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Chapter 16

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Something pings against her wards.

Poppy Evans frowns, teeth scraping across the flesh of her lip, thumb stroking across little Sol's cheek.

It's been five hours since Lily left for her own home, though not without having been sworn to temporary secrecy. It's not exactly something she'll be able to hide from Pot… from James and from Sirius when they inadvertently turn up to gawk, but it will give her a few hours of peace.

Lily had also promised that she would ensure the two numbskulls would be coming over at a reasonable time the next day, probably somewhere around evening.

Perhaps Remus might join them, but Poppy doesn't find herself terribly close to the werewolf, nor (thankfully) has she found herself within the company of Peter Pettigrew more than once. That sole time she'd arrived at the Potter household and found him there, she'd turned right back around and walked out.

She knows the Marauders had simply shrugged and put it down to her weirdness, but the truth is, Poppy is honestly weighing the concept of Obliviate, Imperius or Avada Kedavra in a three-way duel of what option would be her best bet. Pettigrew couldn't possibly be a Death Eater yet… there's not been enough secrets let slip, the Order aren't yet suspicious of a spy because they still welcome Remus (their prime suspect should such a thing come to light) with open arms.

Maybe Voldemort seeks the weak link out personally in the face of the prophecy. Maybe it goes down in some other way. Poppy's not sure.

And in all honesty, it's incredibly difficult to focus on much other than the tiny little life that blazes so brightly in her arms.

The wards ping again and Poppy scowls.

"Dolly? Who is that at the wards?"

Because to be present at the wards one has to know where her little house is, and to know that, someone must have blabbed.

"Miss Red, it be's…" the little house elf trails off, her bulbous eyes flicking to Sol's slumbering form and that's all the implication Poppy needs.

"Take him to the nursery please, Dolly, and though I doubt it'll come to it, if things go sour, take him to Lily for me?"

"Then Dolly's be's back to help youes."

Somehow, Poppy manages a small, terrible brittle smile. It feels like frost upon her face and honestly, she dreads to think how it'd look.

How strange, a year ago this is exactly how she had felt going through the motions at Hogwarts; dragging her feet, slugging through the necessary motions the remain in that world, to have the access to all that magic. Magic that will keep both herself and her sister alive.

Regulus had been the escape back then, that little slice of her life that wasn't dictated by what the future would bring. There'd been no strings attached, nothing that she could possibly pull on that would affect the tangled knotwork to come in a few years.

Only, there had been strings, and now they're ironically tied together by blood, of all things. It's unbelievable, especially given Regulus' thoughts on the subject, but there's no denying Sol's existence.

There's only two questions, how did Regulus find out, and why had he come to her, risking his rouse of being 'dead' in the process?

She shouldn't feel nervous, it's not exactly like she's done anything wrong, but Poppy still palms her wand with a frown, eyeing the door to her bedroom. It's not exactly like she can ignore him, meeting him on her own turf is probably for the best. Sucking in a deep breath, Poppy holds it tight within her chest, letting the new-baby smell that Sol is constantly surrounded with fill her senses.

Then she hands her tiny child to Dolly and makes for the hallway.

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On the boundary of her ward lines, Regulus Black stands with a blank face, two bruised cheeks, and windswept hair.

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Poppy'd had no idea just how damningly awkward this would be.

It's been just short of ten months since they'd last seen one another; skin once perfectly pale now holds the slightest hint of tan, hair once perfectly coiffed now falls naturally tousled. It's always been acknowledged that Sirius is the more attractive Black brother, but if Regulus continues this new trend of looking better each time she sees him, then perhaps what had once been a chasm of difference will soon become a small fissure.

The eyes are still the same though, that same intense, guarded grey that's utterly focused upon her.

Neither of them have spoken a word, not since Poppy adjusted the wards to allow the Black entry.

She doesn't make tea, doesn't offer it. The little distractions like that have never come between the two of them before, it'd be stupid to start now. There'd never been a buffer when they collided, when one had pulled the other into a vacant classroom, into a dead-end corridor. It'd always been abrupt lightning sparking along a raw nerve, electric and painful.

But hell, had she never been more aware she was alive than in that moment.

It's Regulus that breaks the silence, lips parting and jaw working once and he swallows, the dry sound echoing a moment before he speaks.

"He's a half-blood. Riddle. The Dark Lord."

His face scrunches up as he spits out that title, a grimace upon his face. Regulus' hands are in his hair, elbows balanced upon his knees as he hunches forwards. Upon her comfortable sofa, surrounded by the backdrop of her Hufflepuff themed living room, he looks at home, if somewhat stressed.

Not that she'll ever tell him that first bit.

He looks more at home than she's felt in her entire life.

"I'm not a changed man, nor am I about to pretend I am. But Riddle- everything I've ever believed in has been proven wrong, and while I can't promise a blank slate, I do want to try and draw my own conclusions."

It goes unsaid that what his family have forced down his throat is clearly incorrect. That he's reached a decisive moment in his life and been forced to face some hard truths.

Poppy can hear the undercurrent; if he's going to fuck up this time, it'll be because of his own decisions, not theirs.

It doesn't mean Poppy is sitting here, suddenly determined to show Regulus the wonders of the muggle world. Both worlds have different environments, different inventions, but they're unquestionably filled with disappointing people. There's no shortage of greedy people ready to corrupt themselves for power.

Poppy isn't exactly a good person herself, but it's not power she wants.

In all honesty, she doesn't know what she wants from life, beyond Lily alive and Sol healthy and happy.

But she's not willing to risk Regulus slipping through her fingers before she's figured out where he fits in. If he's offering to try something here, could she do the same? It's like she's ever tried to play fair, not at any point in this life she's got.

"You're not just here for Sol?" Poppy asks and it's the first time she's said her son's name aloud since announcing it to Lily.

Regulus' jaw work again, the line a sharp relief against his neck.

"You should have told me."

"You were in hiding."

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He's remembering now, what exactly it was that drove him so damn crazy when it comes to Evans.

She's undeniably stubborn, this ridiculous little creature that seems to believe she can take on the world alone, nothing but a wand and a house elf to aid her.

And a child to protect now.

Regulus hasn't seen him yet, but he knows somewhere in this house is a little person he made (however unintentionally) with Evans.

Evans whose blue eyes sear like frostburn, no longer underlined by little puddles of dark skin. She must be sleeping better, even if her skin has become paler. She's winter, all pale skin and frozen blue eyes, skin clear and glistening in the sun.

As usual, she doesn't fit in with her environment, looking all too self-assured and out of place.

Before he'd just chalked it up to her status as a mudblood, had just decided she didn't look like she belonged because she didn't, because she was invading a world in which she had no place. But that'd never been true.

Even here, in the blatantly Hufflepuff surroundings, she's spellfire in the dark, viciously vivid.

"So, what, are you attempting to offer starting a relationship?" Evans says, reclining back in her seat, the weight of her thoughts etched across her brow. One set of fingers drum against the arm of her chair, legs crossed as if she were sitting upon the floor instead of a large armchair.

The lack of proper posture has him wanting to twitch and Regulus has to push down the urge to snap at her for it.

"We have a child," Regulus reminds her sternly, watching as Evans' lips lift in a bitter, mocking smile.

"So? It's not like he'll be the first child born from parents not in a loving relationship."

That's one of the greatest truths that Regulus has heard in recent weeks. After all, his own parents had been pushed together for the good of the bloodline, they'd never even managed to become friends, barely tolerating one another.

Even this mess he's had with Evans has more to it than that; he might have been disgusted in her background, in her bloodline, (it's still not something he finds himself comfortable with, like the ice cold that comes with trying to climb a mountain) but Evans isn't exactly all good and golden either. She's only ever taken what she wanted from him, even if it had only ever been him.

They'd had little real consideration for one another and while Regulus has never seen a relationship not built upon the concept of blood and alliances, surely Evans should know better, should know what to look for.

Yet, she'd still gone chasing after this with him. Well, perhaps chasing is not the right word.

She'd still stumbled alongside into the same corridor, the one with the collapsed exit, even though she'd known it'd never go anywhere.

Only, here they are, each of them having no interest in anyone but the other and really, what else is there to do but try for a relationship? The things that'd been holding him back no longer matter, especially not given Sol's very existence. His parents, the rest of the Black family cannot possibly be more enraged than they already would be; he might as well throw himself whole-heartedly into this.

"I don't know how a loving relationship works, Evans. I've seen them from a distance, but..." but there'd always been something wrong with them, is what he mentally finishes with.

Like Potter and Evans' older sister, they'd had so much history there, Potter always chasing after her and her rebuffing him yet, somehow, they've ended up married. It doesn't make any sense to him; there'd been no advantages for Potter to gain, nothing but a tainted bloodline from a girl who had no interest in him, until suddenly she did.

There'd been a constant steadiness to their interaction though.

Unlike himself and Evans, every reaction between the two of them had been volatile, two inconstant elements exposed to one another.

"So, what? You just want a partnership, to work together and see where it goes from there?" The scepticism in her voice is strong, the doubt evident on her face as she eyes him.

But she's not saying no, Regulus realises. He'd known from the second she permitted him entrance with the wards that she wouldn't say no, but it is a relief to not hear the word. To know that tender side that'd been revealed to him only once before, when they'd laid side by side on those horrendous muggle bedsheets, still remains in that standoffish personality.

Why is it so hard to put all this into words? That they might not make the best pairing, that it won't be constant happiness and Regulus is as sure they'll continue to fight as he's sure the sun rises in the east.

But that's the romanticised ideal of life the general masses have dreamed up.

He doesn't want that beautiful pureblood manor with the docile pureblood wife filled with pureblood children, Regulus realises.

He wants the torrid teal of Evans' eyes when she looks at him, the scorching glares when they clash. He wants little Sol, halfblooded and full of such endless potential. It doesn't matter if it's a large manor house with sprawling grounds or a little cottage just like this; Evans never looks like she belongs in her surroundings anyway, always tempestuously filling the space with her sheer presence. Even in the distance she's an impending storm, it's something Regulus can see himself growing used to.

If his father can manage to put up with his mother, then surely what he and Evans have can evolve, can last. Because neither of them have stayed steady and set; Evans dropped out of Hogwarts and seems to have centred herself around family, not that Regulus can claim he knew her plans before.

His own mindset, what his parents insisted was the truth for so long, that's all been shattered and here he is trying to build a new world from the pieces. Reassembling it bit by bit, until it resembles the globe it once was. Only the surface is littered with hundreds and thousands of fractures, no longer smooth. No longer pure and whole.

"How do I know this isn't a lie?"

"I tried to kill Riddle recently," Regulus confesses. No weight leaves his shoulders; Cassiopeia is already well aware of his failed attempted murder and he hadn't expected owning up to Evans would put his mind at ease. It's not so much his actions as his failure that weighs on him; that burden will no dissipate until the pretender is well and truly dead.

"You're the reason he's been tearing through the country, looking for his would-be assassin," Evans concludes, having rose from the single chair she'd occupied to come stand before him. There's no pride on her face, not like what he'd expect from Sirius.

Sirius who he likes to think would be so proud of him, for turning on the Dark Lord, for questioning everything their parents ever glorified. His older brother'd probably clap him on the back and say something ridiculous, like 'better luck next time'. Once he got over his shock, that is.

Evans' doesn't look surprised though. If anything, she appears pensive, head tilted to a side and free red hair spilling down her shoulders.

It doesn't take much for Regulus to reach out and take hold of her hips, firm but not grasping.

She lets him draw her close, until she's sat straddled on his legs. With his back straight (correct seating posture at work), they're on eyelevel, his thumb rubbing back and forth across the material of her far too large shirt. One of her hands cups his cheek and Regulus hisses at the contact, quite unable to remember if it was her relative or his that caused that bruise.

Her thumb presses a little more and Regulus responds in kind, his hold tightening.

"I hope you're not expecting this to be something out of LaFolle's Enchanted Encounters."

"Ridiculous romance novels glamorised for public consumption," Regulus mutters, lips tingling at the caress of each hot breath from Evans' own mouth, mere inches from his. His hands slowly smooth down from the side of her hips, trailing along the outside of her thighs in what is perhaps the slowest touch he has ever graced her with.

"It's not going to be perfect."

"It'll probably fall apart at some point," Regulus agrees, feeling Evans' fingers brush back and forth across his hairline. His hair is longer than he's ever had it in his life, half curls crawling past his ears now.

Evans doesn't seem to mind the change though.

"A sizable portion of my world view has been shattered, if I can rebuild that, I don't think this muddling through this will be too difficult."

Evans smiles and it's real, a true curve that (while small) brightens her entire face.

He should probably kiss her, Regulus realises. He should probably take a moment to fully appreciate that smile.

But instead, he finds himself vocalising his main grievance.

"Why Sol, of all names? What possessed you?"


Well, here we are. I don't know who's gonna come find Regulus first. James, Lily or Sirius?

(Well, Sol is two days old here, and I assume the Wizarding World would have the potions to allow someone to heal the kind of trauma a body goes through when giving birth; I mean, that makes sense, right?)

Thanks for reading,

Tsume
xxx