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Chapter 21

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Sirius is still staring at her. The only sound that truly fills his flat (which is about as clean as can be expected of a twenty-one-year-old single male's abode) is little Sol's tiny snuffles as he inhales. Poppy waits with baited breath, one arm keeping Sol comfortably laid against her chest while the other grasps her wand, the tip glowing with an uncast protego.

If Regulus is a monsoon, a torrential downpour flooding her world with his very presence and leaving her drowning past saturation point, then Sirius is a tornado. Utterly unpredictable and offering her no kind of aid (everything needs water to live, Regulus is just that water in excess), she's only waiting for the spark of ignition that'll birth a firenado; wild and unmanageable, a force of nature she'd have no choice but to wait out from a safe distance.

Poppy much prefers the deluge to the gale.

"Nephew," Sirius finally whispers, though it does not come in the short rasp, does not come as a strangled croak as she'd been expecting. He's still staring at her and there's something building up behind his eyes that she just can't identify. It doesn't put her on edge, oddly enough, and after a moment... it clicks. There's a lingering grief, hidden beneath that blanket of shock, nestled almost out of sight and she'd almost missed it. Of course, whatever else may have happened between them... they're brothers. There's strain between herself and Petunia, but Poppy's got wonderful, supportive parents. Had they been in an environment where the divide between them was actively encouraged... well, begrudgingly sending a Christmas card certainly wouldn't be happening, that much is clear.

The sympathy that wells in her gut for Sirius is strange and she doesn't like it in the slightest.

When actual genuine tears gather in the corners of his eyes, Poppy grits her teeth, pulls up her metaphorical big girl pants, and stalks closer to the pureblood.

"Here."

The look on Sirius' face as he's presented with a baby would be hilarious if it wasn't her own precious son she was offering to let him hol... let him look at. Maybe stroke his cheek at a push. Sirius doesn't move, just stares as if she's presenting him with an unfinished rune array. Something that has every chance of blowing up in his face if he doesn't know how to defuse and neutralise it. Sirius Orion Black did not take runes during his time at Hogwarts.

Poppy huffs, dropping down to seat herself on the couch beside Sirius. She deftly ignores how the material groans and whines beneath her weight. It's a pre-setup prank spell. She's not come out of her pregnancy fat.

"Nephew," Sirius repeats, voice a little louder, a little clearer, this time around. Poppy watches him closely, carefully. Sol's hair shimmers and fades into a muted gold, pale and near glittering against his 'pureblood' skin. She can't think of a better way to describe it, just that the tone and feel is the same as Regulus' baby-like flesh; unblemished and unmarked (if one ignores the painful dark etching of glaring mistakes the idiot has on his forearm). She determinedly ignores just how many pimples she's popped and banished over the years.

"Nephew," Poppy stresses for what will be the last time, message received or not. There are so many other ways she could be better spending her time than help0ing Sirius through an existence crisis (especially when Regulus is off cocking his way through attempted assassination of You-Know-Who) but… but Sirius is family now. Family beyond her brother in law's best friend. He's Sol's uncle, his only blood uncle. Her baby boy might appreciate some more male presences in his life than just James and her father. Regulus himself is a given (she thinks); he's made his intentions to stick around rather clear. (Here she tries not to think too much on how the hands, possessive, had felt on her hips. Tries not to recall how his eyes had hinted at a future she has given little consideration for. Quite frankly, it's easier not to think on Regulus Black and instead to just let it happen. It's that indulgence in a downpour, umbrella-less for a lack of planning, that has gifted her Sol).

"All those times on the map, you weren't kicking the crap out of each other," Sirius finally chokes out, grey eyes wide as he turns to look at her. It takes a moment for Poppy to realise what he's saying, to recall just what 'map' it is that he's speaking of.

"Thanks for racing to my rescue," she rasps drily but Sirius isn't listening at all. Ever so slowly (so hesitant and cautious it would probably be painful to watch for anyone else), Sirius reaches across the small space between them and traces the soft curve of Sol's cheek with he tip of his finger. At the contact, something in the former Gryffindor seems to break because he barks out a (thankfully quiet) laugh, disbelief colouring the sound.

"You and Reggie. You and Reggie fucked."

"Fucked isn't exactly the term I'd use," Poppy concedes with a low shrug of her shoulders. Oh, if only she had the energy to smirk. But she's so past the point of caring right now (she's got bigger things on her plate than teasing Sirius Black with crude jokes, no matter how delicious the idea would have once been) that she just cannot drum up the energy required. "More like used each other for orgasm."

Sirius makes a noise she's eighty percent sure he wouldn't have been capable of producing were he not an animagus. Some kind of cross between a dog's high-pitched whine of despair and a human's horrified inhale. It looks like it winds him; oops. Oh well, he'll get over it... at some point. Potentially. He places his forefinger against Sol's palm and her darling little flower instantly takes hold of the man's finger. And probably his heart if she goes by the expression on Sirius' face. Good. One more protector for her little boy.

"I've got a nephew," Sirius mutters and it's with acceptance now. A simple head shake and that's it. There's no firestorm, no great tornado of fury and disbelief and none of Sirius' usual drama whatsoever. Nothing at all.

Nothing barring a tentatively watery smile that is.

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"Did you find your sprog then."

Grimacing, Regulus shoots Cassiopeia his best flare. It's not where near the level required to handle his Great Aunt's amusement, however. Even more irritating is how he's now at a point of ignoring the woman to go and see his spawn. By Merlin, a minuscule part of his wants to see Eva- Poppy too. How horrific.

"Yes, I found him," Regulus drawls, forcibly stalling the eyes that desperately wish to roll. His notes are spread out before him, the orchestra before a conductor. It just so happens that the melody he's trying to lead is the Dark Lord's downfall. The runic explosive trap had failed, the firepower insufficient and now he'll be watching for something like that. Which means Regulus will have to try an alternate route. Something subtle, something where the effects won't be noticed until it's too late. A long-term curse won't work'; the Dark Lord is too paranoid to not check himself over every few days for such a thing. It needs to be something he wouldn't expect, something untraceable too. His concentration is, however, shot to hell. His mind is still a few hundred miles away, revolving around a small cottage home and the two people that reside within it. Exhaling soft and slow, Regulus runs a hand through his hair, suddenly; rather conscious of the length it has grown to. Will he appear too much like Sirius if he keeps it this long? Is it even something worth worrying over? Does Ev-Poppy even care for his appearance? Snorting, Regulus snaps his wand out across the multitude of notes, until they're piled atop one another and stored within an expendable pouch. He's getting nothing done here, the fact he's worried about Poppy's opinion of him is clear enough. She doesn't seem particularly phased by the fact that, until recently, he'd whole-hearted believed she and the other mudbloods are beneath him. Perhaps that had been one of the appeals, dragging him down to her level (it's clearly worked). If she likes his hair or not is hardly going to be of any substance in their relationship.

"And just where do you think you're going?"

"To see my sprog," Regulus snaps back, levelling his aunt a deeply suspicious look. The very fact she'd stuck around for so long is hint enough that she wants something but what that is, Regulus admittedly has no true idea. Lips pressed into a stiff line, Cassiopeia steps forwards and holds out a blanket. It's the very same make that Regulus himself hazily recalls from childhood and he accepts it warily.

"It's not cursed, is it?" The woman snorts, eyes rolling as she cocks both hands atop her hips. Full on lecture mode. Regulus forces himself not to groan in despair.

"Do you honestly think that if I wanted to harm your half-blood bastard I would do it myself? Of course not; I'd be informing the rest of the family just what kind of mess you've managed to get yourself into. As things stand," Cassiopeia huffs, her expression such a thing that Regulus keeps his mouth firmly shut, mind whirling with several horrible things that his dear aunt might do should he interrupt, "I'm relieved to know the family line will continue, pure or not."

"And it has nothing to do with the fact you want to study Sol's metamorphmagus abilities."

"Andromeda fled with her half-blood brat before I could get a good look in," Cassiopeia admits with little not no shame whatsoever, "too many Blacks have forgotten the idea of keeping our blood pure was to retain the gifts that appear only in our magical bloodline. There's not been a Black metamorphmagus in a century and now, the infusion of two mudbloods results in two metamorphmagus children? One could be ignored, but a second occurrence is a pattern and I have no intentions of allowing that to escape investigation." He knew she was being kind for a reason, had known no one who could proudly call themselves a Black would have accepted his mistake without a motive of their own. By Merlin, it's a wonder Cassiopeia has admitted it so openly. Yet, it can be acknowledged that if she'd kept her intentions secret from him, Regulus would have been suspicious enough to not even broach the subject of ever introducing her to his son. On that topic though-

"Wherever Sol goes, I cannot imagine Poppy being less than a foot behind." Hell, on the miniscule chance that Poppy'd agree to allowing Sol to meet one of his side of the family, he cannot envision it happening anywhere but in Poppy's cottage. Probably warded to the high-heavens against any form of ill-intent towards her and his child.

The look on Cassiopeia's face showcase just how… enthused she is over the concept of sharing space with a mudblood. Half-blood is acceptable, but clearly a mud-muggleborn such as Poppy is too much too soon.

"I shall enquire with Poppy when the opportunity presents itself," maybe when she's half-drugged up on painkillers or otherwise sufficiently distracted, "but don't hold your breath." Undoubtedly Poppy would never entertain the idea until Sol is crawling at the very least given how… protective she has proven to be over their child. No, the only being that Poppy would probably allow to be introduce to Sol is Kreacher. Even then it is only because Kreacher is blood-bound to serve the Black line, pure of blood or not, and Regulus shall most certainly be ordering the house-elf to protect his son. With any luck, Kreacher's tendency to favour Regulus over the other Blacks shall extend to his son.

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God, I'm sorry this has taken so long. I'll be honest, kinda forgot where I was going with it all (and still don't quite remember) but I think I'll just slowly wing it from here. So, yeah. Apologies again, but here you go.

Tsume
xxx