Avada Kedavra. That curse. The thing about it is that it takes the soul and detaches it from the body. It doesn’t actually do any real killing, if you want to get technical here. It’s more akin to the Dementor’s Kiss. It will leave the victim as one kissed if I don’t step in.
* * * THE HONEST-TO-GOD TRUTH * * *
I don’t like doing it, finishing the victim off.
I know that they’d be in a state worse than death if I don’t do it, but that doesn’t ease me. Even though I constantly tell myself I’m almost doing them a favor, I just can’t shake off the feeling that I’m administering the killing blow. In other cases I don’t feel such pain. I’m simply rescuing the soul from a body that is broken. But here, here the body is full of life. The heart keeps pumping until I take the soul away.
The first time I saw The Boy Who Lived it was green. Green like the grass, like an head of lettuce, like a person about to vomit. I guess it’s natural that it was that color. It seemed that was all it ever was for the wizards since he rose to power. I was there as soon as the words left his mouth. Whenever those words are uttered I’m torn away from whatever it is I’m doing. If I don’t act quickly, the soul will be lost. I got to the tiny house in Godric’s Hollow seconds before the man hit the floor, going down in a flurry of foolish heroism and love. I quickly bent down and extracted his soul, placing it over my shoulder.
I knew I would have to stay. The father was the first to die that night, but he certainly would not be the last. So I followed the Dark Lord up the stairs, followed him as he blasted his way into the child’s room.
* * * A PAINFUL EXCHANGE TO HEAR * * *
“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!”
“Stand aside, you silly girl…stand aside, now.”
“Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead—”
“This is my last warning—”
“Not Harry! Please…have mercy…have mercy….Not Harry! Not Harry! Please—I’ll do anything—”
And then he stood above the crib, the parents no longer blocking his path. I was there beside him, already weighed down by a soul on each shoulder and ready to extract the third. He raised his wand and uttered the words. And nothing happened. Well, something happened, but certainly not what you’d think. He flew backwards, striking the wall with such force that the whole side of the house was blasted off.
I for one felt three things.
* * * A PIE CHART OF MY EMOTIONS THAT NIGHT * * *
15% happy—the Dark Lord was gone, after all, and the boy was alive
35% amazed—that shouldn’t have happened, not in my vast experience
50% relieved—I didn’t have to help him murder one more time
I couldn’t help but lean over the crib to search for some sign. Anything that would explain this abnormal occurrence. There was nothing but a tiny lightning bolt scar etched in the side of the child’s—Harry’s—forehead. I reached down to touch it. The skin was hot, as if the boy was suffering from an uncontrollable fever. I continued to study him, yet nothing stuck out to me save one thing. His eyes. His eyes were green—precisely the color of the curse’s light.
* * * A QUESTION AND ITS ANSWER * * *
Q: How many years passed before I saw the Boy Who Lived again?
A: Ten. One whole decade.
The second time I saw him he was crumpled on the floor, as if dead. But I knew he was not. He was barely hanging on, that much was true, but there was something about him—perhaps his will to live?—that kept me away. The scar drew me in once again, but I resisted its pull, the urge to examine him again and find out why he had lived. I was there on business. I am everywhere on business, for all I do is work.
The man I was attending to was nearby, face a mass of raging red blisters. He was swaying violently, his hold on consciousness precariously weak. And then he fell forward. I really should stop being so amazed at the things these wizards can come up with, but this was a new one, even for me. The man had eyes in the back of his head. The face looked dead, as if its owner had abandoned it. I knelt down beside him and took his soul, not giving it the usual care. I am no fool. I could tell that this man had dipped his hands in dark magic, the sort of thing you should avoid.
As I left the room I caught sight of my reflection in a mirror that stood alone. The reflection seemed normal enough at first glance. But when I moved in to take a closer look I noticed something very important was missing. There was no soul in my hands. I didn’t know what to make of it.
The next time we crossed paths I was coming to take his soul away. The boy was sitting on the floor of an ancient chamber, clutching his arm from which blood spewed freely. I had seen the giant snake and easily put together the facts. He had been poisoned. I had arrived a bit too early and could do nothing but wait. Wait as his heart, pumping furiously to sustain life, did precisely the opposite by carrying the poisoned blood to every inch of his body. It was sad to see him finally die. The boy who had survived the Killing Curse was fading before my eyes.
Suddenly there was a flash of scarlet flying through the air before my eyes, settling at the boy’s side. A phoenix. The bird bent its graceful neck and placed his head on the boy’s wound. I had no idea how the boy escaped me the first time, but this second time it was very clear. The phoenix was crying. I’m no wizard, but I’ve had enough phoenixes save men from the grips of death to know what was happening. I hesitated, not sure if I should leave yet. The handsome older boy standing nearby looked furious, as if he might kill the Boy Who Lived himself. I decided I couldn’t wait. Death hasn’t the time to take a holiday.
The sky was covered in thin, pale clouds. It almost appeared to be lilac colored. Yes, I would decide upon seeing it, definitely lilac.
* * * THE ATTRIBUTES OF LILAC AND OF THAT NIGHT * * *
Peace and the beginning of a war.
Tranquility and chaos.
Refinement and savagery.
How ironic that such a calm, unassuming color should come to represent that night in my mind. Most incongruous, I must say.
When I arrived the boy was kneeling on the ground, hand clutched to his forehead and eyes tightly shut, face wrenched in a grimace of pain. I didn’t recognize him at first, but as soon as he opened his eyes, finally daring to look at the scene beside him, I knew. This was the Boy Who Lived. His companion, a handsome older boy, was lying motionless on the ground. I could see his detached soul floating slightly above his body. If I didn’t act quickly it would be too late. I gently picked up his soul.
I stayed there, fully expecting the man to finish off the Boy Who Lived soon enough.
I watched as the wheezy, watery eyed servant brought back the Dark Lord.
Flesh, blood and bone.
I watched as he called his servants.
I watched as he forced the boy to duel with him.
I watched as their wands were connected by a golden thread, as that expanded into a giant dome around them, as the murdered came out of the Dark Lord’s wand.
And I saw as the Boy Who Lived somehow made a miraculous escape.
I did not see the Boy Who Lived the next time he saw death. I remember clearly the event itself, for it is not often that men fall directly into the realm of death itself, without me carrying their soul there. Only a handful have died without my guidance. I only found out about this run in with my world years later, when I came across a book about the Boy Who Lived. A glossy book with golden lettering on the cover, spelling out the words HARRY POTTER: THE BOY WHO LIVED. No doubt, I thought as I held it, the book thief would be fascinated by this one.
I could not see him again, when he saw death one more time.
* * * WHY COULD I NOT SEE HIM? * * *
He wore my cloak.
Though I did not see the Boy Who Lived, I remember this death for another reason. I came to the top of that tower as soon as the curse was uttered, only to find the victim was not there. He had fallen. I had to hurry to the bottom of the tower and only barely reached the man before his soul floated away.
Everything was blue-white, when I tried to take the soul of the Boy Who Lived away for a third time. On this occasion it was not the Killing Curse or a basilisk fang, but a locket and some water. The locket had tightened around his neck, choking him, drowning him. I knelt down beside the pool and pushed up the sleeves of my shirt, preparing to go in and take his soul when another boy, all red hair and freckles and lanky limbs, came to his rescue. Once again, the boy proved himself worthy of his title.
I arrived at the manor to find the watery eyed man blue in the face, his own metal hand wrapped around his neck, as the Boy Who Lived and his red-haired friend looked on in horror. The man’s eyes rolled into his head and he was still. As the boys ran up the stairs I grabbed the dead man’s soul, horribly surprised by what I had just seen. The metal hand had betrayed its owner, just as he had betrayed his friends.
I was awfully confused, the next time I arrived the find the Boy Who Lived grieving as a friend of his died.
* * * A QUICK FACT ABOUT MY LINE OF WORK * * *
Death— or at least I—cater only to humans.
But the dying creature here was no human. It was a house elf, dressed in the oddest mix of clothing you ever saw. It tripped me up for a moment, but I did not question it for long. I don’t have time to question these things too much. This house elf had a soul and it needed to be brought to the other side. I was there, so I did it.
We met again in a fury of obsidian black and dancing reds and oranges. It was an uncontrollable fire. I thought the fire would ruin more bodies, yet it only took one brawny boy. I waited as the fire closed in on the other two boys, but the Boy Who Lived and his friends swooped in on broomsticks to save the day.
Mere minutes later, another died with an open mouth. It was not like Reinhold Zucker’s, frozen in a sneer. This man’s mouth formed a smile of pure joy.
* * * WHY SMILE IN THE FACE OF DEATH? * * *
Did he have no fear?
Was he merely a very happy man?
I couldn’t say.
I waited until the grieving man who knelt over his body moved before taking his soul. I really couldn’t afford to wait for him to move with the battle and so much death going on, but I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt his pain.
Because it was a furious battle, I have a distinct feeling I saw the Boy Who Lived without noticing at least once before the next time we most definitely met. It was another snake bite, I could tell. The man’s heart had already stopped by the time I arrived, still carrying another man’s soul on my shoulder. This man had dark greasy hair, even darker eyes and a hooked nose. As the Dark Lord’s voice echoed throughout the area surrounding the castle I picked up his soul and left.
I would not see the Boy Who Lived again until he walked to his own death. I flinched when the Dark Lord said the incantation. I was hardly surprised when the boy’s soul was not loosed from his body. There had been so many false alarms with him that it seemed almost normal.
* * * THE NUMBER OF TIMES HE HAS SEEN DEATH VERSUS * * *
THE TIMES HE HAS ESAPED IT
Deaths of others: 9
His escapes: 4
I smiled when, after asking for verification that the Boy Who Lived was finally dead, the Dark Lord received a lie in return.
I followed the parade of the Dark Lord’s servants through the forest, as the giant man was forced to carry the apparently dead Boy Who Lived. I watched as the Dark Lord showed off his victory. He attempted to torture the boy who stood up to him, the boy who would not give up, and in return lost his snake, his final tie to life. I saw a piece of broken soul float from the snake back into the Dark Lord’s body.
The Boy Who Lived disappeared under my—his—cloak and the battle soon resumed.
There was a flash of green from a woman who looked mostly harmless. She looked furious though, so she certainly had a reason to use the curse. I was familiar with the woman she killed. She was a messy haired woman with wild eyes like a starving beast. She had used the curse many times. I couldn’t help but think she had it coming. She realized how cruel her curse was yet continued to use it.
When, at last, the Dark Lord fell it was red. The sun was peeking over the horizon, casting the sky that brilliant color. The color of anger, but also the color of love. He used the killing curse again, perhaps thinking that if the third time wasn’t the charm, maybe the fourth would do. He was wrong. For a moment I considered not taking his soul, letting him suffer the worst fate his curse can inflict upon a man. Yet I could not bring myself to do it. Perhaps it’s that I think every man deserves the solace of death. Perhaps I know that no man deserves such a punishment, no matter how evil. Whatever the reason, I grabbed his soul—a patchwork of broken pieces, hastily sewn back together—unceremoniously and dragged it away.
I did not see the Boy Who Lived again for many long years. Perhaps, having come face to face with Death so many times in his youth, the world decided he’d seen enough of me for one lifetime and spared him. When his time finally came you would have not recognized him, but for the scar and the ever-bright green eyes. He felt no fear. He was at peace. He welcomed me with open arms as though I were his closest friend. Like Hans Hubermann, like the book thief, his soul sat up for me, and I carried it away in my arms.