Chapter 11 : Resignation to Martyrdom
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Tiny rose-colored buds of light were just beginning to make their way across the edge of the horizon when I finally awoke from my faint. Struggling to disentangle my robes from the brambles, I sat up, wiping stale vomit off my face with the back of my sleeve. Pulling out my wand, I hurriedly vanished the remainder of the mess, silently cursing my own weakness. Even my most abominable brother would not have lost consciousness in such a grave situation. Why had I not been endowed with the same physical prowess?
I retched again at the thought of the previous night’s events. Why had I not come to the old woman’s rescue? It was, I supposed, for the very reason which, so many years ago, the Sorting Hat had failed to place me in the House of Gryffindor alongside my brother. Self-preservation ranked too high within my subconscious, which knew I could not prevail against the Dark Lord. So I had sat there, complacently, watching the performance of the most heinous spell known to mankind.
The Dark Lord had, truly, rendered himself invincible. Even one strong enough to defeat him in combat would have killed in vain, for a piece of his soul would remain in that locket forever. His destruction could not be complete without the destruction of the locket. Thus his immortality was secured, for who would ever learn of the locket’s existence, other than myself? And what significance could my knowledge hold, with my own destruction approaching so rapidly?
After witnessing the Dark Lord torture and kill a helpless Muggle woman without due reason, I felt certain that I, who had failed him, would suffer a much worse fate. What use could I be to him now? More importantly, what exploitation of my talents would I ever agree to, after witnessing such a horrific spectacle? While others could persecute those of lesser status with ease, my heart would never acquiesce to such a violation of its inherent principles.
Thus I resigned myself to martyrdom. There was no place I could hide where the Dark Lord would not find me, and no one with whom I could seek refuge. For the first time, I fully appreciated the fear which his name held for so many wizarding families. Now I yearned as much as any of them for the defeat of he whom I had once considered my master.
I sighed again as I pondered the implausibility of this desire. As none but myself knew of the existence of the Dark Lord’s horcrux, it could not possibly be destroyed, unless, of course, I myself destroyed it. As I began to seriously consider this possibility, the old woman’s face floated through my mind once again, as if calling me to avenge her. My decision was made. With my demise already inevitable, how could I not devote these last few days on Earth to an attempt to atone for my previous wrongdoings?
Tottering to my feet, I departed from the sanctuary of the bushes, striding purposefully towards the edge of the cliff. If the cave in which the horcrux was hidden was indeed directly beneath us, I assumed that its opening would be visible from my perch. While I could not ascertain its exact location, careful examination of my surroundings revealed a number of seemingly perilous niches in the rock face, which I supposed could be used to accommodate one’s descent. Mistrustful of my own climbing abilities, however, I chose instead to perform a simple Parachute Charm, which the Prince had most fortuitously envisioned barely a month ago.
I landed softly atop a slippery boulder, hastily muttering another of the Prince’s spells, which allowed me to retain my footing. Glancing around, I soon espied the opening to the cave which the Dark Lord had mentioned. Unfortunately, a sizeable expanse of water loomed before it, which, under normal circumstances, would have been reason enough for me to turn back. Strangely, however, my determination seemed to increase the closer I ventured towards my goal. If I drowned, I reminded myself, it would only be hastening my death a couple of days at the most.
Skeptically, I cast a Bubble-Head charm upon myself and lowered my body into the sea. At first I tried to paddle along the surface, but soon resorted to simply walking upon the ocean floor – my copious vomiting had left me exhausted. Soon enough the submerged boulders began to form a sort of underwater stairway, leading up to the cave’s entrance. Awkwardly, I clambered up the slippery surface, finally emerging soaked and shivering from the ocean’s depths.
I paused briefly to dry myself before cautiously venturing into the mouth of the cave.
“Lumos,” I whispered shakily, holding my wand out in front of me like a shield as I treaded carefully upon the slippery rock, almost injuring myself when the narrow passageway turned to the left. Shockingly, I soon found myself confronted by a blank wall. Yet there was something unnatural, almost magical, about its appearance. Something which indicated that it was a barrier which could be passed through, if only I knew the correct procedure.
I sat down upon a nearby boulder, racking my brains for any possible solution. After I had vainly employed every remotely relevant Dark spell I had gained knowledge of in the past few years, I allowed my mind to wander back to the days of my childhood previous to my enrollment at Hogwarts, when I had sat, week after week, poring through the entire Library of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black for lack of a better occupation. Failing to remember anything of use, I sighed, recalling the stories Kreacher used to read to me before bedtime. They had been full of heroic acts against cruel Muggle opressors, victorious wizards righteously demanding tribute, not just of food but of gold, and jewels, and… blood?
I sat bolt upright, sweating profusely. Was it possible? So ancient, and yet so simple? Without hesitation, I pulled out my wand, slicing open the flesh of my forearm and rubbing the wound vigorously against the solid rock. Almost instantly, a silver archway appeared upon the wall, before the middle portion of rock vanished. Trembling, I stepped inside.
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