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Letter to a Young Death Eater, by chantefable

Letter to a Young Death Eater, by chantefable

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abraxas
Recipient: janus
Title: Letter to a Young Death Eater
Author: chantefable
Characters: Abraxas Malfoy, Severus Snape
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Word Count: 1970
Summary: A letter from Abraxas Malfoy to Severus Snape, concerning the matters of Life and Magic.
Challenge: deatheaterfest
Author's Notes: Dear verus_janus, I hope you enjoy this story. Your prompt was fascinating and I loved writing for you. Many thanks to my truly amazing and absolutely marvellous beta, blamebrampton, whose insight and care made this story sharper, brighter, and better.


My friend,

You have chosen to address me with a question that is of great importance to you, and perhaps of no small consequence to the world at large, both in the present and in the future – for who are we to foresee the many ways in which the web of our lives may be spun, if Merlin himself did not foresee finding himself in the garden of Vivian? With all the candid anxiety of youth, you ask me whether or not you should become a Death Eater.

On this point, as I will never fail to repeat, you must decide entirely by yourself; yet your delicate situation naturally begs for my attention, and so, my young friend, I shall draw your mind away from the pressing but passing worries, and place before you the facts and arguments, the materials and instruments required for making such a decision. Rather like an old Master puts the herbs and ladles in front of a young Potioneer, so shall I give you notions one must consider on one's own to measure destiny and brew one's fate. And in this I shall begin by saying that this question is in many ways similar to whether or not one should embrace the Dark Arts.

Practicing the Dark Arts and being a Death Eater are modes of life that, though by no means equal or identical, are nonetheless intrinsically linked. Being astute and vigourous of mind, you can doubtless see that both require action, and that both are means to an end. And though the chosen objectives may be different, or may indeed contradict each other, yet the Goals are, by and large, reflections of the same yearning. But still, let it not be said we assume that one practice means a natural affinity for the other.

Who can know what either of these modes of life will bring? With a single step made along the path, who can say what joy and what disquiet are to be encountered later? Sadly, no wizard or witch, no matter how brilliant or experienced, can tell whether the path indeed shall lead us to the Goal; whether it ends amidst unknown toiling or a consummation of desires, or perhaps reaches far beyond the envisioned. One cannot drink a potion before brewing it.

Yet there are some things of which I find it necessary to speak. With the uncharitable frankness of a man seasoned by his years, I say that every practice has its practitioner, and an occupation is only suitable for the one fit for it. Art should be practiced by an artist. A life should be lived by the one born into it. A young man such as yourself, whose nobleness is not merely a consequence of his lineage, and whose fervour of soul is much more than a combination of eagerness and inexperience, must take care to realise his own potential, for to squander it would be both foolishness he cannot afford and cowardice that is beneath him.

But who can know what trials and turmoil he can bear, and what pleasures and victories he can enjoy? A prompt and common reply is: "a mature, experienced, and wise wizard". Alas, an answer to the question: "What is wisdom?" would not be sought after were it married to every heart.

Beware of popular opinion, my friend; it is undignified to stoop to common truths that have been stripped bare of all real meaning, like words of old that no longer reveal magic. Instead, step aside to consider the state of things. All of us have to live our days from birth until death, and it is better to be devoured alive by a Manticore than to become aware that you have been a dull, useless, loose thread in the many-coloured tissue of the universe.

You are now choosing the weave of your thread. In this, tame not the precious intensity of youth. It is not possible. Rather, distance yourself from the enveloping presence of words, be those promises, warnings, or reassurances. Likewise distance yourself from quick and strong answers. Words are often abused. Toy not with words like an old hag toys with Beauty Charms. Study the thing, and not its reflection in the murky waters of language; take your time to know the answer, instead of hastily pronouncing it.

What wizards do we call wise? Are they the ones who presume to understand the mechanics of magic and the architecture of the world? Are they the ones who claim to have solved the riddles of the universe, countless and inconceivable? Or those who dare explain the preferred and preferable ways of life?

Or are the wise ones those who know the measure of their own understanding and the limits of their own reason? The ones who have chosen the eternal quest of seeking self rather than hiding under a borrowed cloak of false virtue? For living beyond one's self is the journey of the wise; it is a vocation, and it is a form of art. A wizard who embarks on such a journey inevitably finds himself watching the two sides of the road – the light of the day and the dark of the night – and, unlike his shallow counterpart, shies away from neither, but explores the two sides of the road within and without himself. The delicacies of said exploration are an art as obscure as it is dazzling, and the exploration of self, the quest, the voyage in the most complex realms of nature, is a vocation that is as rare as it is gratifying in its absolute greatness.

A wizard must look inside himself, past the mask he wears in front of others and past the illusions he creates for his own satisfaction, and see whether the lustful lure of possession is entirely independent in his soul, whether the ambitious desire for knowledge is not intimately laced with a true vocation for knowing the ways of being. For when devoid of vocation, a wizard may pursue and obtain what he longs for; he may know many things, and he may even achieve greatness. But this is not the absolute greatness I speak of here; the elusive glory of power, the sweet weight of fortune, and the proud charm of intellect is not what constitutes absolute greatness.

That one comes from within, and, like honour and dignity, needs no external acknowledgement of its existence. That one comes from within, born continuously every step of the way as you test and try the limits of your magic, power, soul, and mind, and that one depends entirely upon vocation.

A wizard's youth is filled with experiments and temptations; fancies flutter their wings like Pixies, and one drinks up the heady mixture of success and failure, intoxicating and bittersweet like elf-made wine. Yet all these exquisite things, sharp in their freshness, shall be muted by experience. For in all his grand designs and youthful daring, said wizard seeks merely to confirm his very existence, to live and imprint himself upon the canvas of the ever-changing life. In his every endeavour, it is not the pain that pains him and not the delight that delights him; it is living for the sake of living. Youth searches a verification of its being, for what is more transient than youth?

Such young wizard should not commit himself; for by committing himself to an art, a trade, or a witch, he shall live a dangerous delusion, clinging to things that interest, intrigue, or challenge him, yet to which he commits himself not because he has discovered genuine kinship, but due to an impatience for other forms and beings and due to a certain melancholic inexperience that prevents him from even beginning to know his own mind. He grasps the shiniest jewel he can reach, not bothering to find out if its smaller, bleaker neighbours are more precious. (Remember that a wizard who knows his own mind is certainly no longer young; but a willingness and a disposition to such knowledge is laudable when it comes to youth, and essential when it comes to integrity.) A father should recognise when his son is drifting and stumbling amidst confusing desires, in a fashion that is certainly natural and reminiscent of the parent himself; and, in my opinion, it is only proper that one should fervently discourage one's child against ambitions that stem from nothing but thin air and unrestrained temper. It is not impertinent for me to claim the right to speak to you in such a manner, for I have witnessed your passion and the keenness of your mind rather like a father would have done.

Commit yourself when you can distinguish the steady light of vocation among the many flickering dreams and captivating desires in the haunted landscape of your youthful ardour. Like the stars in the sky and the thrum of magic in your inner core, this steady light shall be your comfort in the changing times. Perhaps the only conviction that is omnipresent and everlasting, Vocation retains its essence, even as it has multitudes of form. Spring blooms its way into summer, withers into autumn and chills into winter; fierce youth turns too quickly into stern old age, and all things twist and bend and transform with the natural force of magic. What anchors the unrestrained being but Ideas? What shall remain intact when all is Transfigured beyond recognition? Conviction, true and transcendent, is what will never lose its strength. What other consolation in the face of hardship dare we expect? What other answer is needed? Wherever we may find ourselves, be that the times of blindness and absurdity or the times of contract and vindication; in whatever state we may find ourselves, be we free in the shackles of power or weakened by the strength of solitude, we shall not be overwhelmed by choices.

Oh, how easy it is to discern an overwhelmed wizard! He presumes to be a master of his magic, and is weighed down by any decision that will shape his kingdom: his life. Armed by what he calls wisdom and virtue, he battles with his choice as if it were a dragon. But look at another wizard: he treads carefully approaching his choice, and the fire-breathing dragon raises its head; they share a look between them, and a moment of recognition; and so the wizard finds himself on the back of the deathly beast, for what are both Choice and Vocation but Ideas? And should they know each other, how can they not be joined?

Insofar as you should be sensitive to the enduring possibilities of your life's journey, rest assured of the genuine affection of your friend,

Abraxas Malfoy
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