Chapter 1 : Onwards! (to nothing)
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He knew better than to hope that his professor would overlook them. He overlooked nothing – every messy scribble, every misspelled word, every sentence fragment was always circled in the harsh red ink his professor favoured.
The noise of forty students pushing back their chairs and escaping from the examination room drew Igor back from his miserable recollections and he hurried to collect his quills and inkwell, lest he be left alone with his professor.
As he left the room, his supplies crushed in his fists, his eyes searched for his friends. He hoped that they had done poorly as well – he did not want to be the only one of his year kicked out for failing his exams.
Dread curdled in his stomach as he thought of how he had finished his argumentative paragraph – he had skipped the summary of one of his paragraphs entirely to jump to writing his conclusion when he had heard his professor’s ten minute warning. He was sure to be docked marks for that mistake.
Moving through the doorway, he brushed past one of the few students who didn’t look worried about the exam and, upon recognizing him, bumped him just hard enough to cause his inkwell to tip. He could hear the laughter of those surrounding him and he continued on, feeling better.
Boris was one of those students who had to be constantly reminded of his lesser status, should he ever be in danger of forgetting it. Small and thin, his Mudblood history showed in his every feature. Luckily, he was one of the few Mudbloods at Durmstrang – the academics were stringent enough that they were often forced to drop out after their first year. Those who remained often isolated themselves, spending their time in the library so that they wouldn’t make the mistakes those of purer blood would never make.
It was common knowledge that the professors marked the Mudbloods’ work more harshly – they had the stench of their own blood to work against, after all – and therefore it was a rare, though uncelebrated, event when a Mudblood graduated from Durmstrang.
Igor smiled when he noticed his friends, Artur and Vadim, waiting in the archway before the main staircase and hurried over to them. They were tossing a scrunched-up ball of parchment paper between them, uncaring of who they bumped into.
He wandered through the middle of their game, and lifted his hand just in time to stop the progress of the paper ball. It fell, landing on the stone floor.
“Hey!” came the indignant screeches of his friends. Artur bent over quickly, his dark brown hair falling into his face, and retrieved the ball so that he could whip it at Igor. Igor ducked, and the ball flew over his hand and fell down the gap between the staircase heading up and the staircase leading down.
“I didn’t do that!” Igor protested, before his friends could accuse him of further crimes.
“Maybe,” said Artur, neither accepting nor placing blame. “But we did see what you did to Boris over there.” He jerked his head to the right. Vadim was busy constructing another parchment ball. “He deserved it, the smug jerk. The lectures I’ll receive once my father learns of his exam scores…” Igor winced in sympathy. He had received many similar lectures during Boris’ time as his classmate, and time had not worn down their potency.
“I don’t know how a stupid, bloody Mudblood can earn better grades than my son, a Pureblood. You’re a disgrace to your blood and the family name.”
He had been threatened with disinheritance, and none of his explanations of how Boris beat all of his classmates satisfied his father.
“The Karkaroffs, below a no-name nobody! This is unacceptable, Igor, do you hear me? Unacceptable.”
It burned Igor, just as it burned the rest of his classmates, to be beaten by a Mudblood. To have such a person be considered better than themselves… It was agony, to him, and he reveled in each opportunity he had to make Boris’ life miserable.
He was brought back from his memories when Vadim’s new ball hit his cheek – his friends’ laughter at his red cheek was fresh, joyful.
“Come on,” he said, stuffing his supplies into his pocket, “It’s too nice outside to stay cooped up in here.”
At least outside he was sure to be free from the sight of Boris.
It was Yule and the glittering lights of the ball did nothing to put him in a better mood. He had been standing against the wall, occasionally circulating in order to ensure that his students were doing nothing to embarrass him or themselves, for the better part of the evening. His eyes tracked one student in particular: his private favourite, Viktor Krum. His gut clenched as the Quidditch star came once again into view on the dance floor, the insipid Mudblood still in his arms. He didn’t know where his student had found the girl, but with every smile he sent her way, Igor regretted even more his agreement to Durmstrang’s participation in the Triwizard Tournament.
He had understood, had known from an objective viewpoint, that Hogwarts followed the “progressive” guidelines that permitted Mudbloods to enter its halls without special consideration of any sort. He had hoped, however, that his own students would be smart enough to avoid the taint, to recognize which cultural customs were beneath their regard.
But he had also naively assumed that the competition would be fair and had been proven wrong on that account the very night after his arrival on the grounds. The blatant favoritism that Albus showed Harry Potter irritated him – he had heard whispers of what the man had allowed the famous Potter to do, from his very first year at Hogwarts. It was no wonder that the boy had considered himself at liberty to break the rules and enter the Tournament.
And the silly boy had gone on to win the First Task!
It was more than safe to say that it was not his year. Not only was his star Champion failing to live up to his promise in the Tournament, leading to rumours of national humiliation, but his Dark Mark was also starting to darken. The pale grey outline it had faded to over the years since the Dark Lord’s downfall had started to fill in and its heart, the snake head, had reemerged in worryingly clear definition.
He had caught himself many times, in the weeks since the process had started, shielding the arm protectively, as though it was possible for someone to see through the thick material of his robes to the flesh hidden beneath.
If they did, if they did… What would happen to him? Could he be punished for something he had no control over?
His gaze landed involuntarily on Moody and he flinched, looking away before he could attract the man’s attention. He didn’t want to test the rumour that the man’s magical eye could see through robes.
His right hand moved to clutch his left forearm, but he stilled the movement as he caught sight of the one man from his past who might be feeling similarly: Severus Snape.
Noticing that enough time had passed for students to start filtering into the halls (and out onto the grounds), he approached Severus.
“I wish to speak with you.”
The man’s dark eyes turned his severe glare on him, but Igor refused to back down. The returning Dark mark was of more concern to him than the man’s displeasure at the sight of him. One could lead to his death, the other only to discomfort.
At last Severus sighed. “If we must.” He turned, his black robes sweeping behind him, and they proceeded out of the Great Hall.
Perhaps he would now receive the explanation he was so craving – something to explain why the mark was darkening when the Dark Lord was dead.
He ignored the sight of Viktor dancing with the Mudblood girl until they were out of his sight.
The weather in England was different from what he was used to. Having been informed by his parents that it was also winter there, he had packed his heavier clothes, including his furs. However, he was often too warm – there was barely a light dusting of snow on the ground, whereas he had been prepared for temperatures in the negative thirties.
It was an odd feeling for him to have to use cooling charms in the winter, but use them he did. Even if it garnered weird looks by those around him.
“Is the temperature not satisfactory?” a cool voice interrupted his thoughts, as he returned his wand to his holster, and Igor blushed at his mistake. “I can have the house elves adjust it.”
“No, not at all,” he hurried to say. “I’m still adapting to Britain’s weather. It’s so different from Norway.”
“Ah,” said his companion, and the silence between them lasted for barely a moment before he brought up another topic of conversation. Igor admired his skill at conversational navigation – it was a talent that his father had often sought to impart on him.
“Every good pureblood knows how to converse. It is an essential skill and one I will not have you go without. I’m sure that even you can manage to perform adequately.”
His companion was surely considered to be a credit to his line – his every move showed the grace his ancestry had gifted him with and his features were classic Malfoy. Amid the splendor of his manor he looked perfectly at ease, just as his parents did.
“I hear that Durmstrang has a more liberal policy regarding the Dark Arts than Hogwarts.” Lucius’ voice conveyed an interest in the subject and Igor was relieved to have a topic of conversation that he was familiar with. He knew that he could trust his opinions with the younger Malfoy, for their families had been friendly for centuries due to shared sentiments on many social and political issues.
“Yes, they do. I’ve heard that you are only taught how to defend against them; we are also taught how to cast them.” While Dark Arts wasn’t his favourite class, he definitely understood its importance – how could you hope to defend against something you didn’t understand?
Lucius’ eyebrows briefly wrinkled before regaining their smooth appearance. “It is one of my many grievances with the education system in Britain. Sadly, it is difficult to repair these mistakes when Albus Dumbledore himself champions them. You are quite lucky that he has, as of yet, limited himself to Britain.”
Igor didn’t know who this Dumbledore was, but he nodded anyway.
Lucius, upon seeing that he had nothing to add, continued, “The man is a Mudblood-obsessed fool. He openly encourages their attendance at Hogwarts and the curriculum of the core subjects has been reduced so that they can “catch up”.” Derision dripped from his voice as he spoke.
“We have Mudbloods at Durmstrang, too,” Igor said, to show that he understood Lucius’ frustration.
“But you have one where we have twenty. And the old fool has the nerve to prance about saying that we don’t have enough.”
“At Durmstrang we have put forth a petition to have all Mudbloods expelled from the school.”
“Now that is common sense,” Lucius said, and Igor could see that his hands were gripping the arms of his chair. “Unfortunately, common sense is a trait too often lacking in the population. Luckily, there are those who are taking their own measures to secure the preservation of the Pureblood culture.”
Lucius eyed him, and Igor tried to restrain his curiosity. After a moment, he bent forward, just enough to convey the necessity for secrecy. His blond hair fell over his shoulders and curtained his face.
“I need a vow that this information shall go no further than you.”
“One on your magic. You cannot reveal this information to anyone, including your family. It’s too sensitive.”
Igor agreed, and hurriedly performed the vow, while also trying not to attract the attention of their parents, sitting across the room.
“There is a man, who calls himself Lord Voldemort. He has a plan to rid the Wizarding world of Mudbloods, starting with Britain. He recognizes that they are a taint that is spreading uncontrollably, a threat to the Wizarding world that the government refuses to recognize.” Lucius’ eyes glinted and his cheeks were flushed slightly with excitement.
Igor’s mind had focused immediately on one aspect. “How?”
Lucius hadn’t been expecting his interruption and it was a moment before he was able to respond. “It’s already started. There have been several small attacks – but I suppose they would not have made headlines in Norway. They were barely mentioned in the Daily Prophet here. But it is of little consequence. The Dark Lord is smart – he aware that there will be those who oppose his plan. He is not doing this for fame and would actually prefer to remain unknown for as long as possible. The more he can accomplish without opposition, the better.”
He bent his head closer and Igor leaned inwards in imitation. “I can’t tell you much more than that, unfortunately, for even I am not party to the whole of his plan. But I do know that there is a way for you to help, should your desire be strong enough.”
Lucius directed a small smile at him and Igor returned it three-fold. So someone was finally taking action…
“What are you discussing?” The heavy voice of Igor’s father broke through the fevered atmosphere of their conversation and Igor had to stop himself from slumping back in his chair. His mind was swarming with ideas and questions – he was eager to learn more about this Lord Voldemort.
“Just our classes, sir,” Lucius replied and their fathers nodded.
“Well, you must leave this fascinating conversation behind and join us for dinner. The Karkaroffs are to be introduced to the wonders of English cooking and we cannot have their minds distracted during their revelation.”
“Of course, father,” Lucius said, and they both rose from their chairs to follow their fathers into the dining room.
Contrary to his host’s wishes, Igor was unable to concentrate on the food. Their trip to Britain had opened his mind to more than simple food – it had given him a glimpse of a glorious future where his accomplishments would not be sullied by those of a Mudblood.
He felt it while patrolling the boundaries of the maze – the summoning. The horrible burning could only be that. The Dark Lord had returned and he was summoning him. Him – the traitor. It was too much to suppose that he hadn’t already been made aware of Igor’s actions at the end of the last war, that he wouldn’t be waiting to punish him at the other end of the signal.
So, he fled.
He fled into the forest that marked the edge of the Hogwarts grounds and continued until he was able to apparate.
He knew what he was committing himself to when he fled, he knew that he was only prolonging the inevitable. The Dark Lord had ways of finding those who betrayed him and Igor had seen enough to know that he wouldn’t be allowed to escape.
No creature, no matter how small, betrayed the Dark Lord and got away with it.
But he fled, for it was all that he could do.
He didn’t know where he was going, but the throbbing pain that he couldn’t outrun reminded him that he couldn’t stay.
Hogwarts wasn’t safe, no matter what anyone said. No place was safe from the Dark Lord.
Nothing was safe save movement.
So he fled.
So he moved.
It was night when he was summoned again, and Igor went with the mind of someone who was tired.
The chamber in which he arrived was dim, lit only by a few torches, and had several Death Eaters already. He knew that they would soon be moved to the larger chamber just beyond this one, and he knew that the Dark Lord would be seated at the opposite end.
They would cross the floor and he would watch them and then, once they had come close enough, he would give them the latest batch of commands and they would leave and the whole process just made him sick.
He felt dread, he felt nausea, he felt terrified.
He was glad, in a far corner of his mind, that the long sleeves of the Death Eater robes hid his shaking fingers.
He didn’t want to be a front man, a torturer and killer. He had decided this right after his initiation, when it was too late to back out, change his mind. He didn’t want to hear the cries of the weak and the wounded, he didn’t want to see the sight of blood, of dead and dying faces.
He never let it show, never let those around him guess that he didn’t feel the same way that they did. Individualized cases were too hard, too prone to making him physically sick and giving him nightmares.
He preferred to see the discrimination of the Mudbloods from afar, preferred to never again see them in his sight.
Couldn’t they just understand that they weren’t wanted? Couldn’t they have just left the Purebloods their own world? It would have been so much easier…
When they were finally summoned into the chamber beyond, Igor made sure to think only of how he hated Mudbloods and the damage they were causing in the Wizarding world.
If he focused on that…
He didn’t feel anything at all.
It was cold. Everywhere it was cold. Warming charms didn’t help – the blustery wind soon tore through them, leaving him without protection.
His face felt raw; his toes felt numb. He could barely hold his wand anymore and casting spells properly was a shaky prospect. The only spot of warmth he felt was from under his furs, and it only served to remind him of the Dark Lord’s treatment of traitors.
I can find you, the throb seemed to say. I know where you are and it is only a matter of time before you are dead.
It had been growing more painful ever since he had left Hogwarts, all those months ago. There, he had been too close to him – the boy had just returned from his company. It hadn’t been safe – not safe at all.
His furs were wet from the melting snow, but he didn’t dare remove them. No – only movement would help – only movement would help.
At least his hunger had faded.
He wanted to sit; he wanted to sleep. He wanted the warmth of his bed in Durmstrang – why wasn’t he at Durmstrang?
He paused, stuck on that thought, and almost collapsed from the fatigue that washed through him. He was so tired and—and—it was too obvious. Durmstrang was too obvious and he hadn’t made alternate arrangements. Oh, why hadn’t he taken precautions?
He tried to move forward, but it was like his limbs were frozen in place. They didn’t want to move and he didn’t want to move – but he had to move. He had to. If he didn’t… He hadn’t thought that the Dark Lord would return – he’d thought that he was dead – and now he had to move or die himself.
He removed his right hand from the hollow of his arm and reached under the layers of fur to his wand, tucked securely in a holster on his waistband. Gripping it as tightly as his fingers would allow, he envisioned the hollow between the two trees located just a few paces in front him, and apparated.
The squeeze of the small spaces he was forced through made his entire body tingle painfully and when he landed, he stumbled and almost fell. But luckily he was able to force one foot in front of the other to continue walking.
It was all he could do.
The chamber in which he sat was of a size to make him feel like a mosquito next to a giant. He was chained to a small, wooden chair, of the plainest make that he had ever seen, in the middle of the room. The floor sloped upwards so as to create the impression of a deep pit, one that he had unfortunately fallen into. Directly in front of him loomed a high panel. Made of solid oak, he could barely see beyond it to the tips of the hats the Council of Magical Law were wearing. They, the witches and wizards who were set to condemn him to a cold and miserable life in Azkaban soon, were busy conversing with each other.
He couldn’t hear much of their conversation and, strained though he did, he couldn’t repair his ignorance.
He shifted in his seat and winced – the chains that had been used to bind his ankles and wrists were cold and unforgiving. His entire body was sore from the cruel treatment of his holding cell and he had been warned by several guards eager to set him straight about what fate awaited him that it would only be worse – could only be worse – in the permanent cells of Azkaban.
He felt distant, removed, from the circumstances that had led to his current situation. He felt as though he was only moving through the motions required of him, but at times the present came into a focus so glaringly harsh that he –
“I’m sorry, but the names you have supplied us with are useless.”
-- that he felt that he could only freeze helplessly as his body was flooded with a rush of emotions. Either way, no matter which stage of feeling he was at, he avoided looking at his left arm. His sleeve had been viciously tugged up his arm and pinned, so that the ugly black mark that had ruined his life was in full view of the courtroom. A horribly visible reminder of the mistake that he had made.
He could hardly think of the actions that he had committed without feeling nausea, though the Muggles he had killed and tortured were scarcely deserving of his pity, so he didn’t think of them. Instead, he warmed himself, distracted himself, by imagining his comrades safe and comfortable in their respective homes – he worked himself up to a steady anger that occupied his mind and satisfied his soul.
Who were they to live in luxury while he suffered in prison? Who were they to evade justice while he – he who had been reluctant to join them, had been forced to join them – was about to be sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban?
He could scarcely remember the beginning, and here he was at the end.
He didn’t mind that he had said their names, revealed them to the public. Dolohov, Rosier, Travers… They weren’t his friends; they were monsters who had carried him along for the ride.
Monsters… Yes, that was how he should think of them.
That was how society thought of them.
It wasn’t personal; they would have done the same to him.
But they hadn’t. He had done it first.
The noise that had been tickling around the back of his mind ceased and, one by one, the hats emerged back into full view, their owners’ faces once more visible from the lowest part in the room. Igor looked up at them, and then beyond them, to the lights that flickered behind their heads. They were uncommonly bright, so he blinked before his eyes could water.
“Igor Karkaroff,” a rough voice spoke, and Igor’s attention was drawn to the wizard seated slightly to the left of the center chair. It was the voice of a man who was unhappy with the decision that had been made and so Igor smiled, holding on tightly to the anger in his chest. It seemed that the very man who had captured him would now say the words that would set him free. “You have provided the court, and therefore the Ministry, with valuable information regarding You-Know-Who’s followers. Because of this, the Council has decided to grant you leniency in regards to your own crimes. You shall not serve any further time in Azkaban and –”
The rest of his words were drowned in the roaring sound that flooded Igor’s ears. He was free – he was free. He started to shake, as his relief and joy at the pronouncement filled him, and he didn’t notice the clanking sounds his chains made.
He was free.
As he left the courtroom, he tugged his sleeve down until the mark of his dead Lord was covered, out of sight and unseen. He had escaped.
That part of his life was over, forever.
He had found shelter, eventually. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. Enough to keep the snow out, enough to prevent the wind from shredding his warming charms.
He had moved on, a time later (he was no longer able to properly distinguish the passing of time – he had lost days, weeks, from his mental calendar), to a new shelter, smaller than the one before, and then again to another one. Always, always, they were among the trees, away from society and those who could identify him.
The trips he made to retrieve food – the one thing he could not conjure – were nerve-wracking. He was always sure that he would be spotted, that taking the few extra seconds to collect one more can of beans would be disastrous. He wasn’t often hungry – he was too wet, too tired, to be hungry – which luckily made his trips all the more infrequent.
He never returned to a store.
The shelter he occupied now was only a single room, and the wood it was made from had become slightly rotten in the time since it had been abandoned. The earth was the floor and, when the rains had arrived, had grown damp and muddy. No amount of drying charms helped, and so he had given up.
It had been empty when he had found it, stumbling through the woods and almost frozen through, but the forest was full of rocks to transfigure into bandages and pots and a cot for sleeping on.
He was trying to sleep now, but the pain in his left arm and the ache in his legs and feet made him too uncomfortable. His back was sore from the cot, too, but he couldn’t get up – what would he do? There was nothing to do.
He was miserable – his life was miserable. And yet he lived on, for what else could he do?
You could just give up, a voice whispered, and Igor was tempted to listen to it.
You know he’s going to find you. Why prolong your suffering unnecessarily? Why not end it on your own terms?
Igor wanted to nod, but instead was forced to curl up by the force of his coughing. His lungs felt battered, bruised, and he hated his body at that moment. He hated it for being so weak, for succumbing so easily.
He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten, but he wasn’t hungry.
He couldn’t remember where he had left his wand.
He wanted to groan when he heard the water begin to drip once again on his roof. The irregularity of the small drops made his head ache and the pounding in his head was soon combined with another body-wracking cough.
Was it possible to die from a cold?
His eyes closed, he didn’t see when the door, secured only by one hinge, was thrown open, but he heard the squelching of unfamiliar boots and made himself open his eyes.
A rippling bolt of pain was the next thing that announced the presence of the Death Eaters, and Igor’s body was thrown backwards into the wall. He groaned – he wanted to vomit but he had nothing to throw up. Instead, he curled inwards, hoping by some miracle to hide himself from the view. He had energy for nothing else.
“Well, well, well – look at the shape of this miserable little cretin. Looks like abandoning the Dark Lord didn’t turn out so well for yah, now did it?” The owner of the taunting voice approached his cot and poked at his body with the tip of his wand.
Igor heard laughter before he was treated to another wave of pain – this one made his nerves feel as though they were on fire and continued for an age.
He passed out before it ended and he never woke up again.