STOLEN



He used to believe there was magic in everything. Magic in every single thing that could ever exist ... from the tiny particles of dust that floated placidly in the air to the metallic sheen of a beetle's wings. It was simple, but it was magic nonetheless.

He was so young back then ... when he used to believe.

Too young to understand that life could be mediocre without any effort. Too pampered to suspect that not everything in life was beautiful. Too naive to realise that some things in life were not worth waiting for, not worth hoping for, not worth living or dying for.

He did not know that the world had a deficiency in love. He could not know. He would not know until he could feel it himself. For eyes that are nailed shut cannot open themselves, and his heart was but a sapling still.

He could feel many wonderful emotions: wonder, hope, triumph, love, though he had but one passion in his life. A passion so great that it blinded him to the world he lived in; closed his eyes against the cold, cruel winds of change that dragged his miseries along with them whenever they came to visit.

And visit they did, staying for long periods that often drove him to the brink of hopelessness.

Their miserable beauty stayed him; the power of his sadness entwining like Devil's Snare around his body, keeping him upright and not letting him fall.

He wanted to. He wished he could drown himself in the pool of his sorrows, as wide, deep and calm as the lake on the school grounds.

But his sadness would not let him go.

He thought they all loved him. Star of the Quidditch pitch that he was, how could they not? He flew better than any of his teammates; he was certainly better-looking than any of them, and wealthier to boot. He was convinced that was the reason why they treated him so harshly.

Jealousy, that was all it was. Spiteful, angry, terrible jealousy that tore his teammates apart and made them wish they could make him feel it, too.

But jealousy called on him more than it did on them. Everyone knew it; jealousy rarely ever played a quiet, cunning role. And although jealousy was not his friend, hatred was.

A hatred so strong and powerful that flowed through him like molten lava; a hatred that seemed to pulse in his veins whenever the volcano inside him awoke; a hatred so kind and pleasant, and dark and poisonous, that threatened to overwhelm him altogether whenever the volcano erupted.

While jealousy was sharp and cold, hatred was smooth and hot. It boiled and bubbled in him; always there, and always ready to whisper sweet, malicious comforts in his ear. His own personal demon, given to him by the forces of hell ... a beautiful, tempting gift that was sure to consume him like the ever-burning fires of its origin ...

Quidditch was his passion. There was nothing else he could love more, although his school marks never betrayed the secret life of hatred that he led inside his mind.

He loved the feeling of the cool air rushing through his hair that was so often slicked back away from his face; he loved the feeling of the wind whipping through his green and silver Quidditch uniform; he loved the power and beauty of flight, and the glory that was almost omnipresent in him after the game was finished.

But he was stealing those feelings from him too. Just like he stole everything else. He should have been the one they all praised, the one they all adored and looked up to. He was everything a man should ever be: rich, handsome, distinguished, talented.

But, then again, he wasn't noble. He wasn't brave. He didn't risk his life to save others. It wasn't his way. It wasn't the Slytherin way. They always thought of themselves before others. They didn't think they had nine lives like Gryffindors seemed to. Selfish? Heartless? Cruel? Typical Slytherin.

How he hated it! All the prejudice. They were the cruel and heartless ones. They never tried to understand what it's like walking in a Slytherin's shoes. They just assumed it was all fine and dandy because Slytherins were heartless. They didn't care if their neighbours dropped dead all of a sudden because they were selfish. They didn't care if they killed an innocent person because they were cruel.

And he assumed that along with all the rest. He never bothered to find out the other side of the story, even though he was so good and so unselfish. He was a hero. And Slytherins weren't worthy to wipe the mud off heroes' shoes because they were the ones who put the mud there. Of course.

And he would never let the hatred simmer down and disappear. He was always winning ... he was always the one ... he was always the best ...

Everything was at his fingertips. Great friends, great girls, great power and very great achievements, though he was never anywhere near the top of the year. It was all because of who he was ... the hero we all love ... the hero he would hate forever ...

As if the fame and glory he always had wasn't enough for him, he won the Quidditch Cup as well. The wonderful, shining, silver Quidditch Cup that would harmonise so beautifully with the Slytherins' robes ... stolen by those Gryffindors ... stolen by him ...

He remembered it. Oh yes, he remembered it so bitterly well. He was so close to victory ... if only he could have stretched his arm out a bit more, he would have won, and the wonderful, shining, silver Quidditch Cup would continue inhabiting Snape's office.

Instead it was moved up to McGonagall's ... after the crowd of Gryffindors let Dumbledore take it ... after he finished basking in the spotlight ...

It was like someone spat in his face. That glory should have been his. He should have been the one they all cheered for ... he should have been the one for whom they made posters and hats and decorated bed sheets ... Malfoy for Minister, it should have been ...

How sick he was of it all! Of him and his faithful worshippers. Of hearing about all the brilliant deeds that he had done. Why couldn't he be praised for once? Why couldn't the crowd roar their approval for him? Why couldn't he be the one gripping the handles of the Quidditch Cup? Why was it always him?

The hatred that he felt when he saw the Gryffindors bear their lovely hero on their shoulders after the Quidditch Final was unsurpassable by any of the other times he had felt it. He wanted to curse him so hard and so terribly so that the ever-caring hero would have some notion of the pain and anguish he was turning his back on ... the hurt and hatred that he didn't seem to care about ... the human being who he would never rescue despite his big hero status ...

There was never such a row in the Slytherin changing rooms as the one that happened after the match. Such horrible things were never said to him ... his teammates seemed to have experienced their most bitter loss yet ... they were so convinced that he would be able to pull off a win because they knew he wanted it just as much as they did, perhaps even more ...

But he had failed them. He had failed himself, too, but they didn't care about that. They were angry and they wanted to make him feel their fury ... and they did ... Marcus Flint was not Captain of the team for nothing ...

They had left him alone in the changing rooms, aching and fit to burst with rage. How dare they treat him like he was no better than some common Mudblood? How he hated the lot of them! With a taste of bile in his mouth he realised that if he decided to compile a list of all the people and things he hated, it would probably stretch all the way to the other side of the world.

Breathing seemed like the most difficult thing to him as he lay, gasping for air, on the floor, his head buzzing as though filled with just as angry bees. He was ashamed to admit it, even to himself, but his life certainly did stink. He seemed to be made of nothing but hatred, anger and jealousy, and those were hardly the components for a happy life.

And then he heard it.

He was surely imagining it. Everyone had gone inside the castle, he had watched them go. And even if they had returned they would hardly be chanting his name so loudly. He stood and the chanting seemed to grow louder, as though the crowd could suddenly see him. He looked around, but there was no one else in the changing rooms apart from himself.

Perhaps this was real ... perhaps they had finally decided that it was he who deserved the plaudits ... perhaps they finally felt sorry for him ... perhaps they finally loved him ...

The chanting and yelling and singing seemed to grow louder and louder with every step he took, filling his ears until it was whirling around in his mind along with his muddled thoughts. A shoot of hope burgeoned in his chest, followed by another one of joy; they wanted him, they were cheering for him, they loved him, they loved him!

'YES!'

He ran out onto the darkening Quidditch pitch, his green and silver robe billowing behind him, and the crowd roared like never before. He stopped in the middle of the pitch, his arms spread wide, an expression of complete exaltation on his pale, pointed face.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the crowd stopped shouting and chanting and singing. It was as if the volume was abruptly turned down to nothing, as if the crowd had somehow disappeared in the space of a moment.

He opened his eyes, scanning the stadium, his arms still spread wide as if waiting to envelop someone in them.

But there was no one there. The stands were empty. There was nothing but the rain, steadily falling heavier and heavier, soaking him to the bone and making him shiver. It was cold and he was alone. He had imagined it. Nobody had shouted for him or chanted his name. Everyone had gone. He was alone. Delusional. Schizophrenic. Worthless.

And stupid. How could he for one minute believe that, all of a sudden, the whole populace of Hogwarts would fall in love with him? How could they when they already had such a great hero? It would be treason. And they couldn't have that.

He trudged back to the changing rooms, his head down, splattering his robes with mud along the way. He didn't care anymore. He was even hearing things now. Why should he care? There was no point to it. No point to anything anymore. If everything he loved was going to be stolen away from him then what was the point of loving it in the first place? He couldn't have it. He'd be the one to steal it, whether he wanted to or not.

Oh yes, he used to believe there was magic in everything. Magic in every single thing that ever existed. But that was before ... when he was young ... when he was spoiled ... when he was naive ... back when he used to believe that magic was in everything, that life was good and beautiful, and that it would always be that way ...

When he used to believe, life had been like that. And now, life was worse than just losing a Quidditch game because everything he believed in, so lovingly and hopefully, turned out to be the opposite. Mundane, bad and ugly. He wasn't even living his own life. His life was stolen.