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Chapter 10 : The Journey to Immortality
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My body slammed into the ground with a sickening crunch, the old woman sprawled on top of me in a dead faint. Tediously, I extricated myself from this incommodious position and pulled out my wand, reviving her. Shivering, she snatched the now inactive Portkey from my grasp, downing almost half of its contents in one gulp.
“W-Where are we?” she spluttered, glancing around nervously.
“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully. We were situated near the edge of a steep, jagged cliff, with colossal, truculent waves lashing violently at its sides. A steep vertical incline loomed forebodingly in back of us, rendering nearly impossible all forms of escape minus apparition. Directly in front of this ominous backdrop stood a lofty chunk of rock, dotted sparsely with straggly clumps of bushes.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?!” the old woman shrieked agitatedly, all fear at being in the company of a wizard now abandoned. “You’re the one who brought us here!”
“I – I didn’t mean to!” I stammered. The statement was, at least, partially true – I had never meant to accompany her to this location. Now that I was here, however, her apparent frailness compelled me to remain by her side, ensuring that she remained free from harm. I could not bring myself to abandon a creature so helpless, however worthless they might be according to the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. With the hour of my condemnation drawing nearer, respectability, honor, and loyalty had lost their significance. I had accepted my fate.
“Now you listen here, boy,” the old woman began heatedly, disrupting my thoughts. Evidently, she possessed vast experience in the art of chastisement. “I won’t stand for any of that nonsense, now. You either tell me the truth, or I’ll - ”
“You are forgetting that I am a wizard.” I interrupted. “Nothing that you are capable of doing will have any effect against me.” The old woman’s face contorted in despair.
“However,” I continued soothingly, “I will swear to you upon my honor as Heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black that I have not lied to you, nor do I intend you any harm. I cannot, however, speak for my master on that account.” I solemnly concluded.
“Thank you,” she choked tearfully, resting her head upon her knees. Wordlessly I removed my cloak, draping it over her tiny shoulders in the only gesture of comfort I could offer.
The two of us remained in watchful silence, waiting for something – anything – to happen. After about an hour, I slowly rose to my feet.
“I have to… use the lavatory,” I stated in a rather undignified manner. The old woman merely nodded.
I headed up the first incline towards the nearest clump of bushes. Brambly and fairly tall, they formed a perfect ring, so that one could almost stand in their midst without being noticed by another outside the bushes’ dominion. I darted inside this enclosure, relieving my overfilled bladder. I had just begun the process of tediously re-buttoning my robes when a loud crack signaled the appearance of another wizard in the vicinity.
I froze in shock, peering cautiously between the brambles. The old woman shrank back in fear, eyes gaping wildly up at a figure I recognized all too well. My cloak, which she had thrown off in surprise, lay forgotten, camouflaged against the slate-colored rock in the midst of a gloomy puddle. I was thankful that the Dark Lord had not noted its existence.
The Dark Lord spoke first. “Do you know me?” he inquired of the woman.
“T – T – T – Tom Riddle?” she stammered questioningly.
“Ah, I see you have not forgotten,” he replied smugly, much to my shock and surprise. Impossibly, this elderly Muggle woman had known more about the Dark Lord than my own skull-branded self.
“It has been a long time, has it not?” he continued. “But now I must educate you, for the man standing before you is no longer Tom Riddle. No.” He paused, before whispering menacingly, “I am Lord Voldemort.”
I was lucky indeed that my sharp intake of breath upon the sound of the Dark Lord’s name coincided with that of the old lady, enabling my presence to remain unnoticed.
“Have you heard the name, then?” he chuckled, eyeing her unease with unconcealed delight. “Feared, am I not?” he questioned. When the old lady failed to respond, he stooped down to her level, planting his face not two inches away from her own.
“Yes, I am feared, woman!” he sneered dangerously. “The most feared wizard that has ever existed, or will ever exist!”
The old woman winced, but did not shrink back from his rage. Slowly, she stood up, not taking her eyes off his for a single second.
“You forget, Tom Riddle,” she stated confidently, “all that I have taught you. I shall not fear, for the Lord God is with me. I have followed His Commandments, and thus earned my place in Heaven. Nothing you do to me can ever change that. You, on the other hand, have forsaken God, and fallen into darkness, making sport of the misery of others. If you had only remembered the virtues of obedience, and respect for one’s elders, values I tried to impart upon you as a child, this would not be so.”
The Dark Lord eyed her levelly.
“Yes,” he replied, “you did teach me obedience, when I was young and helpless. Now, however, it is you who are helpless. It is time, Mrs. Cole, for me to teach you what true obedience really means.” He paused, twirling his wand. “Imperio!”
I did not need to see the woman’s face to know what had happened. As a Muggle, she was completely helpless to resist such a powerful enchantment.
“Now,” the Dark Lord began, calmly, “You shall walk that way, towards the ocean. Do not stop walking unless I tell you to.”
As the woman neared the edge of the cliff, I leaned over, feeling the bile rise in my stomach. All courage had deserted me in this moment of terror.
“Stop,” commanded the Dark Lord. “Come back here.” I sank down on my knees, sweating profusely, as he lifted the curse from her mind. Relieved as I was that the woman had not yet fallen to her death, I could not help harboring a distressing notion that the Dark Lord’s choice to restore her mind to its normal state was intended only to make her experience completely whatever torment he was about to inflict upon her.
“It would be too simple,” he continued, “to kill you in such a manner. Before I end your life, I must make sure to reward you for the way you treated me, as a powerless child. Of course, your ways of ministering physical pain were quite… crude… compared to what you will now experience. However, it would be most unfair to treat you differently than my other victims, would it not? Therefore I ask you to prepare yourself for the most agonizing pain yet known to mankind. Crucio!”
At the sound of the old woman’s screams, I toppled against the brambles, vomiting violently into their midst. When I finally righted myself, the Dark Lord had paused, apparently to speak again.
“You think very highly of your Lord Jesus, do you not, Mrs. Cole?” he sneered. “Yet, Jesus was not powerful. No. He let himself be killed. Killed by Muggles, at that. But I, Lord Voldemort, shall never be killed. I, alone, shall escape death. Forever, I shall reign immortal over all this Earth. And you, Mrs. Cole, shall help me upon that journey to immortality.”
I froze, holding my breath, while the Dark Lord removed a shining golden locket from around his neck, mumbling a few spells I could not discern.
“Do you know what I am doing, Mrs. Cole?” he inquired. The old woman stared at him blankly. The Cruciatus Curse had eaten all of her words.
“This locket,” the Dark Lord continued, “is no ordinary locket. It once belonged to my noble ancestor, Salazar Slytherin. Within it, I shall place a piece of my soul, to reside there for eternity. No one shall destroy me without first destroying this locket. And no one shall find this locket, for no one shall discover the cave in the rock beneath us, in the midst of which a piece of my soul shall reside, encased in a potion so deadly that none can drink it without going slowly insane, wishing above all for their own demise. Do you remember this cave, Mrs. Cole? I would not have discovered it, along with dear Dennis and Amy, of course, had you not kindly thought to take us all on that little outing, so many years ago. Fitting, is it not, that I chose to return to this site, to finally dispose of you, who made the first years of my life so miserable?”
The Dark Lord paused, poising his wand. I barely had time to register his intent before a blinding green flash of light shot towards the old woman, accompanied by none other than those two ever–feared words: “Avada Kedavra.”
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