Chapter 7 : A Symbol of Purity
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Barely a week had passed after my final departure from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when the Prince first took me to see the Dark Lord. We traveled there by a means I thought I had long outgrown – side-along apparition. I did not, however, vocalize my complaints, primarily out of trepidation against making an unsatisfactory first impression upon my future employer.
Opening my eyes and releasing the Prince’s arm, I found myself standing before a man of middle years; tall, dark-haired, and slim to the point of anorexia, with sinister ruby-tinted eyes that I sincerely doubted any human could view without experiencing some sense of revulsion. The Prince immediately sunk to his knees before the Dark Lord’s ostentatious throne, silently bidding me to do likewise.
“Severus,” greeted the Dark Lord. “I see you have brought a guest.”
“Yes, Master,” the Prince replied. “This is Regulus, of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. He has come here today seeking initiation into that most fortunate congregation whom you esteem your followers.”
“I see,” said the Dark Lord. “You may both rise. Regulus, for what reasons do you wish to enter into my service?”
I took a deep breath before launching into my brief but much-rehearsed response: “As a dutiful follower of the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, I esteem it my duty to preserve the purity of my house, and to help ensure the purity of the entire Wizarding race.”
The Dark Lord paused to consider this for a moment, before demanding: “Recite for me the Complete and Unabridged Version of the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, please.”
I blinked in surprise. This was a most unexpected request, but certainly well within my capabilities; ever since Sirius had been Sorted into the Most Blasphemous and Inferior House of Gryffindor, Father had made mandatory a weekly conclave wherein all members of our immediate family would jointly recite the Complete and Unabridged Version of the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. At first Sirius mumbled the words halfheartedly, but soon stopped saying them altogether, feigning misrecollection. This, of course, resulted consistently in his being sent to his room without supper. On the day he first dared to openly criticize the Law, he left our house forever.
“Very good,” nodded the Dark Lord after I had finished. “I assure you that none of the tasks you shall be assigned will in any way conflict with the most inviolable law of your family. You have also proven yourself to have a reliable memory of finer details; therefore, I would like to entrust you with duties which make good use of your mind – I already have plenty of brainless worshippers to perform the more violent chores. I hope that you will not be too disappointed?”
“No, Sir, I will not be disappointed. I would much prefer… that kind of work, Sir.” I replied, giving an involuntary shudder at the prospect of having to engage in physical brutality. Even at eighteen years of age, I still could not behold one of Mother’s notorious House-Elf Beheading Ceremonies without darting to the lavatory to regurgitate the entire contents of my stomach halfway through.
The Dark Lord raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Very well,” he concluded, “that is settled, then. From now on, you shall call me Master. Later this week, the Head of the Floo Regulation Panel will… suffer an unexpected illness…”
“But how do you know? What if she doesn’t?” I blurted tactlessly.
“I know – because I am oh-so-skilled at Divination,” the Dark Lord glared sarcastically. “And do not EVER interrupt me again, if you value your life!” He took a minute to regain his composure, while I remained trembling from his wrathful gaze, before continuing to disclose his orders:
“As I was saying, the Head of the Floo Regulation Panel will be forced to retire most unexpectedly later this week. You will arrive at the Department of Magical Transportation early Friday morning, seeking employment. I am sure that they will be most grateful for your services. Once you have secured a permanent position within the Floo Regulation Panel, you shall come to me for further instruction.”
I bit my lip nervously. I had come before the Dark Lord expecting to be granted an occupation which would bring me honor and prestige within the greater wizarding community, and a position within the Floo Regulation Panel most frankly did not meet those criteria. Cringing inwardly at the thought of Mother’s probable reaction to this circumstance, I silently weighed all potential options in my mind before coming to a rather hasty decision. While Mother’s wrath was formidable, it was nothing compared to the wrath of the Dark Lord.
“Thank you, Master. I am most grateful – “ I began.
“One more thing,” the Dark Lord interrupted. “You must receive the Mark.”
“The Mark?” I repeated, puzzled.
“Yes. The Dark Mark. Show him please, Severus.”
The Prince rolled back his left sleeve to reveal a hideous burn, the shape of which was somewhat reminiscent of a snake, twined sinuously around a skull.
“Is it… a symbol of purity, then, Master?” I ventured uneasily.
The Dark Lord smiled indulgently, with the tiniest hint of a sneer. “A symbol of purity? Yes, I suppose one could call it that. Its main purpose, however, is for communication. When I touch it, you must apparate to wherever I am at that moment. This way you will not be able to reveal my whereabouts to anyone who I would not wish to see.”
“But, surely, Master,” I stammered, “the leader of such a respectable organization should not have reason to hide from anyone.”
“Ah, Regulus,” sighed the Dark Lord. “You will soon come to see that there are many… misguided… people in the wizarding world, who would wish to thwart our attempts at ensuring the purity of our race. It is terribly unfortunate that so many do not see the truth, as you and I do, but this is all the more reason we must battle on against those who would knowingly pollute the wizarding race, and if we must begin this battle in secret, then that is what we must do. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Master.” I mumbled.
“Good,” he replied. “Now, show me your left arm.”
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