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Chapter 6: A Most Respectable Organization
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6. A Most Respectable Organization
Close enough were the Prince and I, that he saw fit to appear unannounced on my doorstep one evening during the winter holidays of my seventh and final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, although he himself had taken leave of that institution two years previously. Mother, Father, and I had just sat down to the first appetizer of our usual seven-course supper - Sirius had most auspiciously severed all ties with the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black towards the end of the summer after his fifth year at Hogwarts - when our house-elf Kreacher appeared in the doorway, much to the shock and disapproval of everyone present.
"Imbecilic elf!" screeched Mother. "Haven't you been told never to set foot in this room during mealtimes? Go shut your ears in the oven for half of an hour, and your toes for the other half! Perhaps that will teach you to respect the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black!"
"Kreacher is terribly sorry, O Most Imperial Mistress. Kreacher will stick his ears and his toes in the oven for half an hour each, and never intrude on the mealtimes of his cherished Mistress again, for Kreacher knows that the word of his Mistress is Law. Kreacher will even stick his fingers in the oven for extra punishments, in hopes that his Most Benevolent Mistress will have no further doubts about Kreacher's loyalty to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black." Kreacher squeaked, bowing low with the completion of each sentence. "Kreacher only wishes to inform Master Regulus that there is a man here to see him. He is one of Master Regulus' friends from school, a fellow member of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin. He wishes to know if Master Regulus will be able to speak to him tonight."
I glanced at Mother, who gave the slightest nod before instructing, "Kreacher, you shall remove everything from this table, and replace it with our finest goblin-wrought silver. Prepare the full thirteen-course meal for four. When you have done this, you shall complete your punishments. If our guest is not sufficiently impressed, further punishments shall be assigned."
After Kreacher had sluggishly backed out of the doorway, bowing low with every step and muttering, "Mistress is too good to Kreacher, for Mistress has only given Kreacher two punishments, but Kreacher will do three punishments, yes, for Kreacher has been a bad house-elf..." Mother turned to me, saying, "Come, Regulus, let us greet your guest."
I followed my parents wonderingly, for it was rare indeed that a friend of mine would arrive in such a spontaneous fashion. Upon reaching the entrance hall, I was startled to behold a face which I had not seen in several months.
"Regulus." stated the Prince. "How excellent to see you. You must be Mr. and Mrs. Black."
"We are." said Father gruffly, looking the Prince up and down as if trying to detect some sign of contamination. "What is your lineage?"
"My mother was Eileen Prince." he replied.
"Prince?" interjected Mother. "I knew Catherine Prince during my days at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She came from quite a respectable family, of course - one of such preeminent social standing as myself would hardly associate with anyone else. I assume your mother is the older sister she always spoke so fondly of?"
The Prince emitted a barely audible noise somewhat reminiscent of a grunt, which Mother took as an affirmation of her inquiry, and I took as an indubitable sign that Eileen, like Sirius, had been speedily blasted off the family tapestry. Evidently Catherine had more than one older sister.
"What of your father?" continued Mother. "I'm sure he came from a highly respected wizarding family as well - "
"Of my father I do not speak." the Prince cut in, with a tone so definitive that none dared argue. "Neither do I use my surname. You may call me Severus."
"Well...er...Severus," Father stuttered, clearly shaken by the Prince's glacial response, "the house-elf should have prepared the supper by now... if you would like to come in..."
"Thank you. It pleases me greatly to accept the generosity of a family of such noble lineage." the Prince replied, hints of oil sliding back into his voice as he attempted to rectify the disturbance he had just caused.
“It would be unbefitting for a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black not to offer appropriate courtesies to a Prince such as yourself.” Father countered, loath to be outshined in the art of polite conversation.
Sensing this, the Prince wisely terminated the exchange with a simple “Thank you,” before following Father into the dining room.
“So, Severus,” Mother began as we embarked upon our fifth course, “What brings you here tonight?”
Ever so slowly, the Prince set down his fork and knife. “I am here,” he almost whispered, “to inform Regulus of a possible… career opportunity.”
Mother, Father, and I froze in shock, listening expectantly. As Mother had spent the greater part of the past four courses interrogating the Prince about his academic achievements, my parents no longer had any doubts as to the excellent standards by which he evaluated all potential opportunities for employment.
“Perhaps you have heard,” the Prince continued, “of a certain… organization… which has recently come into being? It is a most respectable organization, concerned primarily with ensuring the purity of the Wizarding race. While many of noble lineage have joined already, including, I believe, your niece Bellatrix, I know without doubt that our Lord would be most pleased to acquire a follower of such cleverness and prestige as Regulus here.”
The Prince had chosen his words carefully – clearly Bellatrix had enlightened him as to the rivalry between Father and Uncle Orion, a rivalry which had always been present due to Orion’s jealousy of Father’s inheritance, but had vastly intensified upon Sirius’ departure, and more recently upon my cousin Andromeda’s elopement with a Mudblood. Normally, of course, our family would have expressed our deepest sympathies towards others suffering the shame of relation to a blood traitor, but as Uncle Orion had so eagerly seized upon an excuse to disparage Father when Sirius officially denounced the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, we now reveled in the opportunity to endow him with equal misery. By mentioning Bellatrix’s name, the Prince had ensured that my parents would now concentrate all their energies on persuading me to join this organization, so that within the group I could rise to a level of power and prestige far above her measly status, and therefore bring further shame and embarrassment upon the family of my father’s brother.
Silently I resigned myself to this fate. Although I had long debated with myself as to the identity of the most pleasing and appropriate career choice for the heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, I had not yet found a definite answer, and a distinguished position in an organization of respectable intent seemed as befitting as any of the other possibilities, although slightly less conducive to the freedom to exercise my academic brilliance to its full potential. While the Prince had not offered me any position of power, I possessed a certain determination which had enabled me to become firstly a prefect, and secondly Head Boy of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and no one in my family harbored any insecurity that I might not do likewise in each and every institution which I became a part of.
Father’s reply pulled me out of my thoughts, “We would be truly honored to bequeath the future of our only son to an organization of such meritorious intent. May I ask the name of this noble coalition?”
Slowly, the Prince articulated the words which would come to govern my future for the next phase of my life. “We are called… the Death Eaters.”