He wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing back home so soon. Well, technically it wasn’t his real home. Home for Quinn Swift had been destroyed with two deaths and an arrest nearly eight years ago. No, he wasn’t really home and truth be told, the home where his mother and sister had been murdered would never be home again.
But still, the question of what he was doing back at his grandparents’ home so soon still needed answering. And to be honest, Quinn wasn’t really sure he knew the answer. What he did know was that he should have been traveling the world with Felix and Roni, his two best friends. The tradition for most recent graduates of Hogwarts was to take a year long trip around the world, since it was a good experience for young witches and wizards to be able to visit and appreciate other cultures and ways of life. Quinn would be joining them later that week when they headed to Spain, but it didn’t answer why he wasn’t with them now.
He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He really should have left Roni and Felix alone. It was downright cruel to make those two travel alone together, especially since Roni was known to curse anything in sight when she got frustrated and Felix had a thing for frustrating her.
“So what are you doing here dear?” his grandmother asked as the house elf served them tea and biscuits. “Not that I’m not glad to see you,” she added with a grin.
“I’m not entirely sure,” he answered honestly. “I’m actually trying to figure that out now.” He thanked the house elf and sipped his tea. It had that perfect balance between sugar and milk. Even after all these years, Blinky remembered exactly how to make a great cup of tea.
“Well, you can take all the time you need to figure it out,” she said happily. “It’ll be nice having you home again, if only for a short time.”
Quinn nodded, but said nothing. He had lived here for eight years and still it didn’t feel like home. At home his mother had baked cookies and tucked him in at night with a kiss on the forehead. Ellie had teased him and had been teased in return. And his father – No. Quinn wouldn’t think about him. As far as Quinn was concerned he had no father.
“Your sister is upstairs.”
Quinn blinked twice, and then remembered that school had ended for Isabella that week. His grandparents had been adamant about Isabella attending muggle school instead of being home schooled, since they wanted her to socialize with other’s her age. While he had attempted to convince them otherwise (he was nervous she would accidentally perform magic) he had been overruled. But, no matter. Things had worked out for the best and, now that he was of age, he would be able to play more of a role in decisions concerning her upbringing.
“I’ll go up and see her,” he said as he put his cup of tea down on the coffee table. Upon noticing his grandmother’s look, he sighed and placed it on a coaster.
“Thank you dear,” she said sweetly as he left the room.
He took the stairs two at a time and, upon reaching her bedroom door, he knocked twice and entered. The walls were a pale yellow color and the wooden floor was covered with a dark blue rug. Picture frames, some with muggle photos of her school friends, hung on the walls. As he stepped into the room, an angry orange and white cat hissed and swiped at his feet. “Lovely to see you too Caspian,” Quinn said as he rolled his eyes.
“Quinn!” A moment later a bundle of color had slammed into his mid-section. He released a burst of air and doubled over, his arms automatically going around the tiny person. “I knew
you wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye! I knew it!”
“Can’t breathe squirt,” he gasped. Isabella released him and he surveyed her as he attempted to catch his breath. She looked the same as the last time he had seen her; the same dark brown hair, same freckles sprinkling her nose, and the same round blue eyes. “How was school?” he asked as he massaged his ribs.
“It was alright,” she answered with a shrug. “Timmy Hollander tried to kiss me during lunch, so I shoved his face into his pudding.”
“Why didn’t you shove him into your pudding?”
“Because then I’d have nothing for dessert,” she answered simply. Quinn snorted. “What’s so funny?” she demanded with a scowl.
“Nothing,” he said, attempting to hide his grin. “Anything else worth mentioning?”
“No,” she said after a moment. She walked towards one side of her room as Quinn watched her. She had lined her dolls up on two sides. As he watched, Isabella sat down in between them and proceeded to have the dolls wage war against one another, complete with narration.
“Die you dirty fool!” she screeched as one doll waved its wand, fashioned out of a twig from the yard, at another doll. She dropped the second doll to the floor and kicked it with her toe as she made groaning noises.
“Which side are the good guys?” Quinn asked as he shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels.
“Neither,” she said as she focused her attentions on the brutal torture of another doll.
“That side seems awfully mean to the other.”
“They need to be punished,” she said calmly. “Yesterday they blew up their block city.”
Quinn looked towards the corner. Sure enough, there was what appeared to be the remains of a city made of building blocks. He shot her a curious look, as if he weren’t quite sure they were related. “Don’t you want to play something else?” he asked. “Like hide and seek or tea party? Something normal?”
Isabella shot him a glare. “No,” she said scornfully.
“Because I’d rather punish my dolls,” she replied firmly.
“But, Bella,” he said a bit impatiently, “this isn’t the type of game I want you playing.”
“You’re not my mum.”
“As I’m aware,” he said nastily as he rolled his eyes. “Can you just put the dolls down and look at me for a second?” She did as he asked, though the stormy expression on her face spoke volumes of how willing she was to do so. “I don’t want you playing that sort of game. It’s not appropriate.”
“And what would
be appropriate?” she asked with a sneer.
“Watch that attitude,” he said sternly.
“You never do. Why should I?”
“Because I’m your elder and you need to respect me,” he said. He shook his head. He was starting to sound an awful lot like his sister lately. Isabella snorted, rolled her eyes, and turned back to her dolls. “Did I say you could keep playing?”
“What do you want?” she asked angrily.
“For you to shut up and pay attention,” he snapped. He took a deep breath and reminded himself to stay calm, which was easier said than done. The eight year-old was infuriating. “Look,” he began, “I don’t like when you play games like that. It’s not funny.”
“I never said it was,” she said sullenly.
“Then why do you play it?”
“Because I want to.”
Quinn momentarily wondered if he had acted up that much at her age. He shook his head briefly. Of course he hadn’t. Isabella was just spoiled rotten was all. “Well, you’re going to stop playing that game because I want you to,” he said firmly.
He ignored the look on her face and turned to leave the room before she could say anything else. As he turned, he caught sight of a flicker of light emitting from her neck. He paused and looked more closely. “What are you wearing?” he asked.
“Clothes. What else would I be wearing?” she asked bitterly.
“I mean around your neck?” he asked as he took a step towards her. The glint disappeared and a silver locket was revealed. “Where did you get that?” he asked as he froze in place.
“Why do you want to know?” Isabella answered.
“Because it’s not your’s,” he said, holding out his hand. “Did you get that from my room?”
“No,” she said, her eyes darting around the room quickly.
“Give it to me.”
“I found it,” she said, clutching it protectively. “It’s mine!”
“No, it isn’t,” he said icily. “Give it to me Isabella.”
“No! Finders keepers!”
“Give it to me!”
“Give me that locket Isabella Verina!” he bellowed.
“Why?” she yelled back. Quinn paused. There were tears in Isabella’s eyes and she looked torn between fury and fear.
“Because it doesn’t belong to you,” Quinn finally answered, swallowing over a lump in his throat.
“I found it! Who else would it belong to?”
“It-” he said, stopping short. He could still see the flash of fear that had darted through her eyes that night, could still her clammy hand in his after all these years. “It doesn’t matter. Just give it here.”
“No,” Isabella said, turning her body away from him as he stepped towards her. “Whose was it?”
He shut his eyes and squeezed them tight. There she was, darting through the halls of their home in front of him, pulling him and the stupid hated bundle in his arms along with her. He could hear their breathing in the silence of the home.
“Why is it so important?” she asked. He kept his eyes shut. “Why is it so important for me to give it to you?”
“I need you to get to Grandma and Grandpa Swift’s,”
she had said “Do you trust me?”
he had answered.
“Then trust that I know what I’m doing and don’t ask questions.”
Had she known that was the last time she would see them? Quinn had thought about it often for the past eight years and had come to the conclusion that she had. He didn’t know what bothered him more; that she died to save him or that she had lied about the impeding outcome.
Quinn opened his eyes. Isabella was still standing there, a frown on her face as she clutched the locket. There were tears in her eyes, but he knew she wouldn’t allow them to fall. It wasn’t in her nature to cry.
“It belonged to someone important,” he said wearily.
“You mean mum?”
He didn’t answer. He never answered when she asked questions about their family. How was he supposed to tell her that Isaac had caused the deaths of his wife and daughter? He looked at her more closely. She would find out eventually, whether he told her or not and Quinn would rather have her hear it from him than anyone else. So, with a sigh, he sank onto her bed and placed his forehead into his hand.
“What do you know about our family?” he asked at last.
“Dad did something bad and mum and Ellie are dead,” she answered, sounding as if she were reading from a script. It sent shivers along his spine.
“Do you know what he did?” Quinn asked, refusing to refer to him as his father.
“No,” she answered as she shook her head. “Nana and Poppa wouldn’t tell me when I ask.”
Quinn took a deep breath to steady himself. “When you were just a little baby,” he began, “there were some bad people called Death Eaters who didn’t like muggles and muggle-born witches and wizards.” He paused to collect himself, refusing to meet her curious gaze. How was he supposed to tell her what he knew?
“What happened?” she asked. “Quinn, why is dad in jail?”
He sighed and ran a hand down the left side of his face. “He’s in jail because he was going to do some bad things for the Death Eaters,” Quinn began cautiously. “You know what snitching is?”
She nodded. “Erin Hilburn was going to snitch on me for pushing Timmy Stewart’s face into his pudding, but I said I’d do it to her too if she did.”
Quinn ignored her. “Well, what Isaac was going to do was a lot like snitching. He was going to tell the Death Eaters where the families of some muggle-borns were and they were going to do some bad things to them.”
“Like kill them?”
He barely managed to nod.
“Is that why he’s in prison?”
He nodded again. “Yes,” he answered. “That’s why Isaac is in prison.”
Isabella looked thoughtful for a moment. “Did they kill him?” she asked with all the curiosity of an eight year-old.
“No,” Quinn said with all the bitterness of a world-weary man. “No. He’s still in prison.”
“With the Dementors?”
“Good,” Isabella nodded as she sat beside him.
“Indeed,” he answered. He ran a hand through his hair. “What do you know about Ellie?”
“She was our sister,” Isabella said with a shrug. “Poppa said she didn’t really smile, but that when she did it lit up the entire room.”
Quinn grinned. That certainly sounded like his sister. “Well, Ellie was friends with one of the people on the list,” he said. “She didn’t want her friend to get hurt, so she turned Isaac in.”
“In essence, yes,” he admitted. “But it was a good thing she did. She saved a lot of innocent people.”
They fell silent. Quinn looked at Isabella. A tiny v-shaped crease had formed between her eyebrows as she thought. “So what happened to her?”
“She died,” Quinn said bluntly, not knowing how else to word it. “The bad people didn’t like that she turned him in, so they killed her and Arabella.”
Isabella’s face had turned slightly white, but she nodded. “Why did dad do that?”
Quinn dropped his gaze. He felt his hands clench into fists and it was only when he noticed that his knuckles had turned white that he relaxed them. “We went through a rough patch a little before you were born,” he said, wondering how much was ok to tell her. Sure, she was mature for her age, but she was only eight, nine in July.
He ran a hand through his hair, fixing her with a long look. She looked calm enough to him, but how long would that last? “Ellie,” he stumbled over her name, “got into some trouble with mum and dad. They were very strict and she wasn’t allowed to date.”
“But she did?”
“Yes,” he confirmed.
“That isn’t too bad. Erin Hilburn’s sister Alex does it all the time and she never gets into trouble,” Isabella said. “Why would she get in trouble for that?”
Quinn made a mental note to curse her natural curiosity later. “Has Nana told you what happens when two people fall in love?” he asked.
Her cheeks began to burn and she looked away awkwardly. “Yeah,” she mumbled.
“Well, that’s what they did,” he said simply. “When Ellie told them, they were furious. They were worried about what would happen to her reputation if anyone found out.”
“And that’s why dad was going to snitch?” she asked.
Quinn nodded his head. She didn’t need to know about Livia Greengrass, at least not now. That could wait until later. He had more important things to tell her.
“It wouldn’t have been such a problem if it weren’t for one tiny thing,” he said.
“What was that?”
Quinn took a breath. “You,” he said simply enough.
Isabella merely stared at him. “Me?” she asked, slightly confused.
“Yes,” he said calmly as he looked into her eyes. “Bella, Arabella and Isaac aren’t your parents.”
“Yes they are,” she said stubbornly.
“No, they aren’t,” he replied, still calm. “Arabella and Isaac are your grandparents.”
She merely blinked at him a few times. “But, Nana and Poppa are my grandparents,” she said skeptically.
“No,” he answered. “Ellie, my sister, was your mother.”
“No,” the girl said, a bit wilder than before. “You’re a liar! Why are you lying?”
“I’m not,” he said. “Have you looked in the locket?”
“What?” she asked genuinely confused at the change of topic. “No.”
“If you want to know the truth then open the locket.”
The girl looked at him for a few moments, but slowly lifted the locket to her face. Quinn could still see the faint outline of a claddagh on the cover. She struggled with the clasp, but managed to pop the cover open. He looked over her shoulder. There, protected by a thin sheet of glass, was a photo. He watched as Ellie smiled and waved at the camera with one hand, the other resting on her stomach. . . her very pregnant stomach. Quinn remembered the day his mother had taken it. It had been only a week or two later that Isabella had been born and Ellie was in a better than usual mood. She had actually stayed still for the picture, instead of ducking out of sight or attempting to hide her baby bump.
Isabella looked up at him, her anxiety clearly showing on her face. “It’s true?” she asked. It was more of a statement than a question.
“Yes,” he answered. “Ellie was your mum.”
“But why?” she asked. “Why didn’t I know?”
Quinn looked back at the photo. It pained him to see her nestled there, forever young and unaware that she would be dead in less than a year. “To protect her reputation, our parents decided that they would tell everyone that you were their child.” He paused for a moment, waiting to see if she would say anything. When she didn’t, he continued. “Luckily enough, Ellie’s bump wasn’t very big until June when school ended. She was able to use a series of charms to help hide it until she was home for the summer holidays. That’s when they informed everyone that Arabella was pregnant and that Ellie had Dragon pox.”
He stared at the photo for another long moment, silently wishing his sister was still alive. How much easier would everything have been if she were? For starters, he wouldn’t be the eldest in the family, responsible for looking after Isabella.
He sighed and shook his head. “Everyone thought that my mum was on bed rest and having a bad pregnancy. No one was allowed to visit, not even family and my parents made Blinky and me swear to secrecy when it was impossible to hide the secret anymore.”
Isabella tapped the glass containing the photo. “Then why are you telling me?”
It was a question he wasn’t sure how to answer. “I don’t know,” he said honestly enough. He looked down at her. She was entirely calm now and completely absorbed in the photo. He envied the fact that she was still young enough to accept anything he said as fact. “You remind me of her sometimes,” he said.
She turned her head to face him. “Really?” she asked.
“Yes. You’re just as stubborn as she was.”
“I highly doubt that,” she answered disdainfully. Quinn had to choke back his laughter and sadness. She sounded just like Ellie when she said that.
The girl took one last look at the photo, before snapping the cover shut. As she did, Quinn felt as if he were shutting the cover on a chapter of his own life. For eight long years, he had mourned for his mother and sister, resented his father, and done his best to protect his niece from the truth. Now, as he watched her examine the locket, he realized none of that was necessary anymore. For better or for worse, Isabella knew the truth. What she did with that knowledge was for her to decide.
“Quinn?” she asked timidly.
“Yeah?” he answered.
“Did Ellie – I mean, my mum, – did she love me?” She looked embarrassed about the question, but more than that she looked worried about what the answer might be.
Quinn took a deep breath. “More than you can possibly know,” he answered.
IT'S OVER!!!!! How odd does that seem my dearest readers? To everyone who has read the story, I say thank you, to everyone who has read and reviewed you are awesome (and your reviews were so much fun to read), and to everyone who has read, reviewed, and put up with me telling them about what I have planned next you are a saint.
The sequel to "Lineage," "Allegiance," is currently being posted. If you liked this story, then definitely check it out!
Thank you to all!
- Anders -