Characters: Igor Karkaroff, Antonin Dolohov
Warning: This romanticises prison life to an extent; this is an intentional stylistic choice and not a reflection of reality.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 1500 words
Summary: Igor Karkaroff discovers that he's more alone than he thought.
Note: Originally written for a contest at hogwarts_elite. Second place winner.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Igor Karkaroff hated London.
He hated the noxious smell of exhaust fumes, the grey cast to everything even on sunny days, the damp air that seemed to seep under the skin and stay there no matter how many hours one spent in front of a blazing fireplace. He hated the Muggles. The London Muggles were just a tad more obnoxious than the rest of them.
Igor picked at his jacket sleeve irritably and stared at the street sign, squinting. Clerkenwell -- this was the place. He looked across the street and saw the restaurant's sign on the corner. Turning his collar up against the wind, he crossed the street, then pushed open the restaurant door. His boots thudded heavily against the wooden steps as he made his way up to the bar.
Upstairs, a heavy-set man in his late fifties sat at a table dominated by a large samovar and laden with a variety of hors d'oeuvres and drinks. The man had short, close-cropped hair, a square jaw and a prominent forehead that looked as though it jutted out over his eyes like some sort of bizarre ledge.
"Well, hello," said the man in a gruff, low voice. "I am Dolohov. You are Karkaroff, yes?"
Igor blinked and nodded. This was Antonin Dolohov? "I have heard so many good things," he said.
"Don't believe them. I'm an asshole."
Igor offered a small, hesitant smile but Dolohov just stared at him. "Aren't you going to sit down?" he asked after a moment.
Igor took off his jacket, draped it across the back of one of the sturdy wooden chairs, then sat down.
"Eat," said Dolohov.
"I'm not hungry, thanks," said Igor, lying through his teeth.
Dolohov's eyebrows knotted together and he lifted a packet of cigarettes from the table. He smacked the top part of the packet against the back of his hand a couple of times, then opened it. "Look," he said after sticking a cigarette between his lips and lighting it. "I have been with the Dark Lord since the beginning. If he sends you to work with me, you have to do as I say."
Igor swallowed past the sizable lump that had suddenly formed in his throat and watched as Dolohov expelled twin streams of blue-grey smoke from his nostrils. He nodded slowly -- after all, when he had taken the Dark Mark, he knew that he was joining an organisation with its own power structure. Dolohov was an elder and Igor had to dance to his tune.
"Good," said Dolohov after Igor's nod. "Now, eat."
Igor reached for a slice of white bread and began spreading butter on it.
"Are you of the Vologda Karkaroffs?" asked Dolohov after Igor had eaten his fifth sandwich.
Igor shook his head. "They're distant cousins," he said. "My grandparents emigrated from Petrograd in '17."
"You call it Petrograd. I approve," said Dolohov. "Good Russian name, none of that 'burg' nonsense."
He set two shot glasses on the table and pulled one of the vodka bottles towards him, opened it and poured. "To the motherland," he said, and lifted his.
Declining to drink would be beyond rude, and so Igor picked up the glass and toasted the air with it. "I'll drink to that."
They emptied their glasses. Dolohov lifted a piece of dark rye bread to his nose and sniffed deeply, like the common people. Igor was reminded of his grandfather, nibbling daintily on a piece of stuffed tomato and bemoaning the victory of the commoners. Igor fidgeted nervously in his seat, wondering how long it would take until Dolohov found out that their families were likely on opposite sides of the fence in the Russian Revolution.
Dolohov shot him a wry look. "Don't worry, Karkaroff. I am not a commoner. I just like their style of living. Down-to-earth people."
Igor picked up a fork and attempted to fish a pickle out of a jar, frowning. Was Dolohov using Legilimency against him? Why couldn't he feel it? He was a good enough Occlumens--
"And don't worry about me reading your mind, either," said Dolohov. "I just understand people. And use your fingers, Igor. Easier that way."
Igor put the fork down and reached into the pickle jar, wavering between irritation and amusement. At Hogwarts, they'd nicknamed him "Slick" because he had been so good at talking himself out of situations and appearing in total control. And yet, a half hour with this strange man had reduced him to behaving like an awkward adolescent.
"I was a political," said Dolohov suddenly, not looking at Igor. "When I came back from Durmstrang, they accused me of betraying my country and threw me in prison."
"Muggle prison?" asked Igor, forgetting to chew.
Dolohov nodded. "Yes. They took my wand."
"But how did they know you were a--"
Dolohov waved a hand at him. "Please. You think the Revolution happened because peasants and workers are good warriors? No. We helped the reds. They came to us and told us, 'Here, we will let you live in peace, just help us overthrow the tsar.' Like stupids, we believed them." He sighed deeply, rubbing his hand against his forehead. "Well, my parents did."
Igor was silent. They both had another shot of vodka and sat in comfortable silence for a while. "How did you get out?" Igor asked finally.
"I had an Augurey feather, from my sister. There is a lot of wood in Siberia. Took a while before I found good wand-wood, but I made a wand."
"No, lucky." Dolohov tore off a piece of the rye bread and chewed, a thoughtful expression his face. "The camps were where I learned about commoners, what they live like. Good people."
"Muggles," said Igor, his lip curling.
Dolohov looked up at him. "Muggles, wizards -- doesn't matter. Do you think the Dark Lord is going to kill all the Muggles? You're wrong. We need the Muggles."
Igor felt as though he'd just been slapped across the face. "For what? They poison the oceans, they pollute the air with their machines and their industry. They are going to destroy this world--"
Dolohov smiled, a gold tooth glinting in his mouth. "They are not all the same."
"What about Mudbloods? Are some of them good, too?" asked Igor, narrowing his eyes.
Dolohov's smile disappeared. "No. This is the important thing. The mixing of blood should not be permitted. We are wizards; they are Muggles. We can coexist separately but not together. You see, I have great love for my country and its Muggles. They are happy with their simple life. They do not want magic. They do not even want industry or machines. Civilisation has been stamping them out but they are out there."
Igor squinted at him. The vodka was taking its toll and he was beginning to feel drowsy.
There was an odd gleam in Dolohov's eyes as he talked. "I do not know if you have ever visited the motherland, Karkaroff, but I can tell you that it is beautiful. It has vast steppes and endless forests, fields of wheat that shine golden. The charred, ugly hands of war have roamed across it and robbed it of beauty. Now the reds are no longer in power but the country is broken. It needs cleansing of the filth, and the Dark Lord will help me there, if I help him here. That is why I am here. Why are you here, Karkaroff?"
Igor stared at the plate in front of him and frantically searched his mind for an answer this giant of a man would find appropriate. For the first time in his life, he wished he could care about something outside himself with such conviction and dedication. "I believe in the Dark Lord's ideals," he said, choosing his words very carefully. "And I would like to play a part in furthering his cause."
Dolohov studied him for a long moment. Finally, he nodded. "Let's drink."
Dolohov had been the first Death Eater Igor had ever met. He was also the first person Igor betrayed. The silence in the courtroom was thick with suspicion, derision, malice. Igor peered up at Barty Crouch and spoke.
"There was Antonin Dolohov. I -- I saw him torture countless Muggles and -- and non-supporters of the Dark Lord."
"We have already apprehended Dolohov. He was caught shortly after yourself."
"Indeed?" said Igor, his eyes widening. "I -- I am delighted to hear it!"
Deep inside his mind, he saw rolling plains, endless fields of wheat, and the strange gleam in Dolohov's eyes on that foggy, rainy Saturday.
For a split second, Igor realised that he begrudged the others their sense of higher purpose. There was a brief moment during which he wanted to rise to his feet and proclaim his allegiance to something greater than himself, but there was nothing there except for empty slogans and broken promises.
Then Crouch asked his next question, and the moment was gone.