Chapter 1 : One
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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.