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Chapter 4 : Chapter Four: Requirements
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Chapter Four: Requirements
It`s very simple. There`s only one requirement of any of us, and that is to be courageous. Because courage, as you might know, defines all other human behavior. And, I believe - because I`ve done a little of this myself - pretending to be courageous is just as good as the real thing. ~ David Letterman
"Do you know what is required of the followers of the Dark Lord, Regulus?"
Regulus looked up. After three full weeks of hearing nothing from anybody connected to the Dark Lord and that exclusive group he now belonged to, he had heard a knock on his door and saw his cousin Bellatrix on his step; she swept inside with her eyes alight and speculating, her posture upright and regal, and her face terribly beautiful in the flickering of the firelight. He sat while she stood and moved around the small sitting room, examining objects with either of slight nod of approval or a sneer of contempt. The way the dim light was hitting her it looked as though she were sliding in and out of reality, as if she were nothing more than smoke and shadows.
"I expect that we –" Regulus began, but Bellatrix cut him off sharply.
"We do not expect. We are at the whim of the Dark Lord, and we do not assume, we do not expect, what he will do – to expect and to anticipate his next move is to believe that you are equal to him, that your mind works in the same way his own does. Do you think yourself equal to the Dark Lord, Regulus?"
Regulus shook his head slowly, and did not speak. Her voice was as hard as flint, and for a moment he thought back to the shadowy room where they had knelt side by side, her face upturned and her voice a whispered exaltation to the man in front of her.
"We do not expect anything of the Dark Lord, but the Dark Lord expects everything from us. As is his right! We ask for nothing in return except the simple honor of being in his ranks. You are not good enough for the Dark Lord, Regulus." She stopped pacing and stood directly in front of Regulus’s chair, her hands on her waist and her chin raised, looking down at him severely from underneath thick black eyelashes. Regulus said nothing, but bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from retorting. Bellatrix sniffed and wrinkled her nose as if she had smelled the indignation on him and disapproved of it.
"You are weak," she said finally. "It’s so very obvious that you are weak. . . . But never fear. I will make you strong, Regulus. The Dark Lord has given me the task of making you a strong, useful Death Eater. And I do not fail the Dark Lord."
"You vouched for me though you thought I was weak?" Regulus asked coldly, his pride wounded. He was not weak; he was a Black, and Blacks were many things, but never weak.
"Of course! Is it your fault that you spent all of your life under the influence of that blood-traitor brother of yours? No wonder you’re weak! But you have potential." Bellatrix sunk to her knees fluidly, placing either of her hands on Regulus’s thighs and speaking in a low voice as her eyes flashed intensely. Her next words were whispers, somewhat devoid of the coolness her previous statements had been full of; she seemed to want to make him understand something important as she said, "Of course I vouched for you! We are Blacks, Regulus! The only two left strong enough and ambitious enough to follow the path of power and purity. Narcissa has married well, but she does not join us – she wants only to have children and make a family . . . But you and I, Regulus, we will become the Dark Lord’s favorites. Already he favors me . . . . Together we will serve the Dark Lord faithfully and truly, and he will reward us for our faithfulness. Together, standing on either side of the Dark Lord, we will control the entire wizarding world, as we were meant to. Together, as Blacks, we will show them all that we are always pure."
Her long fingernails bit into his legs as her hands gripped convulsively at him; her black eyes were glinting fiercely and the firelight gave them an almost demonic glow – but Regulus was too swept away in her words to heed the ferocious hunger for domination and power in her eyes, and he found himself leaning towards her as a moth drawn to a flame. His only thought was that he had found somebody who understood, who knew. She was right – together they would take back all the respect and influence that Sirius and Andromeda had robbed them of by their disobedience. Here was somebody who understood, here was a Black with his own interests, with his own passions, with his own goals in her sights. For so long he had felt as if he was the only one in the family who cared, anymore; for so long he had felt alone, felt the burden of having to prove single-handedly that your family was not a laughing-stock, that they were not all slowly degenerating. He was not alone, now.
"Toujours pur," he murmured, and Bellatrix’s wide, sensual mouth split into a smile, somehow just as beautiful and terrible as the rest of her. Regulus smiled back, and for the briefest of instants there was implicit, unquestionable understanding between the two cousins – and then it was gone as quickly as it had come. Her fingernails bit into his legs so sharply and suddenly that he almost cried out, and he knew that it was intentional, and not just the result of a heated, passionate discussion. The hardness was back in her face once more, and her eyes held no warmth.
"But we are nothing without the Dark Lord," Bellatrix said harshly, as if Regulus had done something more than smile at the idea of power and position; as if he had hissed insults against the Dark Lord’s name to her face. "Don’t think for a second that we are anything without the Dark Lord, Regulus, because you would be wrong. The Dark Lord is everything. Our hopes, our desires, our passions, it all comes second to those of the Dark Lord – we serve him first, as Death Eaters, and then, and only then, may we follow our own paths, if the Dark Lord finds our paths suitable. We do not use the Dark Lord to get ahead. The Dark Lord uses us and we submit quietly, and then his merciful Lord will reward us as he sees fit."
"I know it," said Regulus through clenched teeth, pushing Bellatrix’s razor-tipped fingers away from him. "You think I would join if I didn’t believe in his mission? If I didn’t respect him?"
"You’ll have to do more than respect him if you want to become a favorite of his!" Bellatrix snapped, standing once again and pushing her heavy black hair away from her face. She looked at Regulus intently, as if judging whether or not she could trust him, before her lips spread wide in a scheming smile and she said, "I have plans that would put me into a position of power that nobody could knock me down from."
Once more Regulus saw Bellatrix as he had in that dimly lit room, on her knees and her face shining with excitement and something else, something that had made Regulus almost embarrassed to look at her.
"You hope to be his lover," Regulus ventured to guess, his voice dry and unforthcoming. Bellatrix’s smiled widened so that he could see the vast majority of her even white teeth.
"Who else? Who better?" Bellatrix demanded. "The Dark Lord deserves the best, and there is not a witch alive who is better than a Black woman."
"Your husband . . ."
"My husband is a damn fool!" Bellatrix spat, and she was all at once a snake coiled, ready to attack. Regulus had never met someone with such a short fuse. She could go, in less than a second, from an alluring, bewitching seductress to a steel-clawed tigress ready to pounce, her mouth open in a snarl and her fangs bared. "Who is he to stop me from being the Dark Lord’s lover? He could not stop it if the Dark Lord wished it. And he will, I’ll make sure of that . . ."
"And when he tires of you, Bellatrix? When some other beautiful, ambitious witch decides to make him look? What then? Where will you be?"
"She wouldn’t have the chance. I would kill her." She said it so calmly, so decisively, that Regulus almost thought that she was joking. But the steely glint in her eyes told him that this was no joke; in fact, she seemed to almost find the prospect exciting, interesting, like a hard-to-play game that she was rarely able to indulge in.
"You’re a murderer now, cousin?" Regulus whispered, an unfamiliar twinge of foreboding rising inside of his breast. The shadows of the room seemed to be swallowing Bellatix all of a sudden, as if they were wrapping around her like a dark, inky cloak.
Bellatrix laughed harshly and replied, "Yes! And you will be, too, before the Dark Lord is done with you."
Regulus didn’t quite know if she was serious or just trying to intimidate him, make him betray the fear that he was even now firmly denying he felt, even as it rose in his chest and made his throat tighten. He said nothing to her and sat quite still, but the look in his eyes seemed to tell her everything and she laughed under her breath, becoming immediately condescending. She spoke to him as if he were a toddler.
"‘Wittle Regulus, are you afwaid?" she cooed, and then laughed shrilly; one hand shot out and gripped his chin, pushing his cheeks together so that his mouth was pursed; he felt sharp nails biting into his cheekbone but did not wince. She leaned in close to him, their noses only inches apart, and whispered with, it seemed, a sort of suppressed glee to see him squirm at the mention of murder, "Don’t worry, baby Regulus – the Dark Lord only asks his followers to kill those who are enemies to us . . . or those who deserve it."
She smiled wickedly and released his face with a rough shove, pushing his head to the side. Regulus desperately wanted to massage his jaw but didn’t dare, with Bellatrix watching. He was nearly blind with anger at her for making him feel so – so beneath her! He was a Black, the Black heir, and he shouldn’t be treated in such a manner by his woman cousin. He wanted to open his mouth to say something to her, but something made him hesitate. A murderer . . . . Bella, a murderer . . . . he felt the churning in his stomach return and told himself that it was the result of too much firewhiskey earlier, and not fear. Never fear.
"We do what he asks of us, and we make sure we don’t make a mistake. A mistake means punishment from the Dark Lord – it’s not something you could stomach, my dear little Regulus. He would break you like the finest of home-spun sugar quills." Bellatrix cackled heartily at the prospect of Regulus being broken by the Dark Lord. "But never fear – that’s why you have me."
"I’m beginning to wonder why, exactly, that is," Regulus replied coldly. "So far all you’ve done is dig your nails into my face and legs as you ranted – I’ve still yet to figure out exactly what the Dark Lord will ask of me."
Bellatrix bristled at Regulus’s impertinent manner, and for a moment she looked as though she wanted to slap him; but after a short pause she seemed to reconsider, as if she found him endearing and amusing, and a slow smile spread across her face and her countenance softened.
"Recruiting, baby Regulus, recruiting! We need people on our side . . . we need spies. The Dark Lord sends us out into the world masquerading as law-abiding, weak-kneed wizards and witches, just like the rest of them, and when we get close to somebody who may be of use to us, we wave our wands and vóila! We have a ready-made supporter, one who can gather information and get the inside scoop on those pesky little Phoenixes, so we can stamp them out and scatter their ashes in the wind!"
Bellatrix smirked and continued, almost in an afterthought, "Of course, we also try for Ministry workers – if you want to get to the top, you have to start at the top. But they are far harder to find and control."
"You’re speaking of the Imperious Curse?"
"Of course. And bribing, threatening, or coercing of any kind that might get the job done without the Imperious Curse. It’s a pain to have to control so many, after all, and you just wouldn’t believe how far threatening the life of a loved one will go . . ." Bellatrix laughed again, and Regulus felt a cold prickle at the base of his neck; he had the desire to shiver but controlled it.
"And after we’ve done what he asks of us? After the work is finished?" Regulus queried.
It looked as though a white hot spark had ignited behind the black eyes at his question, and Regulus watched the blood-red lips twist into the now familiar expression of sardonic, sadistic glee as she said, "We play."
Regulus was not quite sure what Bellatrix meant when she had spoke of ‘playing.’ She had left soon after that, speaking once more about the loyalty and faithfulness that she expected Regulus to show to the Dark Lord before sweeping out of the door, her long cloak billowing out behind her, catching the wind as she strode with long legs and quick steps. Regulus had sat in the same chair he had been in since she had stepped inside of his home, slightly unsure of what he was supposed to do – Bellatrix had made it all seem so easy, so simple, and yet . . . and yet why did Regulus get the feeling that there was so much more than what she said? The Mark that was branded onto his arm seemed to indicate something more lasting, something more demanding than how Bellatrix had described it. Recruiting people to the Dark Lord’s cause, using whatever means necessary, even an Unforgivable Curse – it was not, to Regulus, anything particularly daunting or difficult. He was caught between uncertainty and arrogance – he was uncertain that this was all there was to it; he was arrogant that if this was it, then he had indeed chosen an easy life, one that would give him honor and prestige with minimal work or effort. Regulus thought of Lucius Malfoy’s house and he wondered how many years of devoted service he would need to reach such an elevated status. He could almost picture it – the large house, the wealth, the possessions, the deference he would receive, the position of power he would hold, the lovely wife he was sure to find . . . .
Regulus frowned and stood up, suddenly filled with a frustrated energy that seethed inside of his limbs. He strode over to the fireplace and rested his forehead against the mantle, the fire warming him – he felt he needed it, seeing as though as soon as he thought of his future wife, his insides had suddenly gone cold. It wasn’t that he did not want a wife – he did. He wasn’t the type of man to want to stay free of a woman so that he could take as many different ones to bed as possible – Regulus had always found that he was too good for that. He had watched Sirius do it, and that in and of itself told him that the action was lowly and somewhat shameful. Blacks were supposed to hold themselves with more dignity than that, they were supposed to be above philandering, supposed to be in control of their lust. He didn’t mind the thought of getting married, and he didn’t mind the thought of getting married soon, but this . . . . In his mind he had always imagined that he would find a nice pure-blood girl and they would, thanks to their similar traits and histories and likes or dislikes, fall in love. The fact that she was a pure-blood was automatic, something he never even thought about changing – even if he had stumbled across somebody who was of lesser blood and hadn’t realized it, he still thought himself high-born enough to believe that he would somehow know enough to refrain from falling in love with her. He was quite certain that he would be physically and mentally unable to fall in love with somebody who was not a pure-blood. There was just something about them that screamed of their impurity . . . . No, it had always been a pure-blood. There was no other option for Regulus, and he had never wanted to have another option. It was set in stone, just like him going to Slytherin had been set in stone, just like his joining the Dark Lord had been – inevitable, unchangeable, and not, truth be told, at all disagreeable. He had accepted easily and invitingly that his future was all but planned out for him . . . . but to be this planned out . . . .
Before Bellatrix had left she had told Regulus, nonchalantly, as if discussing the weather, that she, Narcissa and Lucius, and the Dark Lord would, of course, be searching for a bride for him. She expected, she had told him with a seductive little grin, that he would be a married man within the next two months. Regulus had sat, unable to comprehend what she was saying.
"What – surely I can choose my own wife?" Regulus had finally spluttered, leaning forward in his chair and looking up at Bellatrix as if she had gone out of her mind completely. Bellatrix smirked at him, as if she had expected this reaction and found it to be one of his ‘weaknesses.’
"You don’t think that the Dark Lord would trust you to pick your own partner given the circumstances?" Bellatrix had chided half-heartedly, pulling on pair of fashionable dragon-hide gloves – black, like her eyes and hair. Regulus suspected that she was glorying in telling him this – like it gave her some perverse joy to inform him that she and the Dark Lord were arranging his marriage.
"Circumstances?" Regulus had demanded. "What circumstances?"
"Well, with a brother like yours . . . We can’t have you running off and marrying a Muggle, can we, baby Regulus?" Bellatrix’s had said scathingly. At any mention of Sirius she immediately fell into a foul humor.
"I think I’ve proved myself enough to be trusted to not marry a Muggle!" Regulus had exclaimed, slamming his clenched fists onto the arms of the chair he still sat in; it was mark of how he respected her, even at this moment, that he did not rise. The shock he had felt at hearing the words come out of her mouth, understanding the meaning of what she was saying, was being replaced quickly by indignation. "You can’t just – just force me to marry some girl who I’ve never met!"
Bellatrix looked nettled and snapped, "You’ll find that the Dark Lord can command you to do whatever he wants. That’s the deal, or don’t you remember? This is a test of your loyalty; this is what he requests; this is what is required of you as a pure-blood, as a Black, and most importantly, as a Death Eater. Look at that Mark on your arm and tell me if you dare deny him after you have pledged yourself to him."
Bellatrix flicked her wand and the sleeve of his robes was pushed up, around his elbow; the Dark Mark stared up at him with hollow, skull eyes, and Regulus felt his anger falter, almost as though it had tripped during it’s furious tirade inside of his breast.
"Besides, you will meet her first." Bellatrix combed her gloved fingers through her hair and smiled at him. "Don’t worry, Regulus, I’ll make sure to find somebody attractive for you. Of course, no girl will be as good looking as we Blacks . . . what a pity the old ways have died out . . ."
She laughed and Regulus leaned back in his chair, his body slumping and his fingers resting on his lips – he was too stunned to reply to the inappropriate comment she had made, as she had probably hoped he would. The only thing he could think of was some faceless, nameless girl standing opposite him at the altar. How could he pledge himself to somebody who he had hardly met, who he hardly knew, who he did not love? He knew his place, had known his place from a very young age – marrying was not the issue, and marrying well would be easy. It was only . . .
"But what about love, Bellatrix?" the childish question had escaped his lips before he could stop it, and Bellatrix paused as if stunned before throwing her head back and shrieking with mirth.
"Love? Love? Oh, baby Regulus, what a fool you are!"
She was still laughing as she left.
But, Regulus reflected as he paced around his room, his hands entangled in his raven hair and his shoulders hunched, she was probably right. He had chosen this path, he had sworn service to the Dark Lord . . . . of course Sirius would come up, of course he would still be haunted by his brother’s betrayal, but his unnatural ways . . . it was only natural for the Dark Lord to be wary of him. Who was to say that he wouldn’t run off and consort with a Muggle? The Dark Lord did not know the steps Regulus had taken in his youth to show everyone how very unlikely – nay impossible – that was. And he was the Dark Lord, Regulus’s new master – he had every right in the world to question him, to demand this of him. So he would not know his wife long before he married her; so he would probably not love her to begin with. Bellatrix was right to laugh at him – who ever said love was important? The important things were loyalty, pride, blood-status, and ambition. He had been stupid and weak – Bellatrix had been right to call him it. Regulus just needed to look at this as his first mission, the first trial he had to overcome as a Death Eater. What better opportunity did Regulus have to prove to his master that he was truly a loyal servant? And the sooner he made a good match, he reasoned, the better. His mother had always told him that the primary job of a pure-blood was to make absolutely sure to continue the line unsullied. That was their motto: Toujours pur. Always pure.
Furthermore, his mother would be thrilled, and the marriage could only shine a positive light on the Black family. One more Black child, the heir (in inheritance if not in birth) no less, married and settled with a fine, pure-blood witch, all set up to have several pure-blood children and ensure that the true upper class of the wizarding world did not die out.
Regulus shook his head at his own foolishness and took a deep breath; a slight, wry smile played across his lips as he thought that this news, the news that he would soon be husband to a woman he did not know, was the hardest requirement to swallow of them all.
Somehow, though, it still did not seem quite so funny.
A/N: I don't really care for this chapter too much, myself. It's . . . eh. But it did introduce some more drama. An arranged marriage -- ho ho! Well, maybe it's not that exciting, but it certainly is important to my plot, and I think it fits nicely into the workings of Death Eaters. I guess you'll tell me yourself if you like it, in that review I'm sure you'll be leaving me.
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