As he stands before me, tall and proud it is almost beyond belief, beyond comprehension. So it is with some caution that I edge closer, edge slowly from under the gentle shelter of the trees into the open air of the graveyard. For my caution is borne from my disbelief, my doubt that the one who stands before me is truly one returned from the dead. But my doubt cannot last long, for He could be no other. And the ground is hard as I hit my knees, jarring to the bone as my hands slide forward through the dust and the dirt that clings to my long fingers and rises in a gentle cloud around me, stinging my nose and tickling the back of my throat as I breathe. As my nails scour grooves through the earth that gathers beneath them.
I am a Malfoy and I am on my knees in the mud, crawling through the dirt and grime on my hands and knees, crawling through the very thing after which all I despise is named, hair brushing mere inches from the ground as my head hangs. And I can feel every crack, every indiscretion and every imperfection in the soil that I am too close to. The smallest of stones stabs me even through my heavy robes, causing my stomach to twist in a way all too unpleasant in its familiarity. As I push myself forward…slowly…subserviently, my face hidden beneath a cold mask that is both a comfort to me, and a curse. I lean forward, fingers clenched as I fight to keep my balance until I can feel the fabric beneath my lips. And it is no longer soft but coarse and painful. And even as I brush it with a kiss I again feel that knot that I can’t quite place, as the words of a different place float in the air around me, taunting with their arrogance and self-assurance. And my chest clenches with anger that I know will only dissipate when he is dead. But that death is denied me as I find myself stuck on my knees, unable to rise and stand no matter how great the longing. I must remain kneeling as the words continue their assault, crippled by my own uselessness.
‘Did you know he’s a half blood too – Or has he been telling you lot he’s pureblood?’
It seems strange that this image would haunt my dreams, that such an obvious lie would cause such a reaction. For though my temper is legendary it brings with it a misconception, the idea that it controls me. And I have heard these words many times before, they have fallen from the lips of countless people, too many both beneath me and close to me. But none have cut as deeply, none have refused to be brushed aside as these do. Even spoken from those most trusted I never gave them a second thought, never doubted they could be anything but a lie, a vicious and unfounded rumour. I struck them down for their impudence without a second thought, but it was done out of necessity and never fury. And that the words of my most hated enemy should cause me to think otherwise is disturbing at best, that I can hear him laughing at me through those very same words fills me with an unimaginable rage. For in that laugh he is undermining everything I believe, everything I stand for. In that laugh he is questioning my path and my decisions. In that laugh he is making me wrong.
I had expected the room to be cold, but I felt a thin sheen of sweat cover my forehead the moment I entered, strands of hair falling across my face in a way that grated against my patience with it’s smallest of discomfort, grated even more with the feeling that to brush it away would be the ultimate sign of rudeness. And so I left it to cling to the side of my face, scratching against the smooth skin as the heat increased and my robes became stifling and more restrictive than I was possible to be comfortable in.
The light was dim, gently flickering candles that seemed to shimmer in the haze that slowly clouded my vision, as my mind reeled and the heat seemed to increase, enveloping me in a cloud that closed around me and threaten to steal the very air I breathed.
And when He entered there could be no mistaking. His presence spread before him, permeated every corner and filled it, dark and foreboding yet enticing with its coldness, which came as a welcome relief from the suffocating atmosphere. And as his gaze fell upon me I had to remind myself that he had sought me, that he had requested my presence and wanted me out above all others. I was not to be one of the lowly, grovelling at his feet in the vague hope of a satisfied word, a pleased gesture. I was to be one of the special, one of the few and the powerful.
I bowed as was required, as I had been told and felt his gaze heat the back of my neck where the tiny hairs stood painfully on end. I had been warned against it, but was still unprepared when I felt the initial invasion and my mind was laid bare before him, laid open to his thoughts and whims. And it was here on my knees that I knew there was nothing he could not achieve, as my body tensed until a low chuckle filled my ears and I looked up hesitantly.
‘You believe as I do,’ the tone was rich and thick, pleasant until you noticed the undertones, the tiniest suggestion of uncontrolled and barely concealed malevolence. ‘Tell me though, are you willing to fight for them?’
‘Most gladly,’ my head bowed again slightly, eyes closing momentarily as the gaze sharpened.
‘You speak the truth, yet the truth in question is not the only issue,’ I looked up into the narrowed scarlet eyes of the figure that continued to tower above me. ‘You bow before me, but I demand more than that, much more,’ I fought the urge the swallow, to retain my dignity even from where I was crouched on the rough wooden floor. ‘I do not wish for you to simply fight for me, I demand nothing less than unwavering loyalty. Your life will be mine to do with as I see fit. I will be your Lord, your Master,’ the smile that spread across his thin lips contained no amusement as he leant closer, voice lowered to a harsh whisper. ‘You will give me not your service, but your very life.’
‘It would be my greatest honour,’ I paused for no more than a second, barely noticeable to another although for me it was long enough. Long enough to examine my choices, long enough to examine exactly what my pride meant to me, ‘Master,’ and at once the smile changed, reaching the eyes as they glinted with victory.
‘You would kill in my name and no other.’
‘Yes, My Lord.’
‘Without question or pause.’
‘You have my word.’
‘Even that pretty new wife of yours?’
It was a test; I could feel his presence still as my thoughts rushed to her side, to her perfect face and elegant grace. She was the nearest thing I knew to love, the only thing I had for which I even remotely cared.
‘If you so requested it would be done,’ I bowed my head again, emphasising my allegiance in the hope my word would be enough.
I was young, impressed by his power and his presence. The life of my wife would have been as easily sacrificed as my pride, sacrificed in his name and for the life he offered me. And I know to some it appeared cold and cowardly, that I would risk her with such indifference, such callousness. But I knew she would have done the same, that she would see the greater good of what I hoped to achieve. For in return he offered me much more, he gave me more than my dreams could have imagined. He gave me the power for which I so longed, and the prestige and respect that came with it. And all he gave me reflected on her and was for her benefit, was born by the future of our family. Her status was lifted alongside mine, the sanctity of all our marriage represented given hope in everything I fought for. For her bloodline was as pure as my own.
Yet I can still feel the dirt. It clings to my hands and no matter what I do it will not come off, no matter how much I clean or scrub they will never be clean, never be free of this assault.
‘Are you sure you won’t come with me?’ it was a simple question, to beg for her presence would have diminished both her and myself. Still a part of me wanted too, wanted to take her delicate hand and lead her to a better life, a better future.
‘We have had this conversation many times, my love,’ her hand was cold against my cheek, as cold as her eyes. ‘You have your path and I have mine. I will not kneel before a half blood, not for the sake of our kind, not even for the future of our son,’ my heart had frozen with these words, as her hand lingered for a second to long, stopped by the harshness in my eyes. But my fury was not aimed at her, it was meant for those who had spoiled her so, who had twisted her against me with the very same lies.
‘He is no half blood,’ the words a forced and strangled whisper. ‘You would do well to show more respect, my dearest, for with power such as his there is nothing we could not achieve.’ She laughed, a pleasing sound had it not been so cold, so chilled. It rang from the high ceiling and brought her eyes alive as she shook her head gently.
‘Do not deceive yourself,’ she said with as much kindness as I was accustomed in her voice. ‘I think no less of you for what you must do. It is your strength that you can crawl where I cannot, to protect our future.’ There was no mocking in her tone, but nevertheless I heard it, felt the rage build at having my own wife turned against me by lies; that her weakness should be exposed so cruelly through no fault of her own. The rumours had defiled her and taken her from my side, spread by those who knew they could not win and so sought to spread disease and discourse.
She was the only one who would have dared say such words to me, the only one who did not tremble before me, his most feared servant.
So dedicated that I made no move to find him, that I took not a single step towards continuing what he had started. So dedicated that I allowed his followers to trickle away, his vision to become no more than a dream. So dedicated that instead of torturing muggles and mudbloods in his name I reduced myself to floating them helplessly across a crowded field, that I lowered all he stood for to a group of masked strangers embarrassing the weak and helpless in what was no more than a schoolyard prank. So dedicated that I ran when his mark burned the sky. I was no more than just another scared follower, caught in a delusion I did not have the strength or conviction to find for myself, that I did not have the courage to leave.
It will not be true.
There is none more feared than I, none whose name is spoken with such respect even when it is all of me they know. I have been the last face thousands have seen, sneering down on their pathetic existence before it is brought to an end that should never have been granted a beginning. I have tortured mercilessly, heartlessly and enjoyed every curse, every scream; every broken voice pleading for the one thing they know will not be granted.
Would they fear me so much if they had seen me grovel myself? If they had seen me beg for my own life the way I make them beg for there’s. If they had heard me pleading for my life, pleading to be spared even if only to carry out the wishes of another, of the one I called Master. If they had heard the same mantra seeking forgiveness spill from my own lips as readily as it always does.
They will always fear me; their children will dread my name as well as that of my son. I will not have the word of an unworthy half blood threaten that, I will not allow the spawn of such a vile union tarnish the position I hold so dear. I will not allow him to take this power from me, to take away everything I hold above the filth of his kind, to take away everything that holds me above him and makes me better than his existence could ever hope to be. I will not allow it; I will see him dead and reunited with the filthy mother he has missed so much before I let his lies take a single shred of what he could never hope to own for himself. I will grant him their reunion and the name Potter will die with him, spat from the lips of his enemies as they have their ultimate victory. I shall look down on his dead and broken body if it is the last thing I see.
But still I hear the words he dare spoke to me. They pollute my air and taint it with his foulness. I would strangle him with those very words could I; watch gleefully as they wrenched the last dying breath from his body. And I know they can only be lies, for I will not be wrong. I will not be undermined, not by a lucky ingrate whose only claim to greatness is an impossible fluke. It is a single happy thought I cling too before the words once again turn against me, echoing and swirling round my prostrate form crawling through the mud and filth.
‘Did you know he’s a half blood too – Or has he been telling you lot he’s pureblood?’
My stomach twists one final time, and I know now why. It is my shame.
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