( s.t.y.g.i.a.n )

stygian - adj. Of or pertaining to the river Styx; Forbidden; Forbidding; Dark

The first time he sees something die, he is eight years old. It is a kitten, a tiny animal with big eyes and ears and fluffy fur all sticking out everywhere, and he tries to save it, because it looks so helpless, but it's been out in the rain and cold and wind too long, and it dies in his arms after only a few minutes. He buries it alone, because none of the other orphans will come around him and Mrs Cole thinks it's sinful and wrong to carry around a filthy, dead animal like a baby and give a dumb creature a proper burial. The whole affair leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

It is the last time he shows the dead any such respect.

By the time he is ten, he has already adopted a superior, arrogant tone, syrupy when he needs it, cold when he doesn't care. Warmth does not seep into his voice unless someone wants to hear it and it brings him closer to his goal. Which he still hasn't fully formed. But the first step, the biggest step, is to escape the orphanage. He's done a good job already of turning the others against him - they won't look long when he's gone, and he'll have his freedom.

But what he will do with it, he doesn't know. He knows that there's something good for him out there, something waiting just out of his reach, something that will mark his name in history for all of eternity - but it's so untouchable from the little iron bedposts and trinkets in the wardrobe.

When he is eleven, and the teacher-man comes to see him, he drops all pretense at the sight of magic, at the sudden realization that there really is more for him, but covers it quickly. And when the man finds the trinkets and gets all preachy at him, he thinks that he will never like this man, someone who imposes his perfect kindness ideals and probably thinks him a regular hooligan.

But he is not regular, has never been regular, will never be regular. Ordinary is a poison, he thinks, something that can never be allowed to filter into his veins, lest it take over and make him like the red-haired teacher with the fire trick.

So he sets out to be un-ordinary. Famous or infamous, it doesn't matter, so long as he is set apart and people know his name. And his first taste of real power is weak, pathetic, a lie to the other first years to make them think him their better (which he is, but for now, he's the only one who knows it) - but it is a taste all the same.

And all of a sudden, he is ravenous for it. Wants it, needs it, lusts for it. Power will set him apart, power will make him a god among insects, a great wizard worthy of remembrance.

The second time he sees something die, it is a someone, and it is of his own doing. He feels only a bare shred of remorse, a vague memory of the kitten in his fingers, but he sweeps it away and moves on to larger, greater targets.

Death is beginning to show its claws, though, as he watches the student crumble to the floor - and then he thinks that it is the great equalizer, right? Everyone dies, and even if he does all manner of spectacular things, he, too, will die one day, be covered with six feet of earth, and be forgotten.

So he vows not to die.

He has played with the idea before, but now it becomes an obsession, a need as acute as his lust for power, something which grips him and refuses to release him. He is given to his obsessions, he thinks idly one day, they consume him easily. He will not believe that this makes him weak, no matter what Dumbledore says about him. The man is a teacher, not a saint. Dumbledore cannot dictate his life as he does all the other students who hero-worship him.

He is inciting a passive rebellion among the students, a vague sense of confusion over who to choose as leader, and he relishes in it. Many openly flock to him, but are too afraid to openly defy convention and authority. And he doesn't mind. Lets them straddle the fence, because now isn't the time to fight a war over who will follow and who won't. Now is the time to welcome them all with open arms and plant the seeds of dissent.

Some, he knows, will never grow. There are many who listen to him because he's handsome and charismatic, but will never follow him. But enough, enough will, and he has power over these and more who think they can escape his grasp. Loyalty by fear or choice, he does not care.

He chooses his battles wisely, taking his territory inch by inch, hiding as much as he shows, lying as much as he confesses.

He believes there is more for him, believes that he is not doomed to the dusts of time as all the others are. He will live in infamy, and never see it pass in death. And there is power in belief, power in thought and words and actions taken for them - and all that power is his.

By the time he graduates, he is power-drunk, obsessed with the idea of becoming a god and convinced of his own immortality. Bound and determined not to lose, he rushes haphazardly into anything which will bring him even a centimeter closer to his goal - a murder here, a bribe there, a theft or a legitimate transaction, whatever it takes - and makes more than a few mistakes.

Six mistakes, in fact.

Horcrux. While it does what he wants it to do - renders him immune to death's sting - it takes something else with it, something he thought he could live without. And he can, and he does, but it leaves him empty, a little weaker inside (taken by his obsessions, he is just as helpless as the kitten) - but he fights it, bitterly, harshly, throwing himself to the winds, to danger, the knowledge of invincibility rendering caution pointless.

And he wins, really. He has his infamy, has people everywhere terrified to speak his name - which is what he wanted. Purifying the race - good, but not necessary. A goal more to keep his followers loyal than anything else. The murders, the terror, the widespread fighting - all for power, all for that something more he's starting to think he lost sight of somewhere along the line.

But he is nothing if not stubborn, and refuses to believe that he's done something horribly wrong with himself, and thrown everything away for a glimpse of eternity and a lot of power. It, however, will not be ignored.

So he lets go. Lets in the black, and decides that if salvation is beyond his reach (and it is, of course, but those who never die have no need of a heaven), then fantastic, glorious damnation is all that's left.

And when it shatters, it shatters to dust, to ruin, to desecrated nothing, and the simple, absolute being is wreathed in pain and the color red.

He hates the color red.

And for a moment, he considers releasing himself, slipping away (into what? His fragmented soul is anchored to this Earth), but then he hears them speaking of others. His name not on the lips of the world, forgotten among men and causes, no more than a heathen god of old, a tale whispered in the night to scare the children into being good.

He sacrificed everything to be immortal, to be remembered, and now that sacrifice has turned on him, left him bitter and alone and in agony.

And so he gives himself over to the obsession, allows the need for power and fame to control him.

He is weak, he knows. But in that weakness, he will be stronger than any (than all) of them.
(A/N: I don't even know what to say. Ah well. Review!)