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If that day was anything, then it was most certainly a blessing from the sky; almost literally.
It was a rather fair June morning, the sun apparent in the sky despite the few clouds roaming the rich blue horizon, and the weather was just perfect. The garden had looked almost awe-inspiring to Ignotus when he woke up and was, therefore, easily talked into going outside to play with his brothers.
Nevertheless, it had not taken him too long to leave the stretches of glowing green grass and the warm air and return to roaming the empty hallways of Peverell mansion, wondering about his mother's whereabouts.
"Ignotus, dear, why aren't you playing outside with your brothers? Or have you gotten bored already?"
Ignotus was occupied with watching his feet glide over the familiar gleaming tiles of the floor. In his distant stance, he had had forgotten why he had returned to the mansion and who he had been searching for until his mother called out to him.
The young boy lifted his head to see his mother's forehead crumpled in concern, her eyes running over him from head to do. Without thought, he found himself doing the same thing and came to realise why his mother was looking at him in that particular manner.
He took in his own demeanour with surprise –the blotches of green on his beige trousers, his dishevelled shirt which was not tucked in, the tacky pulled back sleeves of his shirt. Most of the time, he managed to remain neat, even when playing with his brothers.
When he remembered that his mother had asked him a question, Ignotus said nothing in return. He only shook his head then held up his arm. He looked about himself, amazed by how the mansion was brighter than it would usually have been. The marble floors, which were as clear as new mirrors, reflected the sunlight that was pouring in through every window. He noticed that the heavy blue curtains were pulled aside as opposed to their usual concealment of the windows.
By the time Ignotus's gaze had returned to his mother, her eyes were wide and locked onto the white piece of cloth he was holding against his elbow. He was rather surprised to see a few drops of blood staining it; the last time he had looked at it, it had been clean.
"Oh, darling, in the name of Morgana, what has happened?" Beatrice asked, her voice distressed as she swiftly got to her feet and approached her son, the blue silk of her dress trailing behind her like a mermaid's tail. She took the cloth away from his arm, and inspected his injury.
"Antioch had me trip over a vine…" Ignotus responded, continuing to scan the room with his eyes, trying to see if something other than the sun accounted for the changed appearance of the house.
But there was nothing. Light was bouncing off every surface in the room –the massive chandeliers hanging in the centre of every ceiling, the metal railings of the staircase, and even the diamond ring on his mother's hand. Everything was glowing and for some reason, that made Ignotus happy.
"A vine?" Beatrice frowned at her son.
The mother's expression made Ignotus wonder if she was assuming that he was making things up. Yet, he decided to carry on with his story.
"He made it fall," the young boy explained briefly, not moving at all as his mother firmly pressed the damp cloth to his skin once again.
They were racing, all three of them. As usual, Cadmus was the one to talk Ignotus into participating in the game as he, Cadmus, was rather tired of losing to his older brother Antioch every single time. And Ignotus, though the youngest, made a fair match for Antioch, and Cadmus knew that very well.
So, as Cadmus had expected, a few seconds into the race, Ignotus was ahead. Another minute passed, and Ignotus still remained in the lead, grinning widely at his success as he rushed past the trees, their leaves a blur of green to his eyes. Despite that, when the three brothers were finally approaching the make-shift finish line, the boys noticed a vine lay itself in their path. Ignotus, going at too quick a pace to stop in order to avoid the obstruction, tripped over, and watched as Antioch rushed past him and celebrated his victory at the finish line.
Cadmus did not bother to continue the race and gave his younger brother a helping hand, pulling him back to his feet. Firstly, he commented on how the vine had so suspiciously unwrapped itself and fallen to the ground and then pointed out the blood trickling down Ignotus's arm.
"He used magic, Mother; I am certain of it. I do not think he noticed," Ignotus elaborated, even if merely minimally, and looked up at his mother.
"Has he really? Well, is that splendid or what?! And it nearly is time for the new year to start at Hogwarts," Beatrice said in a rather delighted voice, a proud smile stretching across her fair face.
In reaction, Ignotus frowned, discontent with how his mother was celebrating the reason of his injury. Nonetheless, he understood; of course, she was entitled to be delighted that her eldest son had shown his first signs of magic, that he had demonstrated his future capability of mastering power, and that he was soon to leave and become a student at Hogwarts. However, Ignotus believed that there were more important issues at hand such as his injury which could have very well been severe. What if his elbow had been broken?!
"Mother, he used it to injure me! How is that a good thing? You always say the we should not hurt other people. And this is just his first time using magic! " Ignotus objected in complaint.
"Oh, Ignotus, although I believe that it is a wonderful thing your brother has shown his magic, I most certainly shall never approve of his usage of it to hurt or injure, and certainly not his younger brother. Do trust me when I say that I shall censure him for the misuse of his powers but only when he is capable of controlling them. Also, I am sure that he has used magic on rather normal things before but we just did not notice," Beatrice said, her tone firm and assuring.
"But, Mother, he only goes to Hogwarts in months! We shall let him roam around the mansion, hurting us, and have him face no consequences? That does not seem fair to me," Ignotus argued as his greyish eyes widened in anger and disbelief.
"Darling, it is called 'accidental magic' for a reason. Despite that, I shall give him a warning. Does that satisfy your need for justice, Ignotus?" she asked him, one of her pale blonde eyebrows raised a little and a soft, amused smile upon her pink lips.
Ignotus always heard his mother say that he was the smartest of her children, and that it was a very easy judgment to make. Whereas she did not favour him over his brothers or anything as such, she could not help but admit that Ignotus was the easiest to deal with and was the least troublesome.
Or so Ignotus had managed to grasp at the several tea parties he had witnessed.
Ignotus, now calmer and sated by his mother's assurance, resolved to his nonverbal behaviour and just nodded politely at his mother.
"All is well then, I believe. Now, I assume we should go and bandage that arm of yours. And perhaps, if your uncle happens to come by, we shall have him inspect it for you. Now, come along."
If Ignotus was good with anything, then it certainly was with expecting the right things before they happened. In fact, within his mind, he once believed himself to be a seer. But then, after contemplating the idea for a few minutes, he resolved to his better sense and became convinced that his ability to easily predict what's to happen had more to do with the predictability of those surrounding him and less to do with some super magical powers within himself.
It was not a bad thought to dwell on after all, and his ability to foresee things, even if they were things as insignificant as a dinner party, gave him one reason to be proud of himself.
And certainly enough, an insignificant dinner party was held that night to celebrate Antioch's "accidental" yet marvellous achievement and how soon he was to depart town and become a studious young man who was expected to achieve great things. It was only his family and a few other close family friends, but it was still a fest.
Even their uncle came and did, indeed, take a look at Ignotus's arm, assuring him that nothing had been broken.
"Is that all you do all the time? Sit by yourself in the corner behind some book?"
Ignotus slowly looked up from his book, unsure of the identity of the person speaking to him.
His eyes caught onto a young girl whose size was that of a six-year-old, if not even younger than that. She was wearing a small red dress that seemed to have been customised to fit her frail and slim body. Ignotus also noticed her bare scalp, his attention mainly focused on the veins that bulged beneath the seemingly thin layer of the girl's skin.
As much as he wanted to continue to inspect the young girl, Ignotus just frowned at her, uncertain of what she was talking about and unsure why she bothered to ask at all.
"What do you mean?" was all Ignotus said in response.
"What I mean is that since I have arrived, all I have noticed you do was move from one corner to another, carrying your books along with you," the girl explained softly, her voice thin and even a little shaky, as if she was sick or suffering from a cold.
Not knowing what to say, Ignotus just frowned at her once more.
Behind the girl, the large dinner table was being outlined with plates and culinary sets and empty tea cups. Servants and house-elves were hovering under the candlelit chandeliers, fixing every tilted seat and folding every napkin. Nearby, his mother appeared to be engaged in a conversation with a few of her acquaintances, displaying yet another one of her ornate blue dresses, but Ignotus could tell she was keeping a furtive eye on the table.
"It is only a thing I have noticed. You do not have to say anything in return," the girl said with a soft smile after a short pause. "Would you mind it if I had a look at that book?" she asked and pointed one tiny finger at the book lying beside Ignotus on the couch.
Ignotus just shrugged as he noticed how her skin wrinkled over her knuckles, one layer of coarse skin over the other. Then, he added quietly, "Go ahead."
"You do not say much, now do you?" she pointed out with a smile as she slowly sat herself down on the couch next to Ignotus, leaving a generous amount of space between them.
Once again, all Ignotus did was shrug briefly. Inwardly, though, he was considering telling her to just read through his book and leave him be. There was a reason he disliked such gatherings. Ignotus liked to be left alone, and parties like this one forced him into mingling and replying politely and reasonably to the guests instead of just nodding and shrugging. That little girl embodied the things he hated about parties and social gatherings, but since she seemed to be very young, he did not try too hard to display his courteous behaviour around her.
"Excuse me if I'm prying, but who are you?" Ignotus questioned. If he were to respond to her intrusive inquisitions, he should have at least known the identity of the person he was talking to. Besides, he had seen almost everyone who was attending that party before... everyone except for her.
"My name is Anastasia. Healer Peverell brought me along with him; it is his shift with me tonight and he believes I should interact with other people more often, hence why I am here," she explained, a little bit too enthusiastic for Ignotus's liking.
Ignotus wanted to respond with something similar to 'my mother thinks I should interact with more people too', but he did not. That input was not necessary to the conversation, nor was the conversation itself necessary or of use at all.
At that thought, he turned to look at his mother and see if she was watching his exchange with the girl or if she was caught up in conversation with her guests. He found her doing neither but rather talking to the musicians. Once she had turned to rejoin her friends, a new song began to play, starting with a sharp violin note that made Ignotus shudder in discomfort.
While Ignotus continued getting distracted, Anastasia was rather entertained by the boy's grumpiness and how distant he seemed to be, by his indifference to her 'startling' appearance, his sparing her the glances of sympathy she usually received, and his obvious disinterest in her condition. It was a refreshing contrast to what she had expected.
"I am Ignotus," was all he said after what seemed to be several minutes, and he turned his attention back to his book.
With a soft and hardly noticeable sigh, Anastasia did likewise; she let her feet swing back and forth slightly and rested her back on the couch, relaxing a little. 'The Uses of Wolfbane' was the title on the bookmarked page.
"Do you go to Hogwarts?" she asked, turning to look at the boy next to her. Surely enough, he did not look like he was any older than the age of seven or eight. But then again, who was she to judge? She was an eight-year-old in the body of a four-year-old and the face of a creature that is foreign to planet Earth. She would have specified a planet if she had known their names.
"Erm..." Ignotus hesitated, disturbed by her continuous inquisitions. "No... I am only nine."
"Oh! I turn nine in less than a month's time!" the girl, Anastasia, exclaimed with an excited smile.
Nine? He must have heard incorrectly! She did not look as though she was on the brink of turning nine! Perhaps she said five... Without his knowing, a frown formed upon his face as his confusion continued to grow. Even he himself had not turned nine yet; he only said so because he believed that the two months separating him from his day of birth would not make much difference with his age.
Although Ignotus had noticed how different the girl was ever since she started talking to him, only then did he find himself interested in what made her this different.
Ignotus began to inspect her again –her tiny body, her bones that were visible through the long sleeves of her dress. Then, his eyes caught onto hers. Though brilliantly coloured and vividly blue, they were engulfed by the wrinkling skin of her eyelashes-less lids.
"I do realize I do not look like I am telling the truth, but I truly am to turn nine in exactly two weeks and four days," Anastasia told him, interrupting his scrutiny of her. Even if she had got used to people looking at her in the same manner most of the time, she certainly did not enjoy it. "For what reason are you studying Potions?"
Inwardly, Ignotus scolded himself for doing what he should not have. He had gone further than intended by so blatantly inspecting how she was physically abnormal and had thus made her feel uncomfortable. Therefore, when she induced a change of subject, Ignotus was a little more at ease.
"I do not have to wait until I go to Hogwarts in order to learn about magic," Ignotus explained.
"That is a good point of view. Do you read about other things, too?" she asked him, sounding curious, intrigued.
Ignotus nodded in response and held out to her the book he was reading.
"This is actually a book written by someone who has no magic."
Gently, Anastasia put the potion book down next to her, and held the other book in her tiny hands.
"Is it a good book?" she asked him, opening it while her eyes remained on Ignotus.
"Erm...Yes, it is. But, actually, it is a little complex; there are some words I do not understand. My mother is helping me with that," Ignotus said.
That was, perhaps, the only thing Ignotus did with his mother; and he truly was grateful for that. Because, for all he knew, Antioch and Cadmus did not do much – if anything at all– with her. After all, all the two of them cared about was being better than one another –whether it be in playing Wizard Chess or racing across the massive garden of the Peverell mansion.
"It is the life story of a scientist..." he added.
"Would you mind if I read through it? I only want to see what it is like. Unless y-"
"No, it is fine," Ignotus interrupted her. He would always have the book lying around the house, now wouldn't he?
"Thank you," she responded with a smile.
As Ignotus just sat there with nothing to retract his mind from questions about the girl sitting next to him, he gave into them. And as he wondered about what possibly could be her problem, as he snuck a glance or two at her to memorise more of her features so he can acquire information, he came to realise that he allowed her to go through his book not only out of kindness. He came to realise that ulterior motives may have been subconsciously involved in his decision.
Ignotus wanted to understand; he needed to understand. How could the girl before him possibly be as old as he was? Even his cousin Isobel who was only five looked bigger. Consumed by curiosity, Ignotus allowed her to flick through his book, hoping that would give him more of a chance to speak to her about whatever was amiss with her.
She was probably very ill, or so assumed Ignotus. But what kind of illness? He had gone to the healing centre countless times and never had he seen anyone with a condition similar to hers. She did, nonetheless, mention something about being under his uncle's watch. Perhaps he could ask his uncle about Anastasia after some of the guests were gone.
Finally having a course of action constructed in his mind, Ignotus looked at Anastasia. He had planned to ask her about what she thought of his book so far, alas, he found her asleep –her head tilted to one side, her loud breathing uneven.
It was not long after that that his uncle came over, picked her up, and excused himself from the party, saying that 'duty calls and he must comply'.
Disappointed, Ignotus went back to the couch and brought his books over to his lap. Although the girl, Anastasia, was gone, he could not let the thought of her depart his mind. The need inside him to know about what was wrong with her grew as every second passed.
"I cannot believe you told Mother that Antioch used magic today! Why did you do that? You do realise that this is not his first time, correct?" Cadmus said, as he threw himself on the couch indignantly, interrupting Ignotus's mental processes.
"It is not?" Ignotus responded questioningly, one of his eyebrows raised at his brother.
"I told you that other day it had happened. I did not point it out to him or to either of our parents because he is arrogant enough as is! Why do anything to help that arrogance grow? Honestly, take a look at him. He is standing there, acting as though he has done something no one else can achieve when every other wizard or witch out there goes through the very same thing!" Cadmus ranted, apparently a lot angrier than he had seemed to be from a distance.
For a moment, Ignotus considered going to sit across the room; perhaps Cadmus would look a little less infuriated and be less infuriating from there. In the end, Ignotus disregarded the thought and began to contemplate a soothing response.
"This party is mainly thrown to celebrate his going to Hogwarts. It is not completely my fault. Also, I do not see why you must be so angry, Cadmus. I do not like parties any more than you do, but after all, there is not much harm done by them. There is good food and good acquaintances; and by the end of the party, both Mother and Father shall be in a good mood..." Ignotus said.
"I do not have a problem with the fact that there is an ongoing party. I have a problem with the fact that the party is thrown in his honour," Cadmus admitted, his last few words told thought gritted teeth.
Unsure what to say, Ignotus shrugged at his brother and looked down at his closed books. And then, one word came to his mind: Anastasia.
No, he certainly was not sorry for being a reason behind the throwing of this party, for the party had given him something to inspect, something to work on. Now, thanks to Anastasia, Ignotus would not sit all the time in a corner with his face hidden behind a book. He had found a story that did not exist in a book and he was going to look for more of it.
A/N: I am beyond thrilled to finally have a novel on here -even if this is just the first chapter. Though originally thought of thanks to the Fatal Disease challenge, the idea has gone beyond just the fatal disease involved.
Also, many thanks to ChaosWednesday/Whiskey for giving this chapter a desperately needed makeover! She's just wonderful!
As this is my first published novel, reviews, thoughts, and constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated.
After being involved for so long with Weasleys, Potters, and Malfoys –especially Malfoys, it becomes easier for you to overcome catastrophes and to deal with them as gracefully as possible. And honestly, even we Scamanders got our fair share of tragedy, so even those of who don't really interact with others got to learn how to cope.
Every time something bad happens, your thoughts and emotions don't go into frenzy and you just think that it really could've been worse. Because you've seen and known worse.
I suppose that nothing quite distressing has happened during the past five years after the worst has become behind us. At the same time, I do suppose that there are still many of us who still haven't recovered from what had happened back then.
I have been toying with the idea for that story for years now but there has always been a big list of kinks that needed to be worked out in order for that story to go smoothly – like making a tale about three brothers when there are only two Malfoy boys, and making all the three brothers have magic when Alphard Malfoy hasn't any magic, and tiny differences like that. But what has always kept me thinking about the story and the disease and the pain has been witnessing how depressed Alphard Malfoy was after his best friend Jenny died.
But had I ever even picked up a quill and attempted to write a single paragraph? No, I hadn't the courage; not until a few nights ago anyway. I snuck into Alphard's room and took my favourite of his possession: his laptop. After I wrote a few paragraphs while lying down in my bed, I felt my eyes tire and prickle. I tried to close the page so Alphard would not see it the following morning, was thankful that the computer gave me the chance to save my work as I almost forgot to, and then I let my eyes close for good.
"Why is it out of power?! I just charged it when I was at work last night! The battery can handle up to 10 hours without electricity! Valeria Scamander, what the hell have you been doing on my laptop?" Alphard lectured me very angrily the following morning.
I could tell that this was a serious problem as Alphard doesn’t often get angry or lecture anyone. Perhaps he is just overly protective of his muggle electronics?
Anyway, it was on the tip of my tongue; I almost told him that I was writing that day.
Nevertheless, I managed to hold it back. Yes, Alphard is my best friend and means everything in the world to me, but I didn't feel like I had written anything proper yet. And Alphard, being inquisitive, would have wanted to read whatever I had written anyway despite my pleas. Or maybe he wouldn't have... But still, I didn't want to risk it.
"I was playing that game you showed me a few days ago..." I lied and looked at the ground, feigning guilt.
"For ten hours?" he asked, an eyebrow quirked at me.
"I... I may have fallen asleep while playing...?"
Shaking his head, Alphard picked up his laptop and left my room, not suspecting anything about my writing.
So normally, as life continues to go on with its overbearing irony, when I am trying to keep him away from finding out about my story and how I've started to write, he would come and poke around my room for his laptop and give me a lecture before leaving for work. Yet, when I finally have a presentable chapter to show him, he would be nowhere to be found. Marvellous, eh?
"Astoria, have you seen Alphard?" I ask Alphard's mother as I walk into the kitchen.
"Maybe he's still asleep. Have you checked his room?" she says with a smile.
I'm a little surprised to see her wearing her red 'Kiss the cook!' apron over her floral and colourful sundress. Also, instead of having her long brown hair in a loose ponytail or in some fancy updo, it is in a firmly twisted bun that's wobbling slightly on top of her head. How unusual...
"Yes, I just did. And he hasn't gone to work; his laptop is here as well," I tell her and seat myself down on one of the kitchen table's seats. "It's right here," I mumble to myself as I set the device down on the table and start to noiselessly tap one of my feet rapidly.
"Maybe he's in the office with Draco or something; I'm sure he'll turn up in a bit for tea," Astoria assures me, still smiling as she starts to heat the water.
"Yeah," I mumble and start to chew my bottom lip nervously, wondering where the elves are.
As opposed to the kitchen in my family's house, which the two windows of are open whenever it isn't raining, Malfoy Manor's kitchen is rather dull. It doesn't even have a window; in there, you can't tell whether it's morning or night except by inspecting the type of food being cooked.
"Is something wrong, Valeria? You seem tensed," Astoria says after a few moments of silence, that smile from earlier still stuck on her face; and, for some reason, that smile annoys me.
After my lurking around for years in order to help Alphard get over things, and with the amount of time I've been spending inside the Manor since my vacation from work has started, Astoria was beginning to understand me better and better. I'm worried that soon enough she'd be able to detect when I'm lying or feigning a laugh at one of her attempted jokes.
"Nothing particularly wrong, no. There's just something important I want to show him and... yeah," I explain vaguely and just look at the kitchen's brick floor. Where is that idiot?!
Astoria makes me some tea, saying something about how I should stop tapping my fingers on the table nervously and just enjoy the cup, and she turns around to flick through some cookbook in order to decide what she should make for dinner tonight. I find that a bit uncharacteristic as Astoria doesn't usually cook; she only cooks on Mondays which are the elves' day off, and Monday is still five days away. I don't comment on it though. As I wait, I distract myself by twisting one of my long and insanely frizzy blonde curls around my finger, imagining how I'd look in different haircuts.
Alphard's voice enters the kitchen before his body does just as I finish drinking my second cup of tea, and he starts, "Mother, have you seen –"
"Looking for this?" I interrupt quite indignantly and get up to my feet, holding out his laptop for him. Astoria doesn't seem to mind my rude interference and she continues to rummage around one of the kitchen's cupboards, seemingly searching for a certain ingredient.
"No, actually, I was looking for you," Alphard says and adds in a shrug.
"You do realise that you're late for work, right?" I tell him as I put the laptop down on the kitchen table in fear of dropping it and raise a curious eyebrow at him.
He just shrugs again.
"Malfoy, stop it with the gestures. What's that supposed to tell me? You closed down the research centre? You’ve been kicked out of the hospital?" I ask him.
Alphard is one of the most punctual people I have ever met in my life –and also an over-achiever who juggles two jobs simultaneously. He is already over an hour late for work, and when I point that out, he just shrugs...? And Astoria is cooking? Either there's a celebration called 'Out of Character' day that even the elves take as a day off, or Alphard has shut down his research centre.
In the background, I hear Astoria snort and mumble something unintelligible.
Astoria has always not very secretly hated Alphard's centre. She sees it as the one thing that is not allowing Alphard to move forward completely and just put Jenny in his past. Perhaps she’s making us a special meal today to celebrate that?
It would all makes sense... to me at least.
"No, I didn't," he responds briefly, his blonde eyebrows furrowed in a frown and his lips pursed. "I own the centre and I feel like I need –no, deserve – a day off. Or do you think otherwise?"
I roll my eyes at him and sigh loudly since I can come up with no reasonable response, and turn around to sit down again. He pulls a chair and sits down next to me.
"I'm writing,” I blurt out instantly, and I’m not sure why I do that. I mean, I’m not the sort of a person that calculates words before saying them –I leave that to Alpahrd – but this was too rushed out even for me.
He frowns at me again, his befuddlement completely justified, then says, "What?"
"I'm writing, as in writing a novel, a story... I'm not sure how long it's going to be or how long I want it to be, but I... I wrote the first chapter and I need an opinion. Would you mind being my test reader?" I tell him really quickly as though I'm afraid I'd lose his attention or something as such. But in reality, I am a bit tensed about getting an opinion on my little project for the first time –my little personal project that doesn't even have a name yet. Also, I'm a little worried he'd think I'm silly for deciding to do something like this.
"Well, sure. But you must know, I'm a gruesome critic," he warns me with a smile that I cannot quite decipher –it looks a little like a smirk – but I just smile back at him anyway.
"Well, that's why I'm asking you. I want a brutally comprehensive and gruesomely honest review. You think you can manage that while I go bring us some tea?"
No, I do not expect two long pages of feedback from Alphard. After all, he is Alphard. His idea of comprehensive is circling things he liked and underlining things he didn't like. And, if it's a good day, you'd get a few sarcastic comments here and there. You should have a peek at the novels he keeps in his bedroom sometime. There are things that Shakespeare has written and Alphard doesn't approve of, so never mind me and my first attempted piece of literature ever.
"You've already had tea by the looks of it," Alphard says and dangles the small porcelain teacup I was drinking in by the handle.
"Just shut up and read, Malfoy,” I snarl at him and take the mug from him, wondering why he’s in an unusually good mood –perhaps he should take more day-offs?
Before I even reach the kitchen counter to start heating the water again, Alphard asks, "You're seriously starting the novel by talking about the weather?"
"It seemed fit for the setting of my story..." I say with a shrug as I fill the kettle with water, thankful that I had a reasonable response.
"When is it set anyway?"
I turn around to look at him then say, "Late 1400's. I had to use modern English though..."
"Alright then; we'll see," he says and goes back to staring at the computer's screen.
As I pour the water into my mug, I expect him to speak up again after he reads the following sentence... or the one after it, perhaps; but he doesn't. I walk over to one of the drawers to take out a spoon, and I glance at him, trying to guess his thoughts through his face. He seems pensive and focused as his grey pupils run slowly from side to side, the words' reflection apparent in his thickly-framed glasses. I remain there, inspecting his face, searching it for answers to the million questions racing through my head, and surprisingly enough, none of them had anything to do with the story he was currently staring at.
And unsurprisingly, his face was almost expressionless – his pale eyebrows were furrowed in concentration and his hand clasped under his chin. I suppose that's what they call a poker-face?
Astoria is still bustling around, making metal pots cling and slamming cupboards shut. Clearly, she still hasn't found what she was looking for.
When I finish making the tea and seat myself down next to him again, he does not acknowledge my return by a sideways glance or anything. I don't mind that, though, as I take a sip out my mug and almost burn my tongue with the steaming tea. If I'm not used to burning myself with tea –I have the attention span of a two-months-old infant– I probably would've been crying by now.
"You do realize that I didn't meet Jenny at a party, right?" is what Alphard says to break the silence, and so, he brings me out of my head that's full of fish bowls and bubbles.
I look up from the cup of tea that is still steaming, blowing semi-invisible smoke at my face, and say with a small, uncertain smile – the smile of someone hesitant about hearing an opinion on something that matters from someone that matters, "So it's safe to assume that you've deduced the inspiration behind the story?"
He shrugs at me, his face nonchalant while saying, "Well, you introduced a boy who likes to cuddle with books and a sick-looking girl, exploding with illness and a peculiar skin condition; so yes, it was not hard to figure out at all. Despite that, I didn't realise you knew about the 'vine incident'."
I chuckle out a soft laugh and smile at him, "It was Scorpius's favourite story to tell throughout his first year, and it was retold a few times after Scorpius left Hogwarts; or so says Lysander anyway. I think that people were reading too much into it, you know? That just because Scorpius is a Malfoy and his first use of magic was to hurt his own brother... As if Lysander and Lorcan never used magic to try and bother me or anything of that sort."
Alphard nods in acknowledgement, but does not say anything for a little while, and I watch him intently. I can tell that he is thinking or, perhaps, remembering. What I really had not thought about before asking him to read the story was all the memories it would bring back to him, which is rather stupid on my behalf. I was worried enough about what he'd think of the idea itself rather than its effect on him. A bit selfish, perhaps, but it really has been unintentional...
When I feel that he has had enough time of thinking back, I speak out asking, "So... What did you think of it?"
"Are you elaborating the story of the Three Brothers? The three boys resemble the characters of that tale," he asks me, coming out of his frozen state with grace and ease, brushing the few past moments off as though they never existed as he sits up straight and runs a hand casually through his long blonde strands.
"Something like that, yes; that's a part of it," I respond with a brief nod, having a more complex and not fully constructed plan in my head, one that I am yet quite hesitant to share with anyone. I’m not even sure if I’ll be doing it the way I want to or if I will be able to make it work out that way.
I notice that he nods too in some sort of approval and then says, "Well, I believe you're off with a good start. I also like the names you've chosen for the characters... Well, the female characters anyway. I hate the name you've given me," he admits, his face still bare of emotions.
"I didn't choose those. The legendary rumour has it that the Three Brothers tale is inspired by the Peverell brothers. They're the only characters I hadn't had to squeeze my brain out over for names," I explain, quite relieved I had not hand-picked him a name he would dislike.
"Oh, I knew the name sounded familiar... Well, I suppose I can't give you critique on that, then," he says with a shrug. "Also, I do believe you need to be a bit more careful with your descriptions. You don't have to increase them much, but you know... Just add a few more details, especially when it comes to the brothers. We may know what they look like but others certainly don't," he adds thoughtfully, his eyes on me, gentle yet serious.
"Oh, alright; I'll try to work on that," I say with a nod, making a mental note to get back to the file and try to fix it.
Instantly though, I start to work on details in my head. For example, I notice how Alphard's usually perfect hair is a little bit messed up today as though he has run his hands through it a million times already. I want to point out to him that his hair is standing up in many different directions but I decide against it. Why? I realise that even if the messy hair is an unintentional result of anxiety or the product of extra humidity in the air, it gives him this casual, youthful look all over, which is certainly rare for Alphard but still looks rather admirable on him.
Alphard is usually all about formality and perfection down to the very last hair on the top of his head. His casual look, as I decide, makes him seem more human to me.
"Oh, and make sure you don't go overboard with making those boys smart. After all, they're just children, and at some points, I felt like they were overly mature," Alphard says, his eyes on the screen instead of me.
"Okay, I'll try to see to that too," I tell him, grateful that he really is being honest with me.
"Are you planning to...publish this?" he asks me, and I'm taken by surprise because I have not thought about this at all.
I shrug at him and then say, "I don't know; but I don't think so. I just had the idea and it sort of continued to grow on its own, then I found myself making plans and connections in my head and naming characters. Therefore, I thought,
why not? What harm could come from it anyway? I sort of have the time at the moment and the appropriate help and resources..." I wave a hand casually in his direction and continue, "So I stole your laptop and typed out this chapter. I like typing, you see. I like the sound the keys make, especially now that I write sort of quickly; not as quickly as you do, but still... So anyway."
I always try to stop myself from rambling, even around Alphard who does not mind it much, yet I always seem to fail. And I always let my words end up in an awkward manner.
We do not say anything for a few moments and I just resume staring at my cup of tea, taking a sip out of it, then returning to watching my reflection in it again.
"Do you want to go for a walk?" Alphard asks out of the blue, and his question seems abrupt.
You know how sometimes you weigh the words out in your head and you imagine the tone you would let them come out in? Then, when you do say them, they sound a bit off-ish? Well, that is exactly how he did sound. And yes, speaking in that manner –and detecting people doing so – is something I do quite often, but Alphard...Never!
"A walk?" I ask him, a little surprised as it's not a habit of ours to walk around. Since the day I've arrived at the Manor to spend the summer with him, we may have done various activities, but take a walk in the morning? Again, never!
As I've previously said: out of character day.
Alphard shrugs at me in response and I do not object –why would I anyway? It may not have been a habitual thing for us, but there's certainly no reason for me to refuse –change is good, right? So, in agreement, I put down my half-full cup of tea on the kitchen table and get to my feet as Alphard turns off his laptop and stands up as well.
As we leave, Astoria smiles at us before she resumes digging into the cupboards; this time, she is hoarding everything out of them instead of just poking her head in and out.
Alphard and I remain silent as we walk through the, for once, naturally lit corridors of the Manor as the sun streams in from every window. Perhaps that's why he suggested taking a walk? The unusually beautiful weather?
I don't press on it as I follow him out of the door and into the garden in which the 'vine incident' had taken place about twenty years ago. I suppose I didn't know any Malfoys back when I was two.
I remember Alphard's advice and I look around the garden, the massive and marvellously decorated garden, and I try to imagine putting its beauty into words.
Stepping out into the Manor's garden is like being engulfed in by something that is all green. The trees are so high yet very leafy that there is a spot of shade surrounding every thick –and thin– bark of wood. I could imagine myself sitting there under one of those trees on a blanket with a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, and end up spending one of the best days of my life.
The grass beneath us is like a mattress, like something cushioning our feet as they sink between its soft blades and bounce back up with ease.
I stop walking for a moment and take a long breath in, and I can sense that the air smells like lavenders and fresh grass, warm and refreshing, and I could almost feel it cleanse me. It certainly is a nice contrast to the smell of the rain that many people seemed to like. I obviously don't; this is what I like. I bitterly realise that the weather will probably not stay like this for long; the best case scenario is having this last for a day or two, and that disappoints me for a second before I dismiss the thought.
"Regretting not going with your family to Australia? Or with Lysander to Egypt?" Alphard asks me, and I'm glad his tone seems to have balanced itself. I notice that he has stopped too and is standing just a few steps ahead of me.
When Alphard first heard that my whole family's travelling and that I'm staying behind for work, even if I could've got myself a vacation a week or two earlier had I wanted to, he offered me one of the Manor's guest rooms. After clearing things out with my mother since she always worries whenever we aren't moving around as a family, I aceepted his offer and have been stayingat the Manor ever since.
"Not really, no. I'm not the one for exploring the world. Would I like to travel around? Sure. But do I want to now? Not really, no. Do I want to go see three-legged kangaroos and battle my way through forests? Again, not really. I'd rather just stay here with you. Besides, the Manor is practically a palace; it makes me feel as though I'm royalty. It provides me with this Victorian mood all over, which I like," I say as I start walking again and I see Alpahrd follow my lead.
"That sounded a bit superficial, I think," Alphard admits bluntly with a smile that is his version of a smirk. When put in comparison to Scorpius's version of a smirk, Alphard's is just an innocent and genuine smile of a two-year-old at his birthday party.
They may be twins and share a face, but there are many things that set them apart. And I mean that in every meaning you could possibly come up with.
"I don't care. It's just like being a part of a Victorian novel or something where everything is so classy and expensive. Our house is nice, I love it and I love how Mum makes it very home-like, but it certainly isn't Victorian; and I like Victorian!" I say excitedly, no shame apparent or existent whatsoever.
Alphard nods to let me know that he has heard what I said and I smile at him before I stop walking once again. I slowly seat myself down on the warm, soft grass and lay down, cushioning my head with my arms. "Now, this is enjoyable. And so unladylike by Victorian standards!" I exclaim as I squint at the sun.
Or any other standard, I think to myself.
I notice that Alphard is considering joining me as I see him lower himself down a little as though he is going to sit down but then stands up again. He remains still for a while, and I do not say anything. I just lay down and bask in the sun and enjoy its warmth.
"Alright, I can tell that you're enjoying this, and I hate to be the person to end this for you, but I sort of need you to stand up," Alphard requests gently.
"Hey, just because you do not want to ruin your fancy trousers and your white shirt does not mean that I have to stand up. You sacrifice a little; you can have your trousers cleaned or you can replace them with another pair. It's not every day we get such wonderful weather," I respond sternly and remain in my position, not moving even a little.
"Valeria, please? And... you know, here, look," he says quickly and sits down, crossing his legs. "And I can sit here like this for hours, alright? I just need you to stand up for a few minutes. Can you do that? And we can sit down here all day after that."
I look at him as I start to suspect his motives. What could he possibly want and why did I have to stand up for it? I can't even guess a thing so I just sigh and do as he has asked me to, straightening out my powder blue dress
By the time I'm on my feet, so is Alphard, and he looks a little off-ish; like his suggesting the walk when we were back in the kitchen, and like Astoria's smile and her cooking today. Out of Character Day just keeps on forcing itself upon me and I just want it to be over with and bury itself behind a cross on Alphard's wall calendar. It may have been entertaining to point out all the misfits, but now, it has become tiring and annoying.
And there go my thoughts again.
Focus on what's happening now, Val! There's nothing at all like Out of Character Day but there is certainly something going on right under your nose, here at the very tangible and existent Manor, and you have to find out what it is.
If there was one thing that Antioch Peverell valued above everything else, then it would have certainly been praise. And Cadmus knew that very well; it was hard not to notice something so overwhelmingly obvious. True happiness came to Antioch in many forms: a present from his parents, a party thrown in his honour, a new portrait of himself... Sometimes it was smaller and less significant things, like a compliment from his mother or a reassuring nod and a proud smile from his father. He refused none of them though and liked to bask in the glory, or what Cadmus preferred to call 'pretences of glory'.
Pretences was a word that Ignotus had introduced him to and Cadmus liked to use words such as 'pretences' because they made him sound smarter, more like Ignotus, and accordingly more like grownups.
Everyone knew that eleven was a little too late for showing magic. Despite that, their mother had assured Antioch that his newest magical accident may have not been his first. She, easily enough, convinced him that he may have done some subtle magic before without noticing, and that he had nothing to worry about.
Cadmus wished he could have said something such as 'I beg to differ', but he knew that his mother was right; Antioch had done magic before but was too dim-witted to realise it.
After the party thrown in Antioch's honour was over, Antioch sauntered into Cadmus's chamber and leaned with his back against the door until it closed, barely making a noise.
"What do you want?" Cadmus grumbled, already in bed. The younger of the brothers could not help about how Antioch was an unwanted guest visiting at a very late hour, not the best of hours for Cadmus's temper. Therefore, Cadmus took on a disagreeable tone, hoping it would drive his older brother away.
Nonetheless, Antioch did not.
Instead, Antioch crossed his arms over his chest lazily and tilted his head to the side as though he was trying to get his eyes used to the room's dim lighting. "Oh, you are still upset about losing the race, Cadmus?"
Cadmus could easily note the pride with which Antioch's words had been spoken; there was no concern in his tone whatsoever, and Cadmus could not, for the life of him, figure out why Antioch was paying him a visit in his chamber. And what was it that could not wait until the morning?
"I am not upset about the race, Antioch; it was just a stupid game," Cadmus answered and rolled over in bed to face the wall. On the wall, he could see his brother's shadow – his sky high nose and his posture that spoke of pride, magnified. "What do you want, Antioch?" Cadmus repeated his question, still looking at the wall. "If you have nothing important to say, you should leave. It has been a long day and I would like to sleep."
"Oh, I just came to thank you for telling Mother and Father about how I have done magic. Now, Father thinks I am finally becoming -what was it that he said exactly? Oh yes, humble. And so, he shall bring me a present tomorrow when we go to Diagon Alley," Antioch said.
Without facing his brother, Cadmus could guess that Antioch was smirking. His voice had this conniving and suggestive tone to it; he had come to bother, to boast, to tease. Cadmus wondered if he had the patience necessary to withstand his brothers' attitude that night.
"You are going to Diagon Alley tomorrow?" Cadmus asked, his head popping up slightly.
"Yes! The new year at Hogwarts will begin in a few months and I do need to purchase my books and the other things students need for Hogwarts. Anyway...I hope Father decides to bring me a broom. I would be the only boy in the entire town who has one!"
And they had gone back to the bragging. For a moment, jealousy actually got to Cadmus. He found himself wondering if his father would actually bring Antioch a broom. And say that he did bring him a broom, would Antioch take it with him to Hogwarts? Would he leave it behind and perhaps Cadmus could try it out?
What if he, Cadmus, asked for a broom... would he have got one?
Despite his eagerness, Cadmus tried to feign ignorance; Ignotus had told him that ignorance was always the answer. Cadmus liked to think Ignotus's faith in ignorance had something to do with the similarity between the word and his name.
In attempt to follow his younger brother's advice, Cadmus just shook his head discreetly to himself before asking, "Can I go to sleep now?"
Ignotus would have been proud of how unconcerned Cadmus had sounded.
"Ah, you surely can, brother. I must go to bed myself if I want to wake up early enough to join Mother and Father on the journey to Diagon Alley. Mother says we must go in the morning; otherwise, it would be very crowded," Antioch explained before unfolding his arms and leaving the room without another word.
"Linn!" Cadmus called out loudly and, momentarily, a house-elf appeared by his bedside. The creature's big blue eyes were twinkling even though the room was mostly dark and her fingers were trembling with fear. Cadmus never understood why Linn was always looking terrorised; he certainly treated her better than Antioch treated his house-elf Buck. "Blow out the candles and make sure that no one comes into my room again tonight."
"Yes, master," the frail pink house-elf squeaked out with a bow before doing as she was told. Linn left the pitch dark room to remain by her master's door until she was told to do otherwise.
The following morning, Cadmus and Ignotus woke up to find that, indeed, the rest of their family had left at a very early hour in the morning. Antioch and his father had headed down to the new shopping area of town, Diagon Alley, and their mother had gone to an early tea party at a friend's household.
"Mistress say young masters have to have breakfast!" Milly screeched at Ignotus when he told her that he was not really hungry and just wanted to go up to his room and sketch.
"Yes! Linn see Mistress tell Milly! Linn has! Young Masters must have breakfast and go see Mistress Loretta!" Linn added in support and put down a plate in front of a nonchalant Cadmus.
"We are going to visit Aunt Loretta?" Cadmus asked, looking up, his brown eyes wide in anticipation.
"Mistress say Linn and Milly has to take Young Masters to see Mistress Loretta after breakfast," Linn repeated, not knowing what else to say to her master.
"Ignotus, did you hear that? Just eat toast or drink your milk so we can go!" Cadmus took up his fork and began to pile scrambled eggs into his mouth until he could barely chew, not even taking a moment to breath before cutting up another piece to eat.
Ignotus, unable to watch his brother eat in such a manner took a slice of toast and slipped out with little notice from his companions and went up to his own chamber once again.
"Linn! Go lay out my robes and I will follow you upstairs right away! Also, make sure my riding boots are polished!" Cadmus ordered loudly, mouthful, and almost choked on the toast he was eating.
Linn blinked twice, startled by her master's behaviour, and dropped the towel she was holding before disappearing from the kitchen with a crack, leaving no one but Milly with Cadmus in the kitchen. Milly's attention was entirely focused on the young master who was devouring his food like a young monster until Cadmus called out her name too.
"Yes, Master!" Milly squeaked out, becoming more aware of her surroundings and her duties that she was not fulfilling.
"Go and see if Ignotus has started getting ready to leave or not. We must leave in no more than thirty minutes! Tell him that!" Cadmus told Milly as he slid off his chair and rushed out of the kitchen.
What was the rush? Well, it had been several weeks since Cadmus had seen his closest –and perhaps his only– friend, Astrid. But just because he had not met her in such a long time did not mean that he forgot what they were doing the last time they had. In fact, that was one of the few things that had kept him occupied during the previous few weeks.
He attempted to get dressed quickly yet manage to look presentable, but failed. When Linn informed him that Ignotus was remotely ready, he began to slow down a little, trying to refrain from looking at the clock every few seconds. He had missed Astrid and he had a lot to tell her; he wondered if she had news for him as well.
Carefully, Cadmus combed his long pale blond hair as he inspected his black robes in the mirror, making sure that all buttons were done correctly. Although they were just fine, Cadmus undid them and began to button his robes once again just to avoid boredom. Patience was a luxury he could not afford.
When Ignotus finally appeared at Cadmus's chamber many minutes later, Cadmus mumbled rather angrily under his breath before taking Linn's bony hand and braced himself for the painful short trip.
Momentarily, a sensation of spinning engulfed him, pulling him forward and almost taking him by surprise despite his anticipation of it. There was something pressing against him, flattening him as though he was being pulled into a rabbit hole.
Shortly, his feet touched the ground, but the spinning didn't stop. Blots of luminescent purple and green flashed before his eyes, blurring his vision.
"Is it safe to approach you now or will you collapse like the previous time?" a girl's voice asked him and he looked in the direction of her voice, spotting the girl in rose-colored robes and a big crimson hat, her features becoming clearer to his eyes as every second passed.
"I think I am okay, Astrid," Cadmus responded with a smile and steadied himself, noticing the green lengths surrounding them. "Ignotus, are you okay?"
Ignotus just nodded and put down his bag on the grass before sitting down next to it, looking yellow and out of breath.
"We should find ways to make our mothers leave to tea parties more often! It has been too long since we have seen each other," Astrid said to Cadmus once she was standing next to him, her green eyes twinkling in the sunlight as she squinted at the bright beams of light.
"Indeed!" the young boy agreed with a nod and grin. "How have you been?" he asked her.
"Fine, I suppose. I have convinced Mother to let me cut my hair again," she responded and took of her hat to show off her pixie-like hairstyle. She ran a hand through her short charcoal-black strands to get the hair away from her face. "How have you been?" she asked him, wondering if he had anything new in his life.
"I have been slightly bored of the late, but I think I am fine," Cadmus said before he slipped out a small wooden box out of his robes' pocket.
Similarly, Astrid unclasped her hand to showcase an identical box. She looked at Ignotus with uncertainty and worry –he was sketching something already.
"Do not worry about him; he knows. I know he reads a lot so I thought he could be of help," Cadmus assured his friend with a nod.
If anyone could be trusted to not say a word, then it was most certainly Ignotus –he hardly spoke anyway– and Cadmus knew that and he used that to his favour sometimes. And not only was Ignotus trustworthy but he was also resourceful and he taught Cadmus many things, which Cadmus took advantage of that too.
"And was he of help?" Astrid asked her friend, one of her eyebrows quirked at him in curiosity as she enclosed the box in her fist once again.
"Yes; you have got my owl last week, correct?"
Astrid nodded, making her hair fall onto her face again.
"Yes, well, Ignotus was the one who suggested that we feed it rat whiskers. Have you managed to get some?" Cadmus asked her and began to walk ahead.
Astrid followed her friend's lead and started to walk too, her index finger tracing the edges of the box she was holding. "Yes, I made one of the house-elves get me a dead rat, and I cut off its whiskers."
Cadmus slowly opened the tiny wooden box and let the small worm-like creature creep onto his index finger before he put the box back in his pocket.
"Oh! Yours changed colour as well? This shade of violet is fascinating!" the young girl exclaimed and kneeled down a little so she could have a closer look, her eyes sparkling in awe. "Can I hold it?"
"Sure!" Cadmus said and held out his hand for her, the tiny creature crawling slowly in the middle of his palm. Without any hesitation or apparent aversion, Astrid took up the peculiar being on her finger and let it crawl its way to her palm.
That was why Cadmus liked Astrid's company –she was not like other girls. She preferred her hair short, unlike other girls who grew their hair out so they could curl it around their wands –like he had seen several of his cousins do– or have it in a different hairstyle every other day. No, Astrid always had her hair cut short so it would not interfere when she was doing things with Cadmus, like racing or kneeling over the lake by her house to find something magnificent.
Astrid could let some foreign creature, one that neither of them knew anything about, move in her hand without even cringing while other girls would be startled by merely the sight of it. Astrid did not cry when she fell over and got a stain of dirt on her dress. She understood his interest in things that went beyond rounds of Hide and Seek or Wizard's Chess. Astrid understood and that was all that mattered to him.
After having exchanged pets and thinking up names that seemed to fit the unidentifiable creatures the two of them were housing, Cadmus and Astrid decided to start a race. Once Astrid had kicked off her shoes and hidden them behind a rock by the pond as she always did, they counted up to three, and they both began to rush across the garden at an incredible speed.
"I cannot... breathe... cannot," Cadmus heard Astrid say loudly after a while as she kneeled over, her hands on her knees as she stared at the grass and her bare feet. "Hello, Ignotus," Astrid breathlessly greeted the boy she was standing to with a brief smile.
Ignotus did not say anything at all; he was still greatly engrossed in the picture he was sketching. And, just out of courtesy, he nodded at the girl before turning back his attention to the drawing as Cadmus joined the two of them.
Cadmus took in a deep breath before accusing his friend loudly, "You took a shortcut!"
"I realise that... I just got tired! I cannot run far with this cursed dress on; it is too heavy!" Astrid said with an apathetic wave of her hand before she sat down by Ignotus on the ground and peeked over his shoulder to see what he was working on.
"Oh, are you trying to draw our snakes?" Cadmus asked, thrilled, as he snatched the parchment to examine it closely.
"They are not snakes and I have told you that," Ignotus said and reached out for his parchment, hoping that his brother would not try to be a bother.
"You specifically told me that they are a breed of snakes!" Cadmus argued and lifted the parchment a little so Ignotus would not be able to reach it.
"I told you they look like a certain breed of snakes. I cannot find those creatures you found in any book..." Ignotus explained and gave up on retrieving his drawing.
"Well, look again; they have to be somewhere if books are useful as you say. We do not want our snakes to die, Ignotus," Cadmus said, his voice full of authority and seriousness. Even Cadmus himself felt that he sounded like his father and Antioch who almost constantly spoke in such a manner.
Cadmus did not exactly know why but having been able to talk in a tone as such made him happy. Perhaps it had to do with how Antioch always got what he wanted, whether from Cadmus himself or Ignotus or their parents. Or maybe with how his father was quite a widely respected man in the society –well, truly, how could one have been a Minister and not powerful and respected?
"Oh yes, please, Ignotus! You must help us; you read so much and you know so much! You must know something!" Astrid joined the conversation, her sweet tone and her reasonable compliments breaking the tension her friend's last words had caused.
Ignotus shifted uncomfortably and started to fumble around with his fingers as he looked at the ground.
"So, will you help us?" Astrid asked, her tone still polite and gentle, sounding almost ladylike.
"Yes, fine..." Ignotus grumbled and looked down at his drawing charcoals, seeming pensive.
"We can help you, too. You can tell us what to do and where to look," Astrid encouraged sweetly, being kind as she usually is.
Cadmus couldn't comprehend why Astrid had to be nice to people. Antioch was hardly ever nice to anyone, yet he got everything he desired. Despite that, he was quite relieved to see his brother nod at Astrid, seemingly less hesitant about helping them.
When Cadmus took a step forward, he winced lightly, his leg aching as though it was too frail to carry his body. He winced again then said, "I think I broke my leg..."
Cadmus saw Ignotus open his mouth to say something, but Astrid talked before Ignotus let even a single syllable out.
"Oh please, do not speak of broken legs in front of me! You have heard that Brianne has hurt her leg, I assume?" Astrid said, looking up at Cadmus expectantly as he sat down next to her, grimacing again.
Cadmus nodded, having heard about Astrid's older sister's injury from his mother a few days earlier, and gestured for his friend to go on with her tale.
"Well, ever since, all Mother ever talks about is how brave and strong Brianne is to wake up every morning and still want to practice her piano and do her knitting. And she compares me to her! It just makes me angry how she keeps telling the story every time we have a guest, like Brianne is just some hero from a book," Astrid told, venomous bitterness apparent in her tone as every word was pronounced. She rolled her eyes and let out a sigh, waiting for either of the boys to concur with her.
Cadmus did not really understand what Astrid's mother could have been thinking. As far as he had known, Brianne had hurt her leg by stumbling upon her own feet at a ball, which was quite a stupid thing to do. Cadmus looked at his younger brother to try and see if Ignotus seemed to understand the matter any better, having spent a lot of time around their mother and her friends on many occasions. Much to Cadmus's dismay, Ignotus was completely distracted, still going ahead with his petty attempts to draw the snake-like creature.
When no one said anything, Astrid decided to speak again, stating her own opinion on the matter. "I honestly do not understand how Mother is seeing this. One of the first thing they teach you when you are seven, when you are a girl, is how to walk in court shoes without falling over on your face, which is exactly what Brianne did. I think it is unladylike and really stupid; I heard Brianne's friends whispering the same thing behind her back as well."
"I completely agree with you," Cadmus said to his friend with a smile.
Cadmus could never disagree with Astrid and he always gave her the benefit of doubt. In his eyes, Astrid was perfect, smart, and kind. And at least Astrid could run in heeled shoes without falling on her face.
A/N: So, originally, the story Valeria's writing was supposed to include Alphard's story only. But after a while of careful thinking, I realised that many things would be easier to understand if she wrote the stories of the two other boys as well.
Anyway, let me know what you think of this chapter in the lovely box below! I'd love to hear what you thought about the world through Cadmus's eyes.
This is the story of every little girl after she attends a wedding with her family. After she is one of the few who get to carry a bouquet of flowers and follow the bride down the aisle, she spends the rest of the night spinning around in circles with her brothers and the few friends she has made during the five-hour party. She chases her brothers around the fountain and tries to convince her mother to allow her to have a sip of the red drink in the big goblet.
She remembers bits of a speech that someone recited out loud. She remembers her mother saying that if anyone other than the bride and the groom stood under the mistletoe, it would bring the newly married couple bad luck; and that her brothers dared her to go stand under one.
Nonetheless, she does not remember going back home or getting out of her dress; she has drained herself out of energy. Yet, the following morning, she wakes up and sees her miniature white dress casually lain out on the little chair next to her bed and her little sparkly shoes tossed carelessly on the ground. Then, the only thing that would occupy her mind for the rest of the day -or sometimes the rest of the week- is how her own wedding would go one day when she is old enough, how she would be proposed to, and who would propose to her.
Unfortunately –or maybe fortunately enough, those fanciful images we girls weave at the age of ten are never accurate or even remotely close to what actually would happen.
For instance, I was not proposed to in Rome next to the Trevi fountain although that was where I had imagined I would get proposed to. And I was not ten when I set my mind on that; I was fifteen. So supposedly, this had to hold some relevance to what would really happen.
I look down at my hand as my ring finger seems to feel heavier at that thought. I run my thumb over the little diamond ring that is lacing my finger and continue to think about the real-life plot twist I have just gone through.
I am supposed to be writing right now and I even had Alphard leave his laptop with me so I can continue working on the novel, but I cannot seem to focus. Although I do try to regain my concentration once more, I stop resisting my mind's urge to procrastinate and I replay my proposal in my head yet again. I still could not believe that it was something I was actually there for and that it was not a chapter from a book.
It was not necessarily what anyone would call a grand gesture; but considering the person who has done it and the manner in which he did it, I could not consider it as anything but grand.
I remember having to wait for him to say something, to do anything, and I remember being a little upset at him as well. After he went down on one knee, it took him a few moments to start talking and throughout that tiny fragment of time, I was speechless and suspecting that that was all a joke, a mean plot orchestrated by Lysander or Scorpius just to see how the scene would play out.
But then, he pulled out a box with a ring inside and started to talk, and all the doubt in my head seemed to diminish all of a sudden.
He said," Valeria Scamander, you may find this absurd and sudden, and it probably is. Still, I don't believe it's unwise because to me, somehow, this makes a lot of sense. I'm not even sure how it makes sense, but that's not the point. We may not have gone on a date together before or shared a romantic relationship of any sort, but I know you more than I know any other woman. And... and I know that I feel for you something I don't feel for any other woman. I love you, Valeria."
He paused for a moment and I don't even remember what was going on in my head back then. Everything was going hazy by then and it was starting to feel like a dream –it still does.
"You… you still like Victorian, right? That hasn't changed during the past few minutes?" he asked with a shy smile, apparently trying to lighten up the mood, to give us both a break from the overwhelming seriousness of it all. And when I was still too much in shock to give him any coherent response, he continued anyway, "This would be quite like a Victorian novel, except that we get to be more liberated with this. If you agree to… to this, we can go out on dates and do whatever we like. And, you know, we can count all those times we went out with Lysander and he ditched us as dates, right? Even if they were not romantic at all? And we could also wait and try to have a relationship if that's what you want, Valeria, but I feel as though I want to do this. I'm tired of waiting around; I don't want to do it anymore. And I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Valeria."
I saw him look at me and I could feel him study my face as though he was looking for any signs of approval or disapproval. Then, he smiled and asked steadily, briefly, "Valeria Scamander, will you marry me?"
By then, I still had not had enough time to get over my shock or Alphard's staggering speech, especially when I was taking into consideration how uncharacteristic it was for Alphard to jump into something such as marriage. Of course, I knew and understood his reasons behind it all, and I was not doubting how certain he was about this. Because, if he had managed to get this far, to make up a proposal speech, buy a ring, and actually get down before me on one knee, then he was beyond certain.
And that made me happy. To see him this brave, this persistent… it made me happy and proud. And I find it necessary that I tell you that because what happened next was quite surprising.
I started to cry. I was not sure if they were sad tears or happy tears. They say that happy tears are warmer and I remember trying to tell through the warmth of the tears that were all of a sudden rushing down my cheeks if they're happy or sad but failing to identify them. By then, I was still unable to put words together, but I started to talk anyway.
"I thought you’d never see me. I thought you'd always see me as your comforter and as your best friend, but as a person you could be in love with…? I never thought… But you… now you are…"
I was overthrown by various emotions as I choked on my tears. Through my eyes that were quite blurred, I noticed Alphard get to his feet again then I felt him wrap his arms around my shoulders, pulling me closer to him.
"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry it has taken me this long to tell you how I feel about you, how I have been feeling for years, but… You know… And I'm sorry that I have it come out like this… with a ring and… you know, an engagement. But I felt that I have wasted enough time around you, Valeria, and I couldn't dare waste anymore. We're… we're already close, and…I'm sorry. Truly," Alphard said quietly as he tried to soothe me even though I did not believe I needed soothing.
I needed to make peace with my tangled emotions before I could let sense return to my brain.
I remained silent for a while to do that, and he stayed the way he was, embracing me. Then, once I got a grip on my cascading emotions, took a deep breath and uttered out a single word –his name – he drew back and looked at me intently. When I caught his eyes, he looked at the ground and seemed slightly embarrassed. We were, apparently, back to classic Alphard mode.
"Would you consider me insane and stupid if I told you that I don't want to wait either and that I'm not even scared or intimidated by this? You shocked me because I wasn't expecting anything… anything at all. Not a hug or an invitation to join you on a date or even a confession of your care for me, so leave alone a proposal. But I… I love you too, Alphard. I love you, And I just feel like this is the thing to do, you know. Like it's something that I want to do. Is that insane, Alphard?"
He shrugged at me and went back to staring at the grass.
"Is it?" I asked him again as I wiped the traces of tears off my face with the back of my hand.
"I don't think it is. It may be, but I don't think it is," he responded calmly, the black box still in his hand, waiting to be claimed. "It worked out in Victorian novels, right? They loved each other, they did not date, and they got married in the end, right?"
"And I trust you… and the Victorian novels you've read," I said with a smile. Then, with confidence I never knew I had, I said, "So, yes. Yes, I will marry you, Alphard Malfoy."
Then, all of a sudden, my replay of the proposal gets interrupted by a loud knock on the door, and I'm pulled out of the memory. "Yes?" I say, wondering who it could possibly be. Astoria is, once again, cooking and Alphard and Draco are both at work. And I had not asked anything of the house elves.
"Open up, Vale, and guess who's here!" a man's voice said from behind the door and I slid off the bed to open it. "Or guess before you open; I think that's the sensible thing to do!"
Of course, there was one person in the world who has always called me 'Vale' and has promised to forever call me that.
"Well, Lysander, that certainly is quite a surprise. Aren't you supposed to be on the other side of the world with the rest of the family?" I ask as my brother takes a step closer to the now open door.
"Ah, look at you; still short and bitter..." is what he says in response, craning his neck to one side as though he's making some grand speculation.
I glare at him a little and notice how his skin looks rather bronze. It clashes quite horribly with his blond hair that he has –finally- cut short and there are patches of red skin all over his arms.
"Well, we've been waiting to come and see you for days now. That lousy fiancé of yours was supposed to propose over a week ago – or that's what he's told us back then anyway! You didn't think we would let you get engaged and not come celebrate it, now did you, Vale?" he says with a very wide smile, giving me a proper answer.
"You never miss a celebration, right." I walk out of the room to stand beside him and ask, "Wait… Do you mean that everyone is here?"
"Yes, I do. Even Lorcan is here." Lysander nods for the sake of emphasis and begins to walk ahead.
"Lorcan?" I ask in disbelief, still nailed to the ground by the information.
It is very rare that Lorcan ever leaves his apartment. The fact that he even has an apartment upsets everyone in the family because, according to Mum, sitting around the table with a missing family member brings about some curse that distances the family from said missing member. Unless you're married because that means you're taking care of family and that keeps away the curse.
Anyway, every Christmas and the other, we manage to convince Lorcan into coming to join us, but other than that, we hardly get to see much of him. Therefore, hearing from Lysander that they have managed to bring him here with them just to celebrate my engagement to Alphard was a little bit surprising.
"It took Mother hours to get him to agree; he kept saying that he was busy and that he was not in the mood and that he could just make it to the wedding when it happens and that that should be enough, but then Mother got so angry at him –yes, it was that bad– and he agreed to come along," Lysander explains, very entertained as he tells me the details of the story.
"Wow…" I breathe out.
"What? Don't be so surprised. You're mummy's and daddy's little and only girl; of course, they would find your engagement important," Lysander says as we continue to walk down the halls of the Manor, drawing nearer to the sitting room that we are able to hear faint laughs coming from its direction.
I snort out in sarcasm. "Yes, says the boy who had Mother and Father drive him to Hogwarts by car every beginning of the year until Third Year, and, in the process, ruined my Hogwarts experience!"
"That's different; I used to be phobic!" Lysander points his index finger at me. "And I didn't ruin anything!"
"Oh yes, I've heard that story multiple times," I respond with a faint chuckle in my voice. "But yes, you did make my first day at Hogwarts hardly special. Because, honestly, taking the boats down to the gates isn't as fun when you already know what's behind the gates because you've been there two times before thanks to your 'phobic' older brother."
We're already at the door by then so Lysander just rolls his eyes at me in a 'you're being way too dramatic' manner and doesn't say anything.
Before I'm even into the room, Mum's arms are around me and her soft voice is excited and proud. "Congratulations, sweet heart, I'm so happy for you!"
Mum's hand that's all covered up in pale scars touches my cheek for a fraction of a second before Dad is engulfing me in a hug and practically lifting me off the ground like I'm still four.
"Dad!" I whine, pretty much like a child.
You see, my dad is, most probably, the tallest person I have ever met. It also doesn't help that he's strongly built; it makes him look more intimidating than he actually is. Or maybe he really is intimidating; after all, his favourite creatures to work with are dragons and fire pythons.
"You're tiny and it's your Mum's fault; you can take it up with her later on if you want," he says as slowly puts me down again.
If anything, Dad is probably right. Next to him, Mum looks like a child, her face glowing with genuine innocence, her white-blonde hair that soon may start trailing behind her only intensifying what Dad calls 'dove-graceful' overall look. Seeing her in that light makes it hard to believe that her favourite thing to do is hike through forests and work with things that has claws. It makes it hard to believe that she's a person who's lived through the horrors of a war. Sometimes I wish I looked as approachable as she does or that I was as strong.
"Congratulations, Vale." Dad smiles that his wrinkles show on his now bronze skin and he gives me a pat on the shoulder that communicates feelings better than words ever could.
Because when I said that only one man had vowed to call me Vale, I wasn't talking about the one whose favourite hobby is emulation.
You know, I hate it when I'm travelling and I come back and everyone is waiting for me behind the door and just lunge forward and hug me and everyone starts talking at the same moment. Someone tries to help me with my trunks, another person is telling me to come see the new species of snapdragons that we have in our garden, and some third person is telling me to go sit at the table and have dinner since I'm probably underfed and exhausted.
I hate it. And I never really catch what every person is saying or who said what and I end up with a jumble of words and emotions and that just usually makes me want to walk out right through the door and travel back to wherever I had just come from.
Apparently, family welcoming when you are recently engaged is a lot louder, yet I don't think it bothered me as much as I thought it would.
Despite that, I am very glad when everyone decides to calm down and each person starts to find something to occupy themselves with, and just Mum and I remain in the sitting room.
I feel her watching me and I could tell she wants to talk now that we actually could without having Lysander butt in or Lorcan huff and puff in the background.
For as long as I could, I try to not say anything and let Mum start the conversation whichever way she'd like to. I notice how, for the first time, the big red curtains that usually cover the wall-wide ornate window are drawn to the sides. Behind the gleaming black curls of iron, the sun is still illuminating the sky, casting shadows of grey vines that wrap themselves around the furniture in the room. Then, there's the fact that even with the sun streaming into the room, everything seems dull and haunting, and I wonder if Mum would say something about the Manor being cursed due to the deeds of the souls that once roamed these very same rooms.
"Are you judging me? You're judging me, right? You think that what I'm doing is insane and rash." I lose my ability to control my thoughts and just look down at my lap as I wait for Mum to talk.
"I don't recall saying anything as such," Mother responds in that soft voice of hers and you can almost hear amusement in her voice.
"Yes, but you want to say it," I retort and look in her direction with accusing eyes to face a pair that looks just like them, just less intense and more confident in gaze. I swear, sometimes I feel that Mum is seeing things that no one else could and that this, perhaps, is what fuels her self-assurance. And I'm not talking about Gremlins or Malfoy ghosts.
"I want to say it or you want me to say it?" she asks with a soft smile as she pushes back a lock of her blonde hair away from her face. Her hair looks a lot like mine, actually, with long blonde waves going way beyond the length of her back but apparently a little dry and worn out from the summer heat.
"No, I don't want you to say it," I tell her honestly.
No, of course I did not want to hear my mother disapprove one of the biggest and most important decisions I have ever made in my life. All the while, it really is surprising me how no one seems to be even mildly disapproving of what Alphard and I have decided to do or even questioning our readiness for something like that. This complete and peaceful acceptance of my engagement to Alphard was certainly not what I have expected to come when I agreed to have Alphard slip the engagement ring onto my finger.
"Do you believe that you're ready to do this, and that even if I, your father, and both your brothers disapprove, you would still insist to do it?" she asks me and I feel my eyes widen in horror.
Is this one of the 'be careful what you wish for 'cause you just might get it' moments that a person comes upon in life?
Despite how horrified I am by Mother's question, I take a moment to think then simply nod at her.
"Then you shouldn't care if I disapprove or not. I don't, by the way; just you don't stay the night awake wondering about it. I know you."
"Okay, you seriously scared me, Mother. For a moment there…" I shake my head and feel my heartbeat slow down again.
"I saw it coming – I think we all did. It was quite obvious, I believe. Perhaps it's just me, but I could tell how you felt about Alphard. No, I did not expect you to just up and get engaged, but still… At least now we know why you were a hatstall between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor," my Mother tells me calmly, still sounding amused.
I giggle in response and just wrap my arms around her and hug her as my eyes tear up. This time, I could totally and very easily tell that they were happy tears.
Ever since I started to write the story about the three brothers, the one that is still untitled, I have not faced any trouble. Yet, after an upbeat dinner with my family and the Malfoys, here I am, sitting outside in the garden with Alphard's laptop, unable to think of what should happen next.
There is some moisture in the air and I could feel my hair stand up thanks to the frizz. Or maybe the thanks are due to my fury over my inability to come up with anything.
Above me, dark clouds are making a puffy compilation and delivering a straightforward 'take your umbrella with you tomorrow if you're leaving the house' message to everyone. The temperature has dropped significantly since my family and the Malfoys were sitting here after dinner, and there's a breeze that keeps on making my hair get into my eyes. If anything though, this supposedly is the perfect inspirational atmosphere for writers. Not that I am actually one, but still... I need my inspiration if I want this story to get anywhere.
"I brought tea," a voice says gently from behind me and before I could turn to see its owner, I could tell it is Alphard. Momentarily, he is setting two cups of tea down on the table next to the laptop and looking at the computer screen over my shoulder.
"I can't write," I complain to him calmly as I continue to stare at the blank page.
"You're facing the famous writer's block, then? Well, don't worry; I've heard it is, most of the time, easy to overcome," he says and seats himself down on a chair next to mine.
"I don't think it's writer's block. I just don't know what should be happening next: what event, which conversation… And it's just so frustrating, especially that I'm only supposed to start the fourth chapter. Difficulties shouldn't come along so early; it's unfair! Also, I've written up this chapter about Cadmus, on a whim, and now I have an extra chapter that I don't know what to do with."
Silently, he pushes my cup of tea towards me as though trying to tell me that the cup is the answer to it all. How English.
Despite my bitter thoughts towards the cup, I grasp it and take a small sip before setting it back down on the table.
"Where have you stopped?" Alphard puts his cup down as well and looks at me, seeming determined to help me.
"Well, Ignotus has visited Anastasia in the care house and he's given her a birthday gift. But now that's the chapter I don't know where to put," I respond while staring at the small annoying vertical line that keeps on flashing on the screen endlessly, like a ticking bomb ready to explode if I do not start to write soon.
"The care house?" Alphard asks with a confused frown.
"You told me that the only time you've talked to her after that time while you were being registered in the school was when you met her in a hospital, right?"
I notice him frown again before he says, "Not exactly like that… Well, I had a gash on my head, and I went to get it patched up, and she was taking her daily dose of fluoride… in the school clinic."
"Yes, well, close enough. Modifications must be made so that I can make up a plot that is interesting. I just feel like I don't know enough about you and Jenny… all those little moments that could help me make up the plot, they're stories you've never told me and I was never there for. I feel stupid…" I say and rest my cheek on my fisted hand as I try to focus.
It probably has been a bad idea to start writing this to begin with. I had planned out all the major points in the story and the events that I actually witnessed and was able to 'modify' in order to fit it into the plot.
Nonetheless, I really had not thought about the little details with which I had to develop the friendship that existed between Alphard and Jenny at some point. I thought I knew enough and that I would be able to come up with things as I went ahead with the story, but apparently, this is not how things are truly playing out.
"You could always… ask. I still remember a lot of things and conversations; I suppose I could help… if you want," Alphard offers with a shrug, sounding a little hesitant.
I raise an uncertain eyebrow at him and ask, "Are you sure you want to do that?"
With a casual shrug, Alphard says, "Why not?"
Why not? Because we will be digging into your past, one that you have just recently started to get over, and I'm not sure how reflecting on all of those memories that you shared with Jenny would help you. That's why not.
I do not say that out loud though; if he felt as though he could manage telling me stories about the best friend he has lost without inflicting emotional damage upon himself, then I probably should not second guess him before he even gives it a shot.
Therefore, I just pick up my cup of tea again and say, "Alright then. How about you tell me something that happened after the 'school's clinic' conversation with Jenny? What happened next?"
"Erm… well… there's that time… I…" he starts to stumble over words and I could tell he is either struggling with a certain memory or just not sure how to arrange his words to tell the story.
"It's okay, you don't have to do it now," I say, quickly stopping him and gently putting a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm terrible at telling stories, Val, I…" he says and trails off then looks at the ground, as is his habit, and he stays quiet as though he's waiting for me to say something.
"Would it be easier for you to tell the stories if you write them instead of telling them to me like this? You could just write a conversation or just something that you've seen Jenny do or have done with her, her quirks, and things as such. Would that be better?" I suggest calmly and notice him look up.
He nods and says, "It'll be better if I could arrange in the words in my head, yes."
I smile widely in gratitude and exclaim, "Thank you! You're the best fiancé ever!"
I hear him chuckle and I find myself chuckling too at how easily the word fiancé just came out among the rest of the words. It's a nice word to use, I decide, as I slowly take my hand off his shoulder and bring it back to rest on my chair's armrest.
A/N: AND... yeah. He just proposed,I know, but I promise we'll get to understand Alphard... eventually. And yes, I actuallly now have an extra Ignotus/Anastasia chapter that I don't know where to put. ALSO,this chapter officially makes Progeros the longest story I have on here! So YAY! Feedback would be lovely and greatly appreciated!
If anyone were to be considered misunderstood, it was Antioch. Or so he had convinced himself. He used to give his brothers orders so that they would play with him, but instead, it turned them against him. Cadmus had his friend Astrid whom he always wrote to and talked to while Ignotus was always surrounded by mounts of books that Antioch could not understand the allure of. Therefore, he was unable to find a way to befriend either of them and pressure was the only way he could have had them do anything with him. And it always ended in tears and in distancing him from his younger brothers further.
The only thing that kept the eldest of the Peverell boys sane was how he was to leave for Hogwarts in a matter of a few days. He would go there and start over; he was going to be nice and lighthearted and hardworking. He was going to have friends who did things with him because they wanted to, not because they were scared of him.
"YOU SAID IT WAS LIKE A SNAKE! YOU SAID WE SHOULD FEED IT RAT WHISKERS!"Antioch heard Cadmus shout. The eldest of the Peverell boys was passing by his brothers' rooms as he envisioned himself be surrounded by a group of appropriate mates, as he imagined what sort of people he were to meet, which house he were to be sorted into.
But such fanciful images could have waited.
For weeks, he had seen Cadmus and Ignotus bond over books, constantly talking about some creature and another similar one that Astrid had. Nonetheless, until that moment, Antioch had not found himself a way to interfere and know what they were talking about without scaring them into doing so.
The door to Cadmus's room was slightly open, allowing Antioch a tiny crevice to watch things through.
"I did not know! And we fed it grass as well!" Ignotus cried in response, getting to his feet while wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
"IT HAS LEGS! HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW?!" Cadmus's hands flew up in the air with fury, his face redder than Antioch had ever seen it before.
"I DO NOT KNOW!" To Antioch, Ignotus seemed to be feeling guilty. Even though he was shouting, every time Cadmus opened his mouth, Ignotus looked at the ground and pouted, his eyes full of tears.
"IT WAS HERE IN THIS VERY BOOK! HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE KNOWN?!" Cadmus seemed to be inconsolable as though he had lost something very special, and Antioch could not help but wonder whether this was merely about the creature he and Ignotus had been discussing for weeks.
"I HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK BEFORE!" Ignotus argued, the tears slipping onto his cheeks faster than he could have stopped them.
"WELL, YOU MUST HAVE! IT HAS ALL THE ANSWERS!" Cadmus pointed at an open book on his bed, his eyes focused on his brother.
Slowly, Antioch pushed the door open to enter the chamber and was glad it did not creak as he had expected it to.
"I DID NOT KNOW!" Ignotus repeated loudly and continued to cry.
With his brothers distracted by their fury at each other, Antioch took the chance and picked up the fat many-legged creature and let it rest on his held out palm. Hoping that his brothers would not notice him, he tried to make his way over to the window as quietly as possible, taking one wide, gentle step at a time.
"YOU ARE AN ABSOLUTE FOOL! YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING, THAT YOU KNOW BETTER THAN ME, BUT YOU DO NOT! YOU ARE A FOOL! AND YOU HAVE HURT URSULA!" At that moment, Cadmus's hands came in contact with Ignotus's shoulders, and a moment later, Ignotus hit the wall behind him and fell to the ground.
If what was causing the problem was gone, there would be no problem at all.
Antioch quickly set down the small, slimy creature onto the window sill and ran over to where his brothers were standing.
"I was only trying to help!" Ignotus's voice was squeaky and his face was damp with tears. Momentarily, he covered his face with his tiny hands and continued to sob quietly, his knees brought up to his chest.
"Dear Lord," Cadmus mumbled and looked down at the ground as he realised what he had done. Antioch was eager to see how Cadmus was going to deal with this situation, what was he going to do differently. How was this any different from when Antioch had pushed Ignotus outside in the garden?
The concern and guilt that appeared on Cadmus's face did not remain for longer than a few moments when his fell onto the small wooden box on the ground. Abruptly, his slumped shoulders straightened up and he stood tall, his eyes wide with confusion as he began to turn around himself in circles, scanning the chamber for something he could not find.
"Cadmus?" Antioch said to catch his brother's attention, wondering what accounted for the sudden change in reaction.
"Where is Ursula?" Cadmus stopped revolving around and stared at his older brother, his eyebrows closer to his hairline than his eyes.
Before Antioch could ask who Ursula was, Cadmus was pointing at the box on the ground and saying, "She was right there! Antioch, what have you done?!"
Antioch tried to answer but he was unable to as his brother's hands were clasped around his neck, preventing air from getting into his body and his voice from leaving it. Antioch fumbled around and tried to push his brother away, but Cadmus would not move. What was wrong with Cadmus that day, Antioch could not tell, but the eldest of the Peverell boys was mentally reciting the prayers his mother had taught him, thinking he was going to die at his brother's hands.
"Cadmus! Cadmus, let him go!"
Suddenly, there was a lot of movement as though someone was shaking Cadmus by the shoulders. Antioch noticed his youngest brother behind Cadmus, trying to pull the enraged boy away but failing miserably and falling backwards onto the ground instead.
When Antioch saw Ignotus flee the room in a hurry, he realised that he had to handle the situation on his own or be killed by his younger brother. Somehow he managed to push Cadmus away, but Cadmus stayed away only long enough for Antioch to gasp loudly. Soon enough, it was an entanglement of limbs and collisions between fists and noses, and heads and walls. Domination was split between the two of them, each gaining control for no longer than a few seconds before being pushed underneath and losing grasp on the matter.
Antioch could have sworn that it lasted for hours, that the throbbing pain in his head could not have resulted from a shorter fight. Nevertheless, it had only been minutes when Ignotus returned to the room with Buck and Milly. And seconds later, their mother was at the door, one of her hands covering her mouth in shock.
"Mother, help me! He is going to kill me!" Antioch screamed once he saw Beatrice as Cadmus nailed him to the ground, punching him in the face once again.
"Cadmus! Get off your brother this instant!" Beatrice ordered firmly as she entered the room.
"Please stop!" Ignotus was standing next to their mother, his face still tear-stained. "Mother, they are bleeding."
"Where is Ursula, Antioch? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO IT?!" Cadmus ignored his mother's order and kept his hands at his brother's collar.
"I put it on the window! Get away from me now!" Antioch told Cadmus and took a deep breath in, glad that things have slowed down a little. He had no intention to withhold information from his brother, but Cadmus had lunged forward at him to suddenly that he had not the opportunity to respond or say anything coherent.
As Cadmus scrambled up in a hurry and ran in the window's direction, Antioch sat up and winced upon touching his face.
"My dear lord, Antioch, are you okay?" Beatrice was kneeling by her eldest son but her eyes were on Cadmus who was clinging onto the open window.
"It hurts, Mother," Antioch complained and cringed once his mother touched his shoulder. Every bone in his body felt as though it had been forced out of place, enlarged, then cruelly shoved back. His muscles felt swollen underneath his now bright pink skin and he could tell that soon, they would have shown a colourful display of purple and blue as well. They hurt that much. Now that his brother was off him, Antioch could feel something cold trickling down the side of his face. He put his hand on his face, and it returned blood-stained.
"Ignotus! Ursula is stuck on a leaf! I do not know what is happening! Something is getting wrapped around her! Do you think she is dying?" Cadmus had completely lost grip on his nerves and emotions. He was scared and furious at the same time, his voice shaking as he seeked help from the same brother that only a few minutes ago he had shoved aside. His shirt was ripped at the sleeve, revealing what seemed to be a nasty cut that dyed the white cloth surrounding it red.
"It is forming a cocoon. It is growing," Ignotus informed his brother quietly before he went and hid behind his mother and looked at Antioch with concern.
For once, they were in the same situation. For once, they were both victims.
Ignotus was the only one who noticed how worried their mother had been. She kept on looking between Antioch and Cadmus, each of them more bruised than the other, each lacking justification for the massacre they both had caused. Not knowing what else to do or how severe the boys' injuries were, she decided to send them to the care house where their uncle worked, the one Ignotus had been wanting to visit ever since Antioch's party.
Perhaps it was right. That saying that the quietest people have the loudest minds? It was probably right. Poor little Ignotus had spent days onward with his brain screaming at him in a pleading manner to move ahead and search for answers to his questions about the little girl from the party, Anastasia.
Until that moment, he had not known how he was going to go to the care house but he had assumed that he could have convinced his uncle that he was interested in healing. And while his mother was in frenzy over Antioch and Cadmus, Ignotus managed to gain her approval of his accompanying them in order to explore the care house his uncle constantly talked about.
As each of the three boys left the mansion with his house-elf, Beatrice assured them that she was to arrive to the care house as soon as she possibly could. They could have all disapparated but she did not want to risk hurting the boys more than they already were, and she was not even in appropriate attire for leaving her household. Therefore, as the boys entered the carriage, she informed them that she had owled their uncle and that by the time they reached the care house, he would have been expecting them and waiting for them by the entrance.
And before he could have guessed, Ignotus was walking past the doors of the care house. There was a feeling of nausea arousing itself in the pit of his stomach and a premonition of falling onto the house's marble floor from his dizziness clouding his thoughts. Perhaps he should not have come.
He looked at the arched ceiling above him and tried to connect the ambiguous carvings on the ceiling to any of the books he had read but could not. The ragged blocks of the wall held candles that radiated both light and heat beyond the powers of regular candles. There was a strong scent of a potion that Ignotus could not quite recognise but it was one that he would link to his uncle.
"Healer Peverell!" a young girl greeted the boys' uncle loudly and cheerfully from her wooden wheelchair.
"Good morning, Anastasia; I see you are awake at quite an early hour once again," Ignotus's uncle said with a caring smile as he approached the seated girl.
"I do not have time to waste, Healer Peverell. I am suffering from a disease that no one has seen or heard of previously and we already can notice its progress and clearly see how destructive it is. I shall not waste the little time I may have on remaining in bed with my eyes closed," Anastasia responded, smiling slightly.
Ignotus was surprised to see that smile upon of her face. He did not comprehend how she could speak of something so greatly morbid, of the expectancy of death, grave illness, and running out of time and yet smile as she let the words escape her mouth. He could not comprehend how so calmly and fluently she let such painful thoughts transform themselves into coherent words then voice them out in manner so casual as though she was discussing the weather and not her fleeting life.
"I understand that, Anastasia, as you have explained yourself before; yet, as I did previously tell you, your body does need its rest. The more you rest, the less fragile you get. And putting aside your very serious condition, Anastasia, you are still a child," Healer Peverell lectured Anastasia ever so gently.
"Yes, but I am not really growing... We know that much. Therefore, I would rather spend most of my remaining hours with my eyes open and learn as much as I possibly could about this world before I have to leave it," Anastasia said in response, still smiling.
That day, Anastasia looked more lively than she had in the mansion, or so did Ignotus believe. Her skin was not quite as yellow; it was still as taut, concealing very little of the blue veins than ran over her body.
"Uncle Andrew!" Antioch, seemingly impatient to get his wounds inspected, called out loudly, interrupting the conversation between their uncle and the little girl.
"Oh boys, you are here! Come forward and meet Anastasia." Their uncle turned around and motioned for them to come closer, a smile on his face.
Once the three of them were lined up in front of Anastasia's chair, Uncle Andrew said, "Anastasia, these are my nephews: Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus. Boys, this is Anastasia; she is one of the people I must keep a watch on and she is one of my top priorities. As you can see, despite how high-spirited she is, she does not believe that we will find her a cure or that she will have the chance to live long."
"We have met; Ignotus and me that is," Anastasia started with a small smile of greeting meant for Ignotus, "at that party you have taken me to a few weeks ago."
"Oh, have you now? Well, that is quite wonderful then. He is here because he wanted to learn new things about healing and about this house. Before I can help him with that, I must see to the injuries of these two troublemakers. Would it be okay with you to spend some time with Ignotus?"
Ignotus was glad that question was not directed at him because although he did want to spend time with Anastasia –after all, she was the reason he had decided to come to the House – he would have been too shy to nod in agreement or say anything coherent to show that he was okay with that.
Thankfully, Anastasia did not reject the offer or even take time to think about it. Instead, she responded excitedly with a very wide smile that made her eyes go narrow, "Of course! I would love to spend some time with Ignotus. It is not like I have many other things to occupy my time with."
"Well, that is splendid then!" Healer Peverell said jovially then turned to look at Ignotus,"Do you believe you could handle the wheelchair or should I have someone help you with it? It is a little hard to deal with in the beginning, a bit heavy even. Never mind, I will assign someone to take care of that. You shall remain with Anastasia until I'm done then I will come take you and we shall tour the house as you please, alright?"
To that, Ignotus nodded and finally looked up from the ground and glanced at Anastasia who was smiling, still looking in his direction.
In minutes, a healer was accompanying the two of them and in silence, and they started to leave the house and head towards the garden.
In her chair, Anastasia was thinking about a way to break the silence, a thing to ask Ignotus about. She had always visualised herself talking to people, imagining her side of the conversation and constructing it carefully, weighing out the words in her head and, on several occasions, speaking them out to hear them for herself and decide whether they made her sound smart or did not.
Yet, there she was with an opportunity at a real conversation practically thrown at her, and she could not think of any topic to discuss. Nonetheless, she refused to comply to the silence that the boy next to her seemed to be enjoying and asked, "So you read books about potions, and you are interested in seeing a healing house... Are you hoping to become a healer?"
Ignotus seemed to be surprised by the question. His head bobbed up suddenly as he continued to walk beside her mobile chair, and he just looked at her blankly without saying anything.
Many seconds later, he shook his head, and Anastasia assumed he was saying 'no'.
"Why not? It is a very honourable profession; you would be able to save lives and prevent the lives of healthy people from worsening," Anastasia said.
"I..don't know," was Ignotus's response.
"If I were offered a chance, I would become a healer. This is not because I am sick or because I believe that if there are more healers then perhaps there would be fewer illnesses, no. But I would like to be someone who is as loved as Healer Peverell for example. To be someone that tells people that they are getting better and make them smile, and to give hope to people like me who believe that they do not have a chance to survive another month. It is... inspirational, I believe," Anastasia explained and after she was done talking, she felt as though she had sounded as smart as she did when she imagined herself talking in her head.
Anastasia wondered if Ignotus were to say anything in response; if he would agree or disprove or add another advantage to the list. She hoped that this would not just be another speaking rehearsal in front of the mirror for her.
Sadly though, Ignotus merely nodded in acknowledgement but did not say anything as the healer escorting them positioned the wheelchair beside a table in the garden and left them alone.
"So... besides reading, do you enjoy doing anything?" Anastasia asked him with a hopeful smile.
Ignotus seemed to give himself a moment to think about anything that he admired or anything that helped him pass time in glee as much as reading did, but apparently, he found nothing.
Therefore, he shook his head.
Mentally, Anastasia translated that into, "All I ever do is read."
Could not he have just said that instead of just moving his head?!
"I like to explore. I have already made notes on every type of plant and flower there is in this garden. Also, Healer Peverell said that he will help me learn about the clouds, and I shall take notes on those too. He also said that if I get any stronger, I could be let out and explore bigger and more important and unknown things. That is why I am hoping that they figure out what I am suffering from. I just want to explore," Anastasia told him happily.
There was an awkward pause that hung in the air for quite a while and Anastasia believed that there were no more words to be exchanged between her and the boy seated on a chair next to her. Nonetheless, Ignotus decided to bring out an element of surprise, and said, "I have something for you."
Although his words sounded abrupt and somehow forced, Anastasia admired the fact that he did not just remain silent. Then, she actually noticed what he had said and started to wonder about why he would get her something at all before she began to think about what he could have possibly brought her.
She watched in silence –as she was at loss for words– while Ignotus turned around to slide his backpack off his shoulders and pulled a blue box out of it. "This is for you," Ignotus told her as he reached over to hand her the box.
"I... don't understand," Anastasia said hesitantly while she slowly allowed her small hands to grasp the box. She looked at Ignotus with questions all over her face.
"Just open it," Ignotus managed to say and gave her an encouraging nod.
He watched her face closely as she slid the lid of the box and gently laid it down on the table beside her. When she smiled, and ran her hand over the cover of the book that was at the top, Ignotus smiled too.
"You said your birthday was soon, the other night," Ignotus said, trying to explain himself a little.
Anastasia neither knew what to say or what to think. Was he even supposed to bring a present to someone he did not truly know? Or did the fact that they had shared a conversation, no matter how brief, at a party and the fact that he remembered that she had said her birthday was soon and he came over to visit her with the gift in her hand account for some sort of acquaintance? No, they were not friends, but still... There was something there.
"They are new so I do not know how good they are; they do seem promising though," he added.
What Anastasia did not know back then was that this was no usual behaviour when it came to Ignotus. He was not the sort of a boy who would act on instinct or just head out and buy a present for someone he did not exactly know.
"This is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me," Anastasia said while she tried to hold back tears of joy. She seemed overwhelmed by Ignotus's actions."Thank you," she added with a genuine smile that made the tears slip out of the corners of her eyes and onto her dry, wrinkled skin.
With that, Ignotus returned to his semi-silent state as he watched Anastasia open one of the books and she started to read out loud.
Anastasia noticed the sky darken with clouds, but she did not care much. She was too happy, too endorsed in the book that she was reading to try and change anything about what she believed was a perfect setting.
"Val. Val..." I hear a voice call out for me but I am too distracted with watching the little kids play hopscotch with the Whomping Willow. If I look away, someone might get hurt and I will be the one held responsible. They seem to be laughing and enjoying themselves, and I am quite amused by just sitting a little farther away and watching them play around.
Behind them, the sky is grey and layered with heavy clouds that seem to sag down from the horizon. For a moment, I wonder if they could actually manage to descend to the ground.
"Val," the voice gently calls once again, drowned out by the children's giggles like a sound coming from below water. And for some reason, my neck hurts; perhaps from sitting up straight like this while taking care of the children all day, I think.
"I'm busy..." I say, feeling distracted from keeping an eye on the children by trying analyze the voice of the speaker.
"Valeria, wake up," the voice says and I feel a warm hand lightly touch my shoulder and shake me a little.
I open my eyes and find myself in the Manor's garden, seated in the same chair I was in the previous night. And then, I realise why my neck was hurting me in the dream about the Whomping Willow and the little kids, their silent giggles a fleeting image betweenmy thoughts.
"I'm... Ugh, what time is it?" I ask sleepily and turn around to the person who woke me up – Alphard. I notice that he is in his pyjamas – a very plain grey shirt and matching pants with a long blue striped robe on the top, and I could infer that it is either time for me to wake up or it is time for me to head to my room and sleep.
I take a look at the sky and notice that it bears the lightest shade of blue, and so I figure that it is probably very early.
"It's six in the morning," he responds, confirming my conjecture, his hand on my shoulder very warm in contrast to my shivering bare skin, and for some reason, his voice sounds more raspy than usual.
"What are you doing up at six?" I ask him, finding words heavy and hard to put together.
"I couldn't sleep. I passed by your room and it was empty, so I thought I'd come and look for you," Alphard explains and draws his hand away from my shoulder. Even while in my sleepy stupor, I find myself wishing that he hadn't.
"Is that a blanket?!" I ask once my eyes land on the big blue thing Alphard is holding in the hand that was not on my shoulder.
"Yes, I brought it in case I was unab-"
"You're an angel," I interrupt him, the words coming out of my mouth in some sort of a dreamy chant. Apparently, I am still half asleep. And, apparently, my attitude is freaking Alphard out because I notice him frowning at me and biting down his lip in thought.
I ignore his befuddlement, and I instantly get to my feet and grab the heavy blanket from him.
I unfold it and then lay it down on the grass. "Do you want to...?" I ask him as I lie down on the blanket. I want him to come lie down as well; perhaps a change of environment would help him get the sleep he is unable to find.
"I don't think I'm going to sleep," he tells me and pulls a small book out of his robe's pocket to show me how he is planning to spend his time. From a distance, I narrow my eyes and try to read the name of the book he is holding, but I fail to.
"Well, at least come and sit down here. It's really comfy," I tell him honestly, letting my body sink into the quilt.
"Yeah, alright..." he responds with a shrug and comes to sit next to me.
Without previous thought and quite instinctively, I lift my head then let it rest near his knee, using his leg as a pillow of a sort. Nonetheless, once I take note of what I have just done and realise that I may have crossed a line, considering how reclusive Alphard usually is, I ask him, "Am I bothering you?"
He doesn't say anything but just briefly shakes his head to indicate that he's okay with this.
After being assured by him, I allow myself to relax and relish how greatly comfortable this all is.
After a while of enjoying the time with silence as our third company, I decide that silence has stayed for too long and that I am starting to get bored of hearing nothing but the awakening birds.
"Can you read out loud? For me?" I request gently and in a sleepy voice.
"I'm midway through the book," he responds and looks down to meet my eyes.
"I don't care," I mumble and take in a deep breath, the cold air tickling my lungs. "Please?"
"Yeah, sure. Why not?" he says and begins to read.
As Alphard starts, I'm focused, trying to catch up on what the book is talking about or what is happening in the scene he is reading to me. But I can't. All I can focus on is how calming his voice is as it glides over the words and slowly goes through sentences. Alongside the chirping of the rising songbirds and the sound that the morning breeze makes as it comes in contact with the leaves of the trees, something melodious slowly starts to get composed around me, and I let myself sink into sleep as I admire it.
When I wake up, Alphard is exactly the way I had left him when there was no sun in the sky, and I wonder if he had move at all during the past few hours. Then, I wonder how long it has been since I had fallen asleep next to him.
"You're still here," I mumble and squint at the sun as I try to see his face.
Alphard smiles at me and says, "I told you I wasn't going to sleep."
Unsure what to say, I just smile at him without even trying to.
I sit up and bring my very long blonde hair to one side of my head and crane my neck a little. After a few moments, Alphard changes his position and lies down. Next to him, I see the book that he was reading to me from before I fell asleep and a sheet of paper and a pen under it.
I guess Alphard has noticed what I am looking at and he says, "Oh yes, I've written that anecdote you wanted. I haven't finished it all, but the most important part of it is written. You can have a look at it if you want to."
I could tell that he is very amused, and I cannot really tell why. Had it been anyone else, anyone who has stayed sitting still for hours and has not got any sleep, they would have been very grumpy and irritable.
As I do not need a second invitation, I slowly pull the paper from under the book and I start to read it. By the time I am done reading it, I look at Alphard so I could thank him but find him asleep. Or maybe he is just lying down with his eyes closed? I couldn't tell, but I decide not to bother him anyway and I go bring the laptop from the table nearby. I put it down on the blanket as it turns on and I lie down in front of it on my stomach, preparing myself to finally write something.
I have an idea.
"But… Father, I do not need someone to follow me around the care center. I am not a child, and I could take care of myself. Besides, Uncle is going to be there. You do not need to worry about me," Ignotus argued, composed and organized.
Ignotus believed that his father was taking unnecessary measures to ensure his well-being. The young boy would not have minded that if his father had done the same with Antioch and Cadmus, which he did not. Ignotus had already been feeling that he was less than his brothers but he did not admire having that reinforced by his father.
"Do not object, Ignotus, dear; it is quite impolite," Beatrice interjected with a calm yet warning voice. "Do as your father says. And I am certain the Milly shall not interfere with your activities with your friend Anastasia. She will just be around to ensure that nothing happens to you."
"If you do decide to object, you are more than welcome to remain at home," his father said sternly.
As Ignotus caught a glimpse of his brothers watching him get that mild lecture, which was quite a rare occasion, he decided to comply to his father's wishes despite his bitterness toward them.
"Alright. I am sorry for objecting, Father," Ignotus apologized and gave a brief nod.
"Milly," the father said, summoning the tiny house-elf to the mansion's door, next to which they were standing. " Ignotus is ready to go to the care house. Take him there and bring him back here to the mansion by dinner time. And keep an eye on him."
"Milly does as master wishes," Milly said and bowed down then opened the door for Ignotus to walk through.
Ignotus liked Milly; sometimes, when he had questions or was thinking of something and needed an opinion, he would talk to her. Yet, on their short walk from the Peverell mansion to the care house, he had not shared a single word with her as he was still quite angry about how easily his father had disregarded his wishes for independence and self-reliance.
Quite unlike himself, he felt the need to vent out, to let the anger seep out of his head. Usually, he was able to maintain keeping it all in until it had toned down, and he thought himself quite skilful at taming his emotions. But this time, he found it very hard to even take the first step towards doing so.
"Well, you look like a kid on Christmas Eve," was the first thing Anastasia said as Ignotus walked into her room. She was lying in bed, looking weak and yellow as ever. And for some reason, Ignotus believed that her cheekbones seemed more prominent that day.
Ignotus ignored her comment and got closer to the bed. "How are you today, Anastasia?" Ignotus asked her gently.
"I am fine, I think. But they say my temperature is a little high today…" she responded with a shrug and bit her bottom lip which was fleshy pink. "I do not need to ask you about how you are. You seem morbid –and yes, I have just learned this word the previous night," she added with a smile.
"I am okay," was Ignotus 's response.
"You are frowning, Ignotus," she said in a manner of arguing. When Ignotus did not say anything and just silently took a seat next to her bed, she asked, "What happened? Did Antioch hurt you?"
Ignotus just shook his head and looked at the ground.
"What is it then? I am bored, and I could help you; if only you could tell me the story," Anastasia said calmly.
The two children's friendship had developed greatly over the past few weeks. Every few days, Ignotus would come with either Milly or his uncle and he would spend time with Anastasia. At first, his father did not necessarily approve of the acquaintance as Anastasia did not belong in the family's social circle. Yet, Beatrice had managed to convince her husband that to have Ignotus befriend someone at all was great progress for him and that they should not interfere. After all, he would have had to leave for Hogwarts in a few years, and Anastasia would have had to remain in the care center due to her medical condition.
Nonetheless, his uncle very well approved of the friendship; he may have even encouraged it as he believed that Anastasia had a chance at becoming more clinging to life if she had company and people who made her want to continue to live.
"My father underestimates me, Asha," Ignotus finally admitted to her. "He does not believe that I am capable of anything. Yet, he lets Antioch and Cadmus do as they desire. I am not much younger than them."
Asha was the name they had both come up with after deciding that Anastasia, although quite a beautiful name, was a mouthful. Asha was just easier to say.
Anastasia gave him a nod of encouragement, hoping that he would elaborate, that he would tell her a story with details and conversations. He never really did that, but as every day dawned upon her, she hoped that Ignotus would grow more comfortable around her and start to share more things with her.
When he did not respond, Anastasia suggested, "Perhaps he just cares for you too much and he does not want to see you get hurt…"
"So he just cages me up as a bird? Like a house-elf?"
After Ignotus let that last part of his sentence slip, a wave of guilt rushed through him. Milly was there in the room with them and she had just heard that. "I am sorry, Milly. I did not mean it in an offensive manner, I promise," he quickly apologized as he turned to look at her.
With that said, Milly started to tear up then began to hit her head against the door, screaming out something about how her master should not apologize to her.
"Oh Lord," Ignotus mumbled and swiftly got to his feet. He rushed to the door and tried to pull Milly away from the door by the shoulders. "Milly, stop it, please!" he plead.
"MASTER SHOULD NOT ASK PERMISSION OF MILLY! MILLY IS BAD! BAD MILLY! BAD!" she continued to shriek and unleashed herself from Ignotus 's grasp. This time, she picked up one of Anastasia's books and started to hit herself on the head with it.
"Dear Lord, Milly. Stop it! I order you to stop it," Ignotus commanded sternly, and immediately, Milly placed the book down on the small table by the door. She slowly walked to a corner of the room, stood there, and continued to sob and mumble words of regret to herself.
"That was truly scary," Anastasia told Ignotus as she relaxed into her bed once again. Apparently, she had sat up to see what had happened.
"See what I mean? I do not believe house-elves should be ordered so harshly nor forced into doing anything. No one should be forced to do something they do not wish to do," Ignotus said to Anastasia then returned to looking at the wooden floor of the room. "It does not make sense," he added quietly. "I should not be forced to feel guilty just for wanting something my parents do not believe I should want."
Anastasia did not know why, but for some reason, she found that Ignotus admitting to what he believed so confidently was a good thing, something that he did not usually do. She just wished that he would let his thoughts out to those whom the thoughts were meant for.
A few months later, Ignotus 's habit to go and visit Anastasia had become more of an addiction than a habit. If his plans to go and visit her were sabotaged because of rain or because Milly was occupied with some other task she had been given, he would get upset and he would just lock himself up in his room. They had been friends for four months now, and as Ignotus had hoped, they were to remain that close for a lot longer than just a year.
One day, Ignotus was waiting for Anastasia to return from some department in the care house that he was not allowed to; he was sitting in the chair that has now become his and had a book in his lap. It was about diseases and treatments, and as his uncle had told him, it was for beginners. Ignotus was wondering whether he was capable of finding out something about Anastasia's illness that someone else had not, if he would find something that would help her survive. Also, he had convinced himself that even if he did not manage to do that after reading this book then he would read more and learn more until he would. He believed he could do it. And, above all of that, he believed that he would learn a lot of things from such books, and would be able to help Anastasia the way the house's healers did.
He would take her out for a walk outside of the centre like she had told him she wanted to; he would take her out so she could explore, and he would be able to take care of her.
"Do you think that I look beautiful, Ignotus?" that was the first thing Anastasia said after she returned to her room. She was standing in front of the room's single mirror that sat atop her dressing table. " Ignotus?"
"Yes, I think so," was all Ignotus said in response. After all, why would he say more if that was all she had asked about?
"But I do not look like the other girls. I haven't beautiful long hair, or a tall, lean body... I have throbbing veins and bulging bones," she said as she traced her overly prominent collarbone with her small and short index finger. "Even my hands do not look nice."
"Beauty is not everything; that is what my mother always says. She says we must work so we would be worth something. And you are beautiful enough, Asha; I promise."
Although Anastasia was not necessarily convinced, she could not help but smile at her friend and turned away from the mirror.
"You seem thoughtful today," Anastasia pointed out. In response, Ignotus looked up from the book he was holding and looked at her instead. "You weren't moving your eyes; you were thinking."
Ignotus frowned, not knowing at all how she managed to notice such subtle things.
"When you have to remain in an empty room with hardly any company, you learn to notice things," she explained. She had got used to understanding what Ignotus wanted to say without having him put it out verbally. At times, she would guess the wrong thought, but usually, she was correct.
"I have done magic," he told her briefly, sounding quite nonchalant.
"Have you now?" she asked excitedly as she seated herself down on her bed. "That's wonderful, Ignotus! Isn't that exciting?!"
She waited for him to say anything, to tell a story; nonetheless, as always, she had to draw the words out of him herself. "So how did it happen? Did you break a plate? Had Antioch rolled up in a rug? Have you made something fly?" the nine-year-old asked her friend enthusiastically.
"No, it was nothing that thrilling," Ignotus responded.
"Well, I do want to hear about it all the same," Anastasia assured him with an encouraging smile.
"I woke up in the middle of the night, and I was scared. It was all dark, and all of a sudden, I made the candles across the room light up."
Quite disappointed by how unenthusiastically Ignotus had told the story and how he had deprived it from details, she asked him, "Why did you wake up to begin with?"
"I was having a bad dream, I think," he responded briefly.
"I am not sure I remember, Asha," Ignotus said honestly. "All I am certain of is that I made those candles light up because I had to walk all the way over to the table to blow them out. And on my way back, I stumbled and fell; I woke up this morning with a bruise on my knee. This is how I am sure it was all real."
As Anastasia prepared herself to congratulate her best friend for finally showing his magical abilities, there was a loud crack.
"Milly..." Ignotus mumbled to himself and turned around to find out that the corner Milly usually occupied was empty, as he had expected.
"Oh no! I'm so sorry, Ignotus! How did we forget that she was present?" Anastasia said as she slowly got to her feet, horrified.
"Do not apologise; you have done nothing wrong," Ignotus told her, attempting to remain composed.
He had known for quite a while why his father had been keeping a close eye on him. After all, Milly followed him practically everywhere, even at home. Even when Ignotus was all alone in his room, with no company other than his books, Milly would be there in a corner, quiet yet alert. When he had found out, he discussed it all with Anastasia and decided that he would pretend to still be oblivious to all of that. Lucky for them, that day, Milly had gone to fetch Ignotus 's coat from inside.
"No, you were telling me the story," Anastasia argued.
"I was telling you the story willingly because you are my best friend and because I needed to share this with someone. And I only have you," Ignotus told her, trying to calm her down as well.
Except that he was not calm; as composed as he tried to appear, he was entirely scared. What was to happen now that he had finally become like everyone else, now that he had no setback to keep him special?
"Do you think they will throw you a party?" Anastasia asked.
"I don't –" Ignotus was interrupted by another loud crack as Milly returned to the room.
"Master wishes to see young master in Mansion. Milly is sorry, young master. She means no harm to young master. Milly is sorry," Milly said in her thin voice that seemed even thinner as though she was choking or something as such.
"It is alright, Milly; it is not your fault. You were forced to do it, as I am forced to leave with you right now," Ignotus told Milly as he got up and started to button up his coat. "I will write to you, Asha, as soon as I could and let you know of what happened."
"Thank you," Anastasia said with a nod, a concerned expression on her face.
"I shall see you later," he told her as he took Milly's hand, and saw Anastasia disappear as another loud crack came.
A/N: My, has it been a while? Well, I've been insanely busy with exams and have been hindered by lack of motivation. But I've missed my babies and I hope you've enjoyed this chapter. We're going to focus on the Peverells these couple of chapters and I'm excited about it.
Do let me know what you think, please. It always helps! :D