All violent reforms deserve censure, because they can never do away with evil as long as men are what they are; and, therefore, it is the part of wisdom not to employ violence. -From "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy
1981 brought with it it's own set of problems, and it wasn't only because with it the real Harry's defeat of Voldemort was growing closer.
The horocruxes were not where they were supposed to be.
It was not the first problem that they had to deal with regarding the progress of the war, but, at the moment it appeared to be the most concerning one.
It was not even the first time that Regulus left with Kreacher on a scout mission. The first time they'd gone looking for them and came back empty handed, Leo and Regulus had just assumed that Voldemort hadn't gotten around to hiding them yet. Of course, they'd gone for the accessible ones, the diadem at Hogwarts and the cup at Bellatrix's vault would be much easier to reach and dispose of in the chaotic aftermath of the war, when everyone would be too busy reconstructing their lives to notice a missing artifact or two, especially if those missing them were former Death Eaters. So they decided to go for the easiest one; the Gaunt ring.
When happening upon the house lacking all of the remembered wards the first time around, they had simply assumed that Voldemort had hidden that horocrux last; after all, Regulus had already retrieved the one hidden in the cave. Maybe he hadn't gotten around to it yet, so they decided to postpone their search until later in the war. However, the time for Voldemort's first demise was drawing closer every day, and there was still no sign of anyone having even gone near the Gaunt shack.
Worse than the missing horocrux though, was the realization that the others might never be hidden where Leo remembered them to be, the discovery had been made while discussing the horocrux that Voldemort had left in the cave. It was a passing mention of the hidden artifact that made Leo comprehend that it had not been Slytherin's locket what Regulus had retrieved that day, but rather Tom Riddle's diary.
Had Leo coming back altered history so much and so deeply that, even years before he had appeared, Voldemort decided to choose different horocruxes? How was it that the existence of a baby in the house of Black changed a detail so unrelated to it as was the hiding place of a Dark Lord's bid for eternal life?
Leo knew, in a theoretical level, that the fact that someone had chosen something in the past was no guarantee that they would do so again in the future. Nevertheless, he had foolishly believed that his going back would only alter whatever he involved himself directly with, he had never expected to be seeing differences as glaring as these.
He hadn't even gone that far back! As far as he could tell, the only differences between his present and past were a change in surname and being two years older than he was supposed to. Even as he thought this, Leo Black knew that he was lying to himself, because, hadn't his Dad already survived the cave where he was supposed to meet his end? Hadn't the appearance of an heir to their house made the Blacks react with more caution than they had done before in the war? Hadn't the intelligence that Regulus passed on anonymously helped the light side keep the war from being as bloody as his history books had reported?
Luckily, they had Tom Riddle's diary as proof that horocruxes had been made, even if they had to go looking for them from scratch, it was still knowledge their side hadn't had the last time around until it was too late. This however, sparked many questions within Leo's mind, seeing as his fight with the Basilisk would never come to pass now that that particular piece of the Dark Lord's soul had been destroyed.
Was he even a parselmouth anyway? He'd never gotten around to verifying if Dumbledore's claim that it was the horocrux what had given him that specific ability was true. After all, he'd only lived a few short minutes without the thing in his head before coming back again. Even if he couldn't speak parseltounge this time around, it was no guarantee that this Harry Potter wouldn't, as the possibility that it had been an innate ability within him had never been disproved. More frightening though, was the idea of actually being able to speak parseltounge in the body of Cor Leonis Black. The Blacks had never had a parselmouth on their line before, and if his own soul and magic had managed to come back here, it was entirely likely that the parasite that had leeched onto him all those years ago had managed to tag along for the ride.
With this possibility in mind, Leo had demanded that his father sequester them away for a little while to test his parseltounge theory.
Shutting the both of them in an indoor courtyard, Regulus proceeded to conjure a harmless garden snake. He would have liked to deny that the prospect of having a parselmouth son frightened him, he had after all, been brought up hearing his parents extol on the virtues of the gift, hearing wonders of all that could be achieved with the mark of Slytherin. When he got older, seeing the Dark Lord –a parselmouth– climb the social ladder and start a revolution in their stagnant world, had only cemented the truth of his parent's stories in his mind. Now, however, he was ready to pray that his only son was unable to talk in anything but English when faced with the harmless snake, just because the potential source from which he'd gained the ability was something that he refused to even consider. It was because of this that the hissing sound that came from Leonis' mouth chilled him to the very bones.
Leo could hear his heart start beating furiously as soon as he saw the snake. He knew that there was still the possibility of Parseltounge being an actual magical gift that he had, but when he considered the fact that neither of his parents had possessed the ability whereas Voldemort was notorious for chatting up every reptile that crossed his path, well, his chances weren't looking that good.
Feeling his Dad prodding him a bit on the back, leo swallowed heavily and tried to concentrate in getting his heart beat to calm down. Closing his eyes, he focused on the slight hissing, hoping that it wouldn't turn into words.
"Where am I? What is this? Don't come any closer!"
Maybe- maybe it was just the fact that he was so used to hearing Parseltounge that he ended up understanding it? Maybe it was just an echo of his former talent. Surely he wasn't still a Parselmouth, right?
Steeling himself, Leo opened his mouth, still thinking platitudes, trying to convince himself that -this isn't happening, dammit!
Casting around for something to say, Leo decided to just try and calm the spitting snake down, since the poor thing seemed to be worried out of its mind for it's nest-mates. "Hey! Stop worrying, we'll get you back home in a second, just wanted to test something"
"Well then, be quick about it" The garden snake answered imperiously.
Turning to his Dad and asking him to vanish the snake back, Leo tried to hold back the angry tears that threatened to fall down. Couldn't he just be normal for once?
Seeing his son's desolate face, Regulus decided that maybe it had been an inborn ability. If his magic had been able to follow him back, maybe his magical gifts had too? They would just have to test the horocrux theory, Leo would have to learn advanced occlumency as soon as he was old enough to handle the more complex mind arts and poke around, see if he could find any trace of a foreign presence. There was no need to despair yet, and even if he was a living horocrux, then they would find a way to extract it from him. The Black library had plenty of books on the mind arts and on extracting souls.
All in all, it was a very worried father and son duo that went to sleep that day, wondering if they would be able to stop this war on time without such crucial knowledge as was the location of the horocruxes.
The future, however, wasn't looking entirely bleak, despite circumstances.
Leo's third birthday was rapidly approaching, and though with it so was the 31st of October, Leo still felt that his birthday couldn't come fast enough. Now that he was able to run around the house without assistance and talk with a relatively decent pronunciation, life on N°12 Grimmauld Place was becoming more enjoyable by the second.
His cousin Draco –who, now that he didn't spend the whole day sleeping, turned out to be quite interesting– was another source of fascination and entertainment for Leo. Narcissa was delighted to see him take the roll of an older brother with her son, feeling that a close relationship with a bigger boy to whom he could look up to would only benefit Draco in the long run. Leo wasn't entirely sure that the Malfoys would be so eager to foment that particular connection once he was off to Hogwarts –after all, his chances of being sorted into Gryffindor were definitely high– but by the time that his sorting came around Draco would be old enough to remember him, and they could always reconnect at school. Thus it was that the three year old took to spending his days with both Malfoy and Kreacher, entertaining them with stories and playing make-believe with the little boy, one time going as far as to ask Kreacher to hover them both in the air for a few minutes so that they could pretend they were flying. Needless to say, both their parents almost had a coronary when they walked into the nursery. The scolding that came afterwards was totally worth it in Leo's mind, and not severe enough to discourage him from trying that particular game again when they were older if only to hear once again little Draco's delighted laugh at suddenly finding himself floating in the air without discernible aid.
Getting to know Draco through tickle wars was a completely different experience than the one he'd had in his past life, and comparing the sweet little baby that wouldn't go to sleep without being tucked in to the desperate teenager that his past self had found crying in a bathroom, made him even more determined to keep that miserable sequence of events from ever happening to his honorary kid brother.
Waking up the morning after the hovering charm incident, Leo felt all energy and explosive enthusiasm. The first time he had woken up feeling over exuberant without explainable reason, Leo had blown a gasket, pulling a tantrum worthy of the most spoilt and pampered little boy in the world, demanding to talk with his Dad privately. Inwardly, he was panicking about the possibility of having dragged the horocrux back in time with himself; unexplainable foreign emotions were too close to his experiences in fifth year for comfort. So, after frantically babbling to his Dad about having a Dark Lord sequestered away in his head, he was filled with righteous indignation when his father's only reaction was to burst out laughing in his face. It took a lot of coercing and placating of his wounded pride before Regulus could explain to him that there was nothing wrong with him, and that the feelings he was getting had nothing to do with Voldemort, but were rather his magic trying to communicate. Apparently, the responsive magic of a Mage could project strong mirrored feelings towards its caster, in a similar manner to that of a kid who projected strong emotions to his magic in order to have an accidental outburst.
Having been mollified, Leo spent the next couple of days becoming a little bit more self-aware, trying to discern between his own emotions and that of his magic –something which was proving to be surprisingly difficult, seeing as how most of the time they were feeling the same thing– and had become somewhat proficient at understanding what it wanted to say.
So, when he woke up that day to a feeling of absolute exhilaration, Leo gave it no more of a second thought than to remind himself later on to make time for his magic to come out to play. Maybe he could prank his grandparents and blame it on his its mischievousness?
Jumping of the bed with a shouted 'Good Morning' for Kreacher, Leo raced downstairs for some milk before pounding on Narcissa's door, wanting to be let in to play with Draco.
His relationship with Narcissa was also another thing which had befuddled him at the beginning but now had grown accustomed to. In his past life, whenever he had seen the woman, the image which had been brought to the forefront of his mind was that of a cold pureblooded lady with a constant expression of distaste fixed on her face. It seemed that the rumors that she was different with family had some credence to them, because the only time he'd seen her pull as much as a smirk or a sneer had been when she had been bantering with his father -and the lord knew Regulus Black was as acerbic as they came and definitely gave as good as he got.
It was therefore, a very surprised little boy that noticed the tear tracks on his aunt's face as he stood behind the door once she opened.
"Aunty, is Draco okay?" He asked concerned, standing on his tiptoes in an effort to look beyond Narcissa at whatever was going on inside the room.
It seemed that seeing his distress had alerted Narcissa as to the state that she'd opened the door in, because she hastily took out her wand and charmed any lasting evidence of having been crying away from her face.
"Good morning Leo, dear" She kneeled to his level, pulling him into a motherly hug that he had no idea how to respond to. Had something happened last night?
"Aunty, you never answered" He protested from her embrace before the woman had time to resume her crying or simply bat the question away by changing the subject.
"Oh it's nothing of the sort sweetie, I was just crying because I am so happy" Narcissa explained, suppressing a laugh at how adorable the skeptical look was on her nephew's face. "Draco is all right, but you should go talk to your Daddy soon. I bet he is already looking through the house for you, he had something important to tell." And with those words, Leo resumed his running again, not giving Narcissa time to even say goodbye, he tore through the house in search of his father.
He was sitting on the basement, having exhausted the places to look for when he remembered he could just call Kreacher and ask to be taken to his Dad. Smacking his face in a show of frustration, Leo stood to do just that.
"Kreachy!" He employed the pet name he'd saddled the elf with, as he did whenever he wanted to ask for a particularly bothersome favor. At first, it had taken a lot of willpower not to snap at the elf that had –in a future that would never come to pass– gotten his godfather killed, however, as the months passed and the elf treated him with the utmost devotion, Leo started to feel guilty of his treatment of the creature, feeling as if he had to make up to him for condemning him for something he had not yet done and might never do. This, in turn, caused the elf to become even more smitten with the little boy, claiming that he was 'just as kind as his father', all of which resulted in the both of them cultivating a deep relation that had even more significance to the elf than the one which he'd had with Regulus, a thing that, for all intents and purposes had been unthinkable to the elf even two years prior.
"Little master called Kreacher" The elf materialized beside him with a soft 'pop'.
"Kreachy, can you take me to Daddy? I can't find him."
No sooner had Leo finished asking the servant of the noble house of Black had already grabbed a hold of him and apparated them both into Leo's room.
The first time Leo had been apparated in this body and fallen flat on his face, his father had demanded that he take lessons on how to apparate without stumbling about, something that he had been quite eager to achieve until he realized what the classes actually consisted of. The end result of this had been a tiny Leo being popped all around the private living room in Grimmauld Place by Kreacher, all the time while Narcissa gave him useless tips on how to land until his grandmother -who'd come halfway during the practice to monitor his progress- had deemed him graceful enough to not embarrass them in public.
Sadly, this had only opened the floodgates to a thousand other types of training that Grandmother Walburga insisted he must have. On the upside, he now believed himself to be the best spoken, most graceful toddler to have ever been born, something which had his grandparents singing his praises, claiming him to be both a prodigy and a little boy of top caliber. Besides, he had discovered how to apparate directly into his Dad's arms if he was within view, something that was hilarious when there were other people around, since they looked at regulus twice and suddenly he was holding a baby.
"Thanks Kreachy" Leo said before turning towards his Dad, who until that moment had been sitting patiently on the bed, looking for all the world as if he had been languishing on a comfortable beach, instead of being sat on his kid's ridiculously patterned sheets –a moving pattern of a Quidditch game, complete with brooms, quaffles scoring and even a tiny golden snitch that popped in and out of existence in the comforter– which had been a point of contention between the Blacks due to their unsuitableness as bedding for the future scion of their house.
"Leo, I had been looking for you, come here" Regulus opened his arms so that his son could get back in the bed and cuddle against his side.
Once he was positioned comfortably with his Dad's arms wrapped around his tiny form, Leo looked upwards, intent on knowing what news his father had that had managed to make Narcissa Malfoy cry, supposedly form joy.
Seeing his expression, his father sighed deeply before allowing a smile to overtake his face and starting his explanation. "Cor, do you remember when I first defected from the Dark Lord's service? How we had to turn up the wards and couldn't leave the house for anything because the Dark Lord had asked for my head on a spike?"
Nodding, Leo did his best to try and not think of the dire situation they had been in back then. When the customary call from the dark mark came and Regulus had not presented himself in front of his former Lord, Voldemort had gone spare, killing three new foot soldiers and torturing countless others. The Blacks were a very politically powerful family, and knowing that neither the disgraced Black heir nor the second in line to the title had decided to follow Voldemort had been a severe blow to the man's influence and recruitment rate. Since, after that, the war had tended to go more and more in favor of the light, with them winning fight after fight and the morale going up, Regulus' change of heart had ended coming at the worst time possible, therefore making him carry the brunt of the Dark Lord's rage.
It was because of this grim state of affairs that the Black family had been forced to go into hiding, making people as prominent in Death Eater circles as Narcissa have to resort to hiding because of her connection to the traitor Regulus.
"Remember how I told you that I couldn't fake being dead because the Dark Lord could sense us through our marks? Last year, after cousin Narcissa came to live with us, I remembered about a book. An incredibly dark book written by one of our battiest ancestors –just to be clear, you are under no circumstances allowed to go near any book from that collection– that mentioned in passing a story about one of the Necromancers from the line of Black, who, in an attempt to get revenge from one of her rivals, developed a curse to free all of the man's slaves, severing his connection to them."
Leo had heard the story before, back when they had first found about the possibility of such a spell being hidden somewhere in the Black Gilmore. One of the Black women in the 1400's had developed the spell; officially, she claimed it was because the man had been mistreating his servants. Unofficially, everyone was pretty sure that the unlucky sod had somehow conned his ancestor, who then decided to steal all of his slaves as repayment for her lost money. He snuggled closer to his Dad, thinking about what it would mean for him if they had somehow found out how to perform the spell. His father had been living in the shadow for fear of the Dark Lord's retribution for years by now –something that had taken a severe toll on the man– and maybe, if Leo was being honest with himself, he wanted to be able to go out and play with his Dad, like the normal kid he'd never before had the chance of being, without having to fear for both of their lives.
"You found the spell?" He guessed.
"Yes actually, we did. It was in one of the older books, we would probably have overlooked it had it not been for the mess you and Draco made in the library last week. It turns out that the volume this particular ritual was hidden in doubled as the foundations of the north tower of your castle." He smiled at Leo.
"That is great! You won't have to hide anymore!" The younger Black jumped in enthusiasm, a wide beaming smile overtaking his expression.
Regulus chuckled, taking advantage of the opportunity to tickle his son, who shirked with laughter and started wriggling around the bed, trying to get away from arm's reach. He could understand now why his aunt would cry at this news, it would be great, to stop the dark mark from being a threat to their security any longer. Once their impromptu celebration had ended Leo sat back down again in the bed, waiting for his father to finish explaining what had to be done.
Tucking Leo back to his former place against his side, Regulus looked at the glowing miniature of the face he saw everyday in the mirror pillowed against his chest before continuing, knowing his son wouldn't take the second part of this news as cheerfully.
"You remember, when we first talked about it, how I explained it as a spell that would sever the Dark Lord's hold on my mark? I am afraid that in my ignorance I oversimplified the process." He started cautiously "It seems to be that even though the general objective is the same, the execution was a bit more difficult than I had imagined, since instead of consisting of a single spell to be cast it is rather a lengthy ritual that requires me to be put in a magically induced sleep for its duration."
"How" Was the single answer from the solemn three year old.
"It isn't supposed to last long, and if everything goes well by the time Halloween rolls around I'll be a free man once again. Your grandmother Walburga has already started the preparations, seeing as we need to air the ritual chamber and gather some ingredients for potions and the like in anticipation for the actual ritual. I can walk you though it if you want, before I go under, but the baseline is that two weeks before the 31st, at the night of the new moon, I will fall into a potions-based sleep, which should last for between four days and a week, while your grandparents perform the ceremony to loosen the hold of the mark. After that, I should wake up and infuse the tattoo with magic again, so that I am the only one able to command it."
"And you will be okay?" Leo asked, even though he was reasonably sure that his father wouldn't be putting so much on the line if he hadn't already though through at least three contingency plans in case something went wrong with the ritual. His Dad had not been a slytherin for nothing after all.
"Yes. I am just about certain that everything will go according to plan, and then we can start devising for a way to stop the Dark Lord from killing the Potters and my brother."
With a last shared smile, Regulus proceeded to erect the customary wards to stop them from being overheard, before he spent the rest of the morning doing just that.
Hours of discussion had only given way to a half baked plan from Cor Lenois' part; a plan which Regulus refused to let him go through, seeing as it involved his only son actually sacrificing himself to the mad man in the name of granting the Potters a love based protection of all things. He knew, theoretically, that the kid wasn't really his son -and was in fact, mentally at least, his age- but he'd never seen the little baby as anything more than that –a baby. Therefore, it was easier to think of Cor as a tike he had to protect, rather than a peer, something promoted by the little boy's wide-eyed innocence and genuinely childish attitude. He suspected that his son had been reborn as a baby so that he could have the chance at the childhood he'd been denied in his previous life. Regulus thought that up to now he'd been doing a right good job of giving little Leo that chance. After all, adopted or not, he was his father, and he intended to play that role to perfection.
The parent for his part, was partial towards the idea of pretending to have overheard the day and time of the hit in a Death Eater meeting and taking the information to the Potters directly, seeing as they would not dare to disregard his warning if he had been able to bypass their fidelius –a particularly useful skill that had been made possible because his son still remembered the address from the future, having been part of the charm.
In the end, seeing as neither plan was predominantly clever nor had superior chances of success, they settled upon visiting the Potters as soon as Regulus had been able to get rid of his dark mark -giving them about a week to prepare for the attack– and then reviewing their plan of action if the Potters had not reacted in a way that would keep them alive. The only problem Leo saw with this plan was that it did not allow for the defeat of Voldemort to take place, something that he felt should happen sooner rather than later, and while his father agreed on that part, he still insisted that as much as he had seen, while Leo was still a baby then he would not be taking part in breaking down any illicit empires. Because –as much as it pained everyone in wizarding Britain to admit it– that was just what England was quickly becoming; the Dark Lord's domain.
Eventually they stopped talking to go down and have lunch with the rest of the family –a daily occurrence that always left Leo wanting to tear his hair out – because, as much as he loved his new family and knew that they loved him back, the fact still remained that all of his relatives were snotty blood purists. Therefore, Walburga had taken to trying to educate him every single meal, not only commenting on his manners, but oftentimes throwing out little racial tidbits and nuggets of prejudice his way. As a countermeasure, Leo decided that it was time that he started his 'why' phase. He vaguely remembered having heard that all kids went through it, and judging by his families' faces, they had been expecting he started to question everything sooner or later. Only, looking at Walburga, one could clearly see that raising the point of why exactly some magical races were inferior to others was not the type of query that she'd been anticipating having to answer. The fact that he was not satisfied with the answer until his grandfather Orion stepped in with a comprehensive historical explanation –complete with reference books he could ask his Dad to read him later– that detailed the basis from which the prejudices had sprouted did not help to alleviate the amused exasperation that everyone often showed at mealtimes. This also had the side effect of making him understand where people like Malfoy came from a bit better, since it seemed that –while most prejudices were as unfounded as the muggle skin color concern– there were quite a bit of social problems that could have been solved by reinstating some of the forbidden arts if only the dark purebloods that supported the change had not taken to killing every possible opponent –and sometimes even their allies– instead of debating the issue like the civilized people they though themselves to be.
It was during that afternoon's post meal lecture, this time on werewolves of all things, that Leo remembered that his magic had been exited that day, and he should have taken his time that morning to play with it before it became antsy.
After Leo had finished his dessert, they had all adjourned to the living room for another history lesson, trying to explain to him that, while potions like the wolfsbane had been invented, the discovery was only recently made, and did not mean that a werewolf was any less dangerous with it than without it –and looking at Fenrir Greyback he could admit that they might have had a point– making them deceased beasts that should be avoided. It was this argument that made him remember his past life's Remus Lupin, the kind, timid man that a society comprised of people like the Blacks had torn down for something that not only he had been unable to control, but that he'd hated about himself; the man who had been the one to first take an orphaned Harry Potter under his wing, telling him all the tales about his parents that he'd always longed to hear, even after torturing himself for years after their betrayal. Remembering Lupin, worst of all in the context of the conversation they were having, was making Leo's temper fray, and the weird itching that had started half-way though the meal and persisted beneath his skin was not helping matters at all, but rather fuelling his indignation.
He could see his Dad shooting him bemused looks at his prominent frown and near constant scratching, something that was becoming notorious if the confused and concerned faces all around were anything to go by, but his anger refused to abate, and it was a nearly thoughtless comment from his grandmother –about how werewolf hunting had been even better than muggle hunting before it was outlawed– that brought all of his feeling to a fit.
Walburga had been in the middle of explaining why the night before the new moon was the best time of the month to go on a hunt when she suddenly found herself dowsed in a torrent of water, as if a faucet had been opened on top of her head and now refused to close, drenching her and slowly flooding the living room at number twelve. It was the steam that started to rise when the water reached his feet that made Leo realize he had literally lightened up on righteous indignation, as his body –rigid posture, closed fists and scowl– was now surrounded by a ball of fire. That explained the itching then. He spent a few minutes transfixed, looking at the fire budding from his tiny fist before looking up at his Dad, whose only reaction was to raise a questioning eyebrow at his son.
Realizing that the whole scene had been occasioned by his angry magic –he'd forgotten about this morning's feeling in light of his father's revelation regarding the dark mark– Leo concentrated on his breathing, trying to remember which pattern exactly his aunt had showed him for when he needed to calm down quickly. A breathing pattern that had been developed by the Blacks centuries ago, given that their explosive tempers did not tend to mix well with magic, and which was extraordinarily helpful when trying to deal with both his own temper and his capricious magic.
It took him a solid half-hour before he could calm down and not start a tempest inside the house at the faintest remark from his family. Looking on the bright side, He could see that little Draco found the whole incident great fun, if the way he dissolved into peals of laughter was anything to go by. The same could not be said for the rest of his family though. Oh, his grandparents were ecstatic with his display of power at such a young age –after all, children typically didn't start dealing with accidental magic until around four or five years old, something Leo suspected had to do with self-awareness– but his Dad was a whole other story.
At first, Leo had though that –being eighteen years old– he would have loathed to go back to being a kid, having parents and being fussed over, something he could distinctly remember hating whenever he visited the borrow. He knew Mrs. Weasley meant well, but having been self-sufficient for most of his life, he had resented the way in which she batted aside his independence.
Nonetheless, living with the Blacks was different to what he would have expected. Leo suspected part of this was because, while he remembered having had a different life once before, he was now in effect a toddler, with toddler reactions and emotions. On top of that, the fact that he'd only known Regulus as the father of this new body helped him deal, since it made the whole relationship more legitimate in his mind. Something that he could barely tolerate from Mrs. Weasley and every other adult that had tried to mollycoddle him felt natural when it came from his new father, and so he embraced with open arms the treatment that he'd spent a childhood wishing for and his teenage years escaping from.
In the privacy of his own mind, he could sometimes admit that –maybe– the childish part of himself that he'd repressed for so long, and was only now coming out, loved being fussed over and feeling loved. Besides, his new Dad was great at maintaining the balance between the responsible father figure and the mischievous co-conspirator.
It was because of all of this that Leo bore it with good grace when his only parent sent him to his room to calm himself. He knew that his father was scared; it would have been after all, a very different story had this incident occurred in any other place rather than their own house, or even in front of other people, since then the cat would be irrevocably out of the bag.
The rest of the afternoon was spent playing with his magic, once his Dad had mellowed out and allowed him out of his room.
As he got more comfortable with his new magic, the process through which he let it out to play had started to change. The very first time Cor had been taken to the backyard and instructed to let out his magic he had been both uncomfortable and uneasy for the newly discovered mage. The Yule disaster having taken place only the day before, Leo had slammed his magic inside and had taken to keeping it in check with an iron grip, lest he relaxed for a minute and it decided to level the house. So, being told to let it all go did not sit well with him at the moment.
However, as soon as he relaxed his grip on it, he could feel from his magic, not the annoyance he had been expecting from it at having been kept in check, but rather a sense of finally being able to breathe deeply. The liberation that came with giving his magic free reign was something he'd previously only been able to identify with the levity of flying.
Since then, letting his magic run free had only gotten easier. Some days, his magic would take control, summoning a wind that ripped everything from the ground or steeping into the grass and making it grow, depending on its mood. Other times, his magic would simply envelop him as a friend, staying by his side and awaiting his command so that they could go and roam together.
In Leo's mind this were the best instances, when his magic stayed by his side, feeding him comfort or mischievousness, and acting more as a loyal friend than a force that he could command at his will. This were the instances that left him feeling euphoric for longer that they should have, and that allowed him to completely relax, feeling as he had a friend that would follow him through life, growing with him and protecting him to the best of its abilities.
It was only a few short weeks after that Leo was for the second time in his life having a birthday party with the Blacks.
Despite the knowledge that his little counterpart had, just the day before, celebrated that dooming first birthday, Leo couldn't help but be happy. Really, what three-year-old could be anything but happy when presented with the opulence of the House of Black, especially if all of it was focused on him. Granted, a great number of his presents were of the Walburga Black persuasion –meaning that they consisted of proper dress robes or a toy elf that sprouted pureblood history when you hugged it– but whatever their nature, they were still presents for him. Besides, his Dad and auntie's gifts more than made up for all of it, and still, even if their gifts had been more dragon plushies –he had six and counting, really, he'd loved the first couple, but after a while the gift got repetitive –or yet another pair of matching dress robes and cape, he would have still loved them solely based on the fact that he was getting presents, as a kid. The Harry of his past life had never been congratulated on his birthday, much less been thrown a party or given a gift until he'd been old enough to go to Hogwarts, where everyone was too insecure to openly admit they loved their family or appreciated their friends. The fact that as a three year old he was getting the experience of being lavished with gifts and being spoilt rotten meant too much for him on principle to ever be able to find fault with any of the festivities. Even if, as he'd found out, 'hunt the muggle' was a popular party game, he couldn't be discouraged because he liked too much the idea of being loved, of belonging, and being so appreciated that the prim and proper Blacks went through all the trouble of wrapping presents in ridiculous patterns and hiding them around the house for him.
Nevertheless, his Dad's birthday gift was something he'd treasure forever. Narcissa had just given him a soft little quaffle replica to play with when his Dad went to look for his present. Apparently, it was a popular gift for five year olds, and giving it to him so young was not something that the older Blacks approved of –except, of course, his Dad –but Leo appreciated it just the same. The ball was supposed to double as a little pillow when he was tired, and if he wanted to play with it then he would have to ask a grown up to tap it with their wand so as to activate the hover charm. All that was missing now was a snitch, but he knew that there was no way that he'd convince anyone to buy one to him at his current age, so he would have to make do with playing catch with his Dad. He'd teach Draco too as soon as the little tike was old enough to run around the house with him. He was in the middle of squishing the ball to his chest with all his strength when his father came back down with a wrapped box.
Letting go of his new toy, Leo run up to Regulus to claim his new present, with no idea of what could possibly be inside the box. It was therefore, quite surprising when, the moment he touched the unopened gift, he could feel his magic rising up inside of him, ruffling his dark wavy hair with a conjured wind.
"Whoa, what is in there?"
Regulus got down on his knees, lowering himself to Leo's height before putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Originally, I was going to give you some quidditch paraphernalia. However, looking around the black library for information on my upcoming ritual, I found the diary of one of our dragon taming ancestors, who was trying to develop a spell to control the weather in his reserve for the Black family Gilmore. I don't think it was every really possible for him to control the weather, but the base equations he created gave me the idea of making you this."
As Regulus talked, Leo tore away the paper, feeling his excitement at the mysterious hand-made present escalate along with his magic. Opening it up, he took out a crystal ball, immediately coming to mind an image of Professor Trelawney hunched upon a similar item and predicting his overly-dramatized death. When he touched it though, he could see the sphere coming to life, conjuring inside it a series of rapidly changing seasons and weather conditions, going in the span of a few seconds from a winter blizzard, to a summer thunderstorm and finally settling on a sunny spring day, showing blooming flowers and a radiant sun.
"It should manipulate the elements with your magic, settling on whatever best represents your current mood. It turns out that crystal balls are unusually useful for conjuration, given that they are made especially to be able to represent inside them any image or element, so that they can provide grater accuracy for the future. I thought it would be nice for you to have something to which your magic can relate, besides giving you an easier time of recognizing your moods." His Dad finished, giving him a look –after all, he had been there the day Leo thought that his magic being exited to go out to play meant that he was being possessed.
"Thanks!" He threw his arms around his Dad's neck, loudly proclaiming, in that way only children seem to be able to pull off, that it was the best birthday present ever and it made both him and his magic very happy, though it probably had made Regulus just as happy to make it.
Leo knew that his Dad had a bit of a mad scientist streak, and that he loved to take things apart and build them again, poking into anything to know how it worked. It was a habit born out of his endless curiosity, and something that he was starting to instill in his child. Nevertheless, he hadn't had much time for research lately, being caught up in surviving the war, the horocrux hunt and getting rid of the dark mark, so the opportunity to play around with a crystal ball, and engineer something which would be one of a kind and only compatible with Leo's magic was a godsend, giving him the opportunity to both satisfy his curiosity and try to give the best birthday present he could make to his son.
After opening all of his presents Leo decided to put some of them to good use. Not being used to even owning as many toys as his family had given him today, he started by organizing them first, putting all of the toys separated from the clothes, which were also apart from the plushies or the more educational gifts. Surveying his little pile of actual toys, Leo was sure that he'd be waking up any minute now. This was truly too good to be true. Something must have shown in his expression, because he could feel his father's curious face on him, no doubt wondering what had upset his son when minutes before he'd been brimming with laughs.
The minute Leo raised his head to meet his father's eyes; he could see the emotions cycling through them, enough to distinguish the initial understanding of his mood, which promptly changed into murderous rage, as he guessed at the source of much of his misery. Not for the first time, Leo really wished that his Dad would never meet the Dursleys.
He prayed that no Black member would ever have any reason to go looking for the Dursley family, for that matter. They were after all, the biggest bigots that Leo had ever had the pleasure of being related to. He shuddered to think of the screaming match that would ensue from putting Magic hating Vernon in the same room as Muggle hating Aunt Cassiopeia. Leo balked at the though, trying to picture the bloody mess.
Dragging himself from those thoughts, Leo turned to look for his Uncle Ignatius, one of his nicer non death-eating relations, just in time to see the man open a box from Honeydukes. Cor Leonis smiled, that was exactly his kind of present
It was in a similar manner that Leo spent the rest of the day, receiving an endless amount of gifts but never letting the sphere which now rested on a place of honor on his bedside out of sight.
He was glad, when thinking back upon it, that he'd let his Dad change his birth date to the 1st of August, as he had been planning on preserving the original 31st of July. Regulus had another idea however, given that he didn't want his kid associated with any 'born as the seventh month dies' prophesy. It was because of this that he changed the date to the first day of the eight month, given that, this way, Leo's birth wouldn't be directly associated with Voldemort's –or any Dark Lord's –demise, but was, nevertheless, close enough to the date to be able to twist the prophesy around a little in case they needed to. Claiming that the birth had happened the exact minute the seventh month had died, and had been therefore recorded as the beginning of the next.
Whenever Leo thought about it, he could admit it was quite clever, since he could be able to live his life as a normal kid, far from the wizarding world's convoluted spotlight, but still be able to confront Voldemort and convince him to come after him instead of Harry or Neville when the time for the showdown came around. Not that it was something he'd ever voice to his Dad, given that the man was liable to have a coronary if he got wind of what his kid was planning, regardless of if he was actually capable of it.
Unknown to him, Regulus had had a similar thought process, he and his fake wife had defied the mad man enough times while in his service, and he wouldn't want to paint a bigger target in any of their backs -whether for Albus Dumbledore or Voldemort was still to be seen - by having his kid associated with that self-fulfilling drivel.
The following month went quicker than Leo would have liked, and in no time at all he found himself holding his father's hand in a death grip, terrified of the oncoming ritual.
The Blacks had already prepared everything that they could possibly need to carry out the drawn out process of separating Voldemort's magic from his father's body, but still Leo worried. There were a lot of things that could go wrong, a lot of contingencies they hadn't planned for. He gripped his father's hand tighter, gnawing at his lip.
"Come on sweet, there is no need to frown, us Blacks have been doing this for long before rituals were acknowledged by the general magical population, certainly long before the ban" Narcissa frowned delicately "There is really no need to worry" She smiled down at him.
Leo had a hunch that they would live to regret those words.
Nevertheless he sighted, hugged his Dad one last time, and left with the Black women, hoping that his grandfather actually knew what he was doing.
About 'War and Peace': Lovely book, a bit on the long side, but totally worth it, though you might find it a bit tedious if you've got no patience for all the pomposity of the past. Also, I kind of can't help but hate the princess with the hare lip, can't remember her name, but I remember her being a first class annoyance.
Im planning on updating sometime at the end of October, so don't get your hopes up about a quick chapter. Thing is I'm changing A LOT about the scene of that Halloween night 1981, and Im adding some suggestions that I received, tweaking stuff a bit. Also, I'm kind of nervous about next chapter because that's actually the thing that inspired this whole story to begin with, so I'm falling with that one. BTW, the whole ritual thing comes in the next installment. Also, Leo finally meets Sirius! :)