Chapter 1: two dead boys
If a quote or poem inspires the title, I'll post it up here to keep my writing looking more uniform and neat. As an aspiring writer, these fics are meant for practice and will be edited as I find flaws or change my plan. Thank you for reading and putting up with a work in progress!
“One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight;
Back to Back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot the other.”
-part of an old poem with many versions
2.9.18 - updates made
Chapter 1// two dead boys
Sirius Black shudders as the Dementor makes its way past his cell, breathing stale smelling air on his numb hands. The man slouches further into his lumpy mattress and presses the heels of his hands into his eye sockets until his vision glimmers with little bursts of light. He rocks himself, humming an old Scottish lullaby under his breath. He can hear the screaming of the other prisoners echo and his lungs tremble in his rib-cage. He doesn’t belong here. He didn’t do it.
He keeps his hands pressed to his eyes.
Remus Lupin steps into the floo, a stunned squib behind him on the floor and a child of nearly 7 held tightly to his chest. He doesn't pause as he is spit from the fireplace into the living room of his small cottage. The child in his arms chokes wetly and pukes all over his shoulder, but the werewolf ignores the red-tinted fluid, merely tugs off his jacket. He carefully sets the child on his worn velvet couch and throws an old blanket over the small boy. His knees slam into the hard floors as he throws floo-powder into the dying fire. “Spinner’s End.” He croaks.
It doesn’t take long for there to be an answer and the man leans forward, golden eyes bright in fury. “Lupin.” An icy voice greets. Severus Snape stares down his beak-like nose, eyes scanning the scarred and exhausted face of the ex-marauder. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Remus pulls on a fistful of his own hair before meeting the eyes of the dark man. His heart beats a fast tune in his chest and he fears he’ll have a heart attack before the night is over. “I need you to step through, Severus. Now.” Remus pleads. “Please. It’s life or death.” More vomit finds its way onto the floor, the choking cries of a child reach the Potion Master’s ears.
“Whose life or death?”
A deep breath in. “My son.”
Severus doesn’t run, he finds it below him, but if he rushes through his home to gather his medical kit, well that’s his own business. Stepping through the floo, he finds his mouth dropping in shock, dark eyes wide. The werewolf is far from the put-together, if worn down, man he knows. Instead Remus’ hair is wild and his eyes bloodshot and the glint in them is feral. Severus takes a quiet gulp of fear but does not otherwise acknowledge the dark creature in the room with him. Instead, he turns his attention to the couch.
With a wave of his wand, the boys clothes are vanished and he lights a peppermint incense to help with the child’s nausea. “Is he like you?” Severus questions as he begins cleaning the bleeding lashes on the skeletal boy’s back, dabbing gently with a soft cloth.
Remus lets out a wild laugh, tinged with hysteria. “No. No, luckily not.” Remus drops onto the arm of the couch and runs his fingers through the matted hair of his son. He lets out a sob as his son tries to plead for Severus to stop, that it hurts. He has to force down his wolf to keep from attacking the perceived threat. Severus only blinks and helps the boy swallow a mild sedative potion. He sets the two fractured fingers on the boys left hand and settles himself on his knees to begin rubbing salve into the wounds on the child’s back.
“He had internal bleeding, over 100 lashes from a belt with the buckle end out, severely malnutritioned, one cracked rib, and two broken fingers. He has bruising covering 75 percent of his body.” Severus whispers, horror etched deep in the lines of his face. Remus buries his hands into his hair and tugs roughly, shoulders hunched in anguish. “I would like information, mutt. I was unaware you even had a son.”
Remus presses a soft lingering kiss to the brow of his child and beckons Severus to follow him into the library. He makes them both a glass of Scotch and folds himself into the armchair closest to the window where the moon hangs high. A large sip for confidence, Remus makes himself meet the other man’s eyes. His voice is rough with pain as he talks. “How much would you like to know?”
“Is there a short version?” Lupin lets out a derisive snort at the question and takes another sip of the amber liquid. Severus pulls his top robe off and settles back into the old couch. “Start with the beginning I suppose.”
“Alright, the beginning... “ Remus tears at corners of his nails with his teeth as he gathers himself. “Sixth year, when James lost his father and became close with Lily, things became different. While James didn’t prank as much as he had, he was even crueler as I’m sure you remember. Even Sirius was shocked at the difference in him. I had no idea why he was so brutal to you, but after he threatened to tell about me being a werewolf, I backed off and Sirius sided with me. Siri had no desire to hurt me more after what happened 5th year.”
Severus finishes off his drink and tries to twist his face out of the violent scowl it had twisted into. He succeeds, if only, and pours himself and Remus another glass. “He was particularly harsh 6th year, yes. I still bare a few scars from the encounters.” Remus flinches but merely tucks himself tighter into his chair.
“Sirius has always been an awful flirt, but 6th year, as we grew closer, I fell in love with him. After 3 months of me pining for that dog, I worked up the courage to tell him, well aware I was about to lose my closest friend.” Remus smiles at the memory. “He kissed me and told me that it was about damn time.” The wolf laughs which breaks off into a choked sob. Severus awkwardly looks away and instead stares into the fire.
“I’m sorry.” Remus breathes in. “Sirius got pregnant with our son three months after Lily. I was worried, not only was I a werewolf, but Sirius couldn’t get leave from the Aurors without alerting someone about the pregnancy. He wore heavy glamours up until he gave birth with help from Poppy. Dumbledore told James and Lily to hide as You-Know-Who was after Harry. We rarely got to see them after that, and when we did, it was horrible. They were so suspicious of me and Sirius was moody with hormones. They actually tried to convince me he was unstable from practising dark magic.”
Severus bites his tongue to keep from making any comment about the stability of Black and crosses his legs in the silence that follows. “That doesn’t explain to me how he came to be injured like this, Lupin.”
Remus shocks Severus when he growls low in his throat and leans forward with a sneer sharp as a knife’s edge, “Dumbledore.”
His wand vibrates at the passing of the hour and Severus rises to check on the child. He is surprised to see the boy awake, watching him with weary gold eyes. Severus curses when he realizes he doesn’t know the child’s name and crouches low to make himself seem less threatening. The boy’s shoulders tense as the dark man moves, but he is otherwise still. “Calm child, I will not hurt you. I need to check on your wounds.”
The lashes are pink around the edges, but he can see the skin slowly knitting itself back together. The bruises are lighter and the boy manages to hold down a small glass of water. Remus kneels before his son with shoulders tense with nerves. Severus watches as the boy raises his hand to trail his fingertips across Remus’ eyelids, which open hesitantly at the trembling touch. They watch each other with matching golden glowing eyes.
“Hugo.” The werewolf whispers reverently.
The Boy cannot remember life before the dark. One day, he opened his eyes and all that greeted him was dust and spiders. He does not remember his parents, or warmth, or kindness anymore. The lady, ugly in face and personality, changes his diaper at night and gives him a single bottle of milk. She doesn’t speak to the secret hidden in the cupboard.
He is three before they let him out. They teach him to cook and clean. He learns to be quick and quiet. He is allowed a slice of toast every other day and as much water as he can drink from the hose outside. Sometimes less. Never more. His name is Boy. Or Freak. He is ungrateful. A hideous creature. Disgusting and to blame for every unhappiness in the life of the family who hides him.
He knows the feeling of a frying pan as it cracks into his skull, lashes and the feeling of hunger so strong it brings him to his knees. He does not know love.
Severus rises in the morning, early enough for the dew on the grass to sparkle like stars as the sun rises. He helps himself to a cup of Black tea and scrambled eggs with sausage. He hears the quiet footfalls of Remus, who blinks sleepily at the mug shoved into his hands. They sit in comfortable silence, watching as the sky lightens further.
“How is the old man involved, wolf?” He eventually asks, food consumed and tea in hand.
Remus crosses his arms on the table and rests his head on them. He traces the steam rising from his tea with his eyes. “Dumbledore was the only other person to know about Hugo besides Poppy. She swore an Oath of Silence about the birth, along with already having an Oath of Protection due to her healing as you know. What I’m not sure you know, is that Harry Potter was born practically a squib. Scarcely enough magic to cast a single spell.” Severus straightens up in bewilderment.
“Both Lily and James had relatively strong magic though.”
“It shocked everyone and when Hugo was born with strong magic, I knew James could never be told. He told me that he didn’t want to have to feel bad for using magic around his child because it was born deficient. I was horrified that the boy I had been so close with was this heartless and I stopped going around them for fear of them finding out.”
They both look up at the small figure in the doorway, and Remus can’t help the smile that breaks out at the bleary look his son gives him. “Come here, love. Are you hungry?” Hugo makes no noise as he walks and it sends a chill down Severus’ spine. He crosses his arms and tries to smile at the golden eyed boy. The small nose crinkles at him and Severus has to hold back a snort at the cute child.
“I am unsure.” Hugo finally answers, feet dangling off the table from his perch in front of Remus. Remus sets a plate beside the boy, watching at the surprize in his eyes at being fed. The narrow eyed look Remus gets as his hand closes around the fork breaks his heart, but the wolf just smiles encouragingly.
“Eat as much as you’d like, cub. No one will hurt you here.”
A bird chirps outside the window as the sun breaks over the mountains, casting a golden halo over the boy. Remus’ breath catches as he stares entranced by the angelic sight.
“Are you a superhero?” The boy’s soft voice only causes Remus’ heart to skip a beat.
“A superhero?” Remus asks, eyes greedily soaking up every face his son makes.
“Yes. You rescued me.” The boys face twists suddenly. “Are you a prince? Oh, that makes me a princess. She always told Dudley stories about princes rescuing princesses.”
Severus lets out a startled laugh as Remus chuckles. “Which would you rather I be, love?” Remus teases, feeding his son a bite of eggs.
Hugo chews slowly, a furrow between his brows. “I am unsure. Princesses get spoiled and are very beautiful so I do not believe I am a princess. Nor am I girl." He shrugs delicate shoulders. "Victims are saved by heros so I guess you are a hero.” Remus meets Severus’ eyes with a dark look.
“Hugo, could you do me a favor and look at me?” Severus asks, watching the boy decide whether or not to look. Hugo eventually does. He crosses his arms and leans back as he inspects the boy. Hugo’s sickly grey skin is stretched tight over his bones, snow white with the blue of his veins obvious. His body holds no warmth and he is ice cold to the touch. He has the usual Black pure-blood features with high sharp cheekbones and a pointed chin. His nose is dainty and sharp leading to a full pink mouth. His hair is so black it seems to absorb light and has Sirius' waves. “I think you are pretty enough to be a princess. I suppose your father is a prince, hm. It matters not if you're a girl.”
Hugo blushes faintly and offers a shy smile to Severus before his eyes dart over to Remus in shock as Severus' words register. “You’re my father?” Severus offers an apologetic shrug and finishes off his tea. He rises to give the two time to talk.
Hugo lets himself be maneuvered into Remus’ lap without fuss, content to wait out answers. He allows his father time to gather his thoughts. He sips the cup of juice in his delicately, before chugging back the orange juice in delight. It was delicious.
“I’m so sorry that I didn't... save you sooner.” The voice is heavy with guilt and Hugo pauses with a grape halfway to his mouth. He glances into Remus’ eyes and frowns at the tears trailing down the scarred cheeks. “I thought you were dead. And Sirius, your other father, was taken from me and I had no one to trust.”
Hugo chews another grape and raises his hands to brush away the tears leaking from the eyes so like his own. “Why did you think I was dead?”
“You got so sick. You were dying and I turned to the man who had mentored me throughout school, only to face the biggest betrayal in my life. He took you to see a Healer and you died. You were dead, love. He refused to let me see you again and blocked off all communication with me." Remus nuzzles his cheek against his son's, and breaths in the scent of his cub.
“It’s okay, Papa. I’m here.” Hugo whispers and presses a kiss to a scruffy cheek. Inside his mind, the word dead echos.
“It’s okay, Remi. I’m here.” Sirius gives his lover a tender look and presses a kiss to a smooth cheek.
Sirius thumbs the corner of the letter in his hands, blinking away tears as he reads the neat script of the man he loves. He can hear the Dementor getting closer and he sucks in a struggling breath. He is careful as he folds up the letter, reluctant to part with the last piece of Remus he has, even for a little while. But he does and he shifts into his animagus in time for cold creature of Death to reach his cell. The painful memories are vivid, but not as unbearable in dog form. He watches his son growing sicker. Remembers Remus’ face the day after the full moon in 5th year. Can hear his mother screaming at him and feel the sharp sting of a cutting curse to his back. Hears Regulus scream his hatred during a heated argument. He whimpers and pushes his snout into his paws.
“I am still unclear on how Dumbledore ties into this. Please continue, wolf.” Severus grouches from his spot on the living room couch. Remus looks up from his book to see Hugo quietly reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard while lounging in Severus' lap. Remus can’t help his smile at the disgruntled but caring look on the ex-Slytherin’s face. Hugo rests his head on Severus’ chest and laces his fingers in the dark man’s hair.
Remus closes his book and sets it on the coffee table. “I don’t know how you feel about Dumbledore, but I will explain why I trusted him so much and why I no longer.” The werewolf meets Severus’ eyes with so much loathing in the golden depths that Severus is breathless with the force of it. “I felt indebted to him after he allowed me entrance to Hogwarts as a werewolf. He met with me to make sure I was okay after each full moon. He would bring me a chocolate frog and a book from his personal collection. He was kind and never looked at me with a judging eye. I was desperate for approval. My father couldn’t look at me, and when he did it was so full of disgust that I wished he wouldn’t. My mother would pretend that everything was as it should be. I was raised with disgust and purposeful ignorance surrounding me and I wanted that positive influence.”
Remus passes Severus a sippy cup for Hugo and the child gulps the orange juice with a pleased smile. “Do you know Lily’s sister Petunia? That’s where Hugo was.” Remus tells him as they both watch Hugo settle back and turn the book page.
“How did he come to be with that horrid bit-woman?”
Remus clenches his jaw and Hugo glances at him from the corner of his eyes, small mouth curled down. Yes, how did he come to be trapped in that dark hell. “No one knew where our house was. Sirius had inherited a few properties and plenty of money from a distant uncle who loved to stir up trouble and recognized that same rebellious nature in his young nephew. I still have no idea how Dumbledore found us other than perhaps bribing a goblin, but I doubt the goblins would turn against the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black.. We were warded against house elves other than our own entering so it wasn’t with their help. But he showed up one day while Sirius was at work and kept asking questions about Hugo. I still trusted him at that point and answered most of his questions. He gave Hugo a chewy toy and he left.” Remus rubs his cheeks with shaky hands and moves forward to brush a finger over the soft cold cheek of his son.
“Where is Potter’s son now?” Severus asks as he runs a hand soothingly over Hugo's back.
“I haven’t looked for him. I was going to floo McGonagall, but she is extremely loyal to Dumbledore. For however fair she was to Slytherin in school, she depends too much on that man for guidance.” The wolf presses his fingers to his temple as a sharp throb of pain races through his head. “When Sirius got back from work that day, we flooed to Hogwarts. Hugo was dead on a bed. He looked so lifeless. His lips were so blue.” Remus’ lip trembles at the memory of his precious cub so cold and still.
Severus runs his hand through the silky hair of the child in his lap and smiles gently when gold eyes peek up at him. “What were the symptoms of the poison?”
“His heart fluttered and he had trouble breathing. He was lethargic. His skin would go from ice cold to feverish and nothing would affect the temperature. He couldn’t hold down anything. He’d just stare off into space without blinking for hours.” Sirius had held Hugo every night, keeping careful watch over his son. He’d barely been able to close his eyes out of fear of losing their son and kept a hand pressed to Hugo’s back to know if their son was breathing at all times.
Severus’ lips tighten and he turns his face away from the wolf. Pressing his fingers to his mouth, he takes a moment to gather himself. “Remus.”
Remus immediately straightens and feels his guts churn. Severus passes Hugo to him and begins pacing across from them. “Remus, if he was poisoned with what I believe he was, things are worse than expected.” Remus tastes bile, but forces the feeling down. Severus grabs a fistful of floo powder and travels back to his own home. Remus glances from the still green fireplace and back to his son who looks at him with eyes much too serious for a soon-to-be 7 year old.
“Papa,” Hugo whispers. “What's wrong with me?” Remus presses a kiss to his cub’s forehead and holds him closer.
“There is nothing wrong with you, cub.”
The floo flashes again as Severus steps back through, large book in hand. He sets it on the coffee table and kneels down as he flips. He points one long boney finger at the page and Remus feels his face pale drastically. Hugo struggles down from Remus’ lap and trips into Severus’ legs. His golden eyes scan over the page and the child raises one slim eyebrow, mirroring the face of his favorite Potion Master.
Petunia pulls her glove higher on her hand and scrunches her nose at the smell of bleach. She rises from her stooped position and throws the rag in the bucket. Her hand itches, but she ignores it to focus instead on throwing the last of the Freak’s stuff in the trash. There. Now you couldn’t even tell he’d been there at all. She rises to her feet as there is a knock on the door. She swings open the door, only to gasp at the beast standing there. A hand wraps around her throat and she’s slammed into the wall.
Severus opens his eyes, aware something had woken him, but not quite sure what. He rolls over and bites back a gasp as he meets glowing eyes. He hears a soft hitching sob and leans over to lift Hugo into his bed. “Why are you crying, child?” The only answer he gets is another whimper so he wraps his arms around the child and lays them both down. Severus grabs his wand from beneath his pillow and casts a charm at the ceiling to make it display the night sky. Petting the boy’s smooth hair, Severus begins listing all known potion ingredients in alphabetical order. Soon, Hugo is asleep again.
When he wakes up, Remus is standing over him with a smug, if slightly jealous, grin. “Sleep well, Severus?”
“Your brat had a nightmare and was embarrassed.” Severus remarks with a scowl and Hugo bolts upright with a fierce sneer.
“I did not get embarrassed.” Hugo hisses and throws himself down and away from Severus. Remus feels his heart clench and Severus narrows his eyes at the empty hallway. That child, he muses, seemed to go from age 100 to 7 in mere moments. The curse of growing up too quickly.
Remus gives chase to his son, eventually catching him in the kitchen and raises him to the counter to sit. “Tell me what happened, love.” He lets Hugo sit there as he makes the three of them breakfast. With three plates of pancakes ready, he levitates two teas and a sippy cup to the table before bringing Hugo to sit in his lap. Severus joins them shortly later. “Hugo. ”
The boy slumps his shoulders and pushes his pancake bites around his plate. “Aunt Petunia is dead.”
Severus chokes on his tea and slams his hand into his chest to clear his lungs. “Child, why do you think that?” The boy in question tries to slink away from the two men, but his Papa’s firm mouth and worried eyes causes him to slump further and answer.
“She told me in a dream last night. I saw it.” For a moment, his mouth twists up, but he firms it. “Can I go read, Papa? I’m not hungry anymore.”
“Okay, love. You can eat later.” Remus waits until he can barely hear the soft thump of Hugo’s heartbeat before looking to Severus. “Do you think this has something to do with…”
Severus nods once and takes a sip of his tea. Remus cradles his head in his hands and wishes Sirius was here. Sirius. Remus bolts up from the table and rushes into the library. Severus follows at a slower pace, passing by the child who simply watches him walk with emotionless eyes. He ignores the fear in his stomach.
Sirius pauses his humming as he hears the soft click of boots on concrete. His eyes widen as his door is approached and the dull clink of keys on a ring echos in his ears. “Move it, Black. You have a visitor. Stick both hands through the slot to be chained.” He tests the metal cuffs with a small pull and shrugs as he follows the guard into the open area used for the rare visits few prisoners get. His eyes take in the long black-clad form he hadn’t seen in years.
Sirius rakes his eyes over the pale face of his schoolyard enemy and feels something cold in his chest. Had something so bad happened only Snivellus was left to tell him? “Black. Before you open your mouth and do not think about what you say, I have news about your son.”
Sirius pauses mid-step, pale eyes narrowing in suspicion. “My son is dead, Snape.” He spits, muscles tense and he leans forward. "How do you know about him?
“You saw he was dead. You saw his corpse.” Severus steps closer, their noses close to touching. He holds back a chill as a dementor passes through the hall outside. “Dumbledore gave your son the Kiss of Death. And your son died. And your son came back, Black. Congratulations, you gave birth to the first Black necromancer in nearly a century.” And Severus laughs sharply at the shocked look on his tormentors face.
Only to freeze as his hand is grabbed tightly and a face looms close to his. “Hugo is alive? He is okay?” Sirius lets out a broken sob and folds at the waist, using his tight hold on Severus to keep himself up. “Proof. Do you have proof?”
“Remus told me to tell you that ‘the Hare was faster than the tortoise’.” Snape answers, pulling his hand away from the skeletal prisoners. Sirius drops to his knees and cries tears of happiness. His baby was alive.
Remus clutches his son to his chest as he rocks him to sleep for an afternoon nap. He watches dark lashes lower to brush against his son's sunken cheeks. He runs his nose against the cool skin and breathes the scent in deep. Remus settles his son into his bed, making sure Hector the Snake is tucked in with him. He makes his way to the library and stares down at the book Severus left open on the table. A chill works its way down his spine and his clenches his scarred hands tight.
The Kiss of Death is a fatally poisonous potion meant to kill the drinker and bring them to Death, as sacrifices, to be judged. The drinker will experience hot and cold flashes, nausea, a lack of hunger, migraines, and death by asphyxiation while in coma-like state, for anywhere from minutes to days, depending on the drinker's magical strength. If Death judges a soul worthy of his gift, the drinker will be brought back to life from death. The last known survivor is Pollux Black, 1824. All known survivors have declined ever speaking of the judging and subsequent wake-up.
He settles into his chair with a glass of Scotch and slides a hand into his hair, tugging on the messy strands. Dumbledore had poisoned their son on the off chance he would be a necromancer. There aren't enough words in the English language for the werewolf to fully explain his hatred of Dumbledore, but revenge, he vows, will be vicious. His wolf would do it's best to rip Dumbledore piece from piece. Remus would do nothing to stop it.
He sighs, forcing the thoughts of his son's suffering away, to focus instead on the time. Hopefully, his research had done him well. Days of reading the laws on Azkaban had left his mind overfull, but his search may have proven very fruitful. If his way of speaking to Sirius worked.
If Sirius could ever bare to speak to him again. After everything...
It's become a cruel waiting game, Remus staring down the simple mirror resting innocently on the table, glass reflecting the nothing but the eggshell colored ceiling. 9 PM his alarm tells him. He inhales deeply, eyes closing, and touches a finger to the mirror. “Lepus.” He whispers.
Sirius looks horrible, gaunt and pale, but Remus can’t help but find him as handsome as he ever had. His eyes fill with tears, throat contracting around what feels like billions of letters, all of them forming the word 'sorry', but nothing comes out but a strangled, “Sirius.”
“Remus..." Sirius presses his hand to his eye to staunch the flow of tears and takes a shuddering breath in. Remus glances up as he sees movement from the doorway. Hugo steps are hesitant as he focuses on the glass piece in his father’s hand. His hand snakes out lightning quick to pull it close to his eyes. Remus can hear Sirius let out a gasp and Hugo’s eyes are wide as he watches his bearer.
“Merlin, I made a beautiful baby,” Sirius smirks and Hugo blushes, glancing up at his father to check for laughter. “He looks like Regulus, Rem.” Hugo drags himself in Remus’ lap so they can both focus on the sickly looking man.
"Regulus wasn't as ethereal." Remus responds, running a hand down Hugo's back.
Hugo frowns, small mouth sounding out the word quietly. "E-th-re-all." Remus watches Sirius, who looks moments from passing out. Though the wolf is unsure if it's the malnutrition or the shock of being able to watch your supposedly dead son sound his words out.
"It won't be long, Sirius. I promise."
“How did we talk to Paddy through the mirror at Azkaban?” Hugo asks as Remus settles him into a chair for a late dinner. He blows a bite of the chicken pot-pie to cool it down before feeding it to Hugo.
“The mirrors are an old Black heirloom that we used at Hogwarts to pull off pranks. They have extensive secrecy and anti-detection charms from centuries of Black family magic so they are untraceable to the Azkaban wards. Plus, when Azkaban was first put into use, the nobility imprisoned were allowed communication with their family using mirrors or charmed letters so the guards aren’t taught to look out for them due to the rules being unclear.” Remus explains and Hugo nods along, sipping warm milk and honey from his cup.
Severus arrives as Remus is lifting his son from his chair. He follows the fair-haired man to the bathroom with a sour frown on his face. After his papa turns the water just shy of too hot, Hugo climbs in the tub and watches his papa pull Severus into a tight hug and whisper his thanks. Severus awkwardly pats the back on the wolf and makes an exaggeratedly disgusted face at Hugo. He can't help the fond smile that spreads as the child buries his laughter behind tiny hands.
“You wicked, wicked boy!” The slouched female house-elf hisses, wooden spatula swinging. The 14 year old boy lets out a cruel grin and picks up the glass ball, tossing it from hand to hand. His ink black eyes settle on the buggy mossy green of the elf's and he lets the ball shatter against the wood of the floor. His eyes darken gleefully at the heavy footsteps of his adoptive father coming closer. The looming figure of Taurus Avery takes up the entirety of the door-frame and the boy looks up at him with a blank expression.
“Eudard. What is going on here?” The man asks, glancing between the twitching elf and the dark delight in his son’s eyes.
“Bibsey was coming over to clean up the orb I dropped, sir. A small accident.” The pale haired boy answers, ignoring the cowering elf as his father turns his attention to the creature. Taurus nods as he sets a heavy hand on Eudard’s shoulder.
“Your marks in Defense were satisfactory, but I would like to see improvement in transfiguration. Igor tells me you spend more time in dungeons torturing first years than studying.” Eudard’s face twists at the Headmaster’s loose tongue and toys with the idea of cutting it out of that deceitful mouth. As he walks away, Eudard tosses a wicked grin back at the furious elf wringing her hands. Taurus shakes is head sadly, leading the boy toward his office.
Fenrir Greyback slams fist harshly against the heavy mahogany door of the Avery Manor, movements jittery. The moon behind him lights up the face of Lord Avery as the door swings open. Lord Avery's expression is one of faint surprise, as if the wards of the manor hadn't warned him of the nearing figure. “Ah Fenrir, do come in.” The Lord’s dark blue eyes rake over the dirty form on the wolf and he sighs at the dirt being tracked across his floor. “What can I do for you, old friend?”
Fenrir sniffs the air and stomps toward the large dining area where a few of the darkest inclined families sat eating. His golden eyes trace over each face, skipping the Mulcibers and Malfoys, landing on the 14 year old Raphael Lestrange, youngest brother of Rodolphus and Rabastan. He moves toward the dark haired boy and grabs his cheeks. “I have need of you, little tracker.”
Lord Lyall Lestrange, Grandfather of the 3 Lestrange brothers, dabs his mouth with a cloth napkin before waving Fenrir into a seat. “What has your tail twisted, Fenrir? You seem particularly ruffled this evening.” Thaddeus Malfoy, from his seat next to Eudard, lets out a lazy snort and rolls his wine in his glass, leaving it upsipped.
“I have found out that my grandcub is alive. Briefly last week, the family bond flared when he left whatever wards are hiding him. I need help tracking him.” He admits, unashamed. “Raphael asked me to take him with me hunting and what better time than now.”
Demetre Malfoy, elder sister of Lucius, raises her painted pink lips into a kind smile. “Ah yes, both the best and worst kept secret. Lepus Lycindas Hugo Black, heir of the Black Family.” Narcissa arches a slim blonde brow and can’t help but smile in relief at the good news.
“I tracked down the boy to a muggle home in Surrey. The horse-lady told me that a golden-eyed man had taken him away and she was glad to be rid of the freak. My grandcub, a freak!” The wolf growls loudly and many of adult’s faces dark with realization.
“Filth,” Lucius throws out with a careless sip of his wine. He cannot imagine his young son ever being made to be felt ashamed, much less for something as much of a blessing as magic.
Samuel Mulciber raises a hand to brush over his son’s head, soft expression lifting some severity from his features. “How could anyone hurt a child?”
Lord Lestrange’s wife Amoura taps her dark lips with a long pointed plum nail, eventually turning to look at her husband with a cruel twist of her mouth. “Something must be done about children trapped with muggles.”
Lyall presses a soft kiss to back of her hand, "Yes, I agree with my wife. Fenrir seems worked up, more than usual. The muggles must have been worse then we can imagine." The click of forks on plates taper off as everyone conversates amongst themselves, though the topic of the cruelty of muggles is never far from any lips.
Fenrir takes a large bite of meat from the plate in front of him and Eudard twirls his steak knife in his hand before letting it fly toward the wolf. The wolf's hand snatches it from the air and the boy blinks in disappointment before sipping his wine. Dinner ends with Fenrir and Raphael leaving for London, Raphael's wand twirling through the night air, leading them away.
Remus blinks in surprise as the floo chimes with an incoming call. He drops down in front of the low fire and accepts Severus’ urgent call. He takes in Severus’ carefully blank and the large hand wrapped tight around the young man’s throat. “Open the floo, Remus.” Severus spits out and nods once against the rough hold on his neck. Remus inches his wand forward and opens the wards, scrambling back as Severus is shoved through and a hulking figure steps out. Hugo slides from his spot on the couch to the floor watching the adults with caution. Three pair of golden eyes take in the others with caution. A loud crash echoes throughout the cottage.
Chapter 2: in the woods somewhere
Is this story making sense so far? I worry that I don't give enough important details..
Hope you enjoy xx
“I raised myself
My legs were weak
I prayed my mind
Be good to me
An awful noise
Filled the air
I heard a scream
In the woods somewhere”
-Hozier ‘In the woods somewhere’
2.9.18 - updates made
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter 2// in the woods somewhere
The day the golden eyed man had saved him, it had been raining. He could hear the calming patter against the windows outside of his cupboard and timed his breathing to the rhythmic thrumming. The small grate on the cupboard door let in pale grey light, enough to see his own hand, if the hand was near the grate. The thunder had grown louder as the sky had grown darker, a shadow over Surrey. Every so often lightning had flashed. The hair on his arms had raised with the electricity in the air. His heart beat slow in his chest.
Petunia had cooked waffles for breakfast. Every click of fork on porcelain had his stomach cramping with hunger, sharp and relentless. The dull family made simple conversation while they ate. Hugo entertained himself by counting the vowels in each of the words spoken. As his count grew, so did the bitterness in his chest. He was so hungry. So very very hungry.
He hated being punished. He was usually so careful not to make a mistake he couldn’t fix without being caught. This one had been an accident. An unavoidable mishap he couldn’t have stopped. Not that it mattered to the Dursleys. He had been confined to the cupboard three days prior for wetting the bed during a nightmare. All it had taken was a bad dream and he’d wet himself like a toddler. How he hated himself.
The nightmare hadn’t even made sense. Perhaps that was what made him the maddest. Weird snapshots of places he hadn't seen and voices that spoke in a language he didn’t know. A vision too real to be imaginary, too vivid. But there was something about it that felt… manipulated. Fake.
By the time the Dursleys' finished eating, Hugo had almost fallen back asleep and his vowel count has reached 203. He sat up as the chairs slid away from the table, thudding steps coming closer to his sanctuary under the stairs. “Boy, I expect a spotless kitchen by the time I’m finished dropping off my Dudders. No scraps. One glass of water.” Was Petunia’s parting statement. He hadn’t given a reply, simply dragged his body from the cupboard after the house had grown silent.
He didn’t mind doing the dishes. Found it relaxing in a way, as long as no one else was in the house. The water would be hot, flushing his skin greyish-pink. The steaming water on his cold hands stung, but there was something soothing in the warmth. Each dish was carefully scrubbed clean and set out to be hand dried and put up. From his perch on a stool in front of the sink, he could stare out of the window. The view is of the backyard. Of Petunia’s treasured garden.
Years before, Petunia had led the boy into the garden to teach him which were weeds and which were flowers. He was to pull up the weeds and water the plants. It hadn’t worked out well.
Oh, it had started fine. He had grasped quickly which to pull, and though the morning sun was hot, he was shaded by the near oak tree. Petunia didn’t have a bad thing to say (or she did but it wasn’t about gardening) and he’d worked out there for hours. By the time evening had rolled around, the garden had been fully weeded and the boy’s cheeks were an angry red. He had cried to Petunia about the pain in his cheeks and hands, which after the allure of being good at something new had worn off, had set in. He’d been 3 and a half at the time and hadn’t learned exactly how cruel his new aunt could be.
Petunia had smacked his knuckles with a wooden kitchen spoon and squeezed his cheeks till he bruised when he had cried harder. Through his sniffles, she told him this, “I won’t have this kind of behavior in my house from the filth I’m forced to keep. Wash your hands and get in the kitchen. There’s dinner to make.”
When she woke up the next morning, her lovely flowers had all wilted, aged lifetimes overnight, until nearly dust, and in their place weeds of grand height had sprung.
He had woken up three days later after Vernon’s beating had nearly killed him. Often he wishes it had.
Hugo turns back to his dish scrubbing, pushing away the memory. His hand cramps where it’s wrapped around the coarse sponge and he flexes his fingers. The small digital clock on the stove blinks 8:30 and the boy scrambles up to the bathroom to take his allotted once a week shower. His 5 minute once a week shower in ice cold water. He rushes even with as sluggish as he feels and dresses himself in clean, if worn, hand-me-downs. He uses thin string to keep his pants up on his narrow hips
When Petunia walked back in the house at 9:15, the boy was already tucked back in his cupboard.
Dinner that night had been simple. Spaghetti and garlic bread. Milk for Dudley, wine for Petunia, and a beer for Vernon. Which turned into three glasses of wine for Petunia and 5 beers for Vernon. And then 8 beers. Work that day for the large man had been hellish. Idiot interns and bastard bosses who make too much money. He wanted to relax. Except Petunia had a migraine and if he couldn’t relax with his wife, the Freak would do.
So as Dudley sat in the living room, and Petunia laid up in bed, Vernon raised a fist to Hugo. He gave the boy no time to duck or hide. The first hit landed on his spine and the boy had sprawled forward from the force, unsure how to protect is back without exposing his tender tummy. The next hit was quick and hard, right in his stomach. He had gagged and stomach acid splattered on the floor in front of him.
Vernon, if asked, would say he is a good man. A family man. That he loves his son, would never cheat on his wife, and always does what’s right. He took in his wife’s freak of nephew, tried to rise him right. A firm hand to keep the freakishness at bay. He was only doing what was right. What was expected of a man in his position. He only wanted to be normal, where was the harm in that?
A meaty hand tangled itself in Hugo’s hair and his face was tugged up. Warm moist air was blown into his face and Hugo had slown his breathing to keep from smelling the putrid breaths. Far from over, the next move was a knee to his ribcage. He felt the frail bone break. Vernon stomped down on the hand the boy used to prop himself up in his kneeled position. The man delighted at the scream the boy let out. Hugo can only be thankful Vernon hasn’t noticed where he has wet himself. He can only imagine how furious he'd be then.
Vernon’s sneer was vicious and drool trickled to his chin as he lost himself to anger. His leather belt was removed and he snapped it together, pleased at the flinch it causes from the freak at his feet. A loud thwack echos in the kitchen as the belt comes in contact with the soft flesh of Hugo’s outreached palm. The boy curled his body protectively over his hand and Vernon took the chance to rain hit after hit with the belt. Vernon only grew angrier at the defeated form of the freak and offered one last cruel kick and left the kitchen.
A firm hand. Since he was a good man. A family man. And his family didn’t have room for freakishness.
Petunia opens her eyes as she hears Vernon leave the kitchen, heavy footsteps leading to the bathroom in the hall. She hears the water start and she presses boney fingers to her trembling lips. She brushes her dull blonde hair over her shoulder, and sits up, head throbbing. The knocks on the front door feel more like nails hammering into her temples. She pulls a soft robe over her nightgown and descends the stairs.
She immediately tries to slam the door, but a hand slamming into the wood stops her. “No thank you, we aren’t looking to buy anything.” The blonde woman simpers.
“I’m not selling anything, Mrs. Dursley. ” The man calmly replies. “I’m looking for my son.”
She sneers, giving up on the door, instead pulling her robe tighter across her chest. “I assure you he isn’t here.” The man glances at the houses around them calculatingly and Petunia swallows heavily. She backs down as a curtain flutters next door and allows the man entry. “Who are you?”
“That’s not important. All that matters is my son.” He answers. She watches his path into the living room and remembers too late her son is in there. She keeps a white-knuckle grip on her dressing gown as she follows him. Only to be shocked as she slammed to the floor and starring terrified into glowing eyes. “I smell his blood. Where is he?”
A strangled, “Kitchen,” is all she manages.
It’s agony. He’d rather be dead than this. Left on the floor like a broken toy not worth fixing. He presses a hand to his mouth to cover a wet cry, all snot and blood and streaming tears. He hears someone knock on the door and hopes no one expects him to get it. He isn’t sure he had the ability to move anymore. He shivers as the puddle of pee around him grows colder. The sound of low voices and then hurried footsteps has him panicking. Hugo struggles to stand, right hand flat on the floor and left hand curled to his chest, he pushes up. Only to slip in his own piss. He slumps and pushes his face into his forearm. The steps are louder and stop right in front of him. A low inhuman growl reaches his ears and he tells himself not to look.
He doesn’t listen to himself. He peeks up through his lashes, subtly arranging himself to be ready to run. Only to pause. The eyes of the man looking at him are familiar. His own. The man crouches down, uncaring of the pee soaking into his pants. A scarred tan hand reaches out cautiously, but Hugo can’t help his flinch. The man looks pained before his face becomes emotionless.
“What is the meaning of this?” Vernon booms, having finished with his shower.
“The neighbors,” Petunia warns. She keeps her eyes on the man lifting the boy into his arms. The child lets out a choked wail and gags over the man’s arm.
“We will be leaving now.” The man’s voice no longer sounds human. It’s rougher, lower. It causes the air to vibrate around them and she feels as if wasps are building a nest in her stomach. “I’m having trouble controlling myself so I’d suggest you stay out of my way, muggle .” Hugo finds the disgust filling the word is an adequate amount for anyone talking about Vernon and rests his head on the man’s boney shoulder.
He isn’t sure what he is expecting the man to do, but it was definitely not head straight toward Miss Figg’s house. Hugo rests one small hand on the man’s other shoulder, struggling to breath through the heavy pressure in his chest. He sniffles quietly, pressing his teary face in to the man’s neck. “What’s your name?” Hugo asks as the man knocks harshly on Miss Figg’s door.
“Oh my, if it isn’t Remus? My god is that Harry Potter in your arms?” The grey-haired Miss Figg remarks as she welcomes the two in. “What ever happened?”
“Strange to see you so close to the Dursley’s, Arabella.” The man, Remus Hugo reminds himself, growls. The elderly lady blinks surprised.
She presses a hand to her hair as if to fix it while making her way toward her fireplace. “I’m shocked you didn’t know, Remus. Dumbledore asked me to watch over Harry. A watchdog, if you will.” She laughs. She reaches up to grab her glasses from the mantle and gasps as she finally sees Hugo’s mangled form. “Dear Merlin, I’ll floo Dum--”
“Stupify.” Remus snarls and steps forward to the fireplace. “Moontown Cottage.”
Hugo wonders if Remus is a freak like him while the man talks frantically into the fire. He gasps as nausea swells in his stomach and he pukes on the floor. It burns his throat and he can’t help the soft cries he lets out. Everything was getting blurry and Hugo could barely keep his eyes open anymore. Although he made a considerably stronger effort to stay awake when he realised that he was no longer alone with Remus anymore. A tall, lean man clad in black stood next to Remus, eyes widened. The expression looked comical on the man’s severe features.
The pain is unbearable as the man works on his back. No amount of begging slows his steady hands and Hugo hates him for it. Until a vile concoction is tipped down his throat and he knows no more.
When his eyelids flutter open, the world is dark and the fireplace is dim.
Hugo had always been clever. A dark cupboard seems to do well for a mind, as long as sanity isn’t the goal. He was discomforted by how little he knew of his savior. He couldn’t figure out the gold-eyed man and his motives. What would anyone want with filth like him. Perhaps the man was an uncle, or someone related. He’d never seen anyone with eyes like his before.
While comforted by Remus, he was frightened by the dark man who had come from the fire. Severus, if he had heard correctly. The man moved like a snake readying for a lunge. His hands had not trembled at the sight of the wounds, had actually steadied as if calmed by a familiar situation. He was the tallest man Hugo had ever met, even taller than Remus. Severus reminded him of a more terrifying Count Dracula.
Hugo glances up as he sees a shadow come into his line of sight. The dark man seems to hesitate before lowering himself to the floor. Hugo tenses. “Calm child, I will not hurt you. I need to check your wounds.” The man’s hands are surprisingly warm as they press along his back and he slowly relaxes.
With half-lidded eyes, he watches Remus kneel down beside the couch, small cup in hand. The dark man helps him sip before stepping back, only far enough to kneel. The moon shines in from the window, and he stares at the man before him. He raises his hand, shaking trembling with fear. Something inside knows this man. Recognizes him as family. No, this man would never hurt him. He presses his ice cold fingertips to the scarred face bowed to him.
Neither of them move the rest of the night.
He wakes up to distant talking. He brushes a gentle hand over his lower back and is surprised at the feeling of faint scar tissue. A shirt is thrown over the arm of the couch near his head, folded and smelling of Lavender, like Remus. The white silk shirt falls to his ankles and he holds it in his hands to keep from tripping as he follows the sound of voices.
He isn't sure what a Necromancer is, or why it makes Remus cry at night, pleading to gods unknown to protect his young son, but Hugo feels honored. His very magic, his freakishness, felt as if it was leaving trails of liquid gold along his sternum, tingling and aching to be used. The magic goes where he wants without complaint, and Hugo wonders if his Papa's magic was so compliant without a wand.
Severus, despite his harsh outer layer, was still only 25, and as one of the youngest Potion Master's to ever earn the title, he kept busy. Or busy was his life before being welcomed into the home of lonely werewolf and his young son. In the days of Remus researching how to rescue Sirius, Severus spends his free time reading to the curious Hugo. Hugo found his favorite subjects were potions and ancient runes to study with his dark friend. No subjects were left untouched. All except necromancy that is.
Hugo had tried finding the books himself, but Severus had expected it and charmed the books unreadable by scrambling their letters to his eyes. Hugo had pouted for hours, leaving Severus with a strange twinge in his chest. Spinner's End sees less and less of the dour man as Hugo wraps the dark man around his little finger, many nights spent slumbering together on the library couch, warmed by a near fire.
Severus, for the first time in his life, feels cherished. And for the first time, cherishes.
Yes, his fatherly love toward Hugo had come along way since believing his obsession with Lily Potter was love. Remus and Severus had gotten fairly inebriated late one night, watching Hugo rest in his Father's lap, and had spoken until the sun rose. Severus had never been so unalone.
Three pair of golden eyes take in the others with caution.
“Grandcub,” A deep voice greets, smiling toothily at the gaunt boy staring him down. Hugo rises slowly before offering a calculating glance toward the large wolf and the wild looking boy near him. Remus keeps a careful eye on Fenrir while helping Severus’ find the healing potions from his robe pockets. “You can call me Grandpappy.” The wolf tells Hugo.
“Hello Grandpuppy,” Hugo replies, face carefully blank. Fenrir blinks before letting out a booming laugh. Hugo turns his attention to the young teen with Fenrir.
“Pup, meet Raphael Lestrange. He helped me find you.” Fenrir drops his body onto the pale couch and stretches out his legs.
Raphael takes a step forward and offers a low bow with a feral grin pulling at his lips. “It’s nice to meet you, Lycidas.”
“Yes, delightful.” Hugo mutters and turns away. He had never been around more than the Dursley’s and suddenly, he felt overwhelmed. He moves to his Papa’s side and presses himself to it, alert to any move the men make. He only moves to join Severus on the couch once Severus begins to drop to sleep, sluggish arm wrapping around Hugo like a vice as he curls into the dark man, leaving Remus to stare down a relaxed Fenrir. Raphael vanishes outside into the woods, taking the time to inspect Remus' cage on the full moon.
“This is boring.”
“Shut up, Thad. You’re always bored.” Eustace hisses as he stomps through the corridors of Avery Manor. Thaddeus crosses his arms but agrees. He was so rarely entertained these days. “Raphael is supposed to tell us all about the little Black when he gets back.”
Eudard gives a disinterested look toward his friends and flips the page of his book. Thaddeus throws his legs over the arm of his chair and slouches even farther into the velvet. A breeze blows in from the open window and Thad’s eyes slip closed. Eustace looks up from his solitary chess game as the library door opens with a quiet click. Malachi Slytherin, son of the Dark Lord, glides into the room, scowl in place. The dark haired male drops himself gracefully into the seat across from Eustace and precedes to ignore everyone.
“Doxie in your drapes?” Thad jests, nearly asleep in the warmth of the sun from the window. He can practically feel the dirty look Malachi gives him, a laugh leaving his smiling mouth as he dozes.
“Raphael will be back soon. Fenrir sent along a message to set up a bedroom for two.” Malachi replies, brushing his fingers over his eyes. Another stress headache.
“Where is your father?” Eudard asks the other boy and frowns when Malachi only raises a brow. His father rarely kept him up to date on his coming and goings.
The quiet pop announces the arrival of a house elf who bows low to the 4 boys in the room. “Master Eudard, your father told me to inform you that Sir Fenrir and Heir Raphael have returned.” The elf pops away and the boys rise to make their way to the floo room.
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Chapter 3: grief and growth
"Grief and growth live hand-in-hand."
Please enjoy xx
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter 3// grief and growth
“Let me through!” The 10 year old boy kicks out toward his father, freckled face red with fury. “Fred! It’ll be okay!” He tries to rip his arms away from his brother Bill, but the older boy is much stronger than he. His chest spasms and he renews his fight to get to his twin. Arthur clamps hands on each of George’s ankles as they fly toward him, grasping him tight.
George can hear his brother rasping for breath as their bedroom door opens and closes. He clenches his fist and slams his head back into Bill’s nose. He can feel blood drip down his back as he’s dropped to the floor at the impact. “George, you have to calm down. You’re no good to him upset.” Arthur tries to calm him.
“I’m no use to him out here. I need to be with him. I can help!” George growls. “You can’t even tell us apart, what would you know about us?” He knows it’s a low blow but the guilt on his father’s face sends a dark thrill through his stomach.
Bill groans and pushes away from his spot against the wall, nose pinched in his fingertips. He wipes his hands on his corduroy pants and glares down at his brother. “I know you want to go to him, but you’ll get sick, George. It’s better this way.”
“He’s alone! How is that better?” George stares at them incredulously. “I have to be with him!”
Arthur thumps his chest awkwardly before glancing away from his son. “Molly is with him so he isn’t alone, son.”
The wooden floors creak as George pushes himself to his feet, shoulders hunched and a furrow between his brows. “It’s not the same. I can help him get better.”
Arthur sighs sadly and raises his wand. George barely has time to blink before a sleep spell is murmured and he slumps to the floor unconscious. A scream echoes throughout the leaning Burrow. Arthur closes his eyes in agony, a low sound of grief leaving his mouth like a mourning call.
Taurus Avery sits on the plum velvet couch in the floo room, eyes unfocused as he stares into the flames of the fireplace. The dying August sun reflects off his wife's golden skin as Halil settles down beside him, hazel eyes worried. “Is everything alright, my love?”
He gives her a soft smile and presses his lips to a sun-warmed cheek. She grasps his pale hand between hers, cupping it to her chest. “Halil… Do you remember my grandmother, Adelheid?” He asks her, voice low. His wife hums her agreeance and leans into his side. “She preached to me of change and the difference in the world I would witness.”
Halil smooths her chocolate curls away from her face as she answers, “Change is good. The world has felt very stalled the last few years. Does she say whether the change is a positive one?”
Taurus rubs his eyes with a yawn and pulls Halil to lie down beside him on the couch for a nap. “She spoke often of liars burning for their untruths and a great threat of death on the horizon.” Halil huffs as a large arm curls around her waist and tucks her feet between Taurus’ legs.
“A time of reckoning.” Halil murmurs and Taurus only presses a kiss to the back of her head and drifts to sleep. He dreams of fire.
Now that he is conscious and not bleeding out during the trip, Hugo loves the floo. The warmth and pressure around him is comforting and on the other side, he manages to land on his feet. He blinks ash from his eyes and smiles up at his father as he’s charmed clean.
A throat is cleared and Hugo tenses as he takes further notice of how many more people have entered the room. He keeps his eyes unfocused, dragging the toe of his pointed boot along the thick purple carpet. Hugo's face is closed off and he ignores the concerned glance his father sends him. Hugo was more on edge than Remus was expecting and it was beginning to worry the wolf.
A heavy hand lands on his shoulder and it takes everything in him not to flinch away. Fenrir only squeezes once gently before letting go.
“Welcome to Avery Manor, I am Taurus Avery. This is my son Eudard and my wife Halil.” Hugo looks up, not wanting to seem impolite. Taurus is a broad man with sharp dark blue eyes and a firm mouth. His light brown hair is kept slicked back neatly and he’s well dressed. Taurus offers Hugo a kind smile, which Hugo returns after a moment of hesitation.
His wife Halil is what Hugo imagines a goddess to look like. Intimidating and inhumanly beautiful. The corners of her eyes are graced laugh lines and her smile is wide and kind as she looks at him. She's only an inch shy of being the same height as her 6 foot 3 husband and she wears her height gracefully. The tight, eggplant purple dress she wears flatters her form, but Hugo's eyes are drawn to the gold. The necklaces, the skin, the bangles and bracelets, the earrings. He tightens his hold on his father’s hand to keep from moving toward the glittering woman.
He turns to find Eudard is examining him with intense black eyes, the curve to his mouth mischievous. His strawberry blonde hair matches his adoptive father's in style, and his black turtleneck sharpens his jaw further, aging him. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lycidas. I’ve been looking forward to this.”
Hugo presses his fingertips to the base of his throat and bows slightly, “I wish I could say the same. This was quite the unexpected trip for me. Please, call me Hugo.”
“Thank you for allowing us to stay, Lord Avery. Are you aware of my… affliction?” Remus bows but keeps his eyes on the intimidating Lord. The golden eyed man is surprised at the smile that Taurus gives him.
“There is no need for fear, Remus. You will find no discrimination here. Fenrir has been my friend a great many years.”
Remus bows his head in thanks, heart thudding in his chest. He clears his suddenly tight throat.
“No need to be so formal, dear. Please let’s sit down as we continue introductions.” Halil steps up, holding her hand out to Hugo. He stares at the stark contrast in their skin as she sits them on the couch next to each other.
“Are you covered in gold?” The boy asks her is wonder, mouth dropping open.
Halil laughs delightedly as she nods. “Yes, Taurus purchased me a lotion containing goblin gold flakes and fairy dust.”
“That’s magnificent!” Hugo whispers with an embarrassed blush as he sees his father smiling lovingly at him. Keeping the shimmer of gold in his vision, Hugo turns his attention toward the other 3 boys in the room.
“Hello, it’s nice to meet you.” Hugo tells them, unsure how else to greet them.
The largest boy, in both weight and height, offers a serious smile, “Hello, I’m Eustace Mulciber the second. This is Thaddeus Malfoy and Malachi Slytherin.”
The pale blonde strolls over to perch on the arm of the couch next to Hugo, hands tucked into the pockets of his neatly pressed pants. He offers a lazy smile down to the nervous boy below. “Hullo there, Hugo-,” Thaddeus drawls teasingly, voice lilting and low as he draws out the 'o'. Hugo ignores his faintly flushed cheeks and turns away from the grey-eyed Malfoy, peeking only from the corners of his eyes. With a slow blink of heavy-lidded eyes, Thaddeus ruffles Hugo’s hair and tucks his hands back into his pants pockets. Hugo tangles his fingers together and fixates instead on the brown haired boy opposite of him.
Malachi crosses his legs and rests his hands on his knees, staring down the young Black boy. His narrowed red eyes stare into the boy’s and Malachi delves into the child’s mind with a soft hummed legilimens. Images flash by like lightning and he pulls back with a startled gasp.
“Malachi? Is everything alright?” Taurus asks, turning away from his conversation with Remus and Raphael. Halil settles a hand on Hugo’s back and covers his eyes with the other, giving Malachi a stern frown.
Ignoring Taurus’ questions Malachi stands. He takes an aborted step toward Remus, faltering at the gleaming gold eyes. “What did you see?” The wolf-man growls. Malachi swallows and Remus watches the young male with his untamed magic stirring the air in the room.
Malachi presses his fingers to his eyes and exhales once shakily. “I apologize, but I found his behavior suspicious and was curious as to his thoughts on all of us.” Hugo's jaw tightens in frustration, but no one calls out the obvious lie. Hugo settles himself as Malachi shuffles.
“What did you see, Malachi?” Taurus demands.
Malachi glances to Hugo’s furious eyes and clears his throat. “There was no need for any suspicion.” A moment of hesitation later, he excuses himself from the room. Hugo doesn't relax though, especially not after the strange parting look Malachi gives him.
Hugo watches him go with a sneer, icey cold and filled with nerves. He is overwhelmed, unused to being paraded around instead of shunned. It's exhausting.
Remus can see Severus in his son’s expression and let’s the endearing sight calm the last of his anger. He lifts Hugo into his arms, who allows himself to be raised with little fuss. The boy curls up into his father and tucks his face into the nearly too-warm neck. Halil rises and straightens her dress before waving a hand toward the door. “Why don’t I show you to your rooms? You can share if you'd like.”
“Sharing, please. He and I have spent enough nights apart.” Remus answers as he holds his son closer and inhales the smell of parchment and pine that covers him, Remus' own scent having rubbed off on him.
She give the pair a sad smile."Yes, I'd imagine so."
In the East Wing, used for visiting family, Halil opens a heavy wooden door to reveal a lovely navy blue and gold themed room. Hugo raises his head long enough to grunt his approval before slumping down asleep. Halil moves back the thick covers on the bed and Remus tucks Hugo in, pressing a kiss to his son’s chilled cheek. She offers a s only a quick goodnight, knowing Taurus would be waiting for her.
Remus removes his outer clothes and pulls his pajamas from the trunk at the end of their bed. He’d need to remember to thank the elf in the morning. He yanks them on halfheartedly, more exhausted than he'd felt in a long time. He crawls into bed and wraps himself around Hugo.
Breakfast is an affair so unlike anything else Hugo had ever seen. With so many people in the house, there is no set breakfast time so people enter and leave as their schedule permits. Thaddeus is the only one awake when Hugo is lead to the dining room by an elderly elf named Jipsey. The dining room is burgundy and beige, a long mahogany table able to fit 15 without extension charms at the center. Windows line the wall and the view of the ocean is breathtaking. Hugo has to force himself away from the sight of the dark water. However, the rising sun illuminates the room a stunning orange and reflects off of the gold decor. Hugo presses a hand to his chest, feeling his heartbeat.
“Good morning, Hugo-dear,” Thaddeus greets, looking more alert than expected. He sets down his Transfiguration book and rests his chin on his hand, smiling languidly at the wraith-like boy.
“I didn’t think you’d be a morning person.” Hugo tells him, lifting himself into the seat across from the blonde. “Malachi looks more like a morning person.”
Thaddeus chuckles and shakes his head, long bangs fluttering into his eyes. He tucks the strands behind his ears. “Malachi is a sleep enthusiast. Eudard wakes up in a wicked mood so caution if you wake him up. Eustace is a night owl through and through.”
“I am a light sleeper.” Hugo tells him, unsure of whether he preferred night or day. Hugo chews a bite of eggs, washing it down with orange juice. The boy smiles as Halil steps into the room. Thad gives a relaxed wave to the Lady of the Manor before going to wake up Raphael, who rarely sleeps says Thaddeus as he leaves.
“Good morning, Hugo.” Halil smiles, sipping at her fresh citrus tea. She cups his cheek and presses gold lipstick kisses to his eyelids. He flutters his lashes as she backs away, unaware of his glimmering lids. Halil’s heart clenches at the innocent sight. She seats herself beside him and they watch the sun ascend higher into the cloudy blue sky.
“Good morning, Miss. Did you sleep well?” Birds chirp outside the window and the sound mingles gently with the sound of Halil’s laugh.
“I slept wonderfully, thank you. Call me Halil, sweetheart. No need to be shy with me.” She piles more fruit on the underweight boy’s plate. “Did you like your room?”
“It’s amazing! The walls had gold on them too!” He tells her excitedly, thrilled with the shiny bedroom.
“You really like gold, don’t you?” She asks as she butters her toast.
He flushes as he nods. “It’s just really pretty. Your skin is gold and it’s pretty too.” He blurts. She cooes at the cute child and he avoids looking in her direction after that. Her mouth quirks up, but she firms it lest he believes she’s making fun of him.
“Oh my, I’ll have to keep my eye on you, you sly little bugger. You’re gonna sweet-talk my wife right from me, aren’t you?” Taurus jests, voice shaking with laughter and he gives Hugo a bright smile. The boy’s face contorts, but there’s a playful glint in his eyes.
The Lord watches as his wife removes one of her many pressed gold pendants and latches is around Hugo's neck. The boy stares at her slack jawed as if she had just given him the greatest gift in the world. “For me?” He hears the boy whisper to her. She nods, brushing raven locks back from his face. “I’ve never had a present before,” he admits. Taurus sinks back into his chair. Filthy no-good muggles.
More voices float in the hallway and soon the table is filled with people. Hugo closes his eyes and listens to the clatter of forks against plates, but instead of anger, only warmth resides in his chest. Eustace tells him that gold suits him and Hugo beams even brighter for the rest of breakfast.
Raphael stretches his back as he stands and smirks at the boy's gold eyes watching him wearily. “Are you up to anything today, wolf-cub?” He asks Hugo, who responds in the negative. “Great, you can hang with me today. Fenrir wants to take you out into the woods. Get dressed in clothes to get dirty in.”
“What does Fenrir want with him out there?” Remus asks him, distrust clear in his tone.
Raphael offers a wild grin and shrugs. “Bonding stuff, I’d wager. I’m tagging along for tracking practice. Fenrir and the cub will most likely run while I try to find them.” The boy scurries away after his father excuses him. Raphael offers a loud goodbye and charges off after Hugo to lead him to Fenrir once he's bundled warmly. And a small bit of transfiguration later, he is.
“Tomorrow, I’d like to take him swimming.” Halil tells Remus. He sees no reason to deny her, but they both know he will be near to keep an ear out.
“Can I tag along then?” Thaddeus asks from his spot by the window, watching Fenrir stalk toward the forest at the back of the manor.
Halil gives the boy a fond look, “Of course, love. You know you’re always welcome with me. Invite your mother along.”
“Will do,” Thad smiles, only to jerk as a sharp clash sounds near his head. An owl flies in as he opens the window, gliding a low circle before landing next to Remus. He trades a piece of bacon for a pale grey letter.
Fenrir watches Raphael walk toward him with Hugo hand-in-hand. The teen’s chestnut hair is loose and wavy and blows in the salty air, leaving him sputtering as it flies into his mouth. “Fenny! Look what the wolves dragged in!” Raphael yells, letting out a barking laugh. Fenrir growls playfully at the teen and gives his grandcub a loving look. He waves the boys over and Raphael nudges the boy with him into running and Fenrir scoops him when he’s close enough. The grey-haired man tosses his grandcub into the air and listens to the delighted laughter the ensues.
“Alright boys, we’ve got quite the fun filled day planned. Hugo, how would you like to help me teach Raphael tracking?”
Hugo grins from his perch on Fenrir’s arm. “Alright Grandpuppy, I'll find him for you."
Raphael grins at the boy’s snark, only to have to tug his hair out of his mouth. “As if, little Hughie.” With a howl, Fenrir sets his grandcub on his shoulders and takes off into the woods. Hugo’s shouted joy echos until finally, the woods swallows up the enchanting sound. Raphael shakes out his body and breaks into a trot, smile wide and feral.
and leave a comment if you enjoyed getting to know the characters more. Do you have a favorite so far?
More Weasleys and more Sirius next chapter!
Chapter 4: stepping stones
Chapter 4 // stepping stones
He hates it almost immediately. Sand is steadily creeping up his legs, scraping against his sensitive skin and rubbing with every step he takes toward the dark ocean. Behind him is the distant sounds of chatter as the house grows lively, but he’d rushed outside ahead of the others. He can feel eyes on him as he nears the rising waves, only moving close enough for the water to touch his toes. He allows the cold feeling stoically, until something brushes across his ankle and he throws himself from the sea.
Laughter reaches his ears as he frantically dusts sand from his shirt, mouth pinched in displeasure.
Overhead lightning flashes and Hugo feels his slow pulse in his throat jump at the following crash of thunder. Thrill fills him and he can feel his magic responding to the currents in the air. Against himself, he finds laughter spilling from his lips.
The sleeves his Father had rolled for him begin to slide away from his thin shoulders, pooling on the damp sand. As Thaddeus meanders toward the young Black, rain begins to fall. Halil’s laughter is bright as she dashes into the chaotic waters.
His hand is grabbed gently in Thaddeus’ warm grip and he follows the blond toward the growing waves. He keeps their pale hands tangled tight as the water reaches his knees. Thaddeus ducks quickly under the water, his light golden hair luminous beneath the waves. Thunder crashes in the distance. Lightning takes his vision.
Hugo flinches back, terror licking flames up his throat. The blonde ducks deeper under the water. Hugo wants to call him back.
What do you fear, a voice whispers into Hugo’s mind, why do you hesitate? Its unnerving, to be alone in the water and hear the quiet words, but Hugo knows the voice, can hear the playful curiosity in it’s tone.
Hugo slowly untenses and allows the current to pull him under.
He keeps his eyes open, ignoring the burning, watching Thaddeus swim farther out to sea, never turning his head from Hugo’s direction. The obvious care warms his chest and he does his best to swim after the older boy, despite his magic being the only thing keeping him swimming so well. Thaddeus swims deeper, charming a bubble around their heads with a swish of his Acacia wand.
The quiet of the water surrounds him, gives him a moment to sort through the strange time he has had since the golden eyed man, His Father, Remus, had come to him. He felt connected to these people around him, to the place Fenrir had brought them too. He wasn’t sure what to make of many of them, but none had said a rude thing to him yet. It left him on edge, however much he truly wanted to relax.
He knew from experience anything that worked so happily on the outside, usually was worn and tarnished on the inside. The horrid Dursleys for example. It made his chest ache. Atleast Petunia was dead, one less filthy muggle, as Taurus called them, in the world. He’d never been a particularly violent or strong-tempered child, but they’d hurt him, so much. So horribly. Until sometimes all he could feel was agony. Inside and Out.
Hugo inhales worriedly as realizes he has lost sight of Thaddeus in the dark waters, his breathing beginning to quicken. Thaddeus had left him, had thrown him to his watery dea-- A hand curls around his wrist, tugging his flailing body to the top of the water. He sputters as the ocean water drips from is face, washing away under the thickening rain.
“Are you alright, darling? You looked spooked.” Thaddeus asks, tilting his head and watching Hugo from the corner of his heavy eyes. Hugo wraps an arm around Thaddeus’ neck, keeping his grip tight as Thaddeus carries him back toward the sandy beach, where Halil and Demetre sit waiting with a picnic for them.
Halil wraps him in a warmed towel, leaving it to drape from over his head and down his back. He takes a seat beside Thaddeus, who is chatting lazily with his mother.
Demetre Malfoy, Hugo heard from Raphael, was supposed to be the true receiver of the Malfoy fortune, instead of Lucius, but her marriage to Henry Abbott ended roughly, namely her crucioing him into insanity and gifting him to the Dark Lord for her initiation and rumor has it, the Dark Lord was so impressed with the agony of her curse, allowed her entrance to his inner circle immediately. Eudard, when he had overheard the conversation, had sneered and called Demetre a whore whose rank meant nothing. Raphael had laughed, but Hugo could see the wild boy didn’t agree.
In person, she was lovely. She was slim figured, but tall like most Malfoys, though no where near Halil’s height. She was an alert person, Hugo noticed, watching how she often ran a finger down the length of her wand, assurance it was there. He recognized the look in her eyes, knew it was in his. The fear of someone hurting you, someone meant to love you. Hugo could guess Henry Abbott deserved anything Demetre had done.
He rests against Thaddeus' side, watching the others in the sea, feeling restless as the storm around them rages. The hours pass by quickly, Hugo losing himself in the crash of the waves and thunder, surrounded by the innocent warmth of his first friend.
There is no way to prepare for losing a child. Sirius certainly never pictured himself in this situation, but as he sobs into Hugo’s baby blanket, he can’t regret his son, even with the agony of having lost him. He’ll never let himself have children again. How could anyone chance losing another? How had he allowed himself to lose one? He feels like he’s died himself.
“Sirius?” His partners voice is rough, filled with the same anguish Sirius is feeling. Remus drops to the nursery floor beside him, mouth trembling even with his lips white from the pressure of trying to keep it still. “Sirius.”
Sirius isn’t sure why Remus is saying his name, maybe a lack of anything better to say. There is nothing better. Nothing will fix this. Not with his precious baby… He takes a breath and allows Remus to curl around him. The werewolf nuzzles his nose into the blanket, a low whine escaping his throat. “I’m sorry. If I was a better--”
Sirius sighs, presses a kiss to the worn man’s brow. “I love you.” Remus wraps his arms tighter around his husband. “What do we do, Remus?”
The arrival of James’ stag surprises them and Remus immediately rises, wand in hand. The stag’s mouth opens and James’ voice speaks, “You-Know-Who has found us. I’m going to hold him--Lily take Harry-- He’s here.” Remus stares in horror as the Stag bows and vanishes. Sirius stumbles to his feet, baby blanket still trapped tight in his hands.
No, Sirius thinks, there really is nothing to say.
The library, Hugo muses, is easily the largest room he has ever stepped foot into. The walls are lined with books, rising 4 floors high and where it is not shelves is windows allowing the sight of the stormy sea and dark forest. Remus seems impressed, but after awhile stops his browsing to watch his son. His son who has taken no steps into the enormous room. “Hugo?”
His name seems to startle the boy and he flinches back, alarmed. Remus stills himself and only watches as narrowed eyes settle on him slowly. Like a cat, Hugo slouches himself as he takes a step forward, hair seeming to curl and grow wilder with his unsettled magic. “Am I allowed in here?” Hugo whispers.
Remus’ heart drops, but he is quick to move toward his worried cub. He kneels, a gentle hand guiding Hugo’s chin up, and he rests his fingers along the sharp jaw. “You are allowed wherever you want to go, within reason of course. Do not listen to what that filth has tried to make you believe. You are worth more than all the Gods of the Earth. Do not forget that, cub.”
Hugo thumbs along the book in his hands with interested eyes, curled up in an armchair by the large window. Remus rests his ankle upon his knee as he reads, the book utop his thigh as he scans it. The book of Necromancy is charmed to show Goblin Laws, but he can see that Hugo doesn’t believe the false cover. He is proud of how smart his son seems to be, but it worries him too. Hugo would never get to be a child if he couldn’t relax, which would take trust Remus knew, and the lies were only making Hugo tenser.
The elder werewolf sighs. “Hugo, come here please.”
With little reluctance, the boy climbs up next to his father, settling himself into the arm offered to him. “What has Severus told you about Necromancy?” Remus eventually asks, a resigned look on his still young face. Hugo frowns and shakes his head, leaving Remus to take his irritation for what it was. Hugo wanted to know , the uncertainty of what had been done to him, of the obvious fear it put in his father, he wanted answers.
Remus looks mildly surprised but pleased all the same. “I will make you a deal. I know Severus taught you about how Slytherin’s trade information.”
Hugo frowns abit, “Weren’t you a Gryffindor, Papa? And doesn’t Paddy hate Slytherins?”
Remus makes a soft sound, serious as he thinks through his thoughts. “Sirius doesn’t hate Slytherins, he hates what they are said to be, what the values are. Honesty means so much to Sirius, and being up front with how you feel, he has never been able to understand any other point of view. Even he and I struggled abit with that. He wanted to be much more open with our affection then I at the beginning, and we couldn’t understand how the other felt.” Suddenly, Remus’ mouth twitches. “Hugo, I was going to make a deal with you and already it is falling apart.”
“What deal?” Hugo asks after a long pause, he having gone still to assess Remus’ mood.
“We will ask eachother questions, and we answer, a deal of reciprocation.” Remus seems proud of himself, but Hugo can tell he talked to Severus for help.
“Alright, papa. A deal.” Hugo agrees, and feels the flair of bonding magic settle in the air. Remus seems alarmed at the severity of the deal, but doesn’t question Hugo’s magic.
Hugo valued honesty as much as his bearer, but he could also understand twisting it to suit your needs. Survival was a grayscale moral zone and his survival depended on truthful answers.
“I can start so you can see what I mean,” Remus offers. Hugo sits up and turns to face him, Remus backlit by the large bay windows as lightning lights up the darkening evening sky. “I was a Gryffindor.”
Hugo frowns. “I do not think I would be, based on the house traits Severus told me.”
Remus thinks about this answer, how old Hugo sounds as opposed to 6 and how much maturer he seems even in the last few days of being in the large manor with other purebloods. His son sits straighter, is quicker to talk, to touch. Remus sighs.
“Necromancy is used to communicate the with dead, to use their knowledge for our future. Few powerful necromancers in our world have ever managed to fully resurrect or bring back a body from death and never for long. Souls are tricky, and the Ministry finds soul magic to be the most forbidden of all.” Remus begins, a nervous energy buzzing along his skin. Hugo felt too young to be hearing such horrible things, but Remus could find no discomfort on his son’s face. “It’s mainly a practise of meditation and ritual, to learn to speak the language of the Dead. How to do that is a very well kept secret to any non-necromancers, or any considered un-worthy.”
“Many, many hours of meditation and offering yourself to Death to be his vessel on our world. 'To be his voice of reason', or so some say,” A voice continues from the library door. Malachi steps toward Remus and Hugo with a controlled smile. “My father has many books on necromancy, Remus, if you’re interested. I have to say though, necromancy seems too morbid a topic for a man like you. Homely, shall we say.”
Remus clears his throat, “Thank you, Malachi. I’d love to read them. Perhaps Severus would be able to look at them too. It’s nice to have someone to discuss your reading material with, I think.” He decides to ignore the jab at his lower upbringing, aware Malachi would be waiting for his reaction.
“I’ve read nearly all of them myself, so if you ever had any questions, I wouldn’t mind some banter.” The dark haired boy smiles toothily, an unnerving expression with his gleaming eyes. How he hungered.
If there was one thing Malachi shared with his father, it was his fascination with death in all its forms, and Remus had walked into his playground, a bundle of pure death at his side. Malachi would sink his claws in early.
“Did you need anything, Malachi?” Remus asks as Hugo begins to grow restless, his mouth tensing in displeasure. Malachi narrows his eyes at the young boy, receiving only a dead-eyed look back. He turns away.
“Lady Halil sent me to inform you that dinner is ready.”
That night, Hugo dreams.
He is in his cupboard, the world around him dark and endless, until his hands reach out on any side and the walls are so very, very close. He scratches at the wood door of his tomb, until the wood splinters and embeds itself into his fingertips, leaving bloody smears along the cupboard door. Because he doesn't not stop scratching, cannot allow himself to be trapped here forever. In the dark, forgotten and alone.
The blood glows, the only light in the small room he’s trapped in, seemingly alive and crawling along the door, tracing the patterned scratches. He pushes back away from the living fluid, only given inches to moves as the cupboard seems to shrink. The blood begins to grow brighter, brighter, and brighter still, until the light blinds him.
In the morning, he wakes to the view of the sun reflecting over the blue ocean, as far as the eye could see. His father is not in bed with him, but Hugo can still feel the warmth of his arm from their sleep. He sits up and stretches, feels the pull of tight scarred skin along his back and shoulders.
He becomes aware of the sound of the shower running, of Remus humming a soft song that sends a feeling through him, something he’d never felt before. He missed something, but what, he didn’t know.
Fred and George Weasley. It had always been Fred and George.
Now it was George. Just George.
Because they hadn’t listened. Not to anything he’d said. Instead they told him they couldn’t waste the money on a healer, and how Freddie was strong. And he was, Merlin knew George knew that best, but it meant he knew Fred wasn’t strong enough for this. His very soul felt it. But they ignored him, sent him to sleep for the last of his twins life.
He’d never felt so betrayed, so hurt. Never felt so. much. rage.
But Death couldn’t be bested with pain or anger, so George wept and he begged.
That doesn’t sway Death to give Freddie back either.
Halil raises her head, her elegant neck decorated with endless gold jewelry, drawing Hugo’s eye like an beacon. The boy curls a finger around his gifted necklace, appreciation softening his discomfort. She doesn’t smile at him like usual, instead she pats her lap, beckoning him without words. He goes.
“Are you alright, starlight? You seemed so quiet at dinner.” She runs a hand through his soft hair, the slow rhythm lulling the boy to peace. A sniffle escapes despite his best attempts. “Starlight?” Hugo says nothing, his feelings and thoughts too complex for him to put into words. He looks up into her wise eyes and pushes the overwhelming feelings to her, to try to explain. Halil seems to understand because she too says nothing after. Instead, she just pulls him close and rocks him to sleep, her fingers brushing through his dark hair long after the moon is high in the sky.
When Remus comes to her in the later hours of the night, his son still curled in her arms, she allows herself to be the object of his sharp gaze, desperation nearly suffocating him. He had meant to take a short nap after dinner, instead he had slept nearly through the night and awoke to find Hugo not in the room where he’d been reading.
Halil is careful as she stands, her muscles tense and aching after being still so long. “I’m sorry we worried you.” Halil whispers to the golden eyed man, knowing he’d be able to hear her no matter how quiet she whispers. “I cannot have kids of my own and Eudard and I have never been close. Hugo is very… entrancing and I find myself wishing to mother him.”
Remus can see the nerves in the line of Halil’s shoulders, how concerned she is that she had done something wrong. “So mother him. He needs it and Sirius will be jealous, but he will understand.”
Halil cuddles the thin child closer. “I’ll love him as my own,” She promises and Remus can find no lie in her determined gaze.
Neither notices the figure watching in the doorway, or as it slips away.