"I'm here to visit the former Death Eaters," said Theodore to the guard behind the counter.
The guard raised his eyebrows. "Which one?" he drawled. "They're not all in one cell, you know."
Theodore had not considered the answer to this question before; in his mind, he had somehow pictured all of them being clumped together in one cell, much like some overcrowded Muggle prisons. Apparently, this was not the case.
"I'll see whoever can be seen," Theodore said.
The guard's mouth twisted, and he consulted a dirty clipboard. "Well, let's see. MacNair died last week, Dolohov's going to be a-going any day now, the elder Lestrange has become this shell that never talks, Avery's gone completely batty, Carrow – "
"Who is in a fit condition to speak to me?" Theodore asked.
"Hmph. The other Lestrange is doing okay, I guess. Bit temperamental, chucked his food dish at the wall the other day – "
"Do you mean Rabastan?"
The guard lifted an eyebrow at Theodore's use of the man's first name, but he said, "Yeah, that's him: Rabastan Lestrange. You going to visit him?"
"Yes, I'd like to, thanks."
"Alrighty then." The guard grabbed his key ring and showed Theodore down a long, winding hallway, until finally he stopped at one of the doors. "This here's a high security vault," the guard explained as he fitted the different keys into the many locks and bolts, "so even though you'll be allowed inside, there's an enchantment barrier to keep him from getting too close."
"All right," said Theodore. He figured it would be pointless to tell the man that there was no chance in hell Rabastan would harm the son of Nott Senior.
The guard finished undoing the many keyholes, and the door swung open. "You have twenty minutes," the guard said, as he ushered Theodore inside.
"Thanks," said Theodore, but the guard had already shut the door behind him.
The cell was a miserable little area, consisting of four smooth gray walls. A dirty cot was in one corner, beneath which sat a bedpan. A small barred window was against the far wall, revealing the huge lake the Azkaban prisoners would be forced to cross should they even attempt to escape. Against the bed a thin, scraggly man sat, his back against the wall, his hollowed face turned towards Theodore, eyes squinting in the dim light of the room.
"Is that . . . Theodore?"
"Yeah," said Theodore, "it's me, Rabastan."
"What're you doing here." It barely came out as a question, Rabastan's voice was so flat and wearied.
"I . . . wanted to see you."
"Ha," said Rabastan derisively.
"I did," said Theodore, taking a seat on the rough wooden stool that was against the wall. "How . . . how're you doing?"
"Brilliant," said Rabastan sarcastically. "Never better. Getting locked up in Azkaban really does amazing things to you, Theodore, you should try it sometime. I mean, really, I would know, wouldn't I, having been here a total of three times now, eh?"
Theodore stiffened. "Look, I just – "
"You just what? Just wanted to be friendly? Just wanted to offer your sympathy? I don't want either of them, they won't do me any good."
"I'll skip them over and get straight to the point, then," said Theodore stiffly. He knew he shouldn't be surprised at Rabastan's behavior – how had he really expected him to act, considering his circumstances? Still, it was somewhat of a shock: never could Theodore remember the older man being so bitter and rude to him, the son of one of the most prominent Death Eaters there was.
"Go on, then," said Rabastan, indifferent.
"I just wanted to ask you a few things," said Theodore.
"You do that."
Theodore took a deep, preparing breath. "Do you regret anything you've done? As a Death Eater, I mean."
Rabastan snorted. "Would it make any difference?"
"I don't know. I'm just asking."
"No, I don't regret it."
"Even though it landed you here?"
"I regret not running faster from those damn Aurors," said Rabastan sardonically.
"I'm serious, Rabastan."
"So am I. Look, Theodore, I served the Dark Lord nearly my whole life, because it was what I believed in, and that's all there is to it. It'll do no good if you're trying to get me to repent, or something."
"I'm not," said Theodore, "I just . . ."
"Was there anything else?" Rabastan cut him off.
"Yes," said Theodore, firmly. "Do you like yourself?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"It's just a question. Well, do you?"
"Do I like myself? Well, it doesn't really matter, does it. I'm stuck in here with myself for the rest of my life."
"But what's the answer to – "
"There is no answer, Theodore, I am who I am."
"All right," Theodore sighed. "I have one more thing to ask."
Rabastan rolled his eyes.
Theodore swallowed. "Do you believe in second chances?"
Rabastan shrugged. "I don't know. Depends on who I'm supposed to give the second chance to, I suppose."
"What about first chances, do you believe in them?"
"Yeah, I guess. I don't know, Theodore, I don't have answers to any of these questions, okay? Is that what you're trying to prove, that I'm just a heartless, stupid bastard?"
"Rabastan, stop – "
"Was there anything else?" Rabastan interrupted.
Theodore exhaled slowly. "No, that's all. Sorry for bothering you. I'll leave now."
"Bye," said Rabastan tonelessly, looking annoyed, as Theodore got to his feet and made to leave. But – was it Theodore's imagination – or was there something in Rabastan's eyes that hadn't been there before as he looked upon the younger man, something that was pensive, something that was considering the younger male's words?
Theodore opened the cell door and let himself out, wandering down the long corridors and outside, to where the small rowboat took him back to land. The cold, gray waters lapped against the boat beneath him, and the man controlling the boat sat up front, leaving Theodore space in the back.
Theodore reclined against the wood and looked down at the waters, down into their murky depths. They were so fogged, so grimy, so colorless, and it was impossible to even see a foot beneath the surface. Still, they kept on, they kept crashing against the boat in slow, irregular movements, trudging onward. They may have been soiled, they may have been dirtied, but they kept going, always. They were unclean, impure, yet they had made the choice to continue on with their existence. Well, they hadn't technically made a choice, since they were water and water is not alive – but even so. It was still a choice made by Nature for them to keep on.
Rabastan had chosen not to keep going. So had most of the former Death Eaters, by the sound of it. They had chosen to wallow away, to give up, and to not even think back on what they had done, on what they had committed.
On what they had chosen.
Theodore had chosen nothing. They had chosen something. But he had seen that he could not go through his life choosing nothing. The majority of the Death Eaters had, obviously, not seen this. They had made choices, unlike him: they had made the choice to join the Dark Lord and to do his biddings. And now, now they were making the choice to merely sit by, and not to reflect or consider or anything. Of course, could he really blame them? It was how they had been raised their whole lives: to devote themselves to what they believed was important, and to not consider anything else, ever. Just as he had been raised: to question nothing, to only accept what was, to see things as they were 'supposed' to be seen and not in any other way.
To not give first or second chances to anyone who didn't 'deserve' it.
The boat landed at the shore. Theodore scrambled out and quickly Apparated into Hogsmeade, walking slowly on his way towards the Hog's Head.
When he pushed open the door to the pub, he was somewhat surprised to see Cho Chang sitting at a table, her face turned towards the doorway. She had wanted to come with him at first, when he'd told her he was going to Azkaban, but he'd insisted that he needed to do it alone, so she'd acquiesced. And yet, here she was, waiting for him to come back, to come back to where he belonged.
"How did it – go?" she asked, as she got to her feet and moved towards him.
"As good as could've been expected," Theodore replied, smiling grimly, and he told her, briefly, about his interaction with Rabastan Lestrange.
When he'd finished, she took his hand and gave it a quick squeeze before letting go, her eyes shimmering as she stared at him. She didn't say anything, she didn't have to. Anything he wanted to know he could see in her face, open with emotion.
Cho stayed a little longer, until she had to leave for work. After she went away, Theodore wandered around the bar to go find Aberforth, finally locating him outside with the goats.
"You're back," stated Aberforth brusquely. He was sitting on a stool, holding a bottle full of milk out to a little baby goat, who was drinking eagerly.
"Yeah, I am," said Theodore, sitting down on a stool several feet from the old man.
Aberforth grunted, but said nothing, only went on with feeding the goat. After some time, he held out the bottle to Theodore. Hesitantly, Theodore took the bottle, and then put out his arm, offering it to another one of the young goats. The kid eyed him for a moment, then scooted forward, taking the end of the bottle in its mouth and sucking gently.
"Goats are so trusting," Theodore observed offhandedly.
"Not if you're cruel to them, they aren't," Aberforth replied.
"But if you're kind to them afterwards – and you really regret the cruel things you did to them before – will they forgive you?" Theodore looked up from the goat he was feeding, and met Aberforth's penetrating gaze.
Aberforth seemed to sense that Theodore was not really asking about the goats, for his eyes were quite knowing as his line face twisted into a smile, and he replied, "Yeah, most of them do."
A/N: Thank you for reading to the end of this story, I hope you have enjoyed. Please leave a review and let me know your thoughts. :)
Also, as a side note, this story was originally written for the Winter Tales, Seasons Change contest on Mugglenet Fan-Fiction. And, not to brag or anything, but it won first place overall. -squee- :D