When Magnus is four, he thinks his big sister is the prettiest, most wonderful person in the world. She always has time for him, she hugs him whenever he wants, she plays games with him, she listens to him like he's a real person, and she never, never tells him that he's too little or annoying to hang out with her or her friends. She is the opposite of their parents. And he loves her the best, with all the fierceness his little heart can muster.
So when he hears her crying through the wall their bedrooms share, he listens carefully to make sure Poppa is asleep, then sneaks in to Emi's room. He closes the door silently behind him, disturbed by her gasping and sobbing. He climbs into her bed, whispering, "Emi, are you okay? Are you sick?"
She snuffles a bit before saying, "I'm alright Magnus. I'm just angry. That's all."
Magnus thinks about why Emi is ever angry. "Are you angry at Poppa?"
"Yes, darling. I'm angry at your Poppa. But it'll be fine in the morning. Do you think you can go back to sleep?"
He cuddles Emi and asks, "Can I stay here?" She's so soft and warm and safe, and she never smells like the stuff their parents drink.
She squeezes him tight and says "Okay, but you have to get up early and go back to your bed before Mama or your Poppa get up. You know how they are."
"I promise Emi. I love you. Goodnight."
"Love you too Maggie." The next morning, Emi pours him cereal while holding a tea towel up to her face. She tried to hide the blackened eye from him, but he was smart. He remembered this from the times it had happened before. He also remembered not to look at Poppa, or look too long at Emi. Poppa didn't like that either.