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Chapter 17

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When Regulus sees Sol, he just breaks down laughing.

There'd been a tense moment where Poppy had just stared him the eye, daring Regulus to say one more word about her choice of name, and for once in his life, the Slytherin had wisely backed down from the argument with her. She's well aware it wasn't out of any desire to allow her the 'win' of this argument (if anything, she's relatively sure that they'll be coming back to it at some point in the future) but to actual to see the source of Regulus' issue with his own eyes.

Though she doesn't have the slightest idea why he's laughing like a deranged maniac right now. Maybe that potion has more than one side effect, Poppy thinks, eyeing him warily.

"A… metamorphmagus," Regulus finally manages to cough out, half leaning against the doorframe.

He turns to look at her now, something like pride in his eyes. Satisfaction, maybe? Gratification? It's like a spring shower, each individual raindrop dripped in sunlight until they're gleaming, a rainbow of brightness so rarely brought about in the rain.

Laid in his cot, Sol has attempted turning his head towards them, the source of the sound, and she knows he will recognise her voice.

"Hey, baby boy," Poppy whispers, gliding across the room to her little boy's side.

Sol blinks, eyes a little crossed as he struggles to focus.

Placing her little finger against his palm, Poppy smiles as those tiny digits close up around the offering. There's certainly no fault in his grasping reflect, that's for sure.

"You can come over and say hi," Poppy murmurs, refusing to tear her eyes away from the tiny little being that is now the centre of her heliosphere, the very core of what her entire life will now revolve around.

She doesn't know how Regulus will really respond to Sol; it's not like they'd gotten much chance to discuss him while they were downstairs. And like hell is she spending her baby's precious few hours away to talk to Regulus. She might be open to the concept of a relationship (whatever kind of relationship that ends up being, well, they will see), but he comes second to Sol.

"It's not like he will be able to comprehend what I'm saying to him," Regulus objects, even as he moves closer, until he's standing right beside her.

"Not right now, but he'll hear your voice and come to familiarise himself with it… you are planning on-"

"Of course, I'm planning on sticking around," Regulus snaps and the glare he sends her is glacial.

Challengingly, Poppy wiggles her finger free of Sol's grasp, turning her contesting gaze on Regulus.

He falters slightly, staring down at Sol with that same face Pot- James had gotten when he realised he had no idea how to handle interacting with a pregnant woman. But that determined set to his jaw is quick to form, that same stubborn look he got whenever their eyes would meet across the Great Hall before he'd turn away from her.

This time, he steps a little closer, just so that he can reach out and run the tips of his fingers across the ever-changing tuffs of hair that top Sol's head. Just like that, his entire expression softens, near wonderment lighting his eyes. Soon enough, Regulus' finger is the one in Sol's hand, her darling little boy peering up with lilac eyes.

Planting her hand on the back of Regulus' head, Poppy shoves him forwards, until his face is only a couple of inches from Sol's.

"Evans! What-"

"He can't see very far, it's a newborn thing. At least now he'll be able to sort of see you." A baby's vision is, after all, very poor.

She's aware she should probably give Regulus some distance, she thinks it must be a very self-conscious thing, to be suddenly presented with a baby you're supposed to interact with. But… she just can't.

It doesn't matter that she's had two uninterrupted days, doesn't matter that she should afford Regulus even just a moment of time. She cannot drum up the courage to step away.

Because this little interaction, it's like nothing she's ever seen from Regulus. It'd always been biting words, sharp slurs and even sharper teeth between them. There'd been so very few soft interactions. That one moment when they'd laid upon her bed, looking at one another; he'd looked so lovely in that moment.

It pales in comparison to what she's witnessing now.

"Your mother gave you a terrible name." And of course, those were his first words to their child. Of course.

Scowling, Poppy fires a stinging hex at Regulus, delighting in the way he jolts slightly and twists to glare at her.

"She's also the only one of your relatives to use magic to hit me," Regulus grumbles, smoothing his hair back from his face with a scowl, which only brings the growing bruise on his face into sharp contrast. He might have more of a tan than when they'd last seen one another, but he's still got a pale pallet.

"Who graced you with those anyway?" Poppy asks, head tilting to a side as she tries to consider just which Black would have smacked Regulus. And what for.

The wizard rolls his eyes skywards, chancing another quick glance at her before his attention is once again pulled back to Sol.

"Aunt Cassiopeia gave be the bruise with the cut," he admits, gesturing to the thin red line that fractures across his cheekbone. "The other was complements of your father." Oh.

That explains how Regulus knew were she was at least.

"You didn't curse him, did you?"

"Of course not."

Ignoring the pureblood's scoffing, Poppy returns to the crib, carefully picking Sol up.

"Well, I hope you've had your fun with quiet little Sol, because that's not going to last in the face of tummy time."

The mystification on Regulus' face shows exactly how much knowledge he has on babies and their need for 'tummy time'.

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His tiny son rests on a floating blanket, charmed see through with his features scrunched up in displeasure. At least he has stopped crying now.

Evans' has laid herself on the floor of her living room, head cushioned by one of the obnoxiously Hufflepuff yellow pillows, smiling up at Sol.

Sol, their son who floats above her and is trying (valiantly but fruitlessly) to remain focused on Evans.

It is with only the slightest bit of hesitancy that he lays besides Evans, close enough that their arms brush against one another, close enough that Sol's now orange eyes flick over to ineffectively attempt looking at him instead. Evans' has a house elf, Regulus recalls. It certainly explains the lack of muggle 'freshener'; it's just a house-elf clean smell in here and that is familiar to him.

What isn't familiar is the look upon Evans' face.

She's utterly focused upon Sol, and all those rigorously maintained defences are all down; the knight that cut so harshly with words made of steel, the archer that fired those oh so sharp glares with pinpoint accuracy, those impenetrable battlements that stood unbreakable in the face of every attack, they're all gone.

Now there's no castle to defend, he's found himself within and Evans lays here like a dragon would, the protective bulk of her magic curling around the room, shielding her hoard. Perhaps he should feel flattered that he's been allowed in at all.

Or perhaps he has somehow become a part of the hoard.

"And this prompts crawling?"

"Along with other motions," Evans confirms, tilting her head to a side to look at him, even as her fingers continue to dance before Sol's face.

He still looks highly unimpressed at his current predicament, but has yet to return to tears. Tears and screaming. He makes an incredible amount of noise for such a tiny little thing… like a mandrake. Only his cry is unlikely to knock Regulus out. He says unlikely because who knows with accidental magic? In the very least, he knows without a shadow of a doubt that his child is no squib, that much is painfully obvious.

The constant shift in Sol's colours, his hair and his eyes, it's such a free showcase of instinctive magic that Regulus feels pride swelling behind his breastbone. It's a strange sensation, being proud of something other than his own achievements.

But, now facing this harsh reality with open eyes, he can admit to having little to be proud of. Sol (as terribly bland as the name may be), well, Sol is something pure, something good. A bright little light in this sudden dark uncertainty he's found himself in.

Because, what is left in this world for Regulus to do once he has offed the Dark Lord? What ambitions can he set his sights upon now? His world view has changed so very much in the face of such hard truths, that the greatest wizards of their time have all bee half-bloods. Bringing glory and wealth to the Black Family seems so very… insufficient now.

Anyway, it's not exactly like they'll be welcoming him back with open arms when he steps forwards with a half-blood child.

He has no intentions of giving Sol up. Even now, looking up his scrunched-up face, still that unfortunate state of wrinkled squishiness, Regulus knows he would never be able to walk away. That is his son, and true to his pampered upbringing, he's not really one to leave something that belongs to him behind.

He was raised to take good care of his things, thank you very much.

But that just brings him to another issue.

With Evans, the draw between them had always been about how they could ruin one another, how they could taint each other. That'd been the core from which their interactions had bloomed; how are they supposed to make this work once that essential piece is stripped away?

Because they have already changed; they're contaminated beyond what could be cleansed now. Completed art suddenly drawn over. Something he would have found… not ugly, but certainly not appealing a year prior.

Now however, he stands back from the former masterpiece, a white paintbrush in hand and a freshly made blank canvas before him, attempting to ignore the former image that seeps through the recently added layer. There's no ignoring their past, that much is obvious. It's going to bleed through in their every interaction, it's happened already. He'd scoffed at Sol's name and the look he'd gotten from Evans was scorching.

Yet, here they both lay, side by side, arms brushing against one another every time they breathe.

"I'd appreciate it if you stopped making me feel awkward in my own home."

Shooting a scratching glare at the woman, Regulus sits himself up, daring to take Sol into his arms out of his own initiative.

His son nestles into the crook of his elbow and after a brief moment, his face falls into a picturesque example of pleasure, eyes fluttering closed and little lips smacking several times until he succumbs to slumber. Cross-legged on the floor of Evans' home, it's almost possibly to ignore how blatantly Hufflepuff his surroundings are.

"Don't think that just because you can get him to sleep so easily that you'll be some kind of wonder parent."

"Of course I'm not thinking that," Regulus snaps, despite that very thought crossing his mind a mere moment before she spoke," and I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable in your incredibly Hufflepuff surroundings."

Evans snorts, poking him in the cheek with one finger and Regulus pushes down the children urge to bite the offending digit.

"We're trying to make something work, a relationship in which our usual interactions of 'take and run' just won't cut it. You'd be stupid to believe it's not going to be discomforting for a while."

Pale skin tightens around blue eyes for a second, but then Evans coincides with a nod, rolling up into a kneeling position. She presses a kiss to his cheek, the gesture too quick for Regulus to formulate a response to before it's over.

"Put Sol to sleep and you can stay the night, but don't expect to be moving in any time soon."

"Like I'd want to sleep in this badger-den anyway," Regulus bites back, amusement tugging at the corner of his lips and he can see the same little humour-formed dimples cresting on Evans' cheeks too.


Nice slow chapter with some Black-Evans family interactions. Visitors next chapter, me thinks. (Also, I'm now at uni again, hence the snail-pace updates)

- Why does Poppy still have muggle sheets; it's a comfort thing. She likes the feel of them, and it reminds her of her roots. It's just a personal preference.
- Poppy actually had a home birth; the bit about muggle hospitals was just showcasing why witches rarely give birth at muggle hospitals, because their magic can go all funky.

Thanks for reading,

Tsume
xxx