Chapter 1 : Noble
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Morfin Gaunt is a creature of the past. His fate is cast away with the sea.
Morfin attends Hogwarts for an entire week – the wizard from the Ministry (a pureblood, so his father accepted his word) came to the cottage and persuaded him to let Morfin go to the school when he was eleven.
“Besides,” Marvolo had said, toying with the large black ring around his finger, “the school is your birthwright.”
For the Gaunts are descended from the great Salazar Slytherin, the greatest wizard of the century. Bad blood that infiltrated wizardkind has driven the Gaunts from their rightful place, stolen their wealth and their treasures, taken the great homes which Marvolo spoke of to his children in grouchy wonder. They are the last inheritors of the blood of Slytherin, and someday, the wizarding world will pay a terrible price for their most heinous of crimes, of driving the Gaunts away. Morfin cannot say how he knows, but he is sure of it, thinks of it when the dirt and the gloom enters his nose and fills it with dust. The heirs of Slytherin will revenge themselves. He speaks the truth, even if his words are garbled and tangled in his head. He cannot communicate properly, for he speaks the language of noble blood when he is home, and English is foreign and uncouth in his lumbering mouth.
He had only stays at Hogwarts for a week. The Sorting Hat – well, even the Hat knows it was best to fear him, to respect his blood. The moment it grazes his head, he is sent to the House of his forefathers. They do not cheer, however, and this bewilders him. Do they not know he is the truest Slytherin of them all? They do not welcome him to his birthwright, choosing instead to whisper among themselves, the young men gazing longingly to the far end of the table where the witches sit with crinolines and aprons beneath their robes. Much finer clothes than Merope has ever worn.
Mr. Gaunt, your son has been found guilty of cursing other students and causing them to suffer terrible disfigurements.
Mr. Gaunt, your son was found egging a snake to chase after a young Hufflepuff in his year. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated.
Mr. Gaunt, we do not feel safe leaving your son around the young ladies.
Mr. Gaunt, your son is expelled.
The other Slytherins – so they dared to call themselves! – are pretenders. He had hates the lot of them, hates how they do not believe him when he speaks of his mighty ancestor, laugh and spit at him when he claims he will set the monster of Slytherin upon them. He intends to do it, as well, if he could out where his sly forefather had hidden the entrance. And before he can enact his revenge, he has been pulled away from the castle, from the fine foods and the warm, clean beds, and sent back to Little Hangleton.
His father is furious, of course. He vows Merope would never set foot in that nest of cowards and mudbloods. He refuses to admit his children are anything other than mighty.
Morfin soon forgets about the school. His days are repetitive and simple.
In the cottage, the pots and pans are crusted with dirt. His sister is a terrible cook, though she does not know any better. Their mother died in a rush of blood and terrible screams when Merope was born, and their father sits in his corner, broad-shouldered and stubby legged, muttering about filth and hate. In the nights, he screams bloody murder.
The cottage has a smell, of earthy, cold things, slippery things. It smells of mould and old vegetables and piss. Merope is constantly stumbling over herself – her eyes point in different directions, her mind is blinded by fear and misery, and she only seems to see clearly when the handsome Muggle from up the road rides by so frequently.
Morfin knows that Merope longs for the Muggle, pretends that his daily pilgrimages past the cottage are for her, so that he might see her. Merope is pitiful in love. She hides from their father and rips at her hair with an old bone comb, dips her dress in water until the liquid turns gray, washes her face in the water, though if their father sees her being vain he will box her ears and set her crooked eyes all askew and spinning in her head.
What is love? What is lust? Something to carry on the blood, to force it forth into the next generation. Morfin loves his cottage, the way the earth smells after it has rained, the way Merope pats his forehead with a damp rag when he is dizzy and ill, how his father tells his stories of the past. He loves Salazar Slytherin, whose dark, cloaked shadow seems to cast its glow across the dirt floor of the cottage. Morfin loves his fantasies, of seeing the bones of his schoolmates picked bare and strewn across the stone floors of Hogwarts. He loves the fantasy of seeing a snake attack the handsome Muggle with the high laugh, seeing the snake perhaps enter his mouth and emerge from those cold blue eyes, the fine features turning to a grotesque mask. He loves to speak the language of snakes.
The snakes. They speak with him, voices flooding from under the earth. They toy around his ankles, thread through his toes, their eyes dark and intelligent. They call him master.
He likes to lure them into his large, broad hands, to press their cold skin to his cheek, to hear them hiss and wonder and ask. He is powerful to them; he is godly. When he is angry, he hears their whispered pleas and screams, so unlike the screams of humans which populate his fantasies. A visitor to the cottage might see small forms upon the door.
And sometimes, the grisly display crowning the house of Gaunt, he feels lonely again.
His sister goes missing, and his father goes mad. His beard is matted with grime and he wears holes in his boots and his breeches. The father rages of how he will punish his daughter, and Morfin reaches inside his own head, urges the snakes to come to him. He aligns them in shapes on the cluttered floor. If he could spell English words, if he could remember what words he could once spell, he might realize what letters the angles of the snakes’ long, limp bodies form. Merope.
When his father dies, Morfin buries him in the garden. He thinks of the stories his father used to tell him – of grand houses with the Gaunt coat of arms across the archways, of wizards who could cower as they passed. Morfin never realizes the lies, for the Gaunts had long lost their fortunes by the time Marvolo Gaunt was a boy. Perhaps he walked by the houses when he was a child, his own father pointing up at them and whispering in the old language of their birthwright. Perhaps Marvolo was the one who cowered.
The years pass, and Morfin feeds himself with the grass growing up over his father’s body and the morsels the snakes bring him. He grows gaunt as his name and bitter as his father. He speaks to himself, to the snakes, of grander times where the rain stops beating on the cottage roof and leaking in on Morfin’s shaking body, where his wand does more than emit pitiful sparks, where he is no longer gaunt but great.
If he is not a creature of the past, then he is a parasite of the future.
The memories – the ones he has, and the ones forced upon him – break into shattered pieces and rearrange themselves in a jagged kaleidoscope. He is no longer in the cottage – he is in an empty place by the sea. He has never seen the sea, but now its carnal fury rages against his ears, against his head.
“I am the son of Slytherin,” he shouts, whenever somebody passes by. But shouts are rarely heard in Azkaban. Nobody recognizes the natural strength in his voice. Nobody thinks to admire him. He is furious that nobody cares. He is hungry - he is furious that Merope is not there to feed him.
When Morfin dies, his body is thrust into the sea, wrapped in a sheet. There are no snakes to feed upon him, no mourners to bury his body and crown it with flowers. His teeth tumble to the pebbles of the seabed. His eyes point to the east and the west. Perhaps he is one of those poor souls who never merited a fate.
Author’s Note: Hello and thank you for reading! This is for the Gryffindor vs. Slytherin Blackout Battle – go snakes!
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by Joanne K