FIC: "Redefining" for carrot Recipient: carrot/vikingcarrot Author/Artist:gala_apples Title: Redefining Rating: pg 13 Pairings: Regulus Black/Walden Macnair Word Count: 1694 Warnings: blood, vaguely mentioned dub-con Summary: A family feud puts a budding Creature expert right where he would never choose to go, the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. Author's/Artist's Notes: Thanks to l3petitemort for the beta. Carrot, I'm sorry this wasn't as high a rating as you wanted, hopefully the bleakness will make up for the lack of sex. I based Walden off the DE cards you drew back in the day, I remember being really impressed by them.
Regulus always knew Professor Samuels hated him. He's pretty sure it's not just him, it's the Black family in general. He scowls just as much at the Gryffindor table where Sirius is gesturing emphatically with his fork as he does at the Slytherin table. Regulus isn't sure what father did to him: he suspects blackmail of some kind; the action is currency in his father's circle of peers. He isn't his father, though he may appear to be moreso than Sirius, but no matter how he tries to convince Samuels of that, it doesn't matter. By seventh year, Regulus has gotten past trying to impress the bitter old man.
What he didn't expect was just how much the Care of Magical Creatures professor loathed him. It's a strong word for a teacher-student relationship, but it's the only one that fits. It's the only explanation that lands him in Walden Macnair's office. Every seventh year has an apprenticeship, and while Bitson is out in bloody Romania, deftly avoiding being set on fire by dragons, and McKinnon is caring for Mooncalves, Regulus is listening to this dark, foul man explain the necessity of his post as executioner of dangerous animals.
"The truth is, all beasts are vile. Unfortunately, we can only rid ourselves of a few. Those that show their true nature, those that savage humans with utter glee. I don't regret ridding the earth of them, only that I can't also remove their owners. Those that consort deserve what they get."
Regulus listens to Macnair like he listens to mother, hands folded stiffly in his lap, posture rigid against the wooden chair. His choices are limited; listen or drop out of NEWTs level CoMC. It's easy to distinguish the lesser of two evils.
Regulus is sitting in his chair when Macnair gets back. A month has done nothing to soften the wood, just as it's done nothing to reconcile Regulus with what his duties are to be. He has narrowly avoided going out on this mission, offering to write up Macnair's paperwork with a promise that the penmanship will be identical. Macnair had sneered and left, dark leather satchel over his shoulder. Regulus is well aware that it's a ploy that can only work so many times, but he won't go out until he must.
It's hard to hide the expression of disgust, even with a decade of practice listening to mother and father. The huge man is covered with blood. It's spattered across his shirt and trousers, and there's a particularly thick streak starting over his eyebrow and rolling down his cheek. All Regulus can think is that there must be a dozen ways of making this more sanitary, anything from a repelling charm on his clothing to a legal variant of Avada Kedavra. Not that people like Macnair are very concerned with legality.
He tosses his axe onto the desk with a force that makes the structure shudder. It leaves a smear of dark red across the parchment Regulus has just spent the last half hour writing on. He focuses on the waste so he doesn't think of how close the blade came to his skin in its travel.
"You should wash that with soap and water, rather than with a spell. Sometimes spells leave bits of skin, and in a week my equipment will smell of rot. Nobody wants a rotting office, now, do they?"
Five minutes later, bent over the basin watching the pink suds swirl down the drain, Regulus wonders if having no future is worth escaping this present.
He's not going to cry. He wants to, he has to, he needs to, but he won't. Regulus bites the inside of his lip hard enough to send a jolt of pain throughout his mouth, hoping the pain will distract him from the corpse in front of him.
It doesn't help. His tooth has cut the skin, and he can taste blood. The hippogryff's neck is gushing on the ground in front of him, saturating the soil. He sees blood, and he tastes it, and he can smell it, and oh, god it's on his face. His stomach revolts, and he clenches onto the axe as hard as he can so he doesn't vomit.
"Now, it's your choice as to whether you want to use an incinerating spell or a composting spell. Both have their pros and cons."
Everything Regulus has is screaming at him to turn the axe on the hideous specimen of man beside him. Surely whatever savagery the hippogryff committed, he didn't enjoy it as much as Macnair does. It's man who really deserves this fate; evil head and nasty thoughts severed clean from perpetrating body.
In the end, he places the axe on the bloody earth and takes his wand from his pocket. He's already murdered once today.
"The thing about animals is they want very simple things. They want to eat and sleep and fuck and kill. It's smart, really, to be satisfied with such basic things. It's far harder to be disappointed."
Regulus hates listening to Macnair. He can't remember ever hating someone before; his feelings towards mother and father are mixed and complicated, as are his about Sirius. But Macnair, Regulus hates. However impotently.
"The problem is animals have no brains. They can't see sometimes it's best to stay awake in order to get the kill. That sharing a meal with a weaker member might get them favour in the future. Humans won the planet because we're better strategists."
Regulus keeps his expression blank and focuses on the correspondence Charms work he's meant to be doing. Unlike most placements, he can still get back to Hogwarts if he has a question, but he won't. The juxtaposition of having a conversation with Flitwick then going back to Macnair might kill him.
"So, what sort of animal are you? Eating, or sleeping? Fucking, or killing?"
Regulus isn't going to answer that. He's old enough to recognise a lose-lose situation; a question that cannot be answered.
"No idea, Black? I reckon it's about time you decided."
In the end, Regulus realises he doesn't have much in common with the creatures he was once sure he loved. He can perform all of an animal's main functions, but not well. Though he's trying. He keeps trying to do it all. If he can manage, then he doesn't have to look at the massive void between what he thought he was and what he is.
Regulus knows basilisks, acromantulas, dragons; they all kill without blinking an eye. Or in the acromantula's case, eight. He can kill now; knows the precise angle at which to strike to sever a head, or if it tries to escape, where other major arteries are. But once the creature is down, Regulus can't help but stare at the corpse and imagine all the things it used to do when it was alive.
It never seems to bother Macnair. Regulus wonders how, but can't bring himself to ask.
He still eats, of course. One can't just stop eating without dying, or worse, getting visibly weakened. There is no way Regulus can afford to appear -to be- weak in front of Macnair. But he can't eat meat anymore. The once rich taste of steak now makes his stomach roll. Each bite causes a flashing sign in his head that says dead flesh! murdered animal! and he just can't stand it. He tries to ignore the fact that that's also a sign of weakness; that Macnair smirks beneath his dark moustache as Regulus eats his salad at the desk opposite.
He doesn't sleep peacefully anymore. Regulus waits as long as he can before retiring to bed, not having to blow out candles as there's no wax left. He doesn't want to sleep, because he hasn't had a single night without nightmares of blood soaked earth.
Waking up screaming doesn't much matter when he has a silencing charm around his transfigured couch/bed. He learned the importance of that spell the night of his first nightmare, when he woke up to Macnair slapping him across the face with a leather glove. Regulus supposes he was lucky the man didn't cut his tongue out, but his face had bruised.
And he can't fuck. Two days ago, Macnair pushed him against a wall, thick arm across his throat. He said, "Don't struggle", and a stream of hexes Regulus felt confident in trying wordlessly streamed through his head. But then he thought of pixies, and centaurs, and all the other creatures that mated for reasons beyond child bearing. And Regulus let him. He doesn't want to do it again, however much of a failure that makes him.
Sometime in November, Professor Samuels sends him a letter telling him to come back to Hogwarts. Regulus does so with no feeling. It's easy enough to get to the castle from the Ministry.
He's the last arrival. He learns from the other students, of whom Samuels had Apparated in on, rather than written to, that Bitson has been eaten by a dragon. The apprenticeship program is over, McKinnon wails, and Amber punches a wall when he says he doesn't know how he's supposed to get a foot into the door of the highly competitive sub-field of Doxy egg collection if he can't show them what he's made of. Regulus is content. He now knows he wouldn't have made it in the field anyway. Macnair has shown him he doesn't really understand creatures.
During winter break, at a loss for things to do - he no longer has any desire to go to Neveson Nott's home to look for bowtruckles in the nearby wood- he decides to visit Macnair. The stark office looks the same, as does the man. The only difference is his trusty axe; it looks like it hasn't been cleaned since the last job. Without even thinking, Regulus picks up it's heavy weight and starts to work on the tip.
"Thanks," he says gruffly. Regulus pointedly doesn't react to the first friendly statement he's ever heard from the man. He does however decide that, in his head at least, he'll be Walden. First names are more conducive to continuing relationships.