It smells like ash-- fresh ash as if the trees had not even cooled yet. That and freshly fallen snow tinged with sweat. His sense of smell shouldn’t have been this good, but he knows now, after years of having these dreams, that the little fragments of understanding that he has comes from his current knowledge, not the knowledge he had then.
He had been an infant at the time. The world was dark around him through the trees. It shifted, flying past him streaked through with terrible twists of green light and screaming. Screaming, maybe his own as well, he wasn't sure of anything, but the warmth around him and blurry oval framed with shadow and two points of warm, glowing emerald and sand above him.
A part of him understand that those are his eyes., his and they were very nice.
The current part of him knows that the owner of those eyes is at the very least a relative. His mother, maybe from the warm feeling in him and the softness that cradled him. Whoever she was, she was carrying him through the night and she loved him. She would do anything to make sure he survived.
Don't leave me, he pleaded with the glowing orbs.
Green and gold light flashed, the thunder rolled and heard the sound of an explosion nearby.
The world shifted again and he could see another blurry figure with glowing gold eyes framed by shadow.
Adlai, he thought, rolling the word over in his mind. It’s warm and cozy, protective, close--
There’s the babbling of a baby over the quiet. His own, he imagined since the two sets of glowing orbs turn towards him and then back to each other. Their eyes are fierce, glinting, molten like dragon fire and sunlight.
"We can't go without you!"
"Go! Es' now!"
He had never heard that name before and in his mind he felt a resonance of power and safety with it. Sliding around him like a warm blanket., like her arms.
Adlai and Es’.
Something was telling him to run, to tell them to get out, to hide, but only the sound of a frightened baby could be heard.
“Shh, Cyrus, I know...I know…”
Green light rushed towards them, back and forth and everything was suffused with a brightness--
Cyrus opened his eyes. The sun had not begun to rise yet, the sky was as dark as the night he'd dreamt.
“Adlai and Es’,” he said softly, rolling the words around in his mouth.
Es’ could be short for anything, he thought with a sigh. Esmerelda, Esme, Esther, Esteri, Estera, Esta…
He flinched at the name that seemed to come from somewhere beyond him. It had been happening more often now that he was alone and had a good handle on his life.
Esfir, he thought. It felt warm, like a star in his hands, burning bright and warming every cell in him.
Perhaps her name was Esfir, he thought worrying his lip before snorting. His instincts were good, but they probably weren’t that good. He shook his head and rolled off his small bed towards the window to look out across the city of London. The sky was without the breaking of starlight, the streets seemed dark and fogged over with the breath of despair though the Muggles were surely awake somewhere doing whatever it is that muggles did in the early hours of the morning. He knew from experience that it wasn't much: sleeping, eating, jogging, maybe rocking a fussy infant back to sleep.
Cyrus glanced at the the clock on his bedside table: 3:52 a.m. He definitely wasn't going back to sleep tonight, so he wouldn't even try. Instead, he headed towards the kitchen to rustle up something to eat and check the mail. Nimue was settled on her perch, fluttering her wings as he entered the room and he chuckled. A great black feathered owl, rare and sweet to any she'd met so long as they were sweet to her. Her temper was laced with hellfire and he had a feeling that she wasn't just a normal owl if the changes in her eye color were any indicator. He remembered the way she'd nearly pecked the ministry official's eyes out when they'd taken her from him. She was beautiful, the same jet black as his hair, a rarity in wizarding owls.
He still remembered the day they’d met. The way she’d flown from seemingly nowhere onto his shoulder as they walked through the Diagon Alley. He and Severus Snape had been making their way through the crowd when she’d found him and landed on his shoulder. Severus had told him that the bird knew him and would keep watch over him. He wondered sometimes how, if maybe she knew his parents. Unfortunately, communicating with owls was not on his impressive dossier.
"Guess I woke you up," he said, petting her as he passed. "Sorry about that."
She hooted at him as he went to the refrigerator and glided to perch on top of it and hooted again.
"What is it--"
A knock sounded on his front door. Cyrus stood up straight, licking his lips as Nimue hooted again and he closed the refrigerator. He opened his left hand, summoned his wand and crept towards the door, rolling his right hand for an invisible shield before peaking through the peephole to see who it was. Three people, all in black robes bearing the Ministry of Magic's seal. Though he was alert, his other instincts didn’t seem bothered by their presence on the other side of his door. He took a breath and spoke through the door. It was too damn early for this even if he wouldn't be getting anymore sleep tonight.
"What do you want? You know what time it is?"
"Of course,” she said. “We are also well aware that you are awake."
He smirked, cloaked his wand and opened the door.
The three of them hadn’t changed in the slightest. All English skin tones, heights, and features. All three of them smiling at him, familiar and almost comforting. He’d almost forgotten what it was to have friends outside of Viktor.
"Still as snarky as ever."
"Your hair's gotten longer!" Pease squealed reaching up to feel the strands that probably framed his face in their inky waves. “It's still so silky!"
Cyrus laughed and hugged her tightly. They grinned and stepped forward as he allowed them passage into his small flat. Owen, Pease, and Trenton were there to see him it couldn't have been good and he didn't think he was going to like what they had to say either, but he hugged them all the same. It had been nearly a full year since he'd last seen them, that hazy night in St. Mungo’s in which he'd nearly murdered a healer in his madness. Thank Merlin and the everlasting that Viktor had been there to stop him. He had more than enough blood on his hands that he didn’t need to add theirs too.
"Can I offer you a drink?"
Pease snorted, "You don't drink, Cyrus."
He grinned and pulled out a bottle of muggle vodka, "I've changed."
She gawked at the half-filled bottle and he laughed, "A friend gave it to me for my birthday and promptly drunk most of it."
Trenton grinned, "Sneaky bastard."
As they settled around his small table and he rummaged through his fridge to find something to eat they shared a look. He raised his hand over his shoulder, "You're doing the thing that you think I don't know about. What are you all here for?"
"The International Ministry Union sent us to tell you about your case," Pease started and Cyrus hummed pulling out the makings of a huge sandwich on a 20 inch loaf of bread that he cut in half to open and start layering with meats and cheeses. "Minister Darthmouth figured that we would be the best to deliver the message."
“Still alive that one? Would have thought a Shacklebolt supporter would have offed him by now.”
He smirked at the fact that no one offered up any real resistance to the idea. At least they hadn’t sold their souls.
No one really understood what had happened in the election following the end of the Second Wizarding War. By all accounts, Kingsley should have been a shoe-in for it, but one Reever Darthmouth appeared, out of nowhere, and took hold of the position on a platform that sounded nice but wasn’t substantial enough for a butterfly to land on.
The new British Minister of Magic spouted words about a new age of peace won and no need of a man of war such as Kingsley at the head of the exodus out of the dark. They had a lot of restructuring and such to do, a lot of clean-up, and really Kingsley hadn’t had much of a chance considering the madness of the Auror Corp trying to catch the remaining Death Eaters. After the elections were over, the Ministry went full-tilt into restrucutring leaving certain departments up-ended, turned around and information ran free and unhindered through the Ministry.
Cyrus shook his head, remembering all the wild-goose chases his department had narrowly avoided and the one that they hadn’t. It had been the mission that caused a pause in the madness of the Ministry and gave Darthmouth a more substantial misdirection than the missing and escaped Death Eaters. Twelve people dead and one convicted to Azkaban for the rest of his life for mass murder and violation of wizarding law. It had been an international case considering the people that had been killed had not all been British and the convict himself was not British.
“This the part where he makes an appointment to kiss my ass?” Cyrus asked.
Pease winced watching the tension in his shoulders. The new minister had made Cyrus the scape-goat, condemned more magical creatures in an effort to distract from the pardoned Death Eaters. They’d taken his wand and shut him away in the twisted despair and cold of Azkaban. Thanks to Merlin and contacts Cyrus didn’t realize he had, Cyrus had been released six months later for a wonderful three month stint into his subconscious at St. Mungo’s. Kingsley finally got the go-ahead to cleanse Azkaban of Dementors and the wizarding world forgot how quickly they’d jumped on Darthmouth’s anti-magical creature bandwagon when it came to light that wizards had been responsible for those deaths and Cyrus had nearly lost his life too.
Now, almost a year later, his record was clean, paper-official but no one would hire him after finding out that he was a magical creature. Goblin banks were a no, book shops, libraries, etc… His last application with a dragon reserve was still pending. If it weren’t for his own savings, and Viktor’s open-door policy, he might have had something to worry about.
As it stood, bars really liked to hire him to sling drinks and bring in flirting, half-drunk customers who loved to throw themselves at him. He had a magnetism that couldn’t be denied.
Maybe I’m part Veela, he snorted at the thought.
“He thought it best that we deliver the news since you know us so well.”
"The least likely to get laughed at, or hexed, you mean," he said. "What do they want?"
"He wants to apologize and offer your job back."
Cyrus laughed then, his head thrown back. It was absolutely ludicrous considering the events that lead up to his incarceration, the reason he was let go, and currently still collecting hush money from the Minister. He didn’t use it, but he liked to collect it and donate it to any groups attempting to lobby for magical creature rights around the world.
Trenton started up, "We know you haven't found another job, muggle or magical since your recovery."
"Your intel sucks then,” Cyrus said. “I work.”
Pease rolled her eyes, “That’s not stable.”
Cyrus shrugged,“ That still doesn’t mean I haven't applied."
"We also know that you don't like to be bored.Dragon taming won't hold you over for long and bartending surely hasn’t even if your ego is getting stroked on a regular basis.”
Cyrus nodded beginning a layer of spinach and tomatoes on top of the cheese, then bell peppers, and red onions.
"That's true. However, my department doesn't exist anymore per the new age talks...unless this is a warning of assassination."
Pease winced. Cyrus, while out of practice (maybe), was still a better duelist, a stronger wizard, and a hell of a lot more ruthless than all three of them combined. The aftermath of his stay in Azkaban seemed to only make that ruthless streak wider. She wasn’t willing to find out how wide it really was.
"He wants you to occupy it, he's willing to give you all the power of your former boss. Let you restart the program under supervision if course."
"My department is dead," he said, pouring olive oil and sweet onion sauce over the leaves, shaking pepper on it. "And that's what the Aurors are for anyway, aren't they?"
More easily controlled because their names appeared in the papers. Easier to get rid of as the level of training and the level of secrets they kept wasn't nearly as high as the ones rattling around in Cyrus’s head along with the ghosts. It was part of the reason that they had them all killed in the first place, to tie up the loose ends of the dirty deeds the Ministries of the world had needed done. Other than his strange immunity to fire, the only reason that Cyrus was really alive was because the Iranian Department of Magical Creatures had been forced to overwrite his species’ status from Cryptid to In-Extreme Danger and place him under their protection. Britain had no desire to go to war with Iran as they were known to have some pretty damaging curses, even if the Ministry was back to its full strength. Trying to kill him simply wasn’t worth the risk.
"Not like this," Pease said. "They think someone else, as bad as Voldemort, could be coming...maybe worse. A new Dark Lord if you will."
"That's what you all are for."
Owen huffed and stood, "Stop brooding for five minutes and listen to what we're telling you!"
Cyrus turned to face them, his eyes, molten golden and flickering with the fire of his ancestry, focused on Owen's eyes. All the emerald was gone now and the pupils seemed to be elongating as he glared at Owen. It made Owen’s blood run cold. A bit of the texts they’d been able to read about Cyrus’s kind flickered through his mind.
Beware: gold and slits before fire. Color and circles before kindness.
Owen's jaw tensed and he looked away from Cyrus before sitting down slowly, "Sorry."
Cyrus didn't say anything, but turned back to his sandwich making, closing the top and cutting the finished masterpiece in half, he took half of it and began to eat before crossing the kitchen to retrieve a can of soda and joining them at the table, an arm's reach away from the rest of his sandwich. They sat in silence for a little while, Cyrus's sandwich being devoured and the flutter of Nimue's wings were the only sounds. Pease glanced towards the owl, knowing exactly how protective she was of Cyrus and would not hesitate to peck Owen’s eyes out.
"Cyrus," Trenton began again. "It's worse than you think."
"Enlighten me," he said taking a swig of his drink. "I haven't seen how it is yet and what it has to do with me."
Never mind the fact that they all wouldn't remember this conversation, nor where Cyrus lived thanks to the charm on his doorframe. Pease looked at the other two and then took a breath before beginning the story. By the time she was done, he was wearing a dark smile that chilled them all. He leaned to one side, resting his head in his hand.
"Well... that is interesting."
"Will you come back?"
Cyrus laughed, "My life in my hands or in the ground? Iranian-British magical war...hm, how could I make a decision like that?"
Trenton winced, "You see why we were sent then?"
"If they think all of that is true, they must not like any of you. Maybe they expected me to burn you all to ash, maybe sent you here to kill me if I didn’t comply."
Pease laughed nervously and Owen glowered, "Please tell me you're kidding."
Cyrus flexed his hand so his wand appeared in his hand again and they swallowed, their eyes looking at the wand. They'd never seen it before, but felt their blood run cold when they did. It was black and smooth, printed and burned with blood red runes that none of them could read. The court records were correct, it wasn’t like any wand they’d ever seen before. Cyrus contemplated the runes, watching them glow blood red as his fingers traced over them and hearing that unintelligible whisper in the back of his mind as he did so. They watched his eyes glow and the black marks appear along his neck, his hair fluttering in some unknown wind before his eyes unnervingly bright eyes looked back to them.
"This thing?" he whispered. "Really?"
Pease nodded, "They're putting together a team of new people for you to train."
“Train?” He snorted, "To watch me."
"Well, sort of."
Cyrus sighed, "I'm not seeing what's in it for me."
"The records on your parents."
Cyrus's eyes jumped to Owen, his eyes narrowed, “What?”
"Your entire family."
Cyrus swallowed, "My parents?'
Trenton nodded, "The Minister is prepared to let you see your grandfather--"
He had living relatives? He felt an almost uncanny twist of joy in his chest. He’d read every book on magical beasts he could get his hands on in the hospital thanks to Viktor and everyone else in an attempt to find out what a “Draconus Mortis” was only to find out that there were a million theories and no sure answers because they were all assumed pretty much extinct or myth. The Ministries of the times, coalitions of wizards who established the hierarchy before the actual Ministries were formed, had supposedly waged a war on them during the Wand Wars over the disappearance of dragons all over the world. From what he could tell, they just disappeared one day, taking most dragons with them, sealing themselves away perhaps to just die out. The dragons of today were the few born after the closing of the wall, lost or stolen away in the confusion. In short, they were descendants bred for parts. From his research, there were times in history that the dragon population, as accounted for by wizards, dipped dangerously low, threatening the continued creation of dragon core wands.
It had been enough to tell him that there was someone still out there besides himself, but he’d never dreamed that they would actually be relatives.
Cyrus growled, "After all this, he has no right to keep such information from me."
"The territory he lives in is highly regulated by the International Ministries as it is outside of Iran’s jurisdiction. He is willing, if you accept the job, to have an envoy take you there and grant you freedom of access."
Cyrus felt his inside twist, the pit of his stomach grew hot and angry. The image of the minister's throat between his hands as he squeezed and squeezed made a lovely picture. His pale face flushed, his lips trembled sputtering cowardly words, his eyes rolled back and Cyrus felt the blood clotting below his hand and the heart stopping, slow, slow, slow.
Please… he’d gasped in that weak little voice, backed by only the blood of others.
Cyrus would only laugh and ask him, How many Dementors fly past the cells of Azkaban in one minute?
He’d watch the man’s eyes go wide with terror, his lips tremble, and his cheeks flushed with the lack of air as Cyrus slowly constricted his trachea and waited for his last breath to pass into the air and him into nothing.
He wondered if the Minister listened to his pleas for justice, if he heard them at all. If he’d cared while looking into Cyrus’s not quite human eyes.
It had been so dark, so very dark and cold. Thousands of knives tearing at him, invisible quick things, draining every thing worthy of joy out of him, the darkness swirling around the figures of concentrated despair, moving in steady waves around him. Attracted to him, feasting on him in an endless feast for a death that would not come the first month, nor the next, nor the next…Not even when he felt the bottom of his soul dripping out of the millions of cuts they’d made in his psyche, letting his magic bleed out as they feasted. So very hungry for guards of such a large stock of prepackaged meals.
He remembered the light of a patronus, an auror there to get him up, to get him out of Azkaban and he remembered waking up in St. Mungo’s months later--furious and so very out of touch with reality that he’d nearly killed the healers who were attempting to help him. He’d gotten most of them with waves of fire before Viktor had arrived and sent them away, calming him down with gentle hands, his scents, his presence, and his voice. Viktor must have learned how to feed off of people’s psionic energies because he remembered feeling the panic, the rage, and the terror fading away the longer Viktor spoke to him. At the time, he hadn’t understood a word Viktor said, soothed by his scent and the sound of his voice washing over him. He remembered feeling nothing about the injuries he’d caused as Viktor held him close and soothed him.
“ Kyros… ” he remembered saying. “ Kurush… ”
Viktor had known enough to know that Cyrus was saying his own name after hearing fall from Viktor’s lips.
“ That’s right,. You’re Cyrus. Do you know who I am? ”
“ Arammu… ” he’d said and Cyrus almost groaned thinking about it.
Love, he’d called Viktor his love and thanked the gods and Merlin that no one in the wizarding world knew what the hell he was saying at the time, just that he was communicating something. Whatever Viktor had sensed from him hadn’t raised any suspicion, so again, he’d managed not to embarrass himself out of sheer luck.
He still felt nothing. That little blip of happiness had vanished replaced with the voice that whispered some ancient language in his head and shielded his thoughts.
The healer who handled his release said that it was because of his not so human side. They'd done more than just suck the happiness out of him, but every drop of human emotion, his very humanity it would seem in order to get at his soul. The human magic had gone tearing out of him leaving something else. They didn't know if he'd recover, if his humanity would ever return, if he would even be able to return to doing wizarding magic, if he would ever feel the way he used to or feel anything at all but the darkness churning at the back of his mind.
They didn't know anything really and it had only pissed Cyrus of more as they gave him his wand back and declared that after some testing, they'd ruled that his focusing tool did not classify as a wand making his supposed violation of the wand ban void. It wasn't made of wood as far as they could tell, nor did it have a magical core. He thought it ironic since he was apparently, literally, more beast than being now. Why would a beast butcher one of its own to make a magic stick?
Whether he was actually a half-blood being, a beast, or something else had been irrelevant. Instead, they called it an artifact that could not be kept from him for as soon as he was released from St.Mungo’s, it had come to his hand and returned with unerring loyalty until they'd merely given up.
"I'll take it," he said with a grin, twirling his wand on his fingers. "It'll be fun."
They traded glances and then looked back at him. It isn’t that he agreed, but the almost sinister twist to his smile that made it a little chilling. After all, magical creatures weren’t known to exactly be forgiving towards wizards with the exception of House Elves.
Cyrus smiled at them, knowing what they were thinking. It should hurt, considering how close they'd been, but everything had changed when people found out that he wasn't human. They thanked him, gave him a letter of summons, and left quickly as he finished eating in peace.
Tap Tap. He turn seeing a great black owl tapping on his window and grinned. Perhaps not everything had changed. There’s still a rushing feeling seeing Ivan’s massive form in his window.
He opened it and watched him join Nimue on their perches, side by side and hooting amiably. Perhaps he should send her to Viktor to spend sometime with him, knowing that she was probably missing the hunting and warmth of Bulgaria along with Ivan’s familiar presence.
Perhaps he should go with her, knowing how much the older man worried about him since he’d left Viktor’s house in Bulgaria. It wasn’t as if Viktor was hard to live with, on the contrary the man was the easiest companion in the world to have personally, but with his human side on the fritz, his more animalistic instincts had risen up and proved that not only was he attracted to Viktor, but he wouldn’t hesitate to pounce on the man if given the chance. Between the constant need to try and seduce Viktor, there had been the manner of his nightmares, the sparks of flames that came and went with his screaming. He couldn’t sleep for the three weeks he was there, recuperating after St. Mungo’s and then packed his bag and went back to his flat in London once all of his things were restored. Viktor had bit his lip and swallowed his protest before hugging him tightly and telling him that when he was ready, he was welcome to come back.
“I’ll hold the idiots off ,” he’d said with a misty smile and Cyrus nodded.
Now they were just trading letters by Nimue and Ivan. He left the window open in case they wanted to go out together and sat at his table to read the letter from Viktor. There had been so few allies in those days he tried not to think about. Viktor had served as a character witness for him, had fought every step of the way, offered to hide him until they came to their senses. Then there was Hermione, a girl he’d never even met, who’d staked her reputation and done so much work to get him free because he was Viktor’s comrade. He still hadn’t met the woman, but part of him felt sick with jealousy, sick with something for sure and it had taken everything in him to leave Viktor’s house rather than let it take over his good sense.
He knew Hermione through Viktor’s letters, the shift in his demeanor through the war and over the years, knew what she meant to Viktor. He wouldn’t be the asshole his beast wanted him to be.
Viktor had always been the kind of comrade that men gave their lives for, having him there nearly every day with Petya, Aleksandr, and Antonio had perhaps been the only reason why he could stay more beast than being rather than all beast. Sure, every once in awhile he just wanted to lay down in a bed of flames, or char his meat by hand--but those little oddities were nothing compared to the way it felt to be hugged by his comrades, by Viktor.
He groaned, scrubbing his face and trying to focus around the warm feeling in his chest. He didn’t have time to think about Viktor that way, he had too--
“Well, hell…” He smirked at the picture that had come with the letter.
Viktor, holding a tiny newborn wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in Viktor’s arms as he smiled, his attention on the baby in his arms, his brothers seemed to not want to be near them. He looked up towards the camera with a grin. He was wearing a slim cut, dark suit that made Cyrus’s mouth water. He looked good. Then again, Viktor always looked good, at least to him and Cyrus had seen him in various states of undress and preparedness.
Viktor had a baby brother.
Finally, he was pretty sure when Viktor wasn’t praying to make it to the next day, or that his fans would leave him alone, he prayed to Merlin for a baby brother to dote on the way he’d longed to be doted on by his older brothers.
“May the Gods help you,” Cyrus said wryly turning over the photo.
Nayden Krum was the baby’s name and Cyrus only groaned. Thank the gods that it was a boy because had Viktor had a little sister, he could only imagine how difficult her life would have been. He prayed that none of Viktor’s brothers ever had children either. There should be a limit to the amount of cuteness a grown, professional Quidditch Player should be allowed to emit--especially when his old roommate didn’t have enough control over his beast side to be around him.
He smiled reading the letter, he couldn’t remember the last time that Viktor seemed so very ecstatic, talking about the little bundle in his arms. He was intensely proud that Nayden had thrown up on his eldest brother already. Cyrus laughed and swallowed thickly.
Come visit, I’m sure he’d love you and I’d like to have a picture with all of my actual brothers for a change.
Cyrus let out a breath and slid the letter away from him, his eyes burning.
Brother, comrade… it made his chest hurt to think it. He wanted more, so much more that it burned him, but the fact that Viktor’s feeling about him hadn’t changed after everything he’d done, everything he is made him pick up the quill and man the hell up.
How’s this weekend?