Pain

I'm not a sadist, you know. A sadist implies something sexual. A precise definition would be a man – or person, I should say – who derives sexual pleasure from causing others pain. Others, plural. That isn't me, not in the slightest. Because it's not just anyone's pain that pleases me. It's not even yours. It's his.

I thought it was a travesty, at first. You're the very image of that arrogant, self-centred, martyred bully. I watched you as you slouched into the Hall that Autumn night, looking in awe all around you. What a very excellent image of wide-eyed innocence you were, and how very struck everyone was with you. Do you know how disgusting it was? To sit in the staff room after that debacle, Minerva puffed up about having the Brat Who Lived in her house, and all and sundry anticipating what great things might happen in the years to come. Not a one of them saw the Dark Lord's return and three more years of death and sorrow.

But from that very first class I saw what was really happening. You whispered and sniggered, one sycophant already in tow, and I knew precisely how to handle you. You like to think you know it all, don't you? But you know nothing. You can be as lucky and courageous as you please, but faced with a straight-forward question and there's nothing but a gaping mouth and blank expression.

And that's when you look more like him than ever.

James Potter. What a very marvellous specimen of wizard-hood he was, and so talented with a wand. No one ever mentions he couldn't follow a straightforward recipe if his life depended on it.

Your eyes are so like hers. There's no point my telling you that – even though I knew those eyes better than anybody – because you wouldn't have appreciated it coming from me. They don't like to remember that I knew her best, that I had her first. I had hoped, if only for a moment, that you might take after her in some small way. But James Tosser polluted you through and through. The smallest glimmer of her, and it all might have been different.

So I continued to attack where I knew it would hurt – and I knew it would hurt, because I knew all Tosser's weak points. And you always rose to the occasion. You might not shout and blast, as I hear you did at Umbridge, but what did sneak through your appalling emotional defences was incredibly satisfying. I fed on your anger. It's what helped me up in the mornings, even when the mark began to burn, and it was a struggle to wrench myself from the sheets. The knowledge of his return – because it wasn't a suspicion, not at that point – was enough to make me want to sleep away the rest of my existence.

Then Dumbledore landed me the perfect excuse to indulge myself. He dropped you, quite literally, into my lap, at my mercy, and allowed me legitimate access to your mind. I've rarely experienced such a mess. The embarrassing ones, the private ones, were particularly easy to find. It was almost as though you pushed them at me, encouraging me to wallow in your numerous failures. Some of them did little for me: the history of your childhood and your mistreatment at the hands of the Muggles. It made me think – or try not to think – about my own father. Are all Muggles that way inclined towards our kind?

But then that slippery silvery image shone to the forefront, and you clumsily wrapped your arms around the Chang girl, and slobbered on her indelicately. She had begun to cry before you forced me out. It would be too easy to cast aspersions on your sexual prowess, and I never take the easy route. But why so disgusted with that kiss, Potter? A golden moment in every boy's life, surely. I know the moment I finally (drunkenly) took your mother in my arms is forever emblazoned on my memory as the happiest of my life. Yet you lump it together with torture and misery. Ashamed? Or did it not live up to your vaunted adolescent expectations? But he was never the playboy you might imagine – that was always Black. Your falsely sainted father kept himself pure, waiting for true love. Fool.

You needn't think I let it drop. If I could have thought of a way to exploit it, I would. But it was over very nearly as soon as it began, and there was little to be gained from it.

But I think it caused you pain just to know I knew, didn't it?

And thus we come back to my original point. I never lived to cause you pain, but to see your pain on the image of your father. That's what kept me alive, and that's what justified my keeping you safe, at significant cost to myself. Because contrary to what I'm sure you believe, I like myself. Who I am is honest, which means a lot more than any foolish courage or tactful pandering. Putting myself in danger for 'The Greater Good' required significant rewards in payment, and seeing the facsimile of Tosser's cheeks burn with embarrassment or fury just about paid the balance. Just.

And now I am dead, and I deserved to end up in Hades – there's no point sugar coating that, because we're all thinking it. But my understanding of death was, it pains me to say, somewhat misguided. I won't bother trying to explain it to you, because you won't understand. You don't want to. Death frightens you, whatever you might say. I've looked in your head, there's no lying to me. Suffice it to say I am in far more peace than I ever was in life; I can watch you with far more insight than was ever granted me before; and I am acquainted with the beings that were, in life, your parents. Furthermore, there are certain magics afforded to the dead, certain powers of influence, of which I couldn't even conceive in life.

Are you starting to understand?

No?

Let me use small words, then, and perhaps some pictures. James Potter is still an arse, and I still hate him – no amount of peace and harmony and love everlasting is going to change that. It still pleases me to cause him pain.

Those little mishaps you've been suffering? Breaking that little old lady's rather expensive teapot? The woman who turned out to be a man – and, oh, didn't that unveil a pleasant surprise? There is no such thing as coincidence.

What you feel is nothing: a fleeting embarrassment or, in the latter case, a rush of relief. Not to be crass, but I don't give a toss about you or your discomfort. What I trade in is a lot dearer. You suffer, and I watch the thing that was once your father with a satisfied smile on what might be called my face. And here, I don't just see his pain. I feel it. And it feels good.