November 15th, 1915
On the streets of Amsterdam in the early hours of the morning, a woman ushered her son forward, a hand resting on his shoulder with the fingers of her other hand gently carding through his windblown russet hair. Her shoulders were tense, her hair hanging over her face in long strands underneath her cloche hat, and she looked back every few seconds. The boy clung to her trench coat as they walked, and he was pulled tightly to her side, almost hidden away by the wool of the coat. They hastened their pace, their faces tight with anxiety and cold.
The two walked for a while more, turning corners and weaving their way down alleyways, hearing the click click of the woman’s heeled shoes. Finally the woman paused at a set of stairs leading to the door of an apartment. She looked around several times before going up to the darkly polished door, took the door knocker, and hit the door three times.
Only a few moments passed before the door swung open, and a man looked out. He took one look at them and drew them inside, peeking out of the doorway before closing and locking the door.
“Frances? What’s going on? Why are you here?” He helped her take off her trench coat, revealing the simple dress she wore underneath. His voice became lower in volume and pitch when he saw the bruises littering her shoulders, neck, and arms. “What did he do to you?”
Frances pursed her lips. “Destin’s worse.” She knelt in front of her son and helped him take off his outdoor wear. When the boy looked up, the black eye he sported became apparent, as did the small cuts and bruises on his face. His left cheek was so swollen you could barely see his eye.
The man sucked in a breath, holding back anger in favor of leading them further into his unlit living area. He turned on the lights and let them sit on the couch before going into the kitchen and pouring cold water onto a rag from the cabinet. He walked back over and sat on the table in front of the couch. At his motioning, Destin leaned closer, wincing at the sting of the cloth against his face, but he said nothing.
After a moment, the man repeated his question. “What did he do to you, Frances?”
Her shoulders shook, and her voice trembled a bit. “He... he had a bad day. Nothing was going right for him. He... he took it out on me. Destin tried to help but he turned on him and didn’t stop...” She stopped talking when her voice hitched and wavered. She pressed a hand to her face and waved the man off when he reached for her. “I’m fine, I’m fine. I just… need to take care of Destin.”
The man looked like he wanted to protest, but he didn’t. “I don’t know any healing spells, so you’re going to have to bear with it for a while.”
Frances and Destin both nodded.
He set up the spare bedroom with clean sheets and blankets, fluffing the pillows up and making sure everything was set up comfortably. Frances helped Destin settle into the bed, muttering assurances to him when he hissed out in pain. She kissed his forehead before turning and putting out the light and closing the door.
The man poured Frances a glass of water. “I’d get you some bourbon, but...”
Frances huffed a laugh, knowing that drinking would probably make things worse rather than better. “A shame, isn’t it, Charles?” She sank down into the couch, rubbing her purpled shoulders. “If only alcohol could solve all our problems.”
Charles walked over. “Maybe, maybe not.” He passed her the glass of water, receiving a muttered “thank you” in response, and sat down with her.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, hearing the clock on the wall ticking away.
“Does he know you’re gone?” Charles questioned.
Frances shook her head. “Not that I know of. He was asleep when we left.” She took a deep breath. “We walked all night.”
“What are you going to do now?” Charles softly asked, glancing over at Frances.
She didn’t look at him, and instead fingered the rim of the glass. Her response came moments later. “I’m not going back. I won’t put Destin through that anymore.”
Charles nodded, like he’d expected that answer. “Where are you going to go?”
Frances shrugged, ignoring the way her shoulders shook in pain. “I haven’t figured that out yet.”
Charles nodded again.
The silence lapsed over them once more, charged with unasked questions and weighted answers.
Neither could bring themselves to talk about the pain Frances and Destin went through. Have been going through.
So they didn’t.
Frances finished her water and gave the glass back to Charles. “I should go to bed. Destin might have nightmares if I’m not there.”
Charles accepted the glass from her. “You need some sleep, too.”
Frances nodded in agreement. “Yes. It’s been a long day.” She glanced over at him, then looked down at her hands. “Thank you.” It was so soft it was almost a whisper.
Charles reached over and squeezed her hand. “You’re my sister. I’d do anything for you.”
When they awoke, Charles made the two breakfast, preferring to make it the way the Muggles did. To other experienced wizards, it was odd not using magic, but he liked it. Though it was closer to noon, he figured they could have a later lunch. He caught Destin watching him work from the table, and he motioned to him. “Want to help?”
Destin blinked at his uncle, then nodded his head and joined him at the counter. As he showed him what to do, Charles marveled at the height of his ten year-old nephew, who already came up to the bottom of his chest. His own height wasn’t much to gloss over, but he suspected Destin would grow to be a lot taller than him.
Frances rubbed her eyes sleepily, yawning through her first words. “I’m going to contact Hogwarts.”
Charles startled, catching himself before he dropped the plates he held in his hands. “You’re-- what?”
“I’m going to contact Hogwarts.” She picked at her nails, sitting rod-straight in the polished wooden dining chair. “They help people in need all the time, and even more so with the current Headmistress. What was her name--Raisa... Fells?”
Charles helped Destin place the food on the plates and they carried it to the table. “Are you sure about contacting them?”
Frances looked him in the eyes, the purple bruises on her neck and shoulders standing out like wine stains. “I am.”
Charles bit his lip. “Alright,” he sighed. “I can help with that if you need it.”
Frances’ shoulders dropped in relief. “Thank you.” She winced when she saw the time on the clock. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
He shrugged. “I sent an owl a while ago saying I wasn’t going to be able to make it in. Luckily I’ve had some sick days piled up so I’ll use those.” He looked at her. “It’s okay. It’s not your fault.”
Frances looked away. “You’re missing work because of us.”
“I’d rather miss work than not help you.” He scowled. “What kind of brother--and uncle--would that make me?”
Frances said nothing, but gave him a grateful smile, the first genuine one she’d made since she came.
After breakfast, Charles helped Frances send an owl to Hogwarts, the European school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In the letter, they described their circumstances and asked for help. The next day, an owl arrived with a letter, the Hogwarts seal in wax keeping it closed. Inside, the headmistress Raisa Fells, and her husband, the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Han Alister, responded to her askance of help, telling them that they would accept Destin into their next school year and relocate them to a safe place nearby until Destin was old enough to attend school. After that, they would provide for Frances if she stayed there. Destin would continue his schooling there throughout every year, with the condition of not breaking any school rules and keeping up with his schoolwork. Frances and Charles sent back that they agree to their conditions, and they made plans with the Headmistress and her husband to move into the safehouse within the next two weeks.
Five days after their first arrival to Charles’ apartment, Frances and Charles took Destin out to see a local show. The boy hadn’t spoken a word since arriving, but he marveled at the costumes of the dancers and the swirls of magic in the air. He finally allowed himself to smile when he got to hold a bowtruckle. At the end of the day, when they all went to bed, Frances kissed Destin’s forehead. “Happy Birthday, Destin.”