The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne-Cara Apple  Story: As Flies  Chapter: Default
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Sirius fic

As Flies

 

 

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 midnight 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 caught.”

 

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 next.

 

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 so stupid.”

 

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 especially witty.”

 

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 and laugh.

 

 

*

 

 

Author’s Notes: 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.”

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