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Powers that Be
It was time.
Twice in the last week, I proved myself to the Dark Lord. Lucius Malfoy took me to lay a trap for Muggles at Brighton, and then in Exeter. I would have thought that he would want to go somewhere with a lot of Muggle tourists, such as Stonehenge, since it is conveniently located near his manor in Wiltshire.
But Brighton and Exeter it was and we tortured Muggles because he said that I needed to obtain a taste for it.
Now I was waiting to be given instructions from the Dark Lord himself. Or so my cousin Bellatrix said. Lucius spoke very highly of me, she had said, but I didn’t think it had anything to do with torturing Muggles, as I spent the rest of those nights throwing up in some bushes outside Malfoy Manor.
I was convinced Lucius only said those things to the Dark Lord because he’s married to my cousin Narcissa.
Family connections are very important. This was the other lesson I learned at my mother’s knee those times she would send me and Sirius to visit relatives (in between governesses), when we really just wanted to be with her and Father.
It didn’t matter if we hated that great-aunt or great-uncle, or if that aunt and uncle hated us because we could not get along with their children. We always got the same answer: You must go and become acquainted with your family. You will find that your friends will some day leave you, but your family will always be your family. They will not leave you unless you force them to leave. So we would submit to our parents’ wishes, because it made them happy, although we were miserable and anxious to be back at home, even if it did mean that we were only returning home because a new governess was in place.
So it would be only natural that Lucius spoke highly of me to the Dark Lord—because of our family connection. Narcissa would always be my cousin and there was nothing he could do about it but make me a better Death Eater. And that—that I was willing to become.
Bellatrix and I waited in a dark upstairs hallway. I hadn’t a clue as to where I was. The others had done that on purpose—a rite, they called it, which I had to pass through. They had brought me to this place, this… building, and I was to be received by the Dark Lord.
Although he didn’t seem to be as anxious to see me, the rate the interview with whoever was in the room with him was going. ‘He’s been preoccupied.’ Bellatrix left the explanation at that. I don’t think she even knew, for all the airs she put on.
We stood stock still and silent. I could tell Bella was straining to hear what was being said. I listened hard, too, and could hear “any news” and “a confirmation” and “hiding.” Then I heard two names: Longbottom and Potter. Potter was Sirius’ mate at Hogwarts, I thought.
I looked at Bellatrix to see if her eyes would give anything away, but her brow was furrowed in concentration. Maybe she was thinking the same thing I was, but we didn’t speak of Sirius after he left, no matter how much any of us wanted to. She didn’t notice that I was watching her or else I am sure that she would have waggled her eyebrows at me, mocking me that she understood when I did not.
I calmed down knowing that she was clueless as I was.
Someone was climbing the stairs behind us. Bellatrix nudged my side with an elbow and pulled her hood over her head and pushed a mask over her face. I followed suit. A hooded and masked figure reached the landing and crossed his arms in front of his chest, saying nothing.
There was silence in the room before us. The door creaked open and a masked face appeared. ‘They are here, my Lord,’ a male voice said. Lucius. He opened the door wide and Bellatrix led us in.
Lucius pointed me to a spot near the door. Bellatrix and the other hooded figure walked up to where the Dark Lord was seated and knelt down at his feet. I dropped to my knees in a panic. Why didn’t she tell me to kneel?
It seemed that he was looking forward to hearing this report. His red eyes flickered in excitement. So far he had ignored me and I was secretly grateful.
‘Rookwood?’ he asked, indicating for the other robed figure to start.
From his knees he spoke. ‘I read the reports from that night, my Lord. The Accidental Magic Reversal Squad was dispatched to the specimen’s residence. When they arrived, they saw what happened to the Muggle’s head and called in two Unspeakables to decide what needed to be done.’
‘Who was present at the residence?’
‘The Muggle, whose memory was modified, the specimen, her brother and his wife, and they were talking to someone in the Floo. There wasn’t a full name in the records of that woman, but it’s assumed that she’s a relative.’
‘What about the brother?’
‘Apparently he and his wife both had their memories modified as well after the incident. There was nothing in the report stating that the Unspeakables did the modifying, or that Obliviators had been called in to do the job. The Accidental Magic Reversal Squad went to their residence in Liverpool the next day to finish the report, but they had no memory of the incident.’
‘Don’t bother with him anymore, then. Bellatrix has informed me that only one in a generation receives the gift, and it’s obvious that the specimen was the one. But this relative in the Floo—what do you know of her?’
‘She was uncooperative and shouted at the Unspeakables that they were treating her family unfairly.’
‘My Lord, what did she expect for a family of blood traitors?’ Bellatrix asked snidely.
He chuckled. ‘Unfairly, indeed. Do you have anything else to report, Rookwood?’
‘She cut the Floo connection before the Unspeakables got a positive identification. But she said that the family’s name was Prewett.’ He bowed his head.
Bellatrix turned sharply to Rookwood. ‘Her name is not Prewett.’
His head snapped back up. ‘What is it, then?’ he shot at her.
‘And how do you know that? The records—’
‘Records could be wrong, Rookwood!’ she barked.
Rookwood snorted. ‘And you can’t be wrong, Lestrange? Where did you ever get Fawcett from?’
‘Which is it?’ the Dark Lord said quietly. A vein was visibly throbbing at his temple.
Bellatrix turned back to the Dark Lord and stuttered, ‘I meant that I think Fawcett is more likely than Prewett. It could also be Diamond, that’s the family’s—’
‘My Lord, there is no record of the name Fawcett,’ Rookwood interrupted, inclining his head toward the Dark Lord. ‘We know that Diamond was the specimen’s name, though, and that the name Prewett was forcibly verbalized during the incident.’
‘It is most definitely not Prewett!’ Bellatrix hissed at Rookwood.
‘Which is it?’ the Dark Lord screamed in frustration.
The two robed figures cowered before him.
‘I’m pretty sure it’s Fawcett or Diamond, my Lord,’ Bellatrix said, her voice trembling slightly.
‘“I’m pretty sure” is not enough, Bellatrix!’ She dropped her head.
‘My Lord, the records clearly state that she claimed her name to be Prewett,’ Rookwood said lightly.
‘You have already said that, Rookwood! Which is it?’ he screamed again.
‘My Lord,’ Bellatrix began, prostrating herself before him, ‘we’re—’ here she awkwardly shot a glance at me ‘—distantly related to her on our fathers’ side—’
‘I’m not interested in hearing your bloody genealogy right now, Bellatrix.’
‘My L-lord, I can easily find out. The answers are at the House of Black.’
Lucius stepped up. ‘My Lord, Bellatrix and young Black here are related to the specimen and this… relative, as you are aware. It is simply a matter of checking, and you know how the Blacks keep detailed records of their bloodline.’
The Dark Lord considered Lucius’ words and eyed Bellatrix carefully—reading her, it seemed—before he spoke again. ‘Don’t fail me, Bella. Go find out!’ he snapped at her.
‘Yes, my Lord.’ She stood up and turned around. Rookwood began to follow her, but then—
‘Oh, no, Rookwood, you stay here. I want a word about inaccurate and incomplete information.’
Bellatrix grabbed me by the neck of my robes and pulled me out of the room and down the staircase, without receiving my instructions, I thought. The door swung closed behind us, but I could still hear Rookwood’s screams as he was being tortured behind it.
We Apparated outside of Grimmauld Place. Bellatrix led me by the neck of my robes to my parents’ drawing room. It was late enough that my parents had retired to bed, but the house-elf came in to attend to us the moment we stepped in the house.
Still grasping my robes, Bellatrix eyed him carefully, as the Dark Lord had eyed her a few minutes earlier. ‘Send him away,’ she commanded me.
I wretched my robes from her grasp and stepped a few paces away from her. ‘Get out, Kreacher.’
‘Yes, sir, Master Regulus,’ he said, bowing himself out.
‘He’s so old and creepy. Your mum needs to chop his head off.’ She waved vaguely toward the staircase where all the shrunken heads of Kreacher’s ancestors were exhibited.
‘Bella, what’s this all about?’ I asked abruptly. I needed to know.
Her eyes narrowed. ‘You can’t say anything, Regulus.’
‘I won’t. You know I won’t.’
Her eyes darted around, making sure the doors and the windows were closed. No use putting a silencing charm on the room, my father had made sure that anything disclosed in confidence could not be heard by anyone but the people within that particular room. Nearly all the rooms had the same charms on them, but not in the room Sirius and I shared as children, though. “House of Suspicion and Secrecy” Sirius had once called our home, while we watched Father renew the charms and hexes around Grimmauld Place.
Bellatrix walked over to the old tapestry set on the wall. ‘The Dark Lord is searching for a gift.’
‘And does somebody whose name could possibly be Prewett or Fawcett or Diamond have this gift to give the Dark Lord?’
‘You’re astute, Regulus,’ she said, smirking.
‘And this person is related to us?’
‘Yes. I remember Elladora speaking of this gift. She knew that… this family had it and that only one person in a generation would receive it. The last one who did, well, she was in St. Mungo’s for years. She recently succumbed to the madness and died.’
‘The specimen?’ I whispered.
‘What kind of gift is this that makes you go mad? And why does the Dark Lord want it?’
‘I don’t know for sure, just that this branch of our family had it and Elladora knew about it. Rookwood didn’t have time to read the whole report. He’ll tell me more about it in a couple of days, after he reads that part of the records.’
‘Will Rookwood be speaking to you in a few days?’ I asked. She didn’t notice the mocking behind the words. She had a habit of only hearing what she wanted to hear.
‘He will, if he knows what’s good for him.’ She forced my gaze on her. Bellatrix’s eyes were alight with malice and what only could be described as glee. Even though it was late in July, I shivered under her gaze. I was very grateful at that moment that I wasn’t her husband Rodolphus, the poor soul. It was enough to deal with her whims and expectations when I was a child. He has to deal with it for the rest of his life.
She’s a bloody maniac, I thought.
‘And what does this have to do with me?’ I asked, still wondering what my instructions were supposed to be, and willing her to go on explaining the night’s events to me.
‘It was Rookwood’s responsibility to get the information from the Department of Mysteries. It’s up to you and me to get this gift. That’s what the Dark Lord was going to talk to you about tonight.’
‘How’re we going to do that?’
‘Not nicely,’ she said curtly. She turned her attention to the tapestry, which showed our family tree. “The Most Noble and Ancient House of Black,” it said. Toujours Pur.
I sat down on a chair and watched as she traced lines with a finger for a long time, then stamped her foot in frustration. She turned around and said evenly to me, ‘Your mother really needs to stop blasting people off this bloody thing every time she passes it.’
‘My mother is—is—is proud of her wizarding heritage.’
She rolled her eyes. ‘Her pride of her wizarding heritage is hurting the Dark Lord, Regulus. Where does your mother keep that book? Nature’s Nobility? Maybe something’s written in that.’
‘It’s there,’ I waved my hand vaguely at a glass cabinet. Bellatrix knelt down in front of it and searched through the books and artefacts.
After a moment or two, I had to ask the question that was nagging at me. ‘Bella, suppose this person we’re related to doesn’t want to give this gift to us?’
‘Hmph, Regulus.’ She pulled a book off a shelf and tucked it under her arm. She made to leave. ‘If she doesn’t want to give it to us, then we’ll have to kill her.’
‘Just like that, then?’
She watched me for a moment. ‘Just like that.’
A/N: Read The Specimen! And the next chapter, The Difference Between Black and Black.