Chapter 1 : The Final Night
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The Final Night
What is death? If you had asked me that yesterday, I would have answered thusly:
Death is at once wicked and beautiful. Its long, tempting tendrils intoxicate and mesmerize, avenge and destroy. Like a goblet of cool, clear water, whose twinge on the tongue tells you that you have just drunk poison, it hides and it smiles. Death dances for those who do not fear it – and I do not fear it. Death is what I wish for my enemies, those who mocked me, humiliated me and tore away my flesh. James Potter and Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, oh yes, I wish death for them all. My mind retreats to the horrors I will place upon them, one day when the game is even. I visit a world where I stand upon their graves, powerful and sinful without conscience. It is how I survive. It is how I live.
I know death, and it is my friend.
But I was wrong. I did not yet know death. I did not know death until last night, when the Dark Lord summoned me. His eyes were alight with excitement.
“Severus, I have the location of the child. The secret-keeper has revealed the family’s whereabouts to me.”
“That is excellent news my lord.” I smiled, bowing my head. “I had no doubts that you would find the child.”
His red eyes penetrated me, but I did not care. My soul was black, and the darkness that resided there pleased him. “Tonight I will finish this.” He said softly. “And you, Severus, may come to bear witness. You were, after all, the one who alerted me to the prophecy. You have served me well.”
“You are most gracious my lord.” I said, feeling the familiar stirrings of excitement deep inside. There would be death tonight. Yes, first there would be a futile struggle for life against a merciless force. There would be begging, and then, screaming. But eventually, there would be stillness. Inevitably, there would be death. I had witnessed many lives taken this way, and it was ever the same perverse dance. Sometimes I would watch, enjoying the artistry of the more experienced Death Eaters. Sometimes I would create my own masterpiece of suffering and quiet. I found a peace in taking a life that many would find in religion, or in a higher power.
You wonder how I could do it? You wonder why it never disturbed me, to be a killer? I imagine it disturbs you, my dear reader, and fair enough. Just know that like a complex potion, the story is not complete until the final drop is added. Do not judge until you come to the end of the tale I brew.
I took my master’s thin arm, and we apparated to a dark wood, the air heavy with damp. Just beyond the trees was a house, as unremarkable as the three or four other houses in a row beside it. And as I followed the Dark Lord over the wet ground, I could smell decay. There was a bog or a swamp nearby, or perhaps, an ancient cemetary. A flick of my master’s hand, and the gate swung open with a squeal. Lights instantly went on in the house, and I drew my wand.
I smiled when I heard the shouting, a man’s voice telling someone to run. You won’t get away, I thought. No one escapes the Dark Lord. My master’s face was wary. He seemed focused on his task, greatly aware that this night would seal his power for an eternity. He opened the lock wordlessly.
A desperate man tried to attack, but the Dark Lord was too powerful. His body was cold on the floor in mere seconds. It was only after I entered the house did I recognize the dead man.
I had always imagined this moment differently. I had always pictured James' corpse with a sick smile on my face and an unnatural lightness in my heart. But suddenly I was horrified. Not for the dead man on the floor, but because the Dark Lord was heading for the stairs. And I knew who he would find there.
I realized then that had made a terrible mistake. No one escapes the Dark Lord. I followed behind my master, my wand trembling in my hand. And when we entered the nursery, she cowered and held the baby in her arms, turning away to protect him with her body. She looked as I had always seen her in my fantasies.
Though now she shook with terror instead of passion. Her ruby lips begged for mercy instead of pleasure. She cried out in that sweet, ragged voice, but not for my touch - only for the Dark Lord to spare her son. And I suddenly hated the boy, because he was the one prophesized, because he alone had the power to defeat the Dark Lord, because Lily would not let the baby die. James Potter's son had bought my proud, beautiful Lily to her knees.
The Dark Lord commanded her to step aside, but she would not. And then her eyes finally found mine. I’ll never forget that desperate look in those emerald eyes. I’ll never forget her mind, screaming out to mine, clutching my brain and digging in with claws of fire and desperation and eternal torment.
Help me, Severus!
In a moment I was overcome with memories of her, holding me when I cried, laughing with me irrationally when it all became too much to take. Her hand on mine…the sweet smell of her… and the desire left unfulfilled because I had called her a ‘mudblood’ in a moment of rage. Our friendship had been torn apart by James Potter, but I knew, I had always known, that I would never get her out of my blood. And still she beat there, as much a part of me as the Dark Mark on my arm. She was light and joy in a world that I had long since resigned to darkness.
And the Dark Lord raised his wand. She cried out in fear, her eyes still begging me to help her, to save her son. And though she burned in my veins and drew every ounce of me to her with those emerald eyes, I did nothing. Like a coward, I looked away. Her shriek when he killed her that final night is lashed across my heart. And her sudden silence was the last drop in the complex potion that is this tale.
So, what is death? Ask me today, and I will tell you this:
Death is violent, fast and horrifying. It strikes fear in those who face it and those who deal in it. Death does not creep, it screams. It rears back its rotten face and bites with a crushing jaw, forcing life from an unwilling body and a shocked mind. It is not just or beautiful, but bloody and unnatural, like a mutilated creature. It is unspeakable. It is unclean. Death is a violation, a perverse severing of flesh and bone and sinew from the soul, and the toll it takes is repulsive.
I know death, and it is my fault.
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