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where once there were stars

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Peering down through the railings of the first floor landing, Marius could see his family huddled around his elder brother. Mother was smoothing Pollux’s sleek black hair, tutting over invisible dust, and Marius didn’t have to see his brother’s face to know the older boy hated it. The center of attention was where his brother seemed happiest, but he always acted like it was an annoyance when it was their mother. Marius would have liked his own raven-black hair to be smoothed, sometimes, but she seemed to reserve her fussing for the others. When he’d asked why, she told him to stop inventing complaints to make her sound like a bad mother. Marius didn’t think she was a bad mother, but he wasn’t making it up, either.

Mother had braided Cass’s golden blonde hair into a crown that circled her head for the trip into Diagon Alley today. Cass was the only one in their whole family who seemed to like him, it felt like. Cass and Dorea, but Dorea wasn't even three yet, still too little to notice, maybe.

Cass would still play with him, taking him along to wonderful hiding places, like the painting by the library that you could step inside, even though it looked solid. Today, though, Cass looked to be wrapped up in Pollux’s big day. He’d turned eleven this past year and was about to go off to Hogwarts. ‘Squibs like you don’t get to go,’ Pollux had said nastily a few weeks ago when Marius had said he couldn’t wait for his own sorting. Marius had felt a bubble of hot anger in his stomach, and he’d kicked Pollux hard in the shin for it, but his brother had shoved him backwards down the stairs, ending the fight just as quickly as it had started. There wasn’t a feeling in the world that was scarier than falling backwards, Marius had thought, except maybe the feeling of smacking against the stairs and the hardwood floor.

His parents had seen to it that he was mended from the fall, but it almost seemed like they were more sour that magic hadn’t made him rebound off the landing below, more so than concerned about the fact Pollux had pushed him on purpose.

No one had called for him to get ready this morning, not even Cass, though it was probably because Mother had been twisting his sister's hair into submission for a long time. Standing up and striding over to the stairs, Marius looked down at his family and hoped with a stinging sadness that it was why no one had called for him. His fingers grasped at the railing, and with each careful step, his rabbit-heart thumped more wildly in his chest.

Marius drummed up his courage, breathing in and out before saying: “Is it almost time?” A tiny jolt rippled through all of them, having missed the soft-footed approach.

“You will be staying here, Marius. You know that,” his father responded sternly, sparing a brief glance.

Though his father had said so, Marius hadn't known for sure because no one had said anything. There was some rulebook in place that they all knew to follow, but he couldn't really be a Squib... Blacks weren't Squibs, that's what everyone said, and he was a Black just the same as the rest of them. He could already feel his throat tighten, but he fought to keep it from showing on his face. Ever since Marius could remember, his parents had hated when he cried, and it would probably just make Pollux feel like he'd won.

Pollux probably already felt that way, with Father saying something like that.

“I won't cause any trouble,” Marius said, a little boldly, though his throat pinched uncomfortably when he spoke. He was trying terribly hard not to beg, and he could see the displeasure in his father’s face, but he just wanted it so badly...

“That is because you will be here with Kreacher,” his father said, tone chilling. “When you display magic, you will be brought along to mingle in the magical community.”

Heat swept over Marius's face, warming his cheeks and creeping down to his neck with a mixture of anger and humiliation. Baby Dorea was already getting fidgety, trying to pull things of the display tables in the hallway. Dorea could barely even talk, but even she had already shown signs of magic. That was probably why she got to go while he was stuck here, and Marius knew his parents weren't going to change their minds. Pollux probably had a smug expression smeared across his face, standing over by Father, but Marius refused to look at him or at any of them; not even Cass, who had been trying to catch his eye.

His throat hurt too much when he tried to talk, so he just nodded, holding his face like a statue.

“You don't have to be rude about it. At least send us off,” Pollux said, tipping up his chin as his fixed his robes, probably thinking about the new tailored set he was about to get—and his new books—and his potion ingredients—

'I hope your wand core dies on the spot’ felt good to think about, but it would just make them mad, so Marius muttered a goodbye instead and walked briskly up the stairs.

He did not wait for them to leave before disappearing into the drawing room, collapsing to his knees in front of one of the display cabinets. One of the spare wands had migrated into it recently from some other cluttered shelf or drawer in the house, but he did not dare touch it while his parents or Pollux were around.

Maybe they were still at the house now, but they wouldn't come see him before they left.

Pulling open the glass door and leaving it open wide, Marius pulled the wand out and immediately ran his fingers from end to end. It was dark brown and completely smooth, save for the twisted grooves that adorned the handle. It was long, too: when he held it out in front of him, the bottom end reached down to his chest.

His hands clasped it tightly, throat tightening in turn as tears pricked in his eyes. With everything inside him, Marius fought the urge to blink, to keep the threat of tears trapped in the corners. Walking over to the door, he pushed it shut, then pressed his back to it with firmly dug heels.

“Try this one,” Marius whispered thickly to himself. His palms were facing the ceiling, the wand balancing on his clumped fingers like he had been handed some precious treasure. “It’s oak with a dragon heartstring.” Marius wasn't certain what type of wand this actually was, but he had heard the wandmaker Ollivander told you about the woods and the things your wand was really good at. No one talked to Marius about that kind of stuff very much anymore, but he pressed on, even as the words tangled in his throat. “It's for powerful wizards that just take a long time to show it. That's why it has the dragon heartstring. The dragon is just sleeping inside.”

His eyes finally gave into the burn, then, blinking tears down his cheeks as he sucked in a shuddering breath. With a firm grasp, he gave the wand a swish, imagining some flash of light shooting from the end like a splash of lightning. Maybe his parents would like him more if it were real. Maybe Pollux would talk to him about magical things and magical places again like he used to. With a snotty sniffle, he sunk to the floor, holding the wand with two hands and staring hard at it.

Wands were for magical people, and his family was the most magical of them all, boasting the purest blood and the most noble history… yet when he clutched it with a white-knuckled grip, the only thing he felt was an ache in his chest and a sick sadness in his stomach.

They had left him, today, but Marius wished he knew where they would leave him if that spark never came.