Chapter 1 : The Road to Hell.
| ||Rating: 12+||Chapter Reviews: 4|
Change Background: Change Font color:
All my life felt like a test. As long as I could remember, I’d been trying, and failing, to please him. Even my earliest childhood scribbles were scrutinised and declared inadequate.
“Shouldn’t he be colouring within the lines now? I’m sure Fudge said his son was at that age?”
“Children develop at different rates, dear. And most of it’s within the lines.”
Whatever the famous Bartemius Crouch wanted from a son, it obviously wasn’t me.
The older I got, the clearer that became. If I touched his wand, I was breaking Ministry registrations. If I showed no interest in it, he “hoped I wasn’t a blasted Squib or something”.
My mother homeschooled me. Of course, Minister Crouch was far too important to waste his time on such things. But he still required regular updates on my progress. Progress that never seemed to be good enough.
“Show your father how well you read now, dear.”
I’d do so and he’d listen impatiently, then nod curtly.
“Well, I suppose it’s an improvement.”
When I was eight, everything changed. A wizard called Voldemort was apparently attempting to seize power and the Ministry was in chaos. Being so young, I didn’t entirely understand what was going on, but I was aware of Father spending more and more time at work. When he was home, he seemed even more irritable than usual.
Despite his irritability, I was pleased that Mother’s praise was now the only feedback my schoolwork earned me. Father was too busy even for updates.
As time passed, however, I began to worry. Why wasn’t he paying attention anymore? Had he decided I wasn’t worth bothering about?
“Of course not,” Mother replied when I shared some of my worries with her. “He’s just very busy at work. The Ministry have asked him to head up the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
I cheered, forgetting my worries for a moment. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement was one of the few that caught my young imagination; that and the Department of Magical Sports and Games.
“That’s brilliant, Mother. Isn’t he excited?”
“Of course he is. It’s an important promotion.” She paused. “But it is a very responsible job, dear, particularly at the moment.”
“You mean because of this bad wizard Dad’s fighting.”
“Yes.” She paused again. “He is a very bad man, Barty. Your dad thinks…he thinks that this could be the worst war in a long time.”
“There’s going to be a war?”
“It looks that way, yes. But don’t worry about it. The Ministry know what they are doing. The bad wizard will be defeated in no time.
I wasn’t worried. I thought a war sounded really exciting and though I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to say so to Mother, I hoped it would continue until I was old enough to fight in it. I wanted to be a hero. Then Father would have to be proud of me.
An idea occurred to me.
“Is Father going to be a hero?”
“In a way, I suppose, yes. It’ll be his job to plan the fighting and make sure we all remain safe. It’s a very important job, so you mustn’t blame him – or yourself - if he’s sometimes too busy to be here when we want him or if he gets a little cross. It’s hard being so important.”
I believed that for a while; even felt proud to have a father with such an important job. My father was the one the papers talked of and if he was hardly ever home, well, it wasn’t his fault, was it?
Anyway, my mother kept promising me that the war couldn’t last much longer and suggesting things we could do as a family once it was over. We’d go abroad, she said, maybe even a cruise. Father’d loved travelling when they were younger and he’d love to show me all the places he’d visited before.
But the war showed no signs of ending.
As the years passed, and I learnt more about the political situation, what I learnt confused me
“You-Know-Who hates Muggles?” I said, trying to get it clear in my mind. “And he doesn’t think they’re as good as us?”
“That’s right, dear,” my mother replied.
“And Father doesn’t agree with that?”
This was what confused me. Weren’t Muggles less important than us? Father was always making dismissive comments about them.
“Of course he doesn’t agree with it!”
“But he said…”
Mother sighed. “Well, of course Muggles don’t have the same talents we do. But that isn’t their fault. They were born that way and they can’t help it. We should feel sorry for them, not try to persecute them like You-Know-Who does. Do you understand that?”
“I suppose so.”
“Muggles don’t really do any harm to anybody. Most of them just want to live their own lives. They don’t bother us and we don’t bother them. At least nice wizards don’t. You-Know-Who isn’t a nice wizard.”
I rolled my eyes. Mother had a habit of talking to me as if I was five years old sometimes. Of course You-Know-Who wasn’t nice. Everybody knew that. But he did sound interesting. I imagined him disregarding all the rules and conventions the rest of us lived by; not afraid to admit he knew he was better than the Muggles. A part of me wished that I was brave enough to annoy my father as much as he obviously did.
But I wasn’t. Despite myself, I still wanted his approval and the closer my first year at Hogwarts got, the more nervous I became.
O.K., so he’d no longer be able to walk in and glance over my shoulder as I puzzled over a particularly difficult question, but that had happened less and less often over the past few years anyway and my years at Hogwarts would begin with something even more frightening; being sorted.
I knew that only Ravenclaw or Slytherin would be acceptable.
“Bravery is all very well,” my father would say. “Of course it’s important to be brave. But you have to be sensible about it. Those Gryffindors just rush headlong into danger without even pausing to think about the consequences. Nine times out of ten, using your wits should allow you to avoid dangerous situations in the first place. No Gryffindor ever thinks of that.”
And of course, Hufflepuff would be unthinkable. As far as Father was concerned, it was the house for idiots and near-Squibs. I dreaded to think how he’d react if I was placed there.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” my mother reassured me, as she saw me off at King’s Cross Station. Father, of course, was far too busy at work to accompany us. “Whatever house you’re placed in, I just know you’ll be a credit to it. And your father and I will love you just the same no matter what happens.”
I knew she meant it. I truly believed that nothing I did would ever change her love for me. But I doubted that the same was true for Father. I’d always felt I had to prove myself worthy of his love.
If it were possible, he seemed to have become even more critical as the date I was to start Hogwarts approached. He was depending on me not to “show him up”, he’d told me. I’d promised I wouldn’t. It was what he expected. But deep down, I was far from convinced I could keep that promise.
Like most young witches and wizards, I’d looked forward to starting Hogwarts, but as I boarded the train, I began to wish the year wasn’t starting. The older students all seemed so confident, so certain of themselves. They bustled around the train, bagging seats, calling out to friends and bossing us younger ones around.
“Hey, Barty, there’s a seat over here.”
I glanced up. It was Regulus Black. I’d known him slightly when we were younger, but after Father’d argued with his parents about the political situation, all contact between our families had ceased. I didn’t care about the argument; I wasn’t even sure exactly what it had been about. I was glad Regulus didn’t seem to be holding a grudge either. He’d probably be in second year now, I figured out.
“So you’re starting this year,” he said as I sat down next to him. “Any idea what house you’ll be in.”
I shook my head. “Slytherin or Ravenclaw, I hope. Father’ll have a coronary otherwise.”
“Oh, believe me, I know what you mean. D’you remember my brother, Sirius?”
“Vaguely,” I replied.
“He’s in Gryffindor. Mother practically disowned him. The Blacks have always been in Slytherin. Sirius was the first exception in I don’t know how long. But he’s never had any proper wizarding feeling, you know what I mean.”
I nodded, though I really hadn’t much of an idea. Regulus and I had been friends as children, equals, but now I was a mere first year while he’d already been at Hogwarts a year. He suddenly seemed a lot more mature than I was and I wanted his approval.
We passed the journey pleasantly, but had to part after disembarking from the train, as he headed for the coaches and I, along with the other first years, was herded towards the lake.
Crossing the lake might have been exciting in other circumstances, but with the sorting ceremony ahead of me, I was far too nervous to appreciate it.
“Wow.” I heard the exclamation behind me, as we entered the Great Hall.
I suppose it was fairly impressive if you were seeing it for the first time. I wasn’t. My father had taken me with him once or twice when he’d had business at Hogwarts.
They hadn’t been enjoyable occasions. The pressure of expectations lay behind every comment he made.
“The dungeons where you’ll study Potions are down there.”
“That’s the Hufflepuff common-room, not that you’ll need to know anything about that.”
Perhaps I would, I thought, as I stood in line waiting to be sorted. There was no telling what house you’d be placed in. Families were usually placed together, but I knew of enough exceptions to realise I couldn’t depend on it. Regulus’ brother was an obvious case in point.
I walked up to the three-legged stool and placed the hat on my head.
“Hmm, plenty of intelligence here, I see and no shortage of ambition either. So Ravenclaw or Slytherin; which to choose?”
I relaxed. Either of those houses would be acceptable. So long as the hat didn’t change its mind, I was safe.
“SLYTHERIN,” it called out.
From the Slytherin table, Regulus Black began the cheering and the rest of the house soon joined in. There were a number of familiar faces at the table, most of whom greeted me enthusiastically as I sat down. At least the younger ones did. Some of the older students looked at me with slight suspicion. I knew some of them had parents who were affiliated with the Death Eaters and the entire wizarding world knew of my father’s vendetta against them.
I smiled around nervously. I really hoped they weren’t going to hold it against me. They could make my life fairly unpleasant if they did.
At least I had good news to owl my father with.
I didn’t have time to contact him that evening as we were sent to bed immediately after a delicious feast and classes began the next morning, but as soon as they ended, I wrote a long letter, detailing my first day and stressing the house I’d been placed in.
I didn’t have to wait long for a reply.
“I think Slytherin house is going downhill in recent years actually.”
I slammed the letter down on the table, without reading any further. Nothing I did was ever going to please him. If I’d been placed in Ravenclaw, that would have probably been the house going downhill. It was infuriating!
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Regulus asked when I stormed into the common room.
“My father is an idiot,” I replied.
He rolled his eyes. “Families. I just met my big brother in the corridor, laughing like a troll at something that fool James Potter was saying to him. You know the Potters?”
I shook my head.
“You’re not missing much. Gryffindors,” he added, as if that explained everything.
I shifted uncomfortably. Was it really that important what house you were placed in? And if so, what did being a Slytherin mean? Was the house really going downhill?
Nah, I thought. It was just Father putting me down as usual. There were plenty of successful witches and wizards who’d been in Slytherin. Father’d said so himself. He’d said most successful wizards had been in Ravenclaw or Slytherin.
Regulus was continuing with his own train of thought. “Sirius and that James Potter are always in trouble. Mother’s said that if she gets any bad reports about him this year, he’ll be for it.” He sounded pleased at the thought.
“Is your mother strict?” I felt I should say something.
“Oh yes. I don’t usually get into trouble though. I have more sense. But Sirius is always in trouble. Is yours?”
“Is my mother strict?”
“Not really. Not compared with my father anyway.”
“You know,” he began carefully. “Your father is getting quite a reputation.”
“I know.” I sighed. My father was being hailed as the saviour of the wizarding world. I was proud of him, I supposed, but being the son of a hero could be rather trying at times, particularly when he kept making it clear he deserved a better son than you.
Heroes also tended to make enemies and I knew a few of my father’s had sons and daughters who shared my dormitory, my common room and my classes.
It was easier to play down our relationship.
As Regulus had indicated, he had the same problem, though with his brother rather than his parents. I soon realised exactly what he’d meant about his brother and James Potter. Put simply, they were bullies and the Slytherins were their favourite targets. We first years learnt to steer clear pretty quickly as they weren’t above teasing us or trying to goad us into trying out our rather meagre magical talents.
“Aw, look at the baby snakes,” they’d comment loudly as we passed.
For the most part, however, we, thankfully, flew under their radar. The third year Slytherins found it more difficult to avoid their malice.
Severus Snape was the boy they targeted most ferociously. To be honest, he wasn’t all that popular among the Slytherins either. He was supposed to be smart and talented with Dark spells in particular, but he was ugly and his hair was greasy and it was hard to imagine him being all that successful at anything.
“He’s loyal though,” Regulus said.
“Loyal to what?” I asked.
He glanced at me warily, as if trying to assess whether or not he could trust me.
“Traditional wizarding values.”
I could figure out what that meant. Many Slytherins felt that Muggleborns threatened wizarding traditions, bringing in all sorts of new ideas our world just didn’t need. They also believed their magic was weaker and some went so far as to say that they were holding other students back.
“It stands to reason, doesn’t it?” one of the older students held forth in the Slytherin common room. “They arrive here without even the most basic understanding of the laws of magic. It’s because of them that the teachers have to spend so much time in the early years explaining what a Dementor is or how to hold a wand properly. That is time when our youngsters…” He paused to wave a hand in our general direction, before continuing, “could be learning far more advanced magic. Britain’s magical education used to be the envy of the world; the name of Hogwarts used to command respect, but other wizarding nations are getting ahead of us, because they don’t pander to Muggleborns as we do.”
I listened in awe. He sounded like an adult; like one of my father’s colleagues. I had never heard anybody close to my own age speak with such conviction. Not that he was close to my age really. He had to be at least a fifth year. I wondered if I’d be that confident and articulate in another four years.
Somehow I doubted it.
Regulus was equally impressed, though he’d heard such passion before.
“He sounds just like my cousin, Bellatrix.”
I shivered slightly. I’d heard of Bellatrix previously. She was a young woman who’d already achieved a fearsome reputation in the Death Eaters. My father was particularly anxious to capture her.
I would never have admitted it to him, but there was already something about her that attracted me. Perhaps it was simply knowing how much she angered him or perhaps it was the power she appeared to wield. She was even more feared in the wizarding world than my father.
Hearing she could speak like the boy I’d just listened to only attracted me more.
“I’d love to meet her.” I sighed.
“Come and stay with us in the holidays,” he suggested.
I paused. I didn’t want to pass up the invitation, not only because of the opportunity to meet his fabled cousin, but also because he was rapidly becoming my best friend and I had to admit, it was rather a coup to be invited home by a second year.
I wasn’t sure what my father would say though. His attitude to the Blacks hadn’t softened over the past year.
“I’ll have to ask my parents.”
I couldn’t miss out on this opportunity, I thought, pacing my dormitory ferociously. Perhaps if I owled Mother. I was sure she’d be on my side and maybe she could persuade Father.
As it turned out, he didn’t need much persuading, Mother reported. The war was escalating and he’d been returning home later and later. Mother said she hardly saw him. He’d barely paused to ask who I was staying with and had nodded vaguely when she’d replied “a friend from school.”
“Good, good. So long as he’s keeping his grades up.”
He had little to complain about there. To my surprise, I was doing far better academically than I’d expected. He and Mother had prepared me well.
“Hmm,” he commented, examining my results closely. “I suppose these’re adequate. For first year anyway.
I rolled my eyes, but secretly, not wanting to antagonise him. After all, he could still withdraw his permission for my summer plans.
I wasn’t going to risk that, as I was really looking forward to staying with the Blacks. And if I did get to meet Bellatrix, it would be the icing on the cake.
She turned out to be the most impressive woman I ever met.
Not that I knew many women, apart from my teachers and Mother, but I certainly couldn’t imagine any of them arguing with the passion I heard from her.
Regulus and I sat rapt.
“I wish I had a cousin like that,” I confided afterwards.
He beamed. “She just says all the things everybody else is afraid to, doesn’t she? And those Gryffindors think they’re so brave! They wouldn’t dare do what she’s doing. Would you?”
“I…don’t know. I…yes, I think I would.” Saying it, I started to believe it. Someday I would be as passionate about my beliefs as she was; as willing to fight for what I thought right. “Would you?” I returned the question.
Without hesitation, he nodded. “Yeah, I would. If I was old enough. I wouldn’t sit back and let those stinking Mudbloods infest our society. People are just afraid to rock the boat, you know. They don’t want to change things because it’s just too much work.”
I listened without replying. I didn’t really understand as much about politics as I would have liked to. My father rarely bothered to explain anything to me and what he did say didn’t seem entirely consistent. He hated the Death Eaters and everything they stood for. Yet it seemed to me that they were only trying to protect the old wizarding families he was so proud of. It didn’t make sense.
I wasn’t sure where I could find clarification. My fellow Slytherins all seemed so much more informed than I was and I wasn’t sure how to ask for information without betraying my own ignorance. And my father continued to immerse himself in work, virtually ignoring me when I returned home for holidays.
The only time he paid me any attention was when checking my school reports, which were never good enough, even though I generally received high grades.
Both his criticisms and lack of attention bothered me less since I’d started Hogwarts as I now only saw him a couple of times a year. During term time, we hardly even wrote, though I owled Mother regularly. If he noticed this, he made no comment on it.
And I found ways to increase my knowledge of politics. I might not ask my fellow students anything, but I certainly listened to them. I learnt of the genetic basis of magic and of the doubts as to how Muggleborns received theirs.
“They don’t tell us this in Muggle Studies,” Regulus commented darkly.
Not that either of us took Muggle Studies. Few Slytherins did. Older students in the house declared it nothing but propaganda.
“Dumbledore is a Muggle-loving fool,” they asserted daringly. “Hogwarts is going downhill since he became Headmaster.”
I knew Father didn’t like Dumbledore either, not because of his love of Muggles, but because of his interference at the Ministry and opposition to some of Father’s harsher tactics.
Not that I shared this with my fellow Slytherins. Father was practically a taboo topic. If I could have pretended we weren’t related, I would have, but my name made that impossible.
So I just avoided mentioning him unless it was strictly necessary.
It seemed to work. I was accepted even by the students who most despised him. A lot of them were friends of mine, which I sort of liked. It made me feel he wasn’t completely overshadowing me; as if he wasn’t quite the big-shot he made himself out to be.
Which meant I didn’t have to worry about living up to him. It was quite a freeing thought.
As we moved up through the school, some of my classmates became more and more concerned with politics, until some of them were making the same sort of speeches that had so impressed me as a first year.
Truth to tell, they still did impress me, but not as much as when, at the beginning of my sixth year, Regulus sneaked into my dormitory and told me he’d joined up.
“You’re not serious?” I was awestruck.
“I’m serious. I mean, why wait? Of course, I won’t be able to do much, stuck in this castle, but the Dark Lord didn’t seem to mind that. My parents know; they think I’m doing the right thing.”
“Wow.” It didn’t express what I felt, but it was the best I could manage.
Suddenly, he became serious. “You mustn’t tell anybody now.” He gripped my shoulders tightly.
“I wouldn’t do that.”
He relaxed. “Yeah, I know you wouldn’t. It’s just, it is top-secret. You know how dangerous this is.”
He didn’t need to tell me that. I was well aware of the determination of my father and others within the Ministry to round up Death Eaters. Truth was, they hadn’t been having much success, but far from disheartening them, this seemed only to increase their resolve.
At least, that was the case with my father.
His behaviour over the summer holidays, had, in my opinion, bordered on fanatical. He was barely sleeping and his campaign against the Death Eaters was practically his only topic of conversation.
It was ironic. He raged against the fanaticism of the Death Eaters, unable to see how obsessive his own behaviour was.
If he heard even a whisper about Regulus joining up, he’d be on it. He wouldn’t rest until he had him thrown in Azkaban. Or worse.
Not for the world would I betray my best friend to him.
It meant a lot to me that Regulus knew this; that he had entrusted me with his secret despite my background, especially when I realised how few people he’d told. He dropped hints in the Slytherin common room, but refused to explicitly state that he was a Death Eater.
As a result, he came in for a certain amount of ragging.
“You’re full of it, you are. As if the Dark Lord would be bothered with a chump like you.”
“I don’t know,” somebody else would interject. “His family are pretty influential, you know.”
“Still, I don’t believe it.”
“Nor do I.”
As his best friend, I was questioned regularly, but wasn’t giving anything away.
“He hasn’t told me anything,” I insisted. “I mind my own business. I suggest you do the same.”
“That means he isn’t. He’d tell you if it was true.”
“Are you sure about that?” I asked enigmatically.
Truth was, he didn’t tell me nearly as much as I’d have liked. Death Eater business was highly confidential and nobody would dare to break the Dark Lord’s confidence.
“You should join up,” he suggested towards the end of that year. “Then I could tell you everything.”
I hesitated. It was what I wanted and yet, the reality was rather frightening. I’d no illusions about the risks I’d be taking. I’d visited Azkaban a couple of times with my father and quite frankly, it terrified me. I thought I’d rather be killed than end up in that place.
And yet, I reminded myself, it wasn’t as if the Aurors’ record against the Death Eaters was that impressive. Bellatrix hadn’t been arrested yet. Nor had the Dark Lord himself. The Ministry was losing; that much was clear to anyone with the slightest amount of sense. In other words, anybody but my father.
“Over the summer,” Regulus continued. “When you come to stay with us. I could introduce you to the Dark Lord.”
It was hardly the appropriate response, but it seemed to satisfy him.
I wasn’t sure whether I was more excited or anxious about the prospect. I tried to reassure myself that I hadn’t yet committed to anything. The odds were that the Dark Lord wouldn’t even want me, especially considering who my father was.
With that thought, I realised I didn’t want to be rejected for that reason. I would convince the Dark Lord that blood was all I shared with my father and that I could become the most loyal of his followers; that he could depend upon me completely. I wasn’t entirely sure how yet, but I was determined to convince him to accept me.
My introduction to him was less fraught than I’d expected.
“My Lord,” Regulus addressed him. “This is the young man I promised to introduce to you.”
The Dark Lord smiled. It was an cold smile, which attracted and repelled me in equal measure.
“Bartemius Crouch,” he said thoughtfully. “The son of our dear Minister for Magical Law Enforcement.”
His words stung. “My father and I are not close…um, my Lord. We are practically estranged.”
“Oh, I am well aware of your relationship with your father,” he said silkily. “And yet, I believe you could be of use to us. If we can be assured of your complete loyalty.”
“Oh, you can, my Lord. I can guarantee you of that.”
“Unfortunately, I do not take anybody’s mere word for it. But in your case, you can prove it quite easily. Get me the files from your father’s office.”
“Which files?” I asked. Father’s files were numerous.
“Use your judgement.”
The task would be difficult, but far from impossible. Father wouldn’t willingly grant me access to anything confidential, but a few moments alone in his office should be possible to inveigle.
Firstly, I had to convince him to allow me accompany him to work. This was easy. All I had to do was show an interest in working with the Ministry when I left Hogwarts.
“I’ve only a year left at school after all. I’d really like to find out a little bit about how the Ministry works, particularly your office, Father.”
Nobody could have accused him of naivety and he eyed me suspiciously.
“You’ve never shown any interest in working for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in the past.”
I could have replied “you haven’t been paying attention to anything but your vendetta against the Death Eaters, so how would you know?” However, I judged that would be imprudent.
Instead I said “I haven’t really decided what Department I’d like to work in yet, but your work does sound interesting and I thought perhaps if I were to spend a few days working with you, I’d be able to get a feel for the Ministry in general and perhaps decide where I’d like to work.”
“I don’t see that there’ll be any difficulty about that. In fact, I might see if I can arrange for you to spend a few days with some of my colleagues as well. You’re too old now to spend your holidays with nothing constructive to do.”
The last thing I wanted was to waste my holiday ambling from Department to Department, but if it would allow me to get what I needed, then I’d have to tolerate it.
Getting my hands on files which would interest the Dark Lord was more difficult. The papers Father allowed me work on related only to minor matters, many of which were public knowledge anyway.
I had to find a way of getting my hands on more confidential files.
An opportunity presented itself as I returned from lunch on my third day working in his office.
“Ask your father if I could possibly have a word with him when he gets a chance,” an Auror I recognised as Rufus Scrimgeour called out to me.
I waited until Father had opened the safe he kept some of the files in before saying “oh, Rufus Scrimgeour wants to speak to you. He says it’s urgent.”
Father was raging. “You stupid boy! Why didn’t you say so immediately?”
I shrugged my shoulders and looked stupid. “I forgot. Oh, I see those files I was working on. I’ll get them out myself if you’re rushing.”
“Well, of course I’m rushing since you haven’t the intelligence to give me a message when you first see me. Get those files yourself and don’t you dare touch anything else.”
“And make sure you lock up afterwards.”
He hurried out of the office and I rummaged quickly through the files, finding one or two that I thought would be of use to the Dark Lord. I cast quick duplication spells and hid the duplicates among some papers I’d brought specially for the purpose. Then I gathered the very boring papers I was working on and set to work.
Father returned even angrier than before.
“Why, that wasn’t urgent at all. And now I’ve lost track of what I was doing when you interrupted me.”
“Sorry, Father. Mr. Scrimgeour gave me the impression it was of vital importance. Perhaps he wanted to be sure of getting your attention.”
He muttered angrily.
“Well, he shan’t be doing it again,” he declared. “I’m going to have a word with the entire Department; let them know I’m not to be interrupted over minor matters. Honestly, everybody thinks their problem is urgent these days.”
I had succeeded in deflecting his annoyance and more importantly, I had successfully extracted some files.
Two days later, I handed them to the Dark Lord.
He looked them over.
“Hardly the Ministry’s greatest secrets,” he said finally.
“It was the best I could do, my Lord.”
Had the Ministry’s greatest secrets been in the safe, there was no way Father would have left me alone with it. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust me. It was simply that he would never leave those files unlocked, without his own physical presence guarding them. If the Dark Lord was insistent that I get files relating to himself and other leading Death Eaters, I’d have to be far more cunning than I had ever been before in my life.
The files I’d managed to duplicate related to some of his more lowly followers and some information which the Ministry had managed to extract from captured Death Eaters.
The Dark Lord continued to peruse them.
“Though these are not quite what I hoped for,” he said, fixing me with a steely glance. “I think we can used them. And I think we can use you.”
I had been accepted. I breathed a sigh of relief. Gaining further access to Father’s private papers would have been difficult, though I knew, that if I’d had to, I would have accepted the challenge. Under no circumstances could I have allowed the Dark Lord to reject me. Not now I knew for sure this was what I wanted.
Returning to school after being branded with the Dark Mark was rather an anti-climax. I’d have been willing to leave, to serve the Dark Lord immediately and with all my heart. After all, I was over seventeen. My father couldn’t stop me. But the Dark Lord was adamant that a complete breach between me and my father was the last thing he wanted.
For his sake, I attempted to improve our relationship. I must have sent more owls to Father during my seventh year than in the previous four or five together.
As he still believed I’d ambitions to work in the Ministry after school, it was only natural for me to ask about his work.
Anything he told me, I forwarded to the Dark Lord, though I could hardly imagine what use most of it would be to him. Father was far from naïve enough to trust Ministry secrets to owl post.
But the Dark Lord had said that all information should be passed to him and as it was my only assignment that year, I carried it out faithfully, though I longed for more active assignments.
Despite my preoccupations, I ended the year with quite respectable N.E.W.T. results. Not that I particularly cared. School had ceased to be important to me when I entered the Dark Lord’s service and now I could serve him fully.
The first time I joined other Death Eaters in a raid was the proudest day of my life. Cloaked and masked, it was impossible to know who accompanied me, but it didn’t matter. I knew I was in good company.
We descended on Diagon Alley, intent upon destroying a shop we knew to be supplying the Order of the Phoenix.
The mission was successful. The Dark Mark hung in the sky, as we left the shop, triumphant. And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.