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Chapter 1 : Running
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I have. It’s not pleasant. The hate required to cause someone else pain, someone you don’t even know, is immense.
I didn’t know her then and I have no wish to know her now. She’s probably dead. I can’t even remember what she looks like, so all that haunts my nightmares are her screams and the unnatural way her body contorted under the Cruciatus curse. Thinking about it now causes a cold sweat to break out on my skin and a sense of nausea to rise up my throat.
I barely make it to the loo before I vomit.
Even as I heard her screaming and begging for mercy that night, even as my own stomach turned and my wand wavered, I knew that if I stopped, I would be her. I would be under the curse, only this time it would be the Dark Lord who did the casting.
If I had failed, betrayed the cause in such a public way, my family would have been shamed.
The pain would have been excruciating.
Sometimes I wish I was like my brother, who had the strength to break away and to make his own decisions.
I accept that I’m easily swayed by my parents. I dislike mudbloods and muggles of all types—they don’t fit in our world and they shouldn’t try to. It pains me to see their ignorance of our customs, the traditions we have followed faithfully for centuries.
I follow my family’s ideals. However, I fear that I have gone too far, that I have overstepped my limits. I’m weak, a coward—my brother always told me so. I disagreed vehemently with him then—I can still remember the hex he sent my way, egged on by his oafish friends—for it had stung me far deeper than I had wanted to admit. My parents had not raised a coward.
But I will defend myself. I have reasons for running away, for abandoning those I love.
I joined too soon, encouraged by my parents’ love and admiration for the cause. I was enchanted by the glory, the perceived honour. I upheld (and still uphold) the conviction that magic and the Wizarding world have been tainted by the muggles’ presence. Mudbloods have dirty blood that infects everything they touch.
They believe that we are the ones who are wrong, the ones who are immoral and prejudiced when truly it is they who do not understand. How can they when they make no effort to rid themselves of their filthy history?
I was proud to become a Death Eater, to wear the Dark Mark. I knew that I would ridding the Wizarding world of its ever-spreading stain.
My brother may not have approved, but who was he to me then?
However, I do not have the stomach or the nerve for this line of work. I do not relish the fear in a person’s eyes when they realize that they are not going to survive the night. My stomach twists at the sound of screaming. I twitch and my hands shake every time I stand before the Dark Lord. I cannot joke about death or torture like they all do.
I am a selfish coward—possibly the worst kind.
And what do cowards do? They run.
However, I needed a tipping point—the straw that broke the camel’s back, as the muggles say. Fear kept me from leaving before it was necessary. It kept me chained and bound, even though I feared my leader. I needed something to force me to acknowledge that I could no longer ignore my unsuitability.
The sign that came was appropriate. It was selfish.
I care for very little outside of my family. The rest of the Earth could go to hell and I would not care, so long as my little haven was intact and undisturbed.
My haven is small and resides behind the fortified and shielded walls of number twelve Grimmauld Place. I grew surrounded by fancy goblin gold plates, crystal vases and tapestries created from silk worms. It was not suitable for little rambunctious boys, but then my mother could quell us with a single glance.
She is the force behind my childhood and adolescence, the one I model my ideals after. She wasn’t the caring type, no, not the kind of mother to comfort and heal a child after a fall. She was, and still is, more likely to snap at us to take care of ourselves and blame our injuries on our mistakes. She demanded we mature sooner, faster, quicker so that we would be that much more prepared to take on the world once introduced.
Sirius was her and father’s pride and joy until he was sorted into Gryffindor.
Father has just as strong a force of will as my mother, only he wields it less often. He played the part of a ghost during my childhood, often absent for work and other social outings. Whenever he did talk to me, I soaked up his words and vowed never to forget them.
Is it hard to believe that with them as parents I turned out as I did?
But they are not the reason I ran, no. That reason would shock most purebloods because he is not human. No, he is a magical creature, our equivalent of a slave.
Kreacher was my equivalent of a nurse. He popped in and out of my life with regularity and was fiercely loyal to the Black family. He was willing to play games with me during my frequent fights with Sirius and tend to my needs during my fight against Dragon Pox. As I grew older, he became my personal servant, occupying himself with me only. It was a nice feeling: the knowledge that at a snap of my fingers he would be at Hogwarts, ready and willing to sneak me treats or help my homesickness.
He was mine.
The day that the Dark Lord asked to use him was the day that ice flowed through my veins. What could I do but hand him over? I could not deny the most powerful wizard alive, the one that I had sworn my allegiance to. I soothed my worries by whispering lies to myself: he didn’t want Kreacher to do anything dangerous, he wouldn’t harm or let any harm befall Kreacher, he knew that Kreacher was mine.
I was allowed to accompany the Dark Lord to his island retreat but was forced to stand guard on a rocky out-jutting, the icy sea air cutting beneath my cloak and the salty mist stinging my eyes and mouth. The skies and sea were dark and stormy, as though they knew that the darkest lord was in the vicinity. It was with great relief that I saw the Dark Lord appear, barely visible against the blackness of the rock. The Dark Lord, however, barely glanced in my direction (and such a cold smirk he sent my way) before he disapparated. Kreacher was nowhere in sight.
That time it was dread that coursed through my veins, an awful sensation settling in my stomach. My hands and knees rubbed painfully against the rock as I vomited into the sea, an awful thought running through my brain. Had Kreacher been killed? Was he a sacrifice, his body left to rot in that dark, horrible place?
It was with barely more than a whisper that I commanded Kreacher to return. Had he any life left, he would obey.
I stumbled to my feet just as Kreacher appeared at my feet, covered in a dark muck.
“Master called,” was all he said.
I crouched at eye-level, grasping his shoulders, aware that my expensive gloves didn’t matter anymore. “Kreacher, this is important. What was he doing in that cave? What did he have you do?” My voice trembled with emotion.
“Kreacher forced to drink potion to empty basin. Lord placed locket—dark locket, very dark—at bottom. So thirsty. Lord refilled basin. I drank from the lake—dark, dirty, infested lake—and so many Inferi! Pulled Kreacher under. Lord left. Left Kreacher. Kreacher heard Master calling. He came.”
Kreacher was rambling. What was the potion he had drunk? Had it destroyed his mind?
Anger filled me. The Dark Lord had hurt one of mine. He would have to pay.
The camel’s back was broke.
The months following the wreck of Kreacher’s mind I lived in the Black library. Kreacher had given me a detailed picture of the locket and answered each of my questions. My biggest clue was the dehumanization of the Dark Lord: his red eyes, his pasty skin. The locket was the cause, I just knew it.
I gave up. I was no researcher; I was incapable of finding information with next to nothing to go on. My plan changed. I demanded Kreacher make a replicate of the locket and wrote a note. I knew I would figure out his secret once the locket was in my hands. And once I had, I would destroy it. My death was certain; my only regret that I would not live to see his downfall. It would be Kreacher’s responsibility.
My mind was addled irreversibly after the retrieval of the locket, the poison twisting my thoughts and demanding water. My voice was merely a croak now, harshly commanding Kreacher to obey.
He could do nothing to help me. The enchantments vanished any water he created the moment it touched my lips and imprisoned me within its bounds. I was done, finished. But I still had one last task before I made my last futile attempt at escape.
“Kreacher, I forbid you from telling anyone this, about this cave and my betrayal of the Dark Lord.” I could see him nodding his head frantically, his eyes nearly bulging out of his head. “Take this.” With firm hands, I handed him the precious locket. The Dark Lord’s most guarded secret: his Horcrux. The dark aura swirling around the pendant was impossible to mistake.
“Destroy this by any means necessary, Kreacher. I trust you. This must be done.”
A crack as he left was the only thing that broke the monotony of the sound of waves slapping against the rock and told me that I was free to drink to my death.
Was it any surprise that I laughed?
Insanity runs in the Black genes, they say, and what sane man would willingly fall into a trap? I know what is coming before I touch the lake’s surface and am unsurprised by the skeletal faces that appear just below the water, reaching for me. I cannot resist the siren call, the liquid my body is demanding I drink.
But I will go with dignity and pride, with the knowledge that I am a Pureblood and a noble. My family is ancient and it ends with me, though perhaps Sirius will be reinstated on the Black family tapestry.
I betrayed the Dark Lord. I found out his secret. I face death in the hope that when he meets his match, he will be mortal once more*.
Hands tug me downwards (bony, strong hands with bruising grips) and water rushes in, filling my lungs and throat and mouth. It suffocates me and I make no sound. A silent death.
No pain, no shame, nothing.
*page 569, Flight of the Prince, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
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