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Chapter 19

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Giving James the rundown of the situation (minus the horcrux thing) is… uncomfortable. She'd been expecting a refusal to meet her eyes, but it is quite the opposite.

James holds eye-contact with her the entire time and the… apathetic way he listens has Poppy squirming in her seat, even if only slightly.

By god, how had James Potter of all people managed to copy McGonagall's favourite 'not-quite-disapproving-but-certainly-not-pleased' look? It's ridiculous.

What's even more ridiculous is just how… maturely James is handling this. Hell, Lily had more of a blow up than her brother-in-law, and quite frankly that's scaring Poppy.

"Right… Right… so, you left the Death Eaters because You-Know-Who is a, a half-blood," James mutters to himself, one hand rubbing at his temples, the other reaching for the alcohol he had indeed returned him. He's already drained his first glass; hadn't even flinched as he'd necked it.

Sharing a quick glance with Regulus (and concluding he's as uncomfortable as she is regarding this sensible Potter), Poppy's hands work over the cushion at her ride, just for something to do. Regulus still hasn't sat down, though in the very least he's walked fulling into the room.

Within his arms, Sol has adopted a silver sheen for his hair colour, one little fist curled up in Regulus' sleeve; Poppy's heart gives a painful throb. It does that sometimes now, whenever Sol does something particularly cute, whenever the realisation hits that there's gonna be even more people wanting to hold her baby.

"Do you plan on sharing any of that, Potter."

Regulus' sharp eyes are mocking, focused solely on the half empty bottle in James' hands.

The scent of alcohol is starting to linger in the air now; Poppy's nose wrinkles, lips set into a firm grimace.

"No, former Death Eater or not, idiots that knock up my sister-in-law don't get to share my booze," James hisses, tightening his grip on the bottle neck, the amber liquid within sloshing around. "Certainly, there's to be no drinking if you're insisting on holding Sol," Poppy mutters bitterly; she's already given three subtle hints that she wants her baby back in her arms and though Regulus has seen every one of them, he's not complied with her silent demands.

And he had seen her; he's smirked at every last unsaid order before proceeding to blatantly ignore her.

Bastard.

"I'm not interested in your cheap liquor," Regulus snaps, stalking over and presenting her with Sol.

Opposed to his short, harsh steps, he holds her baby out with careful hands and soft movements; Poppy eagerly takes him back. It doesn't matter that Regulus probably just wants his hands free in case he needs to deal with a drunken James. Doesn't matter that out of the two of them, Poppy would probably be the one less likely to deal out a harsh punishment in the Gryffindor lets the liquor go to his head. Probably… if he endangers Sol, then all bets are off.

"You're doubting my ability to hold my drink, aren't you?" James grumbles with narrowed eyes, no worse off for all the alcohol he's soaked up.

Grimacing slightly, Poppy adjusts her hold upon Sol, allowing her tiny little offspring to rest his tiny little head against the crook of her neck.

James' eyes linger on his hidden face, whisking over the baby-fine hair with a wistful gleam- Oh.

Of course. It won't be long until her darling future nephew is born. But then again, Harry's birth solidifies Lily's position as Voldemort's 'undesirable number one'. Is she willing to try and subvert the birth of Harry James Potter in favour of keeping her sister alive? A fleeting concept of a character or her flesh and blood sister?

When put like that, the answer is obvious.

"Don't even think about it. One Evans kid is enough right now."

"Black."

Jolting, Poppy whips her head around to lock eyes with Regulus, silver to sapphire.

"Excuse you?"

"He's a Black," Regulus says, a decisive 'don't fight me on this' filling his tone. It's the same tone that has always had Poppy squaring her jaw, setting her shoulders straight and proud. It's the rumble of clouds, the warning prior to a downpour, a deluge.

But Poppy has never had trouble weathering the storm before.

"By blood, maybe. But I birthed him, he's mine, so he's got my name."

"He's mine too."

"So?"

"So, he's my heir," Regulus stresses, stalking closer and Poppy rises to meet him, arms curling that little bit more around Sol, body angling so her unoccupied shoulder is closer to the Slytherin.

"His birth certificate says Sol Evans."

"You've already given him two awful names, the least you could do is given him a redeeming family name."

"What the hell is wrong with Evans as a surname," Poppy hisses, voice low even as her face twists into a snarl, daring him to answer.

"Hey, you two should-"

"Shut up, Potter!"

Her lips don't twitch, they don't.

Regulus' mouth remains a firm line, even as his eyes glint, darkly amused by their joint demand. At her neck, Sol whines and Poppy instantly forgets the fool in front of her, turning her attention to her little sun.

"Aw, did the big mean Gryffindor startle you, baby?"

"If you can't be sensible then get out, Potter."

"It's not even your house to kick me out of," James grunts, rising to his feet regardless and cautiously making his way over. She can see Regulus tense from the corner of her eye, but Poppy's used to James now, even if she hadn't exactly wanted to be in the beginning. Or even now.

She's particularly wary when he reaches out to gently stroke at Sol's cheek; she allows the contact though. He is, after all, Sol's uncle now.

As is Sirius Black. God, that's horrible to think about. Those two terrible influences in a position of 'trust'. Sol's time with the duo will be short and sweet. He can bleed them for extravagant birthday gifts and then send them on their way.

"Right. Right."

Hand running through his hair, James drags his palm down the side of his face, expression tired.

"I won't tell Sirius. You two can handle that clusterfuck. Just- Just get your shit together, don't drag Lily into anything, and Black, you better have turned your back on that Dark Lout, because if you're fucking around with my little sister here, you'll have me to worry about."

Looking between the two of them, James Potter offers a grin that's somehow even more threatening than his words, leaving them standing amidst brightly wrapped gifts and awkward silence.

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Standing at the window, gazing out into the distant, night-shrouded street, Poppy Evans looks like every novella hero he'd ever read about pre-Hogwarts.

Well, if she weren't female. Or a Mud- Muggleborn. No, it still doesn't fit, still seems too banal a term for the woman before him. Fresh-blood? New-blood? Who knows, he'll figure it out later.

Maybe he'll never figure it out at all. It's best to not stick a label upon Evans; were he to do so, it'd seem to imply that there were others who could ever be classified alongside Evans. Snob he may be, but there will never be another like Evans. He wouldn't have been so drawn to her if that were the case. No, he's not being voluntarily blind, it's the truth. A truth he'll never admit aloud, but truth all the same.

She's not put Sol down yet, or at least, not in a moment where he'd have been able to pick his baby up… their baby. It grates, acknowledging he's sharing something with her, even if it is the child they'd both had an equal hand in (accidentally) creating.

Which brings him to his current conundrum. Or, several such things that all interlink.

Issue one, the one that (while not significantly important to the general state of things) grates on his nerves; Sol does not carry his last name. The birth certificate is already signed and sealed, sent off with the declaration of a father left blank for the world to wonder, for the paper to be slotted into the Ministry archives by some guppy who has no idea that he's handling the new heir Black's first official paperwork.

Sol Lilium Evans.

Horrific, especially if his little child follows in the footsteps of every Black ever (no, Sirius doesn't count) and ends up in Slytherin.

Regulus has seen what happens to those unfortunate children that do not possess the shield that is an important family name. It's not pretty, and while some do prove their worth, they rise to the top after a long and bloodied battle. Something their child can avoid if she'd just allow him to give Sol his birthright.

But the only way to single-handedly change that paperwork is for Regulus himself to go in and publicly claim Sol as his own. Which goes against every fibre in Regulus' body right now; he's 'dead' after all. For both the safety of himself and anyone he has ever associated with.

Including the mother of his child. The mother of his child who is ridiculously stubborn and would never agree to the plan that's spinning around in Regulus' head, no matter how convenient his idea may be.

Because she's ridiculous enough to turn down a proposal, to turn down all the protection and benefits the Black name could offer her… if one discounts how damningly murderous his family would probably be in the beginning. They'd get over it.

Eventually.

It would make things so much easier; a ritual of marriage performed correctly would automatically change not only her name, but Sol's as well. All without Regulus having to show his face. Besides, who would be curious enough to look at the official paperwork of a baby born to a mu… to a non-pureblood?

At the bottom line… he just can't keep calling her Evans. Not when he's determined to remove that stain from Sol and… Poppy's identity.

They're in a relationship; marriage is obviously the next step. But he doesn't doubt she'll complain, she'll deny, and she'll refuse. Because in her world, marriage is based more upon love than alliance, on partnership and a united front.

He'll set the idea aside for now.

Instead, they need to deal with the most pressing matter; his ingrate of a brother.

"We need to discuss Sirius," Regulus begins and no matter how he tries to wrap his lips around it, the sound of his brother's name just scrapes at the edges of his mind.

"We can avoid him for another day; leave a note saying Sol's getting introduced to his family."

"Excellent, Aunt Cassiopeia will surely want to see him."

The look he gets from her, thrown over one baby occupied shoulder, scorches.

"I was talking about my parents."

"He's my son, he should be introduced to my side of the family first."

"And why is that," Evans (because she's Evans right now, his Hufflepuff nemesis and not Poppy, irritating epicentre of his softer thoughts) hisses. It is in no way a question.

"Well obviously Black influence will be prevalent in Sol's life." How is that not blatantly obvious? His family is magical, and barring her irritating sister, hers is not.

"My parents aren't likely to murder him on the spot for being a half-blood stain on the lineage."

"Because death by accidental magic when you leave him with incapable muggles is so much better."

The next thing Regulus knows is that he's tumbling out of the bedroom door arse over elbow into the hallway, thrown out by Evans' banishing charm and unable to defend himself because she's holding Sol.

The finality of the door slamming shut shows exactly how welcome he is right now and Regulus huffs.

Have they even managed two whole days in each other's company? Certainly, it's the longest they've ever managed to tolerate each other, that's for sure.

The bedroom door opens for a split second, a pillow and blanket slamming into his chest in a silent message. He might be barred for her room, but she's not kicking him out the house yet; not kicking him to the gutter just yet. By Merlin, if she weren't holding Sol hostage he'd be the one kicking her to the wayside… and Salazar damn it, even in his head that doesn't sound the truthful in the slightest.

"Throwing me out doesn't mean you've won, Dear."

He wishes he could see her face, wishes he could see her reaction. But if she's going to play the scorned wife, then he's sure as Merlin going to throw her behaviour back in her face with a sarcastic endearment.

However, he's not about to degrade himself by sleeping on the couch as she wants. Not when he has a perfectly good bed (a better bed than what she has) waiting for him back at the safehouse.


I taught my first class lesson yesterday. It went well, I really enjoyed it.

Thanks for reading,

Tsume
xxx