sure to support, no matter how misguided they may be. But. . . ." He tilted his head back against the chair and stared at the ceiling. "Perhaps some of them believed your speech. You are very persuasive, but old habits are hard to break."

Voldemort muttered something under his breath, but Joshua caught it anyway via thoughts and laughed. "Poor you, with no choice at all. And here I thought I was every reason."

His lover shot him a look which smoldered with lust and mock anger, then reached out and closed the minor distance by the expedient measure of grasping Joshua's robe and hauling him near. The next thing he knew his mouth was being violated rather possessively and he was feeling shivers of delight race down his spine. He was a bit put out, however, when he was abruptly released, especially as he fell on his ass. Joshua aimed a glare up at Voldemort in response.

"Lucius will be here soon enough. I doubt you'd want him to see you like that."

Joshua narrowed his eyes and stood up, retaking his seat with as much dignity as he could muster. He pretended to ignore what had just happened, purposely splitting his mental capacity so he could hide what he was really thinking about while still carrying on a conversation. When Lucius did arrive he just barely twitched his fingers and smirked internally when Voldemort shifted uncomfortably. It was probably a good thing the table hid what was happening as he did not think his lover would appreciate Lucius Malfoy noticing the erection that was gaining strength. Joshua let his 'public' mind fill with thoughts of taking that erection in his mouth and doing devilish things to it with his tongue.

Lucius placed a stack of parchment on the table and bowed slightly. "As you requested, my lords."

Voldemort shifted again, then nodded. "Excellent. You may go." He waited until the door was again closed to throw up some wards, then turned with a glare at Joshua. "You will pay for that."

Joshua smirked. "I'd planned to, Tom. I may be a tease at times, but I always follow through," he promised, then slipped off the chair onto his knees. "Right now? Right here?" he asked, sliding one hand along Voldemort's thigh. "Or did you want to deal with that paperwork first?"

Voldemort's eyes fairly glowed.

. . .

He eyed the soulless form of Dumbledore speculatively. It was obvious the assigned house-elf was doing an excellent job at keeping the body alive and tidy. He took one last look and headed out in search of Voldemort. He found him in the library, several books opened on the table in a halo before him. "Progress?"

Voldemort hummed in agreement, his eyes never leaving the pages of the book to his right even as he jotted down more notes. "I'm nearly done, actually. Have you found a place?"

"Yes." He hesitated, then said, "Well, sort of. I was thinking . . . of our old hideaway, actually."

Voldemort stopped writing and looked over at him, a faint degree of consternation on his face.

"I know what you're thinking," he said hastily. "But look at it this way. That place is the site of some of our triumphs. Isn't this one as well?"

Voldemort just kept staring at him, that same look on his face.

Joshua sat down and sighed lightly. "It was our home. It means a lot to me, but only because you were there with me. I'd hold a certain fondness for any place we might have lived together, but the actual place itself is beside the point to me. But if you really don't like the idea I'll find somewhere else—if it would taint your memories."

"You disappeared from there," Voldemort said simply.

Joshua suddenly felt so incredibly stupid, not to mention guilty. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

"It's different for you, I know. I would prefer a different place."

He nodded. "I do have a backup location in mind. I triangulated a point based on Hogwarts and two homes that Dumbledore owns. It seemed unnecessarily complicated, which is why it made sense," he said with a roll of his eyes. "We can set up temporary wards, create the scene. . . ."

Voldemort smiled viciously, then turned his attention back to the books. "Soon."

. . .

"This is quite brilliant," he said admiringly, a gentle smile on his face. Tom always had been smarter than him, even if Joshua was often the one with bizarrely interesting ideas. "It looks so genuine!"

"Oh, you know," his lover said casually. "A little of this, a little of that. . . . I wouldn't be surprised if the old man would have tried it himself, secure in the knowledge that no one could ever pull the wool over his eyes." He paused to let loose a smirk. "Especially not some Slytherins."

"Oh, I'm sure that he believed that most people were only marginally more intelligent than the average turnip, thus justifying his ideas regarding his right to rule over us all like a shepherd over a flock of wayward sheep. Anyway, I forged a letter in his handwriting," he said. "The usual garbage. He's moving on to a better place, the next great adventure in another dimension, where people will be sure to recognize and bow down to his superior wisdom and brilliance, so on and so forth. I expect whoever finds it will believe every word of it."

Voldemort smiled as he put the finishing touches on the ritual he had designed and stepped back to double-check his work. Several minutes later he nodded and called for a house-elf, who brought with it Dumbledore. The old man had been dressed up in the height of gaudy fashion and was sporting a bag with an extension charm on it, which was filled with various items which could easily be sold to those on the shadier side of the law for vast amounts of gold. They had debated actually including galleons, but in the end did not wish to part with any of their own and had no intention of trying to liberate someone else's from Gringotts, thus the selection of highly illegal dark artifacts which actually served little useful purpose.

Dumbledore was dumped in the middle of the detailed and intricate diagram (drawn with the blood of a unicorn—they had been quite lucky to find one already dead and not yet consumed or rotted beyond use—and had every expectation that people would believe the old man had purposely killed one for his designs) and a good overdose of nicotine quickly saw Dumbledore quite dead. After all, magical sorts never did bother to check for much beyond potions and spells. All they would see was that Dumbledore apparently suffered from heart failure and write it off as the ritual pushing the old man's body beyond what it was still capable of. It would also serve as a deterrent for any person foolish enough to consider trying the ritual themself, assuming anyone could make heads or tails of it in the first place. After dismissing the house-elf and stepping a fair distance away they crashed the wards in a horrible excess of magic and moved even farther away before disappearing entirely. Time would tell the results of their gambit.

Back at their nominal headquarters Voldemort went to tie up a few loose ends and Joshua headed for the meeting hall. A few minutes later Lucius was there, baring his Dark Mark, and a few minutes past that the Death Eaters were all assembled. "As stated before this is a meeting to discuss the results of the ideas you have all submitted," he said, turning and moving toward one of the two throne-like chairs reserved for him and Voldemort. "We will—"

He never even knew what hit him.

After a blank period of velvety-dark unconsciousness he slowly awoke to the realization that Voldemort was torturing someone. It became much clearer in his somewhat foggy mind when he heard, "—to defy my will and cast the killing curse on Lord Locus because you thought I had been weakened by him and would return to normal with his death!"

Joshua forced open his eyes to see his lover cursing one of the Death Eaters with some sort of flaying spell. And despite feeling unutterably weary he pushed himself up to his knees, then carefully stood up. Someone had tried to kill him. Why was he not in spirit form? Was this one of the powers of a Master of Death? He realized after a moment that his fingers had spread like claws, as though they were of their own accord ready to strangle someone—that Death Eater. The barest thought ripped the man in question away from Voldemort's spell and saw his neck fitted between Joshua's hands. "How dare you," he rasped, fingers tightening with a strength only possible with the addition of his magic. The man—he now recognized him as Avery—desperately tried to remove the hands from his neck.

'Joshua!' slammed into his mind, his lover's mental voice saturated with relief.

He allowed his gaze to flit over Avery's shoulder, a cold smirk twisting his lips, before turning his attention back to his would-be killer. With a push he flung the man back toward his lover and stalked up to stand beside Voldemort. "I do believe he has made his position clear, and displayed his startling lack of intelligence," he commented, then produced his wand. "Since you tried to kill me I think it's only fair I return the favor." A moment later most of the bones in Avery's body had been pulverized. "But I won't be so kind as to merely use the killing curse. Since you have no intelligence I expect you don't need the excuse you have of a mind, do you." Ignoring the moans of pain coming from Avery he cast the cruciatus, another cold smirk twisting his lips as the man tried and failed to react bodily; the only thing Avery could do was scream out his torment.

In the end Avery was reduced to a twitching vegetable. But even then Joshua was not kind. He merely opened further cuts on the body and watched as Avery bled out. "Famul!" he called, then instructed, "Remove the body—only the body." And when the corpse was gone he cast spells to make the stain of blood permanent. Joshua looked up at the gathered Death Eaters and said, "A reminder. Every time you come here you'll see this stain, this mark of shame, and remember." With that he turned his back on them, very deliberately, and moved to his seat, taking it with grace. "Now, I believe we were about to have a meeting."

Voldemort gave him a look, the barest hint of a smile, and joined him. "Let's talk about the fate and future of the British wizarding world, starting with the fact that Dumbledore is dead."

The End —

Seriously, folks, that's the end. However, I'm in that kind of mood, you know? If anyone reading would like to write a sequel to this story, I'd love to see it. You can PM me for any details I'd prefer to be kept in, and I'd be happy to send a copy of the notes I have detailing ideas I had for the aftermath (not that there's much, admittedly). And I'm not limiting this to a single person writing a sequel, so if more than one person decides they'd like to try, that's fine.

PDF and Mobi copies available at Grazhir.