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Chapter 20

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The couch is empty, not that she'd been expecting it to be occupied. Regulus is, after all, far too… snobby for that.

Still, a part of her had, had hoped? No, that can't be right. There's a relief; he's not here to take Sol's attention right now, nor to be a pain in the ass in general.

That doesn't change the fact they need to have a little sit down and discuss their Dark Lord problem. It's kind of a big issue; Regulus is in hiding because of the madman and Poppy has zero intentions of allowing Sol to grow up in a world at war. They need to get rid of Voldemort, even if only temporarily. Before he can go after her precious sister; he needs to be gone before the bastard finds out about Sol. And in the kind of time frame she has, though she hates to admit it, Poppy needs help.

Luckily enough, Regulus seems almost as determined as she is to do Voldemort in. It's just difficult to talk to him if he's not here.

Bouncing Sol ever so slowly in her arms, Poppy makes her way down the stairs, mind still turning over and over again. It's raining outside, fat droplets slamming against the windows. Autumn still lingers in the atmosphere, refusing to allow winter to begin misting the air. It's Regulus' weather.

He used to go out and fly in this weather; they'd crossed paths every once in a while as he was trudging back into the castle, quidditch robes plastered to his form and eyes bright with the exhilaration flight inspires in him. The kind of energy she had only ever been able to get from the potions that follow an all-night bender of hard studying. She has no idea why he even likes flying (nevermind in such atrocious weather) but there'd always been something… raw about fresh from practice Regulus. Something that'd make her stop by the railings of the grand staircases, books clutched to her chest as he passed by beneath, hair at saturation point and shimmering with the water it holds, a broom idly cocked over his shoulder.

He always has reminded her of a rainstorm. Perhaps she'd been so captivated during those moments because he had looked the part.

Snorting at the very thought, Poppy gently lays her little baby on the sofa, smiling at the tiny eyelids that flutter as Sol dreams. He's lost all that nasty wrinkly skin now, replaced with the flushed texture that all adorable babies have. Cute as a button.

Smoothing down the dark strands of hair (navy or indigo, maybe even a shade somewhere between the two), Poppy summons Dolly with a soft call of the house-elf's name.

"Could you find a way to get into contact with Regulus, please? Tell him we need to talk about our future plans." It's obvious they're going to have to work together at some point, and it'll be better to start now rather than later. Hell, knowing how their luck works, they'll probably get caught in each other's attempts. That is something that needs to be avoided at all costs.

And she also needs to get the bullshit that is dropping the 'uncle' bomb on Sirius out of the way. In fact, probably best to do that with Regulus absent.

When he's gone, it's possible to set aside the strange feeling in her chest, the emotions that make her ribs feel a little less empty. When he's gone, the warmth that blooms there is absent, as if he's plucked the petals from the stem with each step he takes away from her. She'll never be hollow, Sol occupies far too much of her life for that, to the point she's surprised there's even enough space vacant for Regulus to fill. Perhaps even more absurd is the fact she doesn't begrudge him that small space.

After leaving Hogwarts, coming to terms with the fact she'd soon be responsible for a tiny little human who could do nothing for themselves… she'd been forced to do a fair amount of self-reflection. It's like she had admitted to Lily; there might not have been love between herself and Regulus, but there had been (and still was) a strange form of fascination with each other. A gravity to the other than they'd been susceptible to.

They should have been Mercury and Neptune, two planets that are as far apart as could be while still orbiting the same sun. Well, it's not like Regulus is named for a planet, thank god. She'd never have been able to take him seriously if that were the case.

Yet, what they are going to attempt, premeditated murder… it is serious business. They need to talk, need to plan, and as much as she hates to admit it, two heads are better than one in this case. Poppy's creative, but she's never had to come up with a murder attempt against the most dangerous wizard of all time.

Regulus, on the other hand, has already attempted blowing the bastard up once already. While crude, at least he'd had the guts to go for it, unlike Dumbledore. So, speaking to Regulus again later tonight is a priority.

But first… first she needs to deal with Sirius. Still, no reason to let the mutt know his younger brother remains alive and kicking. At least that way she might be able to get some free babysitting out of the deal.

Not that she'd trust Sirius with her little sunshine, but her beloved sister would have to continue the ruse, wouldn't she?

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Poppy Evans is at his door. The littlest Evans, Lily's more tolerable sister (which, given that Petunia is the comparison, isn't saying much) is standing at the door.

Not to say he dislikes Poppy. He just thinks the girl could do with a little loosening up. She did quit Hogwarts though, kept her accidental baby while building a life for herself, and that takes guts. Guts and bravery. She's practically an honorary Gryffindor.

"Ah! Lil' Evans! Brought me my godson, have you?" It's said in jest; he's not that close to her. But hell, he's never actually seen Poppy Evans close to anyone. The only person he's ever known her interact with is his tosspot brother (there could never been any kind, friendly words spoke there) and even then, he's only known of that through the map. The Lil' Evans can obviously take care of herself; she'd never ended up in the hospital wing after her little run-ins with Mother's favourite son.

If she's anything like Lily though, it's a wonder his brat brother never ended up in the hospital wing.

Kinda makes a wizard wonder what poor sod planted a mandrake in that flowerbed.

The burning blue that's currently searing into his own eyes is example enough of his point.

Smiling, Sirius throws open the front door to his fabulous little flat, a quick jerk of his wand behind his back banishing the leftovers from last night to the fridge. No need to offer up some reason for her to give him that same disapproving frown Lily had mastered in their third year. It must be genetic; Sirius eyes the little bundle in Poppy's arms with suspicion, even more so when Poppy defensively cuddles the kid closer.

Okay, while he might never have had the same perceptiveness as Remus (there was a reason it'd taken the Marauders four years to click onto the werewolf in their midst), Sirius is far from stupid. Poppy Evans is hiding something and, being the nosy bugger that he is, Sirius absolutely wants to know just what that is.

"What brings you to my humble abode then, Lil-Evans?"

It's at this point that Sirius' hearing just… gives up.

It has to have given out on him, he has to have set off one too many fireworks. Hell, it still feels like his ears are ringing from the last burst of colourful explosions he'd set off. That final day of Seventh Year had been a damn good one. But it's clearly obliterated his hearing.

Sirius can only stand there as Poppy slips past him, kicking off her shoes at the door like the civilised, sane person she claims to be. The kind of person who wouldn't make a joke like what he swears he's just heard.

"Are you not going to offer me a drink?"

"Yeah, a drink, sure. As soon as you tell me why you're here."

It's the same thing again; Poppy opens her mouth, but Sirius is hearing something else that makes no sense at all, even though it's said in the little Evans' dry voice, now tinged with irritation.

Maybe he's the one that needs a drink, a stiff one at that, just to calm his head.

Because he keeps hearing Evans' say 'I've brought your nephew over'.

She's not even got that teasing smirk to her face that comes out whenever she references his and James' bond as brothers in all but blood.

"Has Prongs pranked you, Lil' Evans? 'Cause every time you speak I keep hearing that you've brought my nephew over. You do know that Prongs and I aren't really brothers, right?"

Grinning (and trying valiantly to ignore how very forced it feels, how is makes his cheeks ache), Sirius drops down onto the arm of the sofa, eyes never once leaving the girl that's made herself right at home on his couch.

"I'm aware," Poppy's voice is dry, scratching against every last brain cell in Sirius' head and then, looking utterly done with the conversation, she removes the tiny little tyke from the blanket he's swathed in.

Sirius has but a moment to appreciate the brilliant red of the kid's baby grow, to watch those tiny little legs kick weakly at the air.

Then he spots the neon green hair and something heavy settles in his stomach.

"Prongs' already started pranking the little guy, huh?" He cannot remember the last time he ever had to put so much effort into saying a sentence, cannot remember the last time his mouth had ever dried up as much as this. Speaking is difficult, especially as he watches that baby fine hair steadily start to lighten at the roots.

Poppy is watching him, her face set in a hard challenge, daring him to, to do… well, something.

His brain is rather struggling to keep moving, to keep thinking right now.

"Sirius," Poppy says, and he's never heard her speak so severely, so intently before. Not even when she'd warned him off pranking Lily during their exam years.

"Sirius. I've brought your nephew over." And this time it actually clicks.

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I'm so sorry for the wait. Life is busy right now. I've got so many tumblr messages to reply to that I've not looked at, and I've got a deadline for the 5th that I've not started yet, and I've got nearly a term of lessons to plan.

Life is mad, but here's a chapter.

Thanks for reading and a merry Christmas to you all,

Tsume
xxx