I'd like to thank my fantastic betas, who really helped my pull this piece together. #1, the first one to respond to me, Bil. #2 Incessant Wyrm. Both did a great job, I couldn't have done it without them.
That blasted Potter boy is far too like his father for his own good. I’m generous enough to bestow my expertise in a subject that surely he can only ever dream of mastering, and he has the nerve to glare at me as if I’m torturing him simply because I had some spare time? Can’t the little fool recognize the favor I’ve chosen to bestow upon him? No, Potter could only ever be an ungrateful leech on my energy.
Still, there’s no denying the brat has potential. Throwing off the Imperius Curse is no small accomplishment, and he did manage -eventually- to avert his mind from a Legilimens. For a child who can’t control his temper around even the likes of Dolores Umbridge, I can, regretfully, admit I was impressed.
I’ve spared far too much thought on him as it is, and yet I can’t seem to get my mind off of the grim memories I saw at his core. It was painfully obvious from the rabid dog chasing him up a tree that he didn’t grow up the comfortable Muggle life one would imagine. Years of neglect at the hands of those guffawing oafs and that miserable Muggle woman couldn’t have been pleasant. I only caught flashes of his childhood, but most seemed to have been from the inside of a closet, starving, or at the abusive hands of a large Muggle boy, nearly twice Potter’s size.
If I had been present at these events, I can say with no hesitation that I would have laughed right along with those dreadful relatives of his. To see any horror visit itself upon the son of James Potter would have brought me much joy. I feel no shame in thinking it, I never have. But to experience it from his point of view, as I just did... I don’t know how to articulate my feelings on it, even to myself. There’s no pity, no camaraderie… but perhaps a sense of understanding.
When I can’t see his loathsome face, when I force myself to forget exactly who he is, if only for a moment…yes, I can understand him.
To grow up without love, to come to a place with as much promise as Hogwarts, only instead to find more misery and trouble... It hasn’t escaped my attention that he is the school’s favorite scapegoat. He seems to be a source of fear, just as I used to be. They don’t understand the raw power and destiny we were both born into, and so they attack. I can say this -admit to our similarities- only to myself. They mock, they hiss, and they slander. We’ve been victim to them all. It’s strange, how fear works against him at these times, and yet for him when it comes to fighting the Dark Lord. His fear of dementors is practically comical, although I wonder if I myself would fare much better against them with his memories. Mine alone are enough to suffice. I wouldn’t wish for more.
Strange, how it took the sickening memory of the Chang girl getting fresh for the boy to remember I’d been watching. As if I were interested in the romantic explorations of the foolish wart and whatever little socialite worms her way under his arm for some free publicity.
I suppose what surprised me the most were the -few- ways in which he is unlike his father. He doesn’t spend his time tormenting those he considers unworthy of him. In fact, more often than not, he stands up for the underdogs. An admirable quality, though it pains me to say. Were it not for his face that comes to mind…were he any other person, I could admit grudging respect. The Sorting Hat had recommended he be put in Slytherin…I wonder what would have been different had that path panned out, instead of the current one. Time has a way of teasing like that.
There’s no denying that I will always hate him. For who he is, and whose face he must revisit upon me each time he struts into my classroom - a face that I shouldn’t have to be forced to address anymore. When I first heard the Potters were dead... well, for a blinding moment I felt an indescribable happiness… until my world shattered as I remembered the reason I had begged Dumbledore to prevent that very occurrence; as I remembered who else now held that wretched name. Lily…
On the dark days where I have no need to and therefore don’t rise out of bed, when the call of my grudging duty – which, really, is the only remaining reason I still live - quiets, I can lie and stare at my ceiling in a daze, as I fight the emptiness in my soul. I rely on these days to regain control over myself, to prevent succumbing to the crushing depression that often rears its ugly head when I am unfortunate enough to catch sight of his eyes, Lily’s eyes, and only those eyes, and my heart stops for a moment, only to continue beating…I lie there and shoot down flies methodically with my wand, an old habit. And I’ll squint into the darkness, trying to imagine her voice as it begins to fade from my memory, but her face remains as crisp and clear as the last time I saw her, and she’s saying something to me, over and over again, and I can’t read her lips, but it’s nice to think that she would have spoken to me, smiled at me once more. But she didn’t.
Nothing occupies my mind save for the countless scenarios that play out in my mind’s eye, over and over again. What if I had never called her a Mudblood? What if I had never joined the Death Eaters? What if she had seen the true James Potter, the side that only I knew? No doubt I’d be a happier man. But nothing in my life has ever suggested happiness should ever visit itself upon me, and I have learned time after time that life isn’t fair. The Dark Lord and brotherhood that came with the Death Eaters brought me no joy, only a shallow sense of power, which proved to mean nothing, in the end. What little happiness I ever knew came only from her, and it was ill-fated, short-lived, and destroyed by my own hand. Her very life…my own hand.
If only she had forgiven me. I sometimes can’t help but grow angry at how easily she forgot her first friend, how her life could have been spared had she only…instead of Potter’s boy, she would be the mother of my child…and her child wouldn’t have to endure the trials given to him by his righteous parents, by the Dark Lord, and, indeed, myself. He would never have to live as an orphan. Her child, our child, would grow up in a home in which he understood the value of brain over brawn, and that petty talents like Quidditch were nothing to be marveled at.
What would our child have looked like? That is a pleasant thought I have indulged in only a handful of times. I think I would have preferred a girl, with Lily’s hair and smile, and especially her eyes. I don't know what Lily would have named her, but I know she would have looked nothing like me. I would have treasured my wife and child both far more than Potter, protected them competently from the likes of the Dark Lord and his followers, prophecy or not. I would have brought them to a safer land, far away from the war, so they could live not only in security, but in freedom as well. And as the Dark Lord took his throne, we would live in peace and anonymity, thousands of miles away.
Even if she had left Potter after they were married, even if she had brought along his damn brat, I would have taken her in. I would have forgiven any transgression; she could do no wrong in my eyes…yet I question why she didn’t appreciate me? For all that my entire soul screams in longing and grief for her, in my darkest moments I hate her for her indifference. But even then, as that emotion sparks up my spine, I quash it as I forgive her, as I have before and will again and again, because I couldn't bear not to forgive her, and it twists me. And no matter what, I am left hating only myself.
Had that situation panned out, and she had come to me with Potter’s babe in her arms, I think I could have forgiven the child his father, in return for my love's love. How could I not? As she makes me weak, she would also make me strong, even now. To think, there could have been a time when I looked upon Potter’s face with something other than my deepest loathing. I could have been…
Alas, time has panned out so neither of us gets what we want. We are not special in this instance, only faced with the reality of how the world works. But the boy has one thing I haven’t had in fourteen years. Hope. For the future, for his life, for the lives of those around him. He’s done nothing to prove himself worthy, nothing to earn it as I have earned it my entire life and yet I still hear his laughter, still see a smile on his wretched face in the Great Hall from time to time. Perhaps, deep down…that is what I begrudge him the most.
Anyway, beyond a fever dream had in the dank, stale room of Spinner’s End, my musings are preposterous. The twists in reality that would have to occur are nothing short of pure fantasy. And even then, it’s hard to imagine myself as a ‘family man’. Both Potter and I are doomed to service in the name of justice, our paths different but our cause the same. And then I am back to the unlikely understanding of the bane of my existence.
I don’t envy the boy what awaits him. His future has been chosen for him, without his consent, without any verification as to whether he has the mental capacity to cope, which I doubt. More often than not I’ve seen him used as a tool, even by Dumbledore. Manipulating people in such a way is a practice I abhor, but don’t care about enough to intervene. It seems he’s so used to it, he doesn’t notice... or more likely, he's too dull to understand; he has been used in various schemes since before his birth.
I hate the boy, but he’s all I have left to live for. None but Dumbledore and I could understand the meaning behind this, and yet I can imagine no other course in my life that wouldn’t end in self-destruction. And so I will pound Occlumency into his thick skull until he can protect himself from the Dark Lord’s control, and therefore, someday…gain us both salvation.