The Sugar Quill
Author: Swirly Head (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Diminished C  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Even if you hated this fic, please review, and comment on my Draco Ė is he in canon? Can you see him being conflicted like this? Did you enjoy the fic? Thankyou, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

Lucius Malfoy stopped reading for a moment, took a few deep breaths, then slammed his book shut. The book whimpered and crawled to the far corner of the table as its owner strode to the door and grabbed a nearby House Elf.

"You!"

"Y-yes, master?" the poor thing squeaked, the potato sack smock gathering quickly around her neck, in ever-tightening folds.

"Go to Master Draco, and tell him to stop. Making. That. Infernal. Noise!" he said, forcing the words out through clenched teeth. The elf managed to make a small, breathless sound that seemed to satisfy him, and Lucius dropped her unceremoniously to the floor.

The solid oak door slammed shut once more, and the House Elf simply sat, shaken, for a few precious seconds. Suddenly realising that Masterís orders had, as yet, gone un-obeyed, she yelped in alarm and scrunched up her tiny face in concentration.

"Room of Master Draco!" she spluttered, still in considerable shock. The world spun giddily for a matter of moments, and she opened her eyes.

Music was everywhere. It reverberated from the dizzying heights of the arched cathedral ceilings, echoed down each corridor until every stone in Malfoy Manor shook with a magic that predated wands and wizards. Notes that had been played time and time again were pulled screaming into raw sound. Tuneless, the repeated phrases of his own composing made the spine crack.

For the first time in her small existence, Hetty shouted.

"Master Draco! Master Draco! Stop it now, stop it says your father, Master Draco! Stop it! Stop it! Stop Ė"

Abruptly it finished. There was no jarring halt, no irritated final burst of angry noise. Silence. Relieved that this far from pleasant task was done, Hetty mentally ran through a list of other jobs in her head. Next she should be sweeping out the fourteenth bathroom in the East Wing, followed by setting out the sheets in the guest room next door, as Mistress Narcissa was expecting some people to be stay-

"Why havenít I seen you before?"

Hetty nearly fainted. Goblins and pixies, he was quiet!

"I-I donít know it why, Master," she stuttered, looking down at her small feet. Every word of his was languorous, drawling, as though he really couldnít be bothered to speak at all. As though it were an honour bestowed upon the few and the lucky.

"Itís just that Iíve seen most of our Elves before, and I wondered why I hadnít noticed you. I suppose Lucius replaced KnobbyÖ"

"Dobby, Master."

There was a long silence, and she felt the coldness emanating from him like an icy sword. This was a different voice. This was the sharp tone of somebody who takes every correction as direct criticism. "You shouldnít correct me. If I were Lucius youíd be missing an ear, or something equally delightful. As it stands, I need a page turner."

At this, she looked up, curious. "Page turning, master?"

"For the music."

A fearful tremor crept into her voice once more. "But Master Draco, sir, Master Lucius says no playing, sir! He says no, sir, he says stop it!"

"He means for me to stop playing my own music. It upsets him. Now stop telling me what to do, or youíll wish that I were Lucius."

With that, he turned sharply on his heel, with an economy of movement and excess of dismissiveness that was so carefully devoid of any true feeling, it hurt to watch. Hetty made a nervous sort of hop, then hit her head hard against the wall, once. Feeling slightly better, she followed him into the room.

It was much like any other room in the Manor, as regards to shape and size. Large and grey, the walls were made from enchanted stone that had stood since the days of the Founders. A fireplace at the far end could have easily been Amplified to warm each frozen corner, if it werenít for Master Luciusí instructions. He believed that a temperature slightly below comfortable was conducive to higher levels of thinking. Master Draco simply wore thicker robes.

A bed, with green and silver coverlet, that would have easily allowed space for a family of three took up space on the left side, along with a wooden dresser and a wardrobe that was bigger inside than out. The fireplace was set into the right hand wall, and just in front of its flickering golden light was a piano.

There were no other items. No belongings. No ornaments. Not even parchment and quill. Hetty knew that this was Master Dracoís own choice; in fact she had heard Mistress Narcissa comment on the spartan tidiness earlier in the Christmas holiday, with a concerned voice.

"Itís simply not the normal behaviour of a fifteen year old boy, darling. He has nothing, absolutely nothingÖI have no idea where he puts all of his presents!"

"In the wardrobe, of course. Thereís plenty of room."

Hetty knew it was bad to listen to the private conversations, but she couldnít help it if Master had told her to pour them more wine.

"But I worry. When I look in there, it might as well be the room of a stranger Ė he doesnít think of it as home."

"Donít be so stupid. Of course he thinks of it as home. He just doesnít feel a need for clutter and trinketsÖgood." Master Lucius grunted approvingly. "At least the boyís learnt something."

"Heís learnt many things. He did extremely well at school last year. Iím very proudÖ"

"Oh, yes, very well. Beaten by Mudbloods and Hufflepuffs."

Mistress Narcissa placed a smooth, shapely hand over her husbandís. "He was top in his house, and third in the year. Surely he deserves some credit."

"I told him Iíd buy him a new broom. Surely thatís enough?" There was a disapproving silence from Mistress Narcissa, and Master Lucius frowned. "Iím a busy man, especially now. The Potter boy saw meÖ has me deeply involved with the Voldemort investigationsÖDiggoryís parents are kicking up a fussÖitís a trying time."

"But the Lord has risen againÖsoon everything will be fine."

"True."

Standing by the instrument, his face lit harshly by the dancing flames, she understood the reason why Mistress Narcissa was disturbed so. A face that had always been thin could now be described as gaunt. In the time of his life when child should turn to man, his features had remained painfully young. The grey eyes were flat, frozen lakes, that seemed only to reflect everything, like sheets of glass. His wrists were delicate, and his hands tapered into long, elegant fingers that Hetty fancied would snap at the slightest provocation. It would be obscene to call such a boy handsome, yet she could see what humans would call attractiveness around the sharpness of the bones.

She wondered if he ate at all.

"Come here."

He sat down at the seat without making a sound, and she scurried over to his side. The piano had a distinctive scent, ivory and polished wood. Unsure of how she would ever reach the music to turn the pages for him, Hetty wrung her hands together. "Master, I canít reach the book, I canít."

"Iím not blind," he replied scornfully, and Hetty felt smaller than ever. A House Elf was happiest in doing a proper job, and right now she felt inadequate. Inadequate was the worst thing for an honest elf to be. Grabbing her by her dirty smock, he lifted her to the top of the piano, and paused, her grubby feet dangling inches above the black paint. "Wait," he murmured, "Youíll make a mess."

"Oh sir, I is dreadful sorry for being so disgracefully disgusting dirty, sir!"

"Be quiet. I wasnít talking to you; I was talking to myself. If you speak again, Iíll throw you out of the window."

She opened her mouth to apologise, then closed it again, very slowly.

He reached into a pocket on the inside of his robes, and produced a linen handkerchief, embroidered with a silver ĎMí, complete with a coiled and sleeping green serpent. Spreading it on the piano, he finally let go of Hetty. She trod on the snake by mistake, and jumped in alarm as it hissed loudly, before lunging at her ankle. Jumping backwards, she noted Master Dracoís mouth upturn slightly at the corners.

"I bewitched that one myself. Normally they just hiss. I thought it would be more fitting to the Malfoy name if the creature attacked."

Flexing his fingers, he pointed at the new looking loose parchment pages on the stand. "When I nod, turn the page. Iíd charm them to do it by magic, but I canít use my wand out of school," he added, as a reminder to Hetty that he only needed her help due to circumstances out of his control.

He began to play again, and this time the music was soft and flowing, like water sliding smoothly over sand. The piece was executed perfectly.

It wasnít music. It was simply an ordered row of notes.

Watching carefully for his nod, she saw an expression that sat awkwardly on that too thin face. Something like tenderness as he pressed each key, the keys that she felt sure would be faded if they werenít kept new by spells. Something like care as he caressed them with his fingers, and still he was holding back.

She, who understood little of the ways of humans, understood that he was talking to a loved one and someone else had written the words.

They continued in that way for five drawn out minutes, and Hetty turned the final page with heavy eyelids. Finally his hands stopped moving, and the last note died away.

"Now itís time for my lesson."

Hetty made as if to move, and he pressed a cruel finger against her forehead, forcing her to sit. "You stay there. I teach myself. You still have to turn the pages."

He walked over to the wardrobe, and opened it, before disappearing into the cavernous depths, returning moments later with a thick volume, bound in some sort of red dragon-hide.

Master Draco sat back down at the piano, and placed the book on the stand. It remained obstinately closed, until he pursed his lips and whistled. The shrill sound made Hetty shudder, and the book fell open at what she presumed was the right page.

He studied the page intently for a while, then straightened up and placed his fingers on the appropriate keys.

"This is C Diminished."

A melancholy chorus filled her ears, and he held it on for longer than was necessary, staring at the keys with the lifeless grey eyes, the grey eyes that hid everything. Hetty wondered if they worked in a similar way to his wardrobe, if he stored all the things that mattered behind a locked door. He drew his hand away sharply, as if it had been burnt. His breathing, which until now she hadnít noticed at all, was fast and harsh. Still staring at the keys, he recited what could only have been a passage from the book.

"The diminished chord is even more dissonant and even darker than the minor. It is played by lowering both the third and the fifth notes a half step. Any dissonant chord can never be restful. It sounds like it wants to resolve and really pulls toward the major chord."

Looking up sharply, he looked past Hetty into some distant place she couldnít see. "Do you know what dissonant means? It means discordant. It doesnít fit with the harmony. It pulls and pulls and strives to fit, but it never can, because itís different. " Shaking his head, his eyes suddenly focused on her. "You really are ugly little creatures, arenít you?"

He turned back to the book, and muttered under his breath. "Letís seeÖthatís this oneÖand this one." A slow wrist movement and he played another chord, then another, then another, until she couldnít stand the sound any more, the way it pressed against her heart like knives that knew their own sharpness, couldnít stand it any more and pulled her long ears down underneath her chin, and buried her head in her hands, and still he was playing them with a mouth slightly open, and a breathing slightly quickened, and eyes slightly widened until he had the gaze of a mad person and she couldnít stop the words.

"Stop it, Master, stop it! Stop i-"

And the lid of the piano crashed downwards with a terrible cacophony of jarring discord, and she was choking and flying, from the cool into the freezing air, wind whipping at her face and forcing her breath back into her throat. Thrashing uselessly, she sobbed as he twisted her around and brought her close to his face.

"You never tell me what to do! You never, ever tell me, because I am better than you! You never tell me to stop playing the diminished chords because I am diminished, donít you see? Donít you see, I am living in C Diminished! Iím dissonant, and I try so hard, and I canít be what he wants, I just canít, because Iím not like him, I canít kill people, and I canít be a Major or even a Minor, I canít go either way because I donít want either way and itís not fair, I just want to be in my own melody, in my own melody where I fit, and Iím part of the tuneÖ"

She bit her tongue as he shook her in all directions, all throughout his screaming, garbled monologue that was brought to an end as he threw her across the room, inside the room, where she hit the wall.

Shakily, she scrambled to her feet, and saw him leaning out of the window, shoulder blades sticking up through his robes. He leant further still, and for a moment she debated whether or not to call for Master Lucius, for somone to stop him for she was sure he would fallÖ

Then he spoke.

"If you ever tell about this, Iíll have youÖIíll have you dead."

He said he couldnít kill people. Was she a people?

"Iíll have you locked in the cellar for the rest of your miserable life. Understand?"

She nodded dumbly, and hoped that somehow he had seen her. Hetty didnít want him to turn around. It was a terrible thing that he had done, a terrible thing and she knew why he didnít want nobody to know, to ever know.

"Go."

And as she hurried from the room, Hetty collapsed by the door. Yes, a terrible thing he had done.

Master Draco had been crying.

*****

Draco bit down hard on his lip, until the fierce pain stopped the tears. Tears. He never cried, he never, ever did. And in front of a House Elf, a stupid sub-human thing!

Ashamed and angry, he wiped his eyes furiously and then turned around.

Smoothing his hair with trembling fingers that he willed to be steady, he returned to the piano. Sat down, and started to play.

It was tuneless at first, then as he grew stronger, as he recovered from the outburst that had torn apart his defences, he began to form some semblance of melody. He deliberately made it different to anything he had played before, forced himself to use the correct notes, the music everybody liked to hear.

*****

In his study, Lucius stopped working and listened. He smiled, and returned to the task at hand.

*****

Draco closed the lid gently, and allowed himself a bitter smile. He had made his own music, and his father hadnít objected. Lucius only objected to the diminished chords, which he had purposefully left out.

If he was to succeed, he had to stop hearing Diminished C every time he saw a Mudblood (person) or a Muggle-lover (human) or indeed anyone who opposed to Voldemort (soul) murdered.

Murdered? He meant killed in the name of what was right. Because Lucius was the Major, and he was always right. Unless one made Dumbledore the Major, of course.

He would miss dinner again. Draco was never hungry, not anymore. Still fully-clothed, he fell on to the bed and didnít bother to move into a more comfortable position. Scowling at the thought of Dumbledore, at the thought of Potter, at the thought of all those who had a song of their own devising, he closed his eyes.

The Diminished C prepared for another sleepless night.

 

The Fic has now ended.

 

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