Chapter 13 : A Prompt Confrontation
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After countless hours of uneasy slumber, painful growls of hunger gradually pulled me back to consciousness. I realized with a jolt that at least a day must have passed since I had last eaten. Never before had I denied myself nourishment for such an extensive duration. My first instinct was to call for Kreacher, but a sudden noise halted my intake of breath. Perhaps the elf had come to check on me. Much to my dismay, however, the figure that soon appeared before me was not that of my devoted servant. Rather, I found myself confronted by the sneering face of my cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange.
“Well, well, what have we here?” she smirked.
I gaped silently up at her, too shocked by her sudden appearance to formulate words.
“Wittle Reggie got scawed of the Dark Lord and twied to wun away,” she mocked, donning the ever-irritating baby voice she had once used to torment her sisters for their overzealous admiration of my infantile cuteness, before the rift between our fathers had expanded to its current dimension.
“H-how did you get here?” I spluttered. While I held my discovery inevitable, I had not expected it to occur so soon.
“Kreacher,” she replied smugly.
“But I ordered him -” I exclaimed indignantly.
“Yes, I know,” Bellatrix continued in a rather bored voice, “you told him “to tell no one of anything which has happened tonight,” a silly instruction really – why would it matter if he couldn’t tell me that you were hiding, if nothing prevented him from telling me your whereabouts? Mind you, it was hard to coax it out of him, but he is sworn to obey me, after all. He did seem a bit mad though – kept begging me to chop off his head. I would have obliged gladly, but unfortunately your mother’s the only one with rights to do that.” She sighed dramatically.
Inwardly, I sighed in relief, though I had the wit to let my outward appearance remain trembling. Kreacher’s faithfulness had been tested and proven. If he had not informed Bellatrix of the locket’s existence, he would reveal it to no one. Now, at last, I could rest in peace.
“I congratulate you on your extraordinary cleverness, dear cousin,” I countered sarcastically. “What an incredible amount of guile it must have taken to beleaguer a defenseless house-elf into presenting you with such information. Truly, I did not expect such a prompt confrontation.”
“Stupid fool!” she shouted, all mockery now consumed by rage. “Did you really think such a pathetic excuse for a human as yourself could outsmart the greatest wizard of all time? Such lowly scum, you defile the name of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black! You dare to count yourself a part of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin, who possess not a scrap of the cunning and sagacity embodied by our most revered Founder?”
Despite my predicament, I could not help but smirk inwardly at these remarks. How ironic of my cousin to accuse me of lacking slyness when only the previous day, I had singlehandedly managed to destroy one-half of the Dark Lord’s soul, without alerting anyone as to my accomplishment. Bitterly, I supposed I had been placed in the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin for a reason after all.
“Why did you not just kill the man?” Bellatrix demanded impatiently.
I stared at her blankly, my brain struggling to recall what man she could possibly be talking about. Sensing my bewilderment, Bellatrix continued:
“Are you telling me that you don’t even remember something that happened barely twenty-four hours ago – the very reason why you are supposed to be in hiding? Unless, of course there is something of which I was not informed?”
She paused dramatically, skimming the surface of my thoughts. Suddenly, memories came flooding through my brain, of loitering surreptitiously outside the Portkey Office, and my subsequent accostal, lecture, and sentencing. With my last ounce of strength, I shut the doors of my mind.
“You mean… the… the man in the Portkey Office?” I stammered, bewildered. “But… why on earth would I want to kill him?”
Bellatrix stared. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” she whispered, shaking her head as if to clear away confusion. “I thought it would have been obvious.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Reggie, you do realize what’s happened, don’t you?” she continued, her voice softening slightly. “That man discovered you under circumstances suspicious enough to lead him to make a thorough investigation into your personal record. He uncovered all the illegal floo connections you made for the Dark Lord, and presented them at your hearing this morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up on the front page of the Daily Prophet tomorrow. If you’d just killed him on the spot and disapparated, you’d still have your job, and the Dark Lord’s respect.”
“H-how angry is he?” I spluttered anxiously.
“Considering you were stupid enough to wreck his entire transportation network in one go, to say that he’s upset would be putting it mildly. After this fiasco, they’re not going to let a single floo connection go by unapproved. Your position was quite significant, even if it was meant for one of… ah… lesser physical ability. However, I imagine after putting you through a few rounds of the Cruciatus Curse he’d be more than happy to have you come along on a few of the less exciting Muggle killing sprees,” she smiled patronizingly.
“What if I don’t want to?” I retorted, exhibiting a courage much greater than any I felt inside.
Bellatrix’s expression hardened instantly. “To turn against the Dark Lord means death,” she growled. “Which, coincidentally, brings me back to the reason I’m here… The Dark Lord, kind and benevolent master that he is, has agreed, at the request of your dear friend Severus Snape, to consider the possibility of giving you a second chance. I suppose, if you grovel enough, he might actually follow through with his promise. It’s worth a try, anyway – your other option is, of course, to let me dispose of you here and now.”
I paused briefly, considering her offer. I could either condemn myself to a life of misery and torture, or exit this realm altogether. Sensibly, I opted for the latter. Sooner or later, it would have to happen, and the potion coursing through my veins informed me that, considering the immeasurable havoc I had managed to wreak in my short time on Earth, the sooner I departed, the better.
“I shall no longer serve that crazed madman,” I replied, rather haughtily.
“Very well, then,” Bellatrix smirked, poising her wand. The potion within me bubbled joyously as she articulated the last words I would ever hear: “Avada Kedavra.”
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