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Chapter 8 : Summons of a More Vital Nature
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As the Dark Lord had predicted, I procured employment within the Floo Regulation Panel quite easily, although several department members of more aristocratic lineage rightfully expressed their concerns that a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black should occupy a position of such negligible rank. It was, truly, a most platitudinous occupation. Day after day I lounged at my desk, connecting and disconnecting fireplace after fireplace to that notably unhygienic system of transportation known as the Floo Network.
Occasionally I would be awakened in the middle of the night by a torrid, blistering pain in my left forearm, a pain so salient and agonizing that I could waste no time in appearing before the Dark Lord, who seemed to find the sight of me bursting out of thin air with tousled hair and rumpled pajamas, clutching my left wrist in agony, highly entertaining. During those times I was reminded vaguely of a seven-year-old Sirius, doubled over with laughter at my small figure standing in the kitchen doorway, rubbing my eyes drowsily before almost falling over in shock upon the realization that my hair was, in fact, a most magnificent shade of purple.
However, I did not fail to note the major disparity between the two scenarios: Sirius, while insensitive to my emotions, never went so far as to inflict any type of physical pain upon me. Neither did he employ threats or intimidation against me. As summons from the Dark Lord came so irregularly, I consistently pushed these thoughts out of my mind. However, these nighttime visits grew more and more frequent as the months progressed, and with them the feelings of exploitation gnawing away at the back of my conscience.
After the pain had subsided enough for me to cogitate properly, the Dark Lord would set me to memorize a list of fireplaces which I would then affix to the Floo Network at specific times over the course of the next week or two. I did not dare ask why these fireplaces must be conjoined without Ministry approval, nor was I certain that such knowledge would do anything but haunt my dreams in a most vexatious manner.
While Mother and Father lamented the lowliness of my Ministry position, they did at least find solace in the fact that Bellatrix had, indeed, been assigned to the “more violent chores” which the Dark Lord had reserved for those with less mental capacity than myself. While some of her actions may have had greater consequences and thus earned her greater respect among the Dark Lord’s followers of similarly negligible intelligence, I felt certain that many of these tasks could not have been accomplished without my facilitation. Many witches and wizards had set up Anti-Apparition Wards on their homes in recent years, and thus could only be reached by that green-flamed powder I now held the bane of my existence. For this small ounce of preponderance which I possessed, my parents were proud.
Thus I continued my deplorable existence, fearing the wrath of the Dark Lord as well as the disapproval of my parents for incurring his vengeance. I did not hesitate to reply to each and every one of his summons, nor did I hesitate to acquiesce to each and every one of his requests, however skeptical I might be as to the laudability of their outcome.
One Friday night when I apparated at the Dark Lord’s feet, I knew immediately that this particular summons was of a more vital nature. The pain in my arm was somehow sharper and more acute, and the Dark Lord did not wait for me to recover before beginning his instructions.
“Regulus,” he commanded, “I bequeath unto you a task which will draw upon your innermost resources of cunning, which are as of yet untapped. While your endeavors thus far have been confined to within the Floo Regulation Panel, I must now ask you to venture beyond this line of work, for now an… acquaintance… of mine, who is most disadvantageously unable to apparate, must journey to a location where no fireplaces can be found. I therefore ask you, who have dutifully provided transportation for many of my followers for almost a year, to now secure for me a Portkey to this location.”
“Yes, Master,” I answered, bowing low as my brain committed to memory the shining green symbols representing geographical coordinates which had previously emerged from the tip of the Dark Lord’s wand.
“The Portkey should be made from this object,” he continued, handing me a half-empty bottle of a type of alcohol which I did not recognize. “You must charm it so that its transportational properties are only operative after nightfall, every day until I instruct you to desist.”
“Yes, Master…” I replied, perhaps a little too skeptically for my own well-being.
“You are wondering why I could not do this myself,” sneered the Dark Lord, delving into my thoughts. “How wrong I was in my assumptions that you possessed even the most microscopic scrap of intelligence. Surely an employee of the Department of Magical Transportation would be aware of the many ways the Ministry has of detecting unauthorized Portkeys?”
“Please forgive me, Master.” I mumbled. Dear Slytherin, how my sycophancy disgusted me.
“You will be forgiven if you perform this task well,” he spat, “but on the occasion that you do not, I think you are aware of the consequences.”
“Yes, Master,” I whispered.
“Good,” smirked the Dark Lord, satisfied. “You must, of course, perform the necessary Portkey Authorization spells each evening. I believe they must be executed within the Portkey Office to work effectively?”
“Yes, Master,” I confirmed.
“One more thing,” he added, “this Portkey must function properly when touched by Muggles.”
“M-M-Muggles, my Lord?” I stammered.
“Yes, Muggles!” he snapped. “I trust that you can find the proper spell to accomplish this?”
“Yes, Master,” I agreed, fervently.
“Good,” he nodded. “Every evening after you have completed all the necessary spells, you will then place the Portkey in this location:”
A scene flashed momentarily before my eyes; that of a small, dingy room, occupied by a few pieces of mismatched furniture resting wearily upon the black-and-white tiled floor. Across from the narrow, cluttered desk I spotted a small table, slumped awkwardly between two rickety chairs. Upon this table sat a bottle of alcohol similar to the one which the Dark Lord had so recently produced. It was a brief glimpse, but not overly so. Long enough that I could apparate there, if I wished. Or, in this case, if I must.
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