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Somewhere, the gods are laughing.
I don’t even know if I believe that gods exist. Most wizarding families don’t. The Mudbloods like to play at
religion and brag that they’re Anglican or Catholic, and then are too stupid to
understand why we turn cold. Every Pureblood knows the verse—Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
We have no reason to be kind to their like. Muggles think
that all witches or wizards dance around naked in pine groves at during the full moon, worshipping
ancient gods and goddesses whose names no one remembers anymore. They’re wrong.
They’re always wrong.
But today the gods are sitting up on clouded Olympus,
laughing in time with the thunder rolling through purple stormclouds. The
Muggles are finally victorious. Oh, not directly—but their champions have
claimed positions in harsh sunlight and kicked their enemies back to the dark
and mildewed corners that they came from. The champions took losses, of course.
Both sides did.
My cousin was cast through Death’s veil by my own sister; my
husband rots in Azkaban; and my only son stands before me, bloated and stained
with the after-effects of nineteen different hexes. His hair is tinged green-gray,
his eyes are bloodshot, his neck has a fading pattern like scales on it, his
long fingers are swollen at the joints, and his robes are forever ruined, but
he is still my son. He stands defiantly straight, his chin out and his mouth a
brittle line. He looks like his father.
“You are a fool,” I say, my back to him as I brush a thin
film of dust from the mantelpiece of my husband’s study.
From the corners of my eyes I see his shoulders flinch
upwards involuntarily. He was not expecting that. He expected coddling and
pampering, expected me to baby him for bringing hexes down upon himself. He
expected it to be like last year, when it looked as if maybe we might ride to
victory on the wings of night.
“You are a fool,” I say again, this time facing him. “Have
you learned nothing at Hogwarts? Have
you learned nothing from Professor Snape, from me or your father?”
Draco looks at me with cool insolence. “I learned not to get
My right hand spasms as I dig my nails into the palm of my
hand to refrain from slapping him. My temper was never like Bella’s, never that
violent, but nothing is the same as it was. “Not to get caught? You’ve
obviously not learned that lesson quite well enough, have you? Just as you’ve
not learned to stay well away from Potter and his friends!” Everything is
Potter’s fault, of course. Sirius, Lucius, Draco—the Potter boy has had a grimy
hand in all of it.
He sneers. It looks pitiful on his sickly face; last year it
took him a week to recover fully from the hexes, even after they were all
removed. I wonder how long it will take this year. Three weeks? Four? With his
fingers swollen as they are, he’ll hardly be able to grasp a fork, let alone a
quill or broomstick. “I’m not going to run away from Potter. He needs to pay for what he’s done, I’m not afraid of him—”
“Don’t,” I say distastefully, “be such a Gryffindor.”
A strangled, horrified sound makes its way from Draco’s
mouth. I laugh. “ ‘I’m not afraid of him,’ ” I mock
cruelly, and in a far off thought realize how much I must resemble Bella. “ ‘He
needs to pay for what he’s done.’ That should be obvious even to a demented house-elf,
so you’re hardly brilliant. The way you talk, you make it seem as if brute
force is the only means of vengeance at your disposal. That is what you want, isn’t it?
Retribution?” I step forward and circle slowly around him. “It would only be
natural, after all. He put your
father into Azkaban. He brought the
Malfoy name into question, dragging it through the mud of society. He is the reason you’re standing in this
study, filthy and battered. Isn’t that right?”
My son stands silently, and my voice takes on an edge as I
stop and grip his chin harshly between my fingers. “Isn’t that right, Draco?”
“Yes,” he says coldly. “That’s right.” His gray eyes glitter
in what might be anger and what might be mere expectation of what I’ll say
I continue, returning smoothly to stand near the fireplace,
where its vicious, heatless umber light casts flickering shadows on my robes.
“And you want him to pay for that. That was your objective on the train, you’ve
said so yourself. What I can’t understand is how you could possibly have been
Draco’s mouth twists bitterly. “First you say it’s natural
for me to want him to pay, and then you say I’m stupid! Would it hurt so much
for you to make up your mind? If I
was stupid, then is it too much trouble for you to tell me how?”
If I even need to tell him how, then Slytherin House has
taught my son nothing in the last five years. I had thought Durmstrang would
only teach him how to be another Pureblooded bully, thinking with his fists and
not his head, but it seems that he has developed into one despite his years at
Hogwarts. It almost makes me shudder to think of my son as the next Marcus Avery.
“You ought to be able to reason it out for yourself, but I’m sure that would
take you far too much time.” I sigh,
and a thin, humorless smile crosses my face. “You threatened Potter, you alone,
while he was backed by the Mudblood girl, Weasley, and a good dozen others! If
that’s not bullheaded Gryffindor
stupidity, then I don’t know what is.”
I cross to stand before the nearest window, placing a hand
on the glass. It is cool, and summer rain begins to strike at the windowpane.
My son is indeed a fool, but even a fool can have his uses. “Is that how a
Slytherin takes his revenge, Draco?”
He is standing sullenly in that same spot; I have not given
him permission to move. Lucius trained him well. I suspect that Draco was
punished more often for moving without permission than for whatever mistake
he'd committed which had brought him before my husband in the first place. We’d
never beaten the boy—never truly tortured him—we had only raised him as we had
been raised: to obey. “No,” he says. Even if he thinks otherwise, he knows it’s
the answer I want to hear.
“No,” I agree. “A Slytherin does not use brute force. A
Slytherin finds vengeance through the mind. What weaknesses does Potter have?”
He opens his mouth to answer, but I raise a hand to cut him off. “No, don’t
tell me. Draw on your memories of your interactions with him—certainly you’ve
had enough of those. When you return
to Hogwarts, study him. Analyze him. But whatever you do,” I warn him, a
chilling edge to my voice, “do not stoop to their level. He is not worth it, do
you understand? You are a Slytherin. More than that, you are a Malfoy.”
I stand abruptly and gesture for him to sit in a hard-backed
chair that Lucius keeps for visitors he does not particularly like. The grimace
on Draco’s face shows that he is aware of the significance, too, but I don’t
care. As long as he listens to me—the things I tell my son this day may be the
most important things I’ve ever said to him. “If he calls you a coward,” I say,
“laugh at him. If he says you are weak, question his strength.” If he listens to me—if the gods on Olympus have seen
fit to turn their favor in my direction—then he may turn out to be a credit to
his father, and not…
A thought occurs to me and I almost laugh. How could I not
have seen it before? My son isn’t Avery; he’s far too concerned with societal
status, which Avery could hardly care less about. “Pinpoint his weak spots,” I
say, though now my mind is in two very different directions. “Once you’ve found
them, attack them. But take care that Potter does not become an obsession. He does
not deserve that much time and energy. Attack when it is convenient. Send
school owls to drop unpleasant packages at his plate, if you’re feeling
Sirius was witty. Cruelly so, if truth be told, especially
where Severus Snape was concerned. They had loathed each other from the
beginning, and that hate only grew deeper as the years progressed. I hope I’m
not turning my son into another Snape, but I fear that my former classmate has
much more cunning and intelligence than Draco will ever have. If anything, I’ll
turn him into what Sirius might have been, had he been a Slytherin. But, no—I’m
wrong on that. Sirius had an inborn charisma that made people like him, and no
respect for tradition. My son will never be a rebel and will never draw
followers who don’t want something from him in return; it isn’t in his nature.
He is sitting silently, watching me and waiting for my next
words. I find I’ve run out of advice—orders—for the moment, and so say, “Turn
your head to the side.”
“What?” Draco blinks, confused.
“It’s not a difficult phrase to understand,” I say coldly,
with an undercurrent of dark amusement. “Turn your head to the side.”
This time he obeys, but that wary look is still in his eyes.
I step closer to better see his profile. Yes…his cheekbones follow the same
line that mine do, and while the rest of him is Malfoy, his nose is the same as
my father’s. The same as my uncle’s, and Bella’s as well, and—
“You may go,” I tell him, then as he rises I add, “You look
like my cousin.” The expression on his face flashes briefly to bewilderment.
They are even alike in temperament, so easily confused. “Regulus.”
He is not quite fool enough to not know that Bella is my
sister and Sirius my cousin, but I have never before spoken of my uncle’s
second son. “What happened to him?” he asks.
I feel a laugh rising up inside of me even as my son waits
by the door. It is a laugh of that same dark amusement I felt before, with a
touch of irony and crazed hilarity. The rain strikes harder outside and I know
that the gods are mocking me the same way I mocked Draco earlier. “He died,” I
say madly, and as he shuts the door to a crash of thunder I throw back my head
Thanks to Ozma for the beta! The title is from
Shakespeare’s King Lear: “As flies to
wanton boys are we to th’ gods; /They kill us for their sport.”
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For
questions, please send us an Owl!
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