Reveals are up at the next_gen_fest, so here is my submission from this year! This piece really took on a life of its own! I really wanted to explore a set of twins who are, at heart, very different, and I wanted to look at how two very different twins might react to being Luna Lovegood's sons. This expanded and grew from there. I hope you enjoy this wild and crazy ride of magical zoology, and of course, all my thanks must go to my beta, Chase, without whom this simply would never have been completed. Thank also to the mods, for your patience and understanding when life cropped up (and I accepted a prompt that ended up needing far more research time than I had anticipated!)
And yes, for those of you interested in knowing, this IS the Lorcan and Lysander I will be exploring further in Pieces. :)
"Remind me again why I agreed to this?"
It took all of Lorcan's patience and will and love for his mother to keep from throttling his brother where he stood. As it was, it was probably a good thing that their father passed by at that moment, clapping both boys on the shoulder and replying to Lysander's sullen inquiry with a cheerful, "Because your mother and I didn't give you a choice."
"Ah, right. I've been forcibly coerced into the wilderness under the guise of familial bonding," Lysander muttered, and Lorcan forced down another wave of irritation. Their father, though, just smiled.
"That's right. We've decided to inflict upon you the worst of all possible tortures - family vacation. However will you survive?" Lorcan didn't bother to hide his smirk, even as Lysander colored (in embarrassment or anger, Lorcan couldn't tell). "C'mon, boys," Rolf Scamander said then. "Campsite's up this way, and I bet Mum has already beaten us there!"
And he trudged away carefully through the underbrush. Lorcan didn't wait to see whether his brother would follow. He hitched his pack up higher on his shoulder and followed the trail his father was taking.
Honestly, even Lysander's sour mood couldn't dampen Lorcan's spirits for long. He was thrilled to be here, in the Amazon rainforest, on another expedition with his parents! He was sixteen, and he hadn't left Europe in four years, hadn't left the British Isles since a three-day trip to the Spanish coast two summers before to track a herd of demiguise. He couldn't think of a more perfect way to start off the summer before his last year of school.
Lysander, though, felt much differently, and had no qualms about making those feelings known. Lorcan couldn't believe, sometimes, how different he and his twin were. They shared parents, a birthday, and a childhood, but they were in different Houses, had different temperaments and different friends, and they didn't even look like brothers, let alone twins.
Their mother, Luna Lovegood-Scamander, was as pale and fair as the day was long, but their father claimed to hail from "a little bit of everywhere," physical evidence of the Scamanders's long history of traveling the world. His skin was dark, a combination of ancestry from Ethiopia, Egypt, India, and Indonesia on his mother and grandmother's sides. But when Lorcan and Lysander were born, instead of boasting the creamy brown skin and hair of most children of biracial marriages, Lorcan had received all the dark and Lysander all the light. Lysander was almost as pale and fair as his mother, and Lorcan was nearly as dark as his father.
"It happens that way sometimes," their mother had told them when they were old enough to ask. "It's rare, but not unheard of. There are lots of Muggle accounts. Isn't genetics fascinating?"
Lysander grew uncomfortable whenever their mother started talking about genetics and science, as if such topics were inappropriate for wizards and witches to discuss, but Lorcan shared his mother's fascination. He rolled his eyes at Lysander's embarrassment whenever someone asked them how twins could have different color skin. He would immediately launch into an excited explanation about genes and chromosomes and melatonin distribution. Lysander hated it.
"I wish you'd stop doing that," Lysander had snapped at him once after his explanation was finished and the people he had been talking to had drifted away. Before Lorcan had been able to ask what his brother's problem was, Lysander had continued angrily, "It's clear enough we're freaks, do you have to explain in it a way that makes us look like even bigger freaks?" And he had stormed away. That had been five and a half years ago, halfway through their first year at Hogwarts, and the first real indication that Lysander had become a person Lorcan barely knew.
On the path through the rainforest, Lorcan caught up with his father. "Why did we make him come?" he asked. "He made it very clear he doesn't want to be here, he's gonna be angry and sullen the whole time and ruin things for everyone else. We could have left him in England, and you and I and Mum might actually have been able to accomplish things here."
His father laughed. "Don't condemn us to failure before we've even set up camp, Lorcan!"
"I'm just saying -"
"I know what you're saying," his father interrupted. "And I'm saying that three quarters of a family does not a family vacation make."
"I bet it would," Lorcan replied. "If we gave it a shot."
He was trying to make his father laugh, but Rolf Scamander just sighed, looking troubled. "It's important to your mother to have you both here. This may be the last trip we get to take as a family."
Lorcan was instantly alert. He stopped on the path and stared at his father. "What do you mean?" he demanded, immediately imagining the worst possible scenarios of illness, dark wizardry, government interference. Rolf rolled his eyes good-naturedly and slung an arm around Lorcan's shoulders.
"I mean," he said with a smile, "that you and your brother are almost of age and a year away from graduating, little Doomsayer."
"Oh," Lorcan said, feeling foolish. His dad rubbed his hair.
"Come on," he said, his smile wider. "We're almost there."
Late that night, when the sun had set and their camp was put together, the family of four sat around a cheery fire, carefully constructed of magical flames that gave off light and heat without burning.
"So, now that you've dragged us out here, what exactly is it we're supposed to be looking for?" Lysander asked, as sullen and angry as Lorcan had predicted. Lorcan bristled at his tone and his choice of words, but their mother's smile was dampened not one bit.
"I'm glad you asked, Lysander," she said, her voice as cheery as the blue flames. "It shows both curiosity and dedication to the task ahead of us." Lysander was halfway through his eyeroll (and Lorcan was halfway through clenching his fist) when she continued, "But I think I am not going to tell you."
That startled even Lorcan, but Lysander's eyes flashed in a dangerous way. "What?" he asked.
"I would hate to color the scope of your discoveries by filling in the expectation for you!"
Lorcan looked to his father, who caught his eye and gave him the briefest of winks, immediately allaying Lorcan's nerves about going into this expedition blind. "My dear," Rolf said with a smile, reaching over and taking his wife's hand. "I think it might benefit the boys in this instance to know what they're facing. Honorable as the pursuit of a pure scope of discovery is, safety must be paramount, as I think you'll agree."
Lorcan watched his mother close her eyes and hum softly, considering. Lysander gave a full eyeroll at that and Lorcan strongly considering grinding his heel into his brother's toes. After a long moment, his mother opened her eyes and said, "I have come to the conclusion that your father is correct. Very well, boys. We are here seeking El Tunchi."
The name was not familiar to Lorcan, but that hardly mattered. Most of the creatures his mother sought weren't familiar ones. What would be the point? The way she said El Tunchi sent a thrill down his spine, and he couldn't wait to learn more. He scooted closer to the fire. "What is El Tunchi?" he asked, and his mother gave him a radiant smile.
"El Tunchi is a dark spirit said to haunt this part of the rainforest," she told them. "He terrorizes visitors with an eerie whistle, which he uses to take over their minds. Like a Skitnie or a Siren, but more deliberate in his choice of victims. Skitnies and Sirens will captivate any who come near them, but El Tunchi respects those who respect his home. I believe, anyway. There are many variations of the legend to sort through. Some say El Tunchi is an amalgamation of all the souls that have perished here, while other of my sources say he's the ghost of a man who became lost and died in the jungle. The legends are quite thick with the Muggles here, but they do all seem to agree that- "
"Wait." Lysander's voice was harsh and incredulous. "Muggles? You've dragged us out here to chase a Muggle bedtime story?"
Luna turned to her son, her face closed as she considered him like a puzzle she wished to solve. When she spoke again, it was in a quiet voice. "Dragons. Mermaids. Trolls. Are these creatures not also the subject of Muggle bedtime stories? Centaurs. Hippogriffs. Phoenixes. Do you believe in these creatures of legend because only there is documentation from many sources? Only because you have the opportunity to see them with your own eyes? Your great-grandfather, Newton Scamander, was laughed at and ridiculed when he wrote of Chizpurfles and Mackled Malaclaws. And yet, their existence has been confirmed time and again since your great-grandfather first published his findings. Creatures like Pogrebins and Heliopaths, long thought to be no more than legends or myths are now widely known and studied because people like us dare to believe they existed. So where do you draw your line, Lysander? For shame! I am most disappointed in your narrow-mindedness!"
Only a look of strongest warning from his father kept the smirk off of Lorcan's face. Lysander's face was blotchy with embarrassed anger, and he would not meet his mother's eye. Undeterred, Luna continued. "Muggles see many things, and they tell stories of what they cannot understand. But in every legend and fairy tale, there is a seed of truth and our job as Magizoologists is to listen to those stories and investigate those seeds of truth. Perhaps El Tunchi is nothing more than a particularly malevolent ghost or a colony of Redcaps or just the product of overactive imaginations. But we will not know unless we search, and that is why we are here. And a word of warning to you - wizards and witches likewise are the subject of Muggle bedtime stories, so I would be careful with your line of reasoning if I were you. I would hate for you to wink out of existence under the weight of your own logic."
Lysander's only response was to storm away from the campfire and into his tent for the night. Lorcan felt like cheering - until he saw his mother's face. Luna looked positively downtrodden, heartsore almost, which immediately quelled Lorcan's vindictive triumph at his brother's (well-deserved) talking to.
"Tell me about El Tunchi, Mum," Lorcan said into the silence. "I want to know everything. What do most Muggles seem to agree on?" His mother managed a wan smile and found the thread of the legends again with only a little difficulty.
The next morning, as they prepared to set off into the jungle, it was as if the previous night's scolding had never happened - except that one look at Lysander's face made it clear he hadn't forgotten, and that he resented even more being here with his family on what he considered to be a fool's errand. Lorcan decided that, unpleasant though it would undoubtedly be, he would stick close to his twin on this trip and make sure he didn't cause any trouble.
But Lysander seemed to behave himself. The next three days were as bad as Lorcan had feared they might be, but for an entirely unexpected reason. Though Lorcan would never give his brother the satisfaction of voicing this complaint aloud, his mother''s approach to the trip had become stifling. She had taken her husband's "safety must be paramount" to the extreme and insisted that the family scour the jungle a mere twenty feet apart from one another at all times.
Lorcan wanted to explore! He wanted to set off on his own, make his own notes, move at his own pace. He wanted to venture further than fifty yards beyond the campsite in a day's travel. If El Tunchi was real, he was going to be found in the deepest, darkest parts of the forest, and that's where Lorcan wanted to go!
"Another successful day! No sign of El Tunchi, but we aided that swarm of Dugbogs and tracked a new congress of Peruvian Salamanders!" Luna said brightly at dinner at the end of their third day in the Amazon.
"I really must write the Brazilian Ministry tonight," Rolf said with a thoughtful look on his face. "So they can look into how a swarm of Dugbogs was transported from their home marsh to the rainforest in the first place. And that's the eighth congress of Peruvian Salamanders we've found outside of Peru so far. We should talk to someone about changing the name, or at least remember to make a footnote in the new edition."
"Quite right!" Luna said with a brilliant smile. "And the Curupiras we met were wonderfully helpful."
"They attacked us with spiked clubs!" Lysander protested.
"Well, yes, dear," Luna said patiently. "They do that. They thought we were hurting those Dugbogs. They're very protective creatures. But once I explained the situation, they were wonderfully helpful."
"Tell that to my shins," Lysander muttered, so low only Lorcan heard him.
"They gave us some good leads on where to seek El Tunchi, and they're going to help return the Dugbogs to their home. I had no idea the Curupiras had colonies in the rainforest. I wish we had more time to make contact. They speak such a fascinating dialect of Dwarfish."
"Well, maybe we can make a stop back here later this year."
While their parents were preoccupied with their plans, Lysander rolled his eyes and rubbed at his shin, looking sullen as ever, and muttered, "What a massive waste of time." Lorcan decided he'd had enough.
"Mum," he said. "I was thinking. Maybe tomorrow we could split up a little? Explore on our own? I think we'll cover more ground and work more productively if we separate. Plus," he added when his mother looked hesitant, "it'll provide a much wider scope of discovery."
He knew from experience that it was no use trying to hurry his mother on a decision like this, so he just sat back and let her consider. He caught his father's eye, and Rolf winked at him, which made Lorcan smile. The smile fell a little when he caught sight of Lysander, scratching at the ground with a stick and pretending not to care, but watching their mother from beneath lowered lids all the same. He looked as if he cared a great deal about her answer. Now, why would that be?
"I think," Luna finally said, interrupting his thoughts, "that I need to think about this a little more. I will sleep on it, and let you know my decision in the morning."
Sleep that night was an elusive thing.
The next morning, Lorcan stood with his pack, ready to go, trying not to bounce up and down in anticipation. Next to him, Lysander hunched into himself in the chilly morning air. Their mother made them wait until breakfast had been eaten before she would announce her decision.
"I have decided," she said when the dishes were packed away and the fire was recollected into its glass jar, "that I will let you explore on your own today. But," she stressed firmly before Lorcan could do more than grin, "I want you two boys to stick together."
Lorcan's happy cry changed to a groan, which he stifled lest it prompt his parents to change their minds entirely. Maybe he could convince Lysander to stay at camp and nurse his wounds and sulk in peace, since he didn't care about or believe in El Tunchi.
Lysander did not stifle his groan. "Must we?" he drawled, and Luna fixed him with a rare stern gaze.
"Yes," she said in a voice that brooked no argument. "You must. You stay with your brother or both you boys stay with us, but no one is to go off in this forest alone. Do you understand me?" Both brothers mumbled their affirmative replies. "And what's more, I want you to explore due south of here so that 'Point Me' will lead you straight back to camp. Keep track of how far you go so that you know how long it will take to get back. Take food with you, and water. If you get lost, don't try to Apparate back. The magical atmosphere of the forest will interfere and send you astray at best, Splinched and astray at worst. It will also interfere with location spells and make it harder for us to find you."
"Also, you can't legally Apparate yet," their father broke in.
Lorcan could tell Lysander had stopped listening, and nudged him hard in the side, earning a reproachful look he ignored. "Also that," their mother was saying, "though I consider that far less important. If you get lost, stay put. We'll be exploring to the east, and we'll come find you if you're not back by mid-afternoon. And above all, boys . . ."
She stepped closer to them, reaching for Lysander's cheek. He shifted out of reach, however, and she changed the gesture into a straightening of Lorcan's jacket. "Above all," she repeated, "respect this place. You know all about the dangers of El Tunchi. You want to find evidence, but you don't want to anger him. Look out for each other. Don't take unnecessary risks. Keep each other safe."
Lysander rolled his eyes - He really is going to get eye strain if he keeps that up, Lorcan thought darkly - but Lorcan embraced his mother.
"Don't worry," he said. "We'll see you at dinner, safe and sound, and with amazing discoveries to relate!"
Luna smiled at that. "I'm sure you will. Best of luck!" Then she and Rolf shouldered their packs and headed away to the east.
"Ready for another complete waste of time?" Lysander asked, much louder than needed, and Lorcan shifted away from him, glaring. He shouldered his own pack, then placed his wand in his hand.
"Point me," he said, and the wand pointed due north. He put north to their backs and headed into the trees, not bothering to see if Lysander was following.
He expected grumbling and sniping. He braced himself for it. But though Lysander did, in fact, mutter under his breath for the first five minutes into the trees, eventually, the sound died out, and then, inexplicably, Lysander began to whistle. Lorcan stopped short and turned around.
"What's gotten into you?" he demanded. Lysander grinned at him - grinned. Lorcan was instantly wary.
"I ought to thank you, little brother," Lysander said then, sounding more cheerful than Lorcan had heard him in, well, years, really. "I thought I was going to have to concoct some complicated scheme to get out from under Mummy's prying eyes, but you have made my plans much easier. Truly, I owe you one."
"What in hell are you talking about?" Lorcan demanded.
"Well, you can muck about the jungle with Mum and Dad for an unspecified length of time, chasing imaginary demons, but personally, I'm going back to England."
Lorcan laughed derisively. "Really. And how exactly do you plan to manage that?"
"There's a trans-Atlantic transport leaving in two hours from Belem. I intend to be with them. As soon as we get to a large enough clearing, I'll be Apparating out of this humid cesspool. But really, enjoy the rest of your trip. Have fun with the club-wielding dwarfs, the fire-spitting crabs, and the marshfolk who like to feast on Mandrakes for fun. Those sound safe. Oh, and of course, El Tunchi." His voice was thick with sarcasm and mockery. "Do give Mum and Dad my regrets, would you? I'd stay, I really would, except that I can't think of anything that would be worse torture. So, ta." And with a winning smile, he pressed forward through the trees and thick undergrowth, not following the line due south, but veering off to the west, in the direction they had traveled yesterday.
Lorcan stood on the path, in shock, while his brother disappeared into the jungle, torn over what to do. He should just abandon his brother to be lost in the jungle, but . . . well, he had promised his mother. With a monstrous groan, cursing his Hufflepuff loyalty, he veered from the path and followed his twin through the undergrowth.
"Hey!" he shouted at Lysander's retreating back when he caught up to him. Lysander raised an eyebrow over his shoulder.
"Why are you following me?" he asked. "I'd have thought this would be your dream come true. It was pretty obvious last night and this morning that you don't want to explore the Amazon with me."
"Leaving you to wallow in your own dramatic angst at camp and leaving you lying Splinched in the rainforest are two different things."
Lysander scoffed. "Your vote of confidence is overwhelming. But I am perfectly capable of Apparating thirty miles without going wrong."
"Didn't you hear Mum?" Lorcan demanded. "Apparition doesn't work out here!"
"I did hear Mum say that, yes, but then I've also heard Mum talk about how braiding dirigible plums into your hair will let you commune with Moon Frogs, so I tend to take everything she says with a handful of salt."
As always when Lysander starting ridiculing their mother, Lorcan felt the familiar slow-building anger grow a little hotter in his stomach. "Why do you always do that?" he demanded of his brother. "Ridicule Mum?"
"Because she's ridiculous, Lorcan, have you seen her? Have you listened to her?"
Lorcan's cheeks burned. "She's eccentric, yes, but she's brilliant!"
The look Lysander fixed on him was the height of patronizing. "Of course she is," he said, as if speaking to a delusional child. "Moon Frogs are real, and you can absolutely talk to them if you smash some fruit on your head." He reached out and patted Lorcan on the cheek, and Lorcan slapped his hand away. Lysander smirked. "Grow up, Lorc. Ah, good," he said, looking around as they came to a slightly wider opening in the trees. "Perfect Apparition Point. We'll be parting ways now. Enjoy your summer."
"Like hell," Lorcan growled, and without thinking about it, he reached out as his brother spun and laid a hand on his pack just as he disappeared.
They landed quite ungracefully, Lorcan on top of his brother, both of them sprawled face first on top of the wet, decaying leaves and plants that comprised the forest floor. "Get off me!" Lysander shouted, shoving Lorcan away. "Where the hell are we?"
"Oh, I'm sorry," Lorcan said, deciding to fight sarcasm with sarcasm as he wiped his dirty palms on his jacket. "Was this not where you wanted to end up?"
"You threw me off!" Lysander accused. "What the hell did you think you were doing, grabbing my pack like that?"
"I was trying to keep your arse from getting stranded alone in an unfamiliar part of the jungle!"
"I'd be in Belem right now if not for you!"
"No, you wouldn't!" Lorcan shouted. "You were never going to make it to Belem – Apparition doesn't work in the jungle! Now shut up while I try to figure out where we are and how we get back to camp!"
Lysander let out a strangled, incoherent shout of frustration and anger and stalked away to sit on a tree root and try and siphon the worst of the jungle debris off him. Lorcan, meanwhile, looked around. Even in daylight, they were deep enough in the forest that very little light filtered through. He lit the end of his wand and aimed it up into the leaves above them. "Kapok trees," he said. "There weren't any of these anywhere near camp. Luckily, I don't think you can have sent us too far. Apparition only extends about fifty miles at the best of times, and you're a novice, so we're probably not more than twenty or thirty miles away from camp at most." Even as he said it, it sounded like an insurmountable distance. But he refused to lose heart. "If we stay put, Mum and Dad should — hey! Hey!"
He had turned at the end of his examination to see Lysander on his feet, pack on his back, preparing to Apparate again. Lorcan lunged, dropping his wand, and again latched onto his brother just before the other boy disappeared.
The second they landed, Lorcan shoved his brother to the ground. "What the hell, Lysander!" he shouted, teeming with fury.
"I have to get to Belem!"
"So you were going to abandon me alone in an unknown part of the rainforest?" he demanded.
"You'd have been fine!" Lysander shouted, his face red with anger but also, Lorcan hoped, with at least a little bit of shame. "You've been spouting facts about this place left and right since we got here! You'd have found a way back to the camp or survived perfectly well until Mum and Dad found you!"
"Pleased as I am to have that vote of confidence," Lorcan snapped, "it doesn't change the fact that you were going to abandon me alone in an unknown part of the rainforest!"
"Oh, would you shut up about it?" Lysander snapped right back, getting to his feet. "Honestly, you're such a drama queen!"
"Me?" Lorcan sputtered. "I'm the drama queen?"
"You're the one in a tizzy at the moment, so yeah, I'd say so."
Lorcan forced himself to take first one deep breath, and then another. His brother did this to him. He could be perfectly calm, cool, and collected with anyone else. He could take a joke, accept teasing, and it would roll right off his back, or he'd give back as good as he got. But Lysander had a way of getting under his skin, of flustering him and getting him riled up, and he really couldn't pinpoint why. But he was determined not to prove him right.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have a transport group to meet," Lysander was saying.
"When are you gonna get it through your thick head, Lysander?" Lorcan asked, advancing on his brother. "You can't Apparate out of the forest! You've tried twice and only gotten yourself more lost!"
"That's because I had an unexpected hitchhiker both times," his brother said primly.
Whatever Lysander had been expecting, that was not it. "Pardon me?" Lorcan shrugged.
"Prove it. Prove that me grabbing on was what sent you astray. Take us to Belem, right now."
"Us?" he repeated, looking incredulous.
"Well, you're not leaving me here. I'm not taking my chances alone in the rainforest with no food, no water, and no wand, all of which you left behind last time around. So take us to Belem, and I'll shut up about it, and let you go home back to England."
Lysander held his eyes for a long moment, debating. Lorcan forced himself to look coolly back, but eventually, Lysander said, "Fine."
"Fine," Lorcan repeated.
When they landed this time, it was in a section of forest even danker and darker than the one they had left. The smell of decay was thick here, and the air was even hotter and thicker. Sweat rolled down the back of Lorcan's neck as he raised an eyebrow at Lysander.
"I'm not used to Side-Along," he tried to argue.
"Oh, give it up!" Lorcan snapped. "Just admit it! Admit that you were wrong and Mum was right!"
"Fine!" he snapped, straightened his sleeves rather than look Lorcan in the eye. "On this one small thing in particular – Mum was right." He looked as if the words were poison to say, the very thought painful to acknowledge or admit, and Lorcan couldn't take it anymore.
"What is your problem?" he demanded, voicing the thought that had plagued him for years now. "You never used to be like this."
Lysander scoffed. "You have no idea what I am or what I used to be like," he said.
"Now who's the drama queen?" Lorcan leveled at him. Lysander looked away, clearly not willing to discuss it any further. After a long and awkward silence, Lorcan said, "We should try and make camp."
"I think we should try and make it back to camp, actually."
Lorcan, who had been in the process of clearing a patch of earth to try and make a fire, stopped, straightened, and turned slowly to face his brother. "Back to camp?" he repeated. "Back to our original camp? You do realize that we are lost in the rainforest, right? And that the Amazon rainforest covers 2.7 million square miles of land? And that your misguided Apparition attempts have potentially taken us 150 miles from camp and our parents? Which, I grant you, isn't 2.7 million, but it is still one hundred and fifty. But you want to try and make it back there?"
"You've got the Point Me spell!" Lysander argued.
"Which tells me where north is, it doesn't tell me where camp is!"
"So make your best guess!"
"My best guess?" Lorcan repeated, growing ever more incredulous by the minute. "Yeah, I might lead us closer to camp, but it's much more likely I'll lead us farther away, and it's guaranteed that moving at all will make it harder for Mum and Dad to find us!"
"Well, I'm not staying here, and I'm the one with the food and water and wand, so you can stay put and wait for Mummy if you like-"
"Threatening to abandon me in the rainforest a second time, badmouthing Mum every chance you get. Tell me, where is that familial loyalty you Slytherins are supposed to be all about?" Lorcan knew the words were nasty, but he was fighting fire with fire here. But Lysander just stared at him for a moment, then snorted and shook his head. Without a word, he pulled out his wand and performed the "Point Me" spell, then set off through the trees to the north, leaving Lorcan to follow or not.
It wasn't at all the response Lorcan was expecting. He'd expected some biting retort, some comment thick with sarcasm, but Lysander had looked almost disappointed, somehow. Almost hurt, which didn't make the slightest bit of sense. After a moment or two of trying to wrap his head around that, Lorcan figured he ought to follow his twin. He still thought they should stay put, but Mum had told them to stay together and keep each other safe. He couldn't do that if miles of rainforest separated them. And Lysander was right - he did have the wand.
Lorcan decided it would be best if they trudged along in silence, since they clearly couldn't have a conversation without sniping at each other, but Lysander had other ideas. They had been walking for about five minutes when, out of the blue, he said, "You know what your problem is, Lorcan?"
"No, but I can't wait for you to tell me," Lorcan muttered.
"Your problem is that you exist in this weird little cocoon of Hufflepuff optimism that blinds you to the realities of the real world and the people in it."
"That's my problem, is it?"
"Yeah. And it's worrying, honestly, because there's this whole part of the picture that you're missing when you look at the world, like you're colorblind and you can't understand that people are laughing at you for coloring the grass red because you just think they're delighted with your picture."
"What the hell are you on about?"
"Do you realize that Mum is a laughingstock? In every corner of the world except the delusional one you live in? Because I've become genuinely concerned over the past few days that you don't actually realize this."
And the thing was, he did sound genuinely concerned. And that put a strange and fluttery feeling into Lorcan's hands and stomach, one he didn't like. Because this wasn't Lysander's usually brooding complaints. This . . .
"Stop it," he said. "Mum is a respected Magizoologist-"
"No, Dad is a respected Magizoologist. The only reason Mum gets even a modicum of respect is because she married into the Scamander name. But even that only does so much."
"No, you're wrong." Lorcan wouldn't listen to this. He refused to listen to this. "You know what your problem is? You wrap yourself in a cocoon of Slytherin cynicism and your bizarre desire to be normal until it taints everything you interact with."
"I'm sorry, wanting a normal childhood with parents who didn't spend their every waking moment chasing fairy tales around the world is a bad thing?"
"We'd visited four continents before we were ten! Who wants a normal childhood when they can have that opportunity?" Sometimes, Lorcan really didn't understand his brother. "And they weren't chasing fairy tales - do you understand how many creatures Mum and Dad have discovered? They've added nineteen species to Fantastic Beasts. Nineteen! Four of which - Aquavirious Maggots, Heliopaths, Humdingers, and Wrackspurts - Mum used to be laughed at for believing in. But they're real, and she's proved it! She's only a laughingstock to people as ignorant and closed-minded as you are."
"Yeah, and for every one of her insane creature she's proved is real, she has ten more that are nothing but ridiculous flights of fancy!"
"But don't you see how flawed that argument is?" Lorcan actually stopped walking at that and put a hand out to stop his brother, too. Lysander let himself be stopped, but he didn't look happy about it. "Those four species of Mum's, the other fifteen she and Dad have found, they were once just ridiculous flights of fancy, too! Science is about believing things are possible until you can prove they're not!"
"But what the hell kind of world is that to live in, Lorcan? You can't go around believing in everything that hasn't been disproved!"
"Why not?" Lorcan challenged, and Lysander threw his hands in the air in exasperation.
"Because you'll waste your life never able to tell fantasy from reality!"
"Mum doesn't think she's wasted her life."
"Exactly," Lysander said, grabbing Lorcan's shoulders and speaking with earnestness. "Because she lives in a fantasy world. Do you remember the Impundulu?"
"From South Africa?" Lorcan stared at his brother, bewildered, trying to figure out where he was going with this. "Yeah. That summer was amazing."
"Yeah, for you. You fit right in. Mum and I stood out like sore thumbs, and I spent the summer getting poked at and stared at and laughed at. Oh, and sunburnt because Dad joined us later from a trip to Mongolia so didn't help Mum pack and there was no sunblocking potion. She was so focused on finding her lightning bird. Which didn't exist, by the way, do you remember that?"
"The Impundulu has been associated with South African wizards for years. It's logical to think it might-"
"Yeah, you know what's not logical? Looking for a creature that great-grandpapa looked for seventy years ago and concluded doesn't actually exist, a creature that the South African wizards confirmed doesn't exist. The only accounts of this bird come from superstitious tribal Muggles, and to spend two months searching anyway-"
"New evidence came to light in 2005-"
"At which point, Newt Scamander went back to investigate, and again found nothing, so why Mum felt the need, twenty years later-"
"Because she thought she had a new insight into one of his more cryptic comments in his journal!"
Lysander sighed and shook his head, agitated. "So she made us spend two months in a country where we didn't know the language so she could follow a hunch?"
"The experience is half of this job!" Lorcan argued. "You make friends, you play Quodspot, you learn the language! I still write to Bulelani-"
"Yeah. I still write to a lot of the people I met tagging along on Mum's trips."
Lysander just shook his head and started moving forward again, but Lorcan couldn't tell if that meant he was winning the argument or not. After a minute or so, he spoke up again. "The point is, that's two months of our life we lost to pursue one of Mum's crazy creatures, and it's not the only time that's happened. How long did we spend in Japan, looking for that magical badger?"
"Yeah. Turned out to be nothing more than a ghost story. But we lived in Japan for six months. Look, the Impundulu, I can almost understand. A bird the size of a human that shoots lightning from its wings and talons? Sounds more like a magical creature than a Glumbumble does, and Merlin knows we've had personal experience with those. But six months chasing a supposed shape-shifting badger? It's an Animagus if it's anything, and therefore not something Magizoologoists should be investigating at all, let alone for six months. You have to give me that one."
Lorcan sighed and ran a hand through his hair. It came back sticky with sweat and tree sap. "It was a little long," he admitted in a mumble.
"Especially for seven year olds," Lysander added. "Then there was the 'Elepaio."
"Was a fucking bird!" Lysander said, incensed. "We spent four months in Hawaii because Mum heard this tale of the 'Elepaio, the great protector spirits! And it was a fucking bird, Lorcan!"
"We didn't stay in Hawaii because of the 'Elepaio! Mum admitted the stories had gotten mistranslated the first week! We stayed because of the Menehune!"
"Who are like House Elves! Classified as beings, not beasts, so we had no business staying once the creature we came to find proved to be perfectly mundane!"
"God, you're so clinical!" Lorcan shouted, tired of the argument. "Why does everything have to be so cut and dry with you? How the hell can you classify Hawaii as a failure, as evidence of Mum's ridiculousness? Do you have any idea how beneficial those months with the Menehune were? Most of the magical community believes the Menehune to be mythological or extinct, and we not only proved otherwise, we got the chance to live with them, to experience their way of life! We were welcomed into their clan; they fed and clothed us and showed us their magic! How many people in the world can say that? How can you not find that reality extraordinary?"
"Because I existed on nuts and roots for four months and their clothes were made of reeds and gave me a rash."
"Oh my God," Lorcan snapped, and he had to turn and put a few good paces between them before he strangled his twin. Taking deep breaths, he flexed and unflexed his hands, trying to calm down.
"And don't even get me started on the Snorkack."
Lorcan pushed his tongue hard against his teeth and tried not to grimace. "Here we go," he muttered.
"Yeah, here we go," Lysander replied. "How much proof do you think Mum will need before she gets it through her head that her precious Crumple-Horned Snorkack isn't and has never been real? How many trips to Sweden does she have to take before she'll accept that her father was either as big a delusional lunatic as she is or as big a liar as she is-"
"Wait, what?" Those words marked a strange shift in Lysander. He became more worked up and upset than Lorcan could ever remember seeing him.
"Making up some fantasy creature that she can't recognize as fantasy because it's presented alongside all these creatures she's told are real-"
Lorcan stood, bewildered, staring at his brother. "What are we talking about?" he asked. "Because it doesn't sound like we're on Snorkacks anymore."
"You want to know what we're talking about? The fucking Filica, Lorcan, that's what we're talking about!"
Lorcan was spared having to try and wrap his mind around that particular revelation by a movement in the corner of his eye.
"Shut up," he told his brother, suddenly aware of how much noise they were making.
"You cannot defend her on that one, Lorcan, don't even try!"
"No, you idiot, shut up and stay still!"
Lysander saw it too, then, Instinctively, he moved half a step closer to Lorcan and slowly inched his wand out. "Is that . . .?" he asked out of the corner of his mouth.
"Jaguar," Lorcan confirmed. "And I think we're in its territory. Put your wand away. You can't subdue a jaguar on your own, you'll just make it mad."
Lorcan hated to say yes, but what else could they do? Mum and Dad had spelled them to repel dart frogs, mosquitoes, wandering spiders, snakes of all kinds, and just about any other small venomous creatures easy to overlook, but they'd assumed, he guessed, that they'd have four wands to use should they encounter a jaguar or panther.
"Yeah," he said, his eyes not leaving the big cat. "Do it."
When they landed, they were in a part of the jungle free from giant cats, but they had no sooner appeared than the air was filled with Lysander's screaming. He crumpled to the ground, clutching at his leg, and -
Splinched. The word popped into Lorcan's head, and he had to look away, feeling sick but trying not to show it. His brother's right leg ended at the ankle. He'd seen Splinching before, at school, during lessons, but never up close. Never on someone he really knew.
Luckily, his brother's shouts of pain were enough to jumpstart him into action. He knelt beside Lysander, removing his pack and rummaging through it. Lucky Dad insisted everyone carry their own first aid kit, he thought as he pulled out the bottle labeled Dittany and applied it to Lysander's leg. Lucky, too, that Mum insists on mixing Muggle medicine with magical, the thought as he brought out the topical anesthetic. Applying the cream made the tips of his fingers numb, so he hoped it worked as well on Lysander.
It seemed to. Lysander's shouts of pain subsided, though he looked pale and shaky and Lorcan was vaguely worried about shock. He knew he was supposed to try and keep Lysander warm, but it was ninety degrees in the rainforest. How much warmer could he make him, really? Nevertheless, he removed his jacket and draped it around his brother's shoulders. "Thanks," Lysander muttered as he clutched the edges of the jacket and slumped back against the roots of another giant kapok tree. "I guess we really are stuck now, aren't we?"
"Yeah," Lorcan said, half grunt, half sigh as he eased himself to the ground beside Lysander.
"This is all her fault," Lysander said under his breath, sounding exhausted and close to tears. He knocked his head back against the root several times until Lorcan caught his brother's head, cushioning the back of it with his hand and saying, "Stop, stop!" in no small amount of alarm. Lysander's breath caught in his throat.
"I never wanted to come here," he whispered. "I never wanted to travel the world or be Loony Lovegood's son. I just wanted to be normal."
"This is really all about the Filica?" Lorcan asked then, going back to Lysander's outburst before the jaguar had interrupted.
"She lied to us."
"It was a bedtime story," Lorcan said. "You had nightmares. So she took the dola and the disir, the Gramadevata, and the Lares, and the fylgjur and every other protective spirit of note and spun her own version for you. So you could sleep at night."
"Yeah," Lysander said, some of his anger returning, "and she told stories of the Filica with the same authority that she told us about Nargles and Wrackspurts and Snorkacks and every other creature she wanted to find. I was six. How was I supposed to tell what was real and what was just a story?"
"She did what every mother does," Lorcan tried to argue, but Lysander just shook his head.
"You don't understand," Lysander said, his voice weak, his eyes closed. "I was terrified, my first night in Hogwarts. You were in a different house, and we'd spent the last who knows how many years of our lives traveling the world, in a different country every month. I didn't know anyone. I was lonely, and homesick, and scared, and you weren't there, okay?" Lorcan couldn't remember the last time he'd heard his brother sound this vulnerable. "I was homesick, and I didn't want to have a nightmare in front of the other boys, so I - I asked Martin Belby if he thought the Filica would be able to get into the dorm if we needed her, since it was a boy's dorm. Martin Belby didn't know what I was talking about."
Lorcan tried to push away the sinking feeling in his stomach, with little success. He could see now, where Lysander was coming from. As a child, Lysander had suffered from night terrors, and one night when they had been particularly bad, Luna had held him and told him of a beautiful creature called the Filica, a woman with the wings of a dove, a protective spirit with the power to banish all the creatures who caused nightmares. She had taught them both a lullaby to sing to summon the Filica to them. Lorcan, not plagued by night terrors, had seen what Lysander apparently hadn't - that the Filica wasn't real, just a story to make him feel better. And the Filica's lullaby wasn't to summon a protective spirit, it was to summon Luna. He could remember now, Lysander asking once why Luna had come and not the Filica. Luna had told him it was because the Filica had told her she was needed.
He couldn't look his brother in the eye, but that was all right, because Lysander didn't seem interested in looking Lorcan in the eye, either.
"It was humiliating," he said. "Do you have any idea how long it took them to stop mocking me for believing in fairy tales? How long I had to endure them asking me if I still believed in Santa Claus? They filled me in, those boys, on our mother and how the rest of the world sees her. They made it very clear. And they were right."
Lorcan shook his head, and once he started, he couldn't stop. He didn't know how to fix this, how to even begin their mother's defense in a way that Lysander would accept or even agree to listen to. But he knew he had to try.
"Just because the Filica isn't real doesn't mean that the rest of Mum's creatures aren't real," he said softly. "I mean, okay, yeah, the Snorkack probably doesn't exist. I'll give you that one. That's Mum's white whale."
Lorcan shook his head. "Muggle reference, never mind. But the others? Legends told of a protective spirit called the 'Elepaio. It turned out to just be a bird, but it could have been something else. Something prompted the Japanese to tell tales of a Mujina. Animagus, ghost, or new creature, those tales started in truth, which we'd never find if we didn't look. The same goes for the Impundulu. And Mum's not the only one who's found a legend to search for that turned out to be nothing. Dad's the one who went on a Bigfoot expedition in Washington state and spent eight months trying to find the Beast of Dean, and Dad's white whale is Nessie! He's obsessed with the folklore of that thing."
"What's your point?" Lysander asked, sounding exhausted.
"That Mum is not the only eccentric one in this family. To do this job, you have to believe in the impossible a little bit, and Mum's right - we are impossible, in the right frame of mind. And I think all your anger toward her is misdirected because at the end of the day, you're not really angry at her inability to tell fact from fiction; you're angry at your own from when you were eleven."
"Being angry at my eleven-year-old self does not preclude me from being angry at Mum or thinking her ridiculous," Lysander said with a pained grunt, closing his eyes and looking pale enough in the dim light to make Lorcan nervous. "It doesn't preclude me from being dissatisfied with my childhood, wishing our parents had made an attempt to understand that maybe I didn't want spend my formative years in a different country every month, or resenting the fact that at sixteen, I was forced to come on this ridiculous expedition searching for El Tunchi, yet another ghost story that doesn't exist."
Maybe it was just Lorcan being paranoid, getting spooked by the forest, but when Lysander said El Tunchi, all the hairs on the back on his neck stood up. The temperature dropped and the air pressure with it. Lysander, still resting with his eyes closed, didn't seem to notice.
"The fact is, it's great that Mum and Dad have you, who is interested in all their weirdness, but I got swept along in it too, whether I wanted it or not, and I can't escape it."
"Lysander," Lorcan said very quietly, trying to get his brother's attention. There was a weird, dark fog swirling up around them, and Lorcan was pretty sure it wasn't natural. A breeze blew around them, rustling the leaves far overheard, and though it had never been light, exactly, under the canopy, it was now getting darker by the second.
"Just because we're twins doesn't mean that we're the same person, and sometimes I feel everyone knows that but Mum and Dad. And I just, this whole trip is a waste of time, this thing doesn't exist, we're never going to find-"
"Lysander!" Lorcan hissed. The dark fog was solidifying now.
"What?" Lysander snapped, opening his eyes. "What?" he asked again when he saw Lorcan's face. And then he followed Lorcan's gaze, up and up a good twenty feet now, to where a dark shape was appearing out of the fog and mist. It was humanoid in appearance, with long curling horns sprouting from its head and eyes that were glowing almost, perfectly visible in the darkness. All the blood rushed from Lysander's face.
"What was that you were saying?" Lorcan asked slowly. "About El Tunchi not existing?"
Lysander didn't reply. Instead, he reached out blindly, until his hand found his brothers, and he clutched it tightly, something he hadn't done in years. Lysander's palm was clammy. He was terrified, and Lorcan knew he was going to have to be the brave one now. "Okay," he said, taking care to keep his voice soft and calm. "We're only really in trouble if it starts whistling. We haven't gone about destroying the forest, unless we count your tearing through the underbrush earlier-"
"You're really going to bring that up now?" Lysander squeaked.
"I'm going to try to talk to it," Lorcan said. Lysander's hand spasmed in his.
"Why? The great bloody thing's not going to understand you."
"If we could avoid potentially insulting the giant demon spirit, that would probably be in our best interest," Lorcan hissed back. "If it starts whistling, whatever you do, don't whistle back. Don't repeat the melody. That's how it gets you." He felt Lysander nod beside him.
Lorcan opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Closing his eyes briefly, thinking, What would Mum do?, he wet his lips, cleared his throat, and tried again. "El Tunchi," he said, and felt the thing loom over him. "We are, er, very sorry if we've intruded on your territory. We're lost, and injured, and we mean you no harm. We're willing to depart in peace, if you'll let us go."
The creature didn't move or speak. It just loomed, staring them down while the boys waited, breath held.
"What now?" Lysander breathed after a moment of this.
"I don't know," Lorcan said. "I mean, we can't exactly run away, so we have to hope he lets us go."
"And what are the chances of that, exactly?"
Lorcan had just opened his mouth to answer when El Tunchi began to whistle. Lysander's hand clenched in his. The next second, a massive white shape flew from Lysander's wand. It looked like a woman with giant wings. The Filica (for Lorcan was certain that's what it was, which really did say a lot about his brother, certainly more than Lorcan had expected to hear on this trip) circled the creature, then disappeared into the rainforest, momentarily stopping the whistling.
"Can I just say, I'm legitimately impressed you could cast a corporeal Patronus at a time like this?" Lorcan said.
"Thanks. I just wish it had worked."
"Although, I do have to say, it looked decidedly like-"
"Finish that thought, and I end you before this thing does."
Lorcan nearly laughed at that. It was the nervous, startled laughter of someone torn between laughing and crying, but it was a laugh, and from the corner of his eye, he saw Lysander smile, a genuine if regret-filled smile, and Lorcan thought that even if they died in this rainforest, at the hands of this demon spirit neither of them had fully believed in ten minutes ago, at least they would go feeling more like brothers than they had in years, and that wasn't nothing.
The creature started its whistling again, and Lorcan choked back a sob of fear. The whistling really was like nothing else he'd heard. It wasn't normal music. It got into your bones and under your skin. It burrowed into your brain until all you wanted, all you needed was to respond, to whistle back, to become part of the melody. But Lorcan held his brother's hand even tighter, gritted his teeth together so hard his jaw ached, closed his eyes and put his entire will into resisting that call.
And then, he heard something new.
Don't cry, child of mine. Child, do not fear.
Sing this song for me and I shall appear.
Whisper my name and know that I'll hear.
Sweet, sweet, child of mine, feel no fear.
From beside him, eyes likewise clenched tight against the sight of the beast, Lysander was singing. His voice was weak and the melody was faint, but it ran counter to El Tunchi's sinister melody, and Lorcan felt filled with new hope. He joined his voice with his brother's, the lullaby coming back to him.
No nightmares, no terrors shall plague you this night,
For I'm keeping watch, and you're tucked in tight.
No monster would dare show his bark or his bite.
So sleep, sweet child of mine, til morning's light.
The Filica's here to guard you in love
From creatures below and beasts up above.
So sleep now, my princeling, my darling, my dove,
And tomorrow you'll tell me just what you dreamed of.
Their voices grew stronger with each verse, but so did the whistle of El Tunchi. It did not like being ignored or fought against, and sooner or later, Lorcan knew, it would win out.
Don't cry, child of mine. Child, do not fear.
It was the last verse of the song. Lorcan dared to open his eyes and focus on his brother. Should they just repeat the lullaby over and over?
Sing this song for me and I shall appear.
But, wait. What was that? Moving toward them through the forest?
Mother is with you now, Mother is here.
Stay where you are, boys, you've nothing to fear.
Those . . . weren't the words. And Lorcan and Lysander were no longer the only ones singing.
Suddenly, into their little hollow, came a bright burst of light. Lorcan and Lysander's voices faltered as they flinched away from the brightness, but the melody of the lullaby did not falter.
El Tunchi, I speak to you, let my boys go.
Luna strode into the hollow, hands stretched out before her, placating and calm. Rolf was at her back, but as she approached El Tunchi, he knelt by his sons and laid a solid hand on their shoulders. Lorcan was not ashamed to admit that he reached up and clung to his father's hand with all the strength of a terrified toddler. His eyes, however, he kept on his mother. Her voice was strong, her steps sure. Lysander's Filica, along with her own hare Patronus and Rolf's okapi Patronus. They brought the light, and circled Luna and her family, keeping El Tunchi at bay.
I am their mother and well should you know,
The wrath of a mother will most quickly grow
When her children are threatened by curse or by blow.
El Tunchi's whistle stopped, and it tilted its massive head slightly. It seemed to be listening, so Luna continued.
I believe that you don't wish to fight in the least.
Just that our presence in your home should cease.
That our noise and our sounds should henceforth decrease.
I give you my word, we will leave you in peace.
The music died away, and absolute silence descended on their small area of the rainforest. The world seemed to be holding its breath, and then, like an almighty sigh, El Tunchi collapsed inward, dissolving into vapor, and the forest returned to rights. Lorcan felt all the fight flow out of him, and he sagged against his father with relief, breathing as hard as if he'd just run ten miles.
His mother stayed where she was for a heartbeat or two, as if making sure that El Tunchi wasn't going to return. But when the Patronuses faded, she turned and hurried to the rest of the family, kneeling before Lorcan and Lysander and searching their faces one by one. "Are you all right?" she asked, a hand on each of their cheeks. Lorcan nodded.
"Yeah," he said, his voice catching in his throat. "I mean, Lysander got Spliched, but we're . . . how did you find us?"
"Not because you made it easy, that's for damn sure," Rolf said, and Lorcan flushed at the rare edge of anger in his father's voice. He hung his head, but it was Lysander who responded.
"That's my fault," he said. "I'm the one who Apparated away. Lorcan tried to stop me, but I wouldn't listen, so he followed me to make sure I stayed safe. I'm sorry." His voice hitched on the last word. "I'm so sorry." And before Lorcan's eyes, his brother broke down, sobbing from guilt or relief or exhaustion or pain or most like a mix of all those and more. Luna gathered her son in her arms and held him.
"It's all right," she whispered, stroking Lysander's hair. "It's all right. You're all right. You're safe. Your Patronus found us, and led us to you, so look at all you accomplished today, Lysander. You should be quite proud. As I am."
That night, after Lysander's foot had been reattached and Lorcan's wand retrieved, and they'd all had a chance to recover from the day's adventure, Lorcan brought his brother a cup of tea. It was the first time they'd been alone since El Tunchi, and Lorcan could tell Lysander was remembering all the words that had been exchanged that day. He knew he was.
"Thanks," Lysander said softly, accepting the tea.
"How's the foot?"
"It feels very strange," Lysander admitted. "I don't recommend getting Splinched. It's an unsettling experience, say the least."
"Noted," Lorcan said with a slight grin. "How's . . . everything else?"
Lysander sighed and looked away, frowning. After a long pause, he said, "I've always envied you, you know." Lorcan's eyebrows shot up.
"You've always known who you were. You've always been comfortable in your own skin. I never have. Being our parents' son just made that more noticeable and harder to live with."
"You know how you get more comfortable in your own skin?" Lorcan asked his brother. "Stop caring so damn much about what other people think of you. And of your family."
The corner of Lysander's cheek twitched. "I don't know how to do that."
"Stop hanging around with Martin Belby, for starters."
Lysander snorted. "I think seventh year is a bit late to try and make new friends, don't you?"
"Oh, would you stop that?" Lorcan asked in exasperation, but it lacked the irritation it would have normally held. "You've built this brooding persona up, this 'oh, poor me, I'm so put upon and no one likes me!' facade."
"I don't sound like that," Lysander argued, but there was the hint of a smile on his face.
"The point is, you are and always have been welcome to hang out with me and Roxie and Maddie and Lou. You don't have to surround yourself with the most unpleasant people you can find, you know. You can choose to be around people who smile and support each other and don't think your mother is a laughingstock."
Lysander almost-smiled and fiddled with the edge of the blanket. "She was pretty incredible today, wasn't she?"
"She was badass, is what she was."
"How do you think she knew singing would let her communicate with El Tunchi?"
"I didn't." Both boys turned to the mouth of the tent, where their mother stood, wand and first aid kit in hand. "May I come in?" The boys nodded, and she ducked inside. "I didn't know if singing would work, but your singing seemed to be holding the spirit at bay, so I thought I might as well try that first. If it hadn't worked, we would have figured something else out, I'm sure." She smiled broadly at both of them, and Lorcan was thrilled to see Lysander return the smile.
"How much longer are we staying, Mum?" Lorcan asked then.
"Oh, well, given that we successfully found El Tunchi, and given Lysander's injury, I was thinking we would probably head home in the next couple of days, as soon as we can arrange a transport."
"What?" Lysander asked, struggling to sit up straighter. "But we've only been here four days! You blocked out the whole summer for this trip! What about the Curupiras? I thought you wanted to try and find out more about their tribe! Didn't you say that they knew about El Tunchi and told you where to find him?"
Lorcan stared at his brother, but Luna took the conversation in stride. "Yes," she said thoughtfully, "though they sent us in the complete opposite direction. I wonder if he's moved, or if they were trying to protect him? An interesting question, Lysander. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. But surely you don't want to stay in the Amazon all summer long. I'd have thought you'd have jumped at the chance to go home."
Lysander looked away for a moment, then met his mother's gaze again. "We should stay through the end of the week, at least. I think . . . I think there's a lot to be learned here."
Luna smiled at her son. "I think you're right," she said, and with a hand touched briefly to his cheek, she left. Lorcan raised one eyebrow in his brother's direction.
"Shut up," Lysander muttered. "Snorkack's still aren't real."
Lorcan laughed out loud at that. "No. But I think the Filica might be."
Lysander's gaze drifted to where their mother had just left. "Maybe," he acknowledged, which was a really big step for him. Lorcan hid a smile and stood, to let Lysander get some rest. "Hey, Lorcan?" Lorcan stopped at the entrance to the tent and turned.
"I'm sorry. For the things I said in the forest today."
Lorcan shrugged. "S'okay. You were just being a jackass. I'm used to it." Lysander chucked a wad of paper at him, which he caught with a grin. "Think about what I said, okay? About not surrounding yourself with unpleasant people?"
"Yeah, okay," Lysander agreed, settling back into his pillows.
Lorcan left the tent, smiling. Today had been absolutely nuts, easily the most danger he'd ever been in in his life. But somehow, now that the end of the day was here . . . he wouldn't change what had happened for anything.
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