Disclaimer: You want to know what I OWN?! I'll tell you what I OWN…nothing, nada, not a friggin' thing! How unfair is that to my wallet?!
Chapter Summary: Harry sadly relives a day of old, Remus encounters what could be a blessing in disguise or an obstacle, and Xantos shares some of his inner thoughts...
FYI/Important/6-28-08: The alerts system for the site is down, so I'm not able to get alerts for reviews/pms/forum updates...anything. And if you have an account here I'm sure you've realized this as well. (This doesn't mean 'don't review', on the contrary, please continue to review! xD ) SOOOO...I /am/ replying to all reviews, but I highly doubt any of you have gotten them...but don't think I'm ignoring you, because I'm not! No worries if this is new to you - this happens every now and then, trust me, I've been here a while - the site'll be fixed soon enough (I hope) and we'll all get a bulk-load of alerts in our e-mails with everything we missed as always. xD So you will definitely get my review responses sooner or later, I promise!! Sorry for the extra Authors Note here, but I just thought I should really let you all know. LOTSA LOVE! --Chloe
EDIT/6-29-08: Alerts have officially been fixed by our lovely staff here (until the next time this happens), so w00t!! :-D
A/N: And we've reached the chapter forty marker!! But no parties, remember that… We spoke of this. x3 Now then, it has been made known to me that the last chapter was even sadder than the two before it…I can assure you that was not my intention, it was just…how it turned out. :-/ Considering the situation I could not have hoped for anything light-hearted… Anyway, just so's you know, the angst will not be for much longer, I assure you. I'm a lover of fluff, myself, and this angst stuff is starting to itch at my insides. I feel so terrible for having to write it! Curse having to be the author of a well-rounded story! Curse, curse, curse, curse… Why can't it be fluff period? But, alas, I find myself incapable of doing such, so…as it is…here is your awaited chapter forty…
Chapter 40: Crimes Never Go Unpunished
Draco Malfoy sat forlornly in his bedroom. This was stupid; Xantos had never taken up so many 'busy' days before. His job was to spend time with Draco and help teach him stuff, not to go out and do whatever the bloody hell he so pleased. Was that not what the Dark Lord had assigned him? To stay at Malfoy Manor and do what Draco's father would be doing were he not in Azkaban?
Well…not exactly… the young blonde thought to himself somewhat bitterly.
Even when it came to regular school stuff, Draco had found himself learning more from Xantos than he ever had from his father. Lucius Malfoy had always 'talked' about doing this or that with his son, but always ended up having to cancel because of something coming up. …Something clearly more important than his own child. Narcissa Malfoy was pretty much the same. Draco's life with his parents has always tended to be 'yeah, we'll do this together'--and then--'opps sorry, I forgot, maybe next time, dear'.
To say the least, Draco had become very accustomed to disappointment, let down, and loneliness over the years. Accustomed to self-reliance. By the time the blonde had reached the age of six, skepticism in regards to the word of anyone but himself had become a core part of his personality. …More to protect himself from feelings of hurt than anything else. If trusting people brought nothing but depressed feelings, then why trust?
That had definitely been the Malfoy heir's thought process before Harry had entered his life. The trust he had in Harry was more involuntary than anything. It had been an internal thing…an automatic thing. A click. Harry was someone he knew he could count on, without even having to be assured; knew the messy raven haired boy would be there for him if he ever needed it…- he even took Draco's sneers and teasings in stride, never missing a beat in comebacks - …he was his other half to the coin in more ways than one. They were so…different, so completely opposite, and yet so similar at the same time. It was odd… But despite all that, their friendship had to be kept a secret. Because Harry was a Potter, and Draco was a Malfoy, and those two families did not mix.
And then of course there was Xantos… The hazel eyed man had done a great deal over the years in getting Draco to gradual trust more. Sure, Xantos could be hard – sometimes harsh – but unlike every other adult in the blonde's life…Xantos was there. He was there, constantly, for Draco to talk to or just hang out with. Not to mention he had been keeping the silver-grey eyed child's deepest secret for going on two straight years now.
Draco was not one to ever show it, but he was actually extremely appreciative for all the things Xantos had done for him. In truth, he really liked the guy…trusted him. But it was just easier to make things difficult, and act like he did not. He supposed this was why it bothered him so much that Xantos would not be around for another day or so. He had gotten so used to seeing the dark golden-brown haired wizard whenever he so pleased, that the prospect of not having that luxury – even briefly - soured the aristocratic child's mood substantially.
The blonde sat at his desk in his room, twiddling his pure silver snake figurine around in his hands, staring gloomily into it's genuine emerald eyes, before releasing a heavy sigh.
"It's dumb," he muttered as he set the figurine back down on his desk, sliding off his chair.
It was here that the Malfoy heir felt a phantom like pain that came and passed through his shoulder before he even had time to recognize it as an actual faint pain. Draco blinked bemusedly a few times at this, bringing a hand up to touch his now painless shoulder experimentally…
Okay…that was weird… he thought as he decided that it must have just been nothing…maybe he had been sitting oddly or something. However as he approach the door to his room he found his thoughts turning to Harry with almost a sense of dread…almost. …Odder still, seeing as he did not have a reason to be thinking about him right now…
Pulling open his door, a loud crack split the air to reveal a tennis ball-size eyed creature, a bit shorter than Draco, dressed in an old pillowcase, with ripped holes for the arms and legs.
With a yelp the blonde jumped back, surprise written in his expression before he glared, "Dobby! What I did I tell you about doing that??"
"Oh, I is sorry, young master, I is sorry, sir," the house elf squeaked apologetically, reaching for the door to promptly bang his head against it as punishment.
"Wait, stop, that'll just waste time," Draco sneered, rolling his eyes, stepping in between the door and the creature. "Just tell me what you wanted."
"M-Master Xantos told Dobby to tell the young master that he had a question before he left for the afternoon," came the house elf's prompt reply, large eyes trailing back to the tempting door.
"Oh…fine…" the platinum blonde sighed, moving around Dobby and into the hall. "If you're going to bang yourself in the head, though, just make sure you're done by the time I get back…it's annoying."
Merlin, he felt it…all of it. All the hate, all the dislike, all the loathing, all the disgust…and all of it was aimed at him, every last ounce. His heart was pounding rapidly in his chest – he was almost sure the next town over could hear it, as he stumbled back a few steps from his uncle, every limb trembling, fear gripping at his insides like an icy claw.
"This is all your fault you good-for-nothing little FREAK!" the whale of a man roared, stomping the few steps towards the now petrified eight year old, grabbing him by the upper arms bruisingly hard, shaking him roughly a good few times before harshly removing the child's backpack and tossing to the side like filth.
Harry withheld a gasp at the sudden, rough, contact; wide, fearful emerald eyes staring up at the male, breathing rapid. "I-I—"
"If it wasn't for you none of us would be having these problems! We'd all have been better off! I should have beaten the freakishness out of you years ago!" No sooner had he shouted this than did he slam the young Potter sidelong into the closest wall.
Pain shot like double edged knives through the messy haired child's shoulder, eyes snapping shut, a soft whimper escaping his lips – that he knew he should have held in, but the skill of doing such had apparently waned somewhat over the years – his other hand coming over to hold himself up against the wall with a wince.
"I won't be so careless about ridding you of it this time around, boy," Vernon fumed bringing down a hammer-like strike to the Potter's other shoulder with his hand, successfully knocking the child to the floor with an immensely satisfying thud. "What do they have you set up to do at that court hearing, freak?"
Harry's mind whirled in confusion, shoulders throbbing something terrible. Pain was continuously shooting through them each time he tried to push himself up, shouting their unified protests at the action. He found himself with no earthly idea of what his Uncle Vernon was talking about…which was never good, because without an answer he did not have much hope this would end soon.
…The young Potter could honestly say it seemed like forever since he had been this terrified, this scared…his arms felt like jelly, giving out under the pain with every continuous attempt to push himself up that he made.
"I asked you something!" Dursley roared, grabbing a fistful of the Potter's hair on top of his head and harshly yanking the boy to his feet. "Or did the years wash you of what little manners I had beaten into you?"
"N-n-no!" Harry cried with a whimper, flinching as the man tightened his hold on his hair, pain-filled tears swimming in his eyes.
"I-I-I d-d-don't k-know what y-your t-t-talking a-abo—" The stuttering eight year old was shut up with a hard slap to the side of his face before his hair was promptly released and his legs gave out beneath him, the boy falling to his knees.
"Liar! You've become a filthy little liar! Well, I'll show you what'll happen if you do speak out against us!"
Harry bit his bottom lip to refrain from making another sound, tasting the blood that had been drawn from the last lip-splitting hit, as Uncle Vernon grabbed his smelting stick from next to the door and brought it down in one swift motion onto the Potter heir's back. Five more whacks followed in quick succession, each one harder than the last, all the while Harry was holding in his screams - knowing better than to release them, his head whirling from the pain.
He desperately wanted Moony to come back, he wanted Padfoot…Padfoot…
Bangs, like a full-body pounds, were sounding from behind the door to outside the house, but these were completely ignored by Harry's uncle.
"Tough boy now, hmm?" Vernon sneered at the lack of sounds coming from the child, pulling the smelting stick away. "Why don't I get the belt then, eh?"
No sooner had these words left his lips than did the sound of breaking glass erupt from the sitting room window. Both Harry and Vernon's heads snapped in that direction to find the monstrous sized dog landing effortlessly on the now glass covered carpeted floor. The creature not only looked panicked, but more than a little furious. The wave of this fury washed over the aching, light headed, emerald eyed eight year old, and a briefly flickering hope passed through his tear shinning orbs.
It was here that Petunia Dursley's screams pierced the air, having just stepped out of the kitchen, an eight year old Dudley hiding behind her. "VERNON! Look what it's done! Our window! Get it OUT!"
'Snuffles' growled dangerously loud at this, teeth barring wide as it's gaze flickered briefly to his Godson on the floor and then to the terrified looking Vernon Dursley in front of him.
"N-now, dear, d-don't talk s-so loudly," he stammered, eyeing the canine uneasily. The massive dog could tear them all to shreds, he could easily see this, there was no reason to rile it anymore than it currently appeared to be. "G-g-good doggie…"
Sirius wanted to kill these people. Wanted to kill Vernon Dursley…ever fiber of his being radiated with this desire, more so when he had gotten a look at his Godson…at what the larger man had done to Harry in such a brief amount of time. When the door had slammed shut in the Black's face it had taken the male a good few beats – too long, he noted now – to realize what had happened, to full realize the Muggle's deplorable audacity. When it had finally hit the canine Animagus – and it had hit him hard – the panic to find a way into the house swiftly took over. And find his way in he most certainly had finally done.
While maintaining his growl, the four-legged dog stalked closer.
"Y-you want the b-boy?" Vernon deduced hopefully, easily pulling the battered child to his feet. Harry winced at this action, head spinning, his arm all but screaming in protest; all to which Padfoot barked loudly, before he suddenly lunged forward at the whale-man - as if to bite him.
For being immensely large, the Muggle was able to dodge the attempted bite with surprising panicked speed, stumbling a bit in his rush to stand protectively in front of his family. Petunia gripped his beefy arm frighteningly, Dudley doing the same to her skinny leg. "S-stay there! B-boy, c-call off y-your b-beast!"
Harry barely heard this order, tottering on his feet...like the wounded warrior who did not fall until finally reaching the doorstep of the safe house. Padfoot was inside with him…Padfoot was here, and he was not going to let Uncle Vernon touch him again - the young Potter knew this for a fact.
The dog, apparently, did not seem to want to continue to pursue the family, anyway. Harry was, after all, if known to no one else save for himself, his top priority. The canine almost concernedly rubbed gently against the Potter heir's chest, and the boy very nearly slumped against him.
"Padfoot…" an emotionally and physically drained Harry murmured, barely audible but loud enough for a dog's sense of hearing to naturally pick up, grabbing gently fistfuls of the canine's coat, burying his face into the soft fur of the dog's side, tears beginnings to stream. He wanted to express in words how he was feeling, how much it hurt, how much he was relieved to see his Godfather, but before he could, his whirling head had spun him straight into the darkness of unconsciousness.
-Late that night.-
"Wait…'no record'?" Alexis asked, shaking her head incredulously.
"Yes," Remus all but groaned in frustration. "Dumbledore's looking into it, but when I went there were no records of him. I'm pretty sure they all were starting to think I was mental… But…according to them, in Muggle records Harry James Potter never existed. He has been completely erased. There's only Wizarding birth records of him now."
"But who would do that? And…and why?"
"To make it impossible to start a case against the Dursley's…" the Lupin muttered darkly, finally sitting back down on his long-time friend's sofa. It was obvious this was the work of a wizard or witch, considering there was no other way to oblivate so many people and erase so many records…but the options of who that person could be was endless. Remus was already close to certain that it had to be a Death Eater…thank Merlin Dumbledore had put the charms on the Dursley's house that prevented Harry from being taken from there against his will…
"But doesn't that mean…you could take him back now? If Harry doesn't exist in the Muggle world then…then the Dursley's can't bring a charge against you, either…"
"That's what I thought, too, but… Dumbledore says we have to be sure, first, before we do anything hasty. You know…Dumbledore has all my respect and gratitude in the world for everything his done for me since I was young, but… If he doesn't give me a good reason not to, I'm going back for Harry tomorrow. I can't take it…"
Alexis sighed softly. Her heart went out to the three boys…they did not deserve to have to go through this. Least of all Harry…Harry was clearly the biggest victim. But look how it was also affecting Remus…
As he turned his gaze to stare out the window at the night sky and the three quarter moon, she could see the pain in his amber eyes…she could see how much he likely just wanted to cry, and it really did break her heart. The Marauders were not meant to have ever been sad…they were meant to live long and happy and joyful lives near each other…true Best Friends Forever. The kind of family that was better than the one blood could provide. But look at how fate had so cursed them.
Pain and suffering and death had plagued them and their loved ones even before their years at Hogwarts had finally finished.
And if all of this with losing Harry and, equally, Sirius, had affected Remus so deeply, then Merlin only knew how it was still affecting Sirius, himself. The Black had had to reluctantly leave the bulk of the weight of setting things straight on the Lupin's shoulders, so as to not leave Harry alone with his horrible family. …Though Alexis' gut told her that somehow that might go wrong regardless… Remus undoubtedly had to feel the same.
The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, of course, was one of the few to know of Sirius' Animagus ability, and Remus had confided in her about where the Black was at the moment.The clear blue-eyed witch's fingers curled around her cup of tea, staring down at its contents before ruefully placing it down on the side table next to her chair.
"It's only been a little over half a day…and I already feel like it's been forever…" She heard Remus whisper, likely more to himself than to her. "I left him there. I left him with that monster of a man… He was holding onto me for dear life and I left him…"
Alexis' gaze softened considerably as she silently watched the man for a good few minutes, before she finally pushed herself to her feet. "Remus…"
It was in an almost surprised manner that the lycanthrope looked back at her, as if having completely forgotten of her presence, so previously lost in his self-loathing thoughts. "Oh, I'm sorry, Alexis, I should probably—"
"Do you really want to go back to your house tonight?" she inquired gently, and the emotion that built up in his eyes at the thought of returning to the solitude and silence of Marauders Abode told her all she needed to know. "Stay here…you're welcome to sleep out here in the sitting room. It might not look like much, but the sofa is really comfortable."
Remus looked at her with a touching mixture of relief and hesitation. "I would hate to impose on you, I rea—"
"Honestly, Remus…you should know better than to think that. You would never be imposing…you're a brother to me. I…I know how hard it would be if you went back home. …This is the least I can do for you. "
The Lupin smiled a faint, grateful smile. "…Thanks, Alex."
Now Sirius Black was no Healer – Merlin forbid! – but he most certainly knew the basics when it came to healing scraps, small cuts, and the like. …Remus had made him study it for the times when helping Harry master his powers resulted in some burn or other… And while he had whined and complained about it at the time, he now found himself forever appreciative of it. Episkey was a very handy little spell, after all. Turning back into a human had not been a part of the initial plan, but seeing as how neither had 'letting Harry get hurt'…well…plans changed. He was not just going to leave his Godson to his own devices – he would never do that to the boy. He was no idiot, either, however, and did no such change in front of the Dursley's.
No, hours before now, he had first gotten the Potter onto his back as a dog. The Dursley's – fearful little pricks who honestly deserved to be on the receiving end of a million Cruciatus Curses to just know what it feels like – had only made one attempt to try and get 'Snuffles' to carry the boy into his 'designated cupboard'… And that one attempt had almost resulted in Vernon Dursley losing his hand. …Almost. At least the Dursley's had had enough sense to not try anything with him after that…because he honestly doubted he would have been able to control himself… Sirius could definitely say the that the last time he had ever felt as much rage was when James and Lily had died and he had gone to hunt Pettigrew for being the cause.
And so the Black had decided to find a suitable place on the second floor to aid his Charge. It had apparently been to Dudley's dismay – he had heard the whale-in-the-making child whine – that he had chosen the boy's second bedroom.
When he had finally gotten the eight year old up there – forever reminding himself to stay calm - , inside the room, and he had nosed the door closed, becoming a human again was exactly what he had done. He had then scooped Harry up into his arms and laid him gently on the unkempt spare bed, before easily casting a locking charm on the door. And while he checked the boy, studying what would need tending to, he had berated himself for not having gotten inside the house faster, for not having prevented what had happened from happening. For very nearly...failing Harry completely.
The Black had felt like his stomach had become a multitude of knots when his emotions started to calm, and the guilt settled in for the long haul. A good while later Harry's split lip was no longer split, and the slightly fractured shoulder blades were as restored to normal as Sirius could manage. No doubt they would still be extremely sore, but it would do until Remus returned…the lycanthrope had become a whole lot more versed in all of this than Sirius, himself. As for the forming dark bruises on the side of the Potter's face, arms, and back…those were still regrettably there.
"Harry…" Sirius murmured softly a good few hours later, sitting on the side of the bed and running a hand gently through the young boy's mess of hair. He knew he could not stay human for long…if the Dursley's were heard coming upstairs he would quickly have to undo the door's lock – dog's could not lock doors, after all – and transform back. But Merlin would those Muggles not be getting even five feet near the Potter. Sirius would see to that.
But even that did not sooth his stomach's churning guilt. This was not supposed to have happened…in truth, none of this was. The way his Godson's emerald green eyes had looked at him…like one would look at an oasis after scorching days in the desert…that look should have never had to have passed through the innocent eight year old's eyes. He should have never had to feel that alone…that terrified. Harry should not have had to come here in the bloody first place, the Dursley's should have never realized they could enforce this, and Sirius…Sirius should have never let himself get shut outside the house.
He doubted he would ever be able to forgive himself for it.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there Prongslet…" he whispered, his voice bordering on shaky. "I'm sorry this happened… They won't touch you again…I'd kill them first."
"Really, now?" Xantos chuckled amusedly a few hours later as he listened to the recounting of the Dursley's woe begotten tale, hazel gaze studying the broken sitting room window. "Not the smartest lot, are you?"
Vernon began to splutter at this, but as the Death Eater drew his wand, he quickly shut up. Perhaps getting upset with the 'abnormal and potentially dangerous' man would not be the wisest of decisions…nope, not wise at all.
"So…you did hurt Harry?" he inquired, voice a little quieter as he continued to gaze seemingly interested at the shards of glass.
"Not nearly as much as he deserved!" the Muggle huffed darkly, glancing back towards the staircase that led up to the second floor of Number Four Privet Drive.
"I see…" The humor in the wizard's voice had left. Not that he had doubted Draco's recount of the disturbing thoughts and memories the young Malfoy had looked into during the times he had spent with Harry. Draco, a mere child, who had never even seen physical abuse could never explain such in detail unless it were true – and he likely had not lied about what he had felt earlier in the afternoon, either.
Yes, Xantos had unquestionably gotten his proof - his justification. And was certainly learning a good deal about an Elemental's connection to its counterpart…even with such an extreme distance between them. Their capability for magical growth was astounding… A successful little experiment, indeed.
"I take it he didn't have a clue about any Hearing…" Xantos idly commented more than asked, waving his wand lazy at the pile of glass, and casting a silent Reparo. It was likely thanks to the outside curtains being closed that Vernon Dursley did not panic about this action being seen
"His petty fabrications and deceitfulness, of course!"
"Certainly," Xantos muttered, glaring briefly at the sheet of repaired glass, before pocketing his wand, and turning back to Vernon, fixing a disarming smile on his lips. "Where did you say he and the mutt were now?"
"The little freak is upstairs…in Dudley's second bedroom… The mongrel carried the boy on his back up there… Nearly bit off my hand when I tried to coax him into the cupboard with the little ingrate."
Vernon missed the brief flash that passed through the adult Potter's hazel eyes – he was perhaps better off having not seen it - , thanks to glancing back up the staircase where Petunia was likely already snoozing with Dudley in their king sized bed.
"Seems like Harry has a very intelligent dog …"
"Or a barking mad one that thinks itself the brat's crazed mother… But…" the fat man seemed anxious now. "…Xantos…y-you did say we wouldn't have to worry about a-all this being brought before our court system i-if we got the boy back, d-didn't you? T-that you'd take care of it?"
A silky smirk tugged at the wizard's lips as he waved a dismissive hand. "That's the last thing you'd ever have to worry about, Dursley. I told you that you wouldn't have to step foot into a Hearing…and you won't. I'm a man of my word. I have very much blocked that road, as Lupin has maybe already realized..."
"You worry too much," Xantos chuckled mirthlessly, resting a hand on the man's beefy shoulder, fleetingly remembering once more what Draco had told him – the blonde had felt faint echo pains that he could not explain…what Xantos had known to be phantom pains of what Harry himself had been enduring…this experiment had proved the possibility to the older Potter that losing one Elemental to death could very well mean the loss of the second.
The two young boys' connection had grown a good deal since its initiation back when the boys teamed together in Malfoy Manor…since their summers and holidays spent together. Physical harm now caused echo pains in the other, and Merlin only knew how much more magically induced pain might be felt at this point in time. And then of course there was the current distance between the two boys, as well, to take into account. Yes, this had all been very, very informative.
And in truth, all things considered, he could technically end this whole charade now. Just do what he had wanted to go out and do that day, weeks previously, when he and Draco had talked about these Muggles that were Harry's blood relatives on Evans' side. And if he were to be honest with himself, after just talking to Vernon Dursley, he wanted nothing more than to do so. Crimes were not meant to go unpunished, after all, more so if they were committed unjustifiably against the son of someone who had…had meant as much to Xantos as his cousin James Potter had. The cold hazel-eyed Potter would not stand for that.
Lord Voldemort was, of course, a very different case…a very different case.
Either way, as far as Xantos could see, the idiot Black and conformitive Lupin had not been doing their job of defending James' legacy in the least. They had all but given these Dursley's a get-out-of-jail-free card back when they deserved it least…when Harry had been three. …Although that last bit could probably be attributed to Dumbledore. Xantos knew Black, after all. …And Black had likely wanted to tear the Muggles apart for doing what they had done to James' son all those years ago. No, Dumbledore was the worst of them, in the dark golden-brown haired Potter's opinion.
So, yes, he genuinely wanted to end things now, finish this and be done - that way he could return to his daily routine. But good things came to those who waited… And besides, Black and Lupin were learning the much-needed value of appreciation...a very important lesson indeed. They could do with another day of torture. It would ready them, at least, for when Voldemort did get his hands on Harry. Because Merlin knew it was only a matter of time… Especially with that Hogwarts teacher Quirrell stumbling across the Dark Lord's hide away over the summer. Such an idiot...he'll likely be the next in line for possession when the body the Dark Lord inhabited currently finally wore out.
All these thoughts came and went through the Death Eater's mind in the span of mere seconds, while he had completely ignored the Dursley's blubbering of 'not being worried', before he grinned, cutting the man's words off, "You know, I think I'll go on up and see him."
"B-but the mongrel!" Vernon's eyes widened a fraction. Who would assure them 'no court hearing' if Xantos got eaten?
"Your concern touches me…really. But I'll be fine."
Perhaps ending this whole thing tonight would actually be best…patience had never been the best of the Potter's traits.
Xantos could certainly say he had not expected less of a greeting. He might have actually been dissatisfied otherwise. As it were, the door had been unlocked – as it had been in need of being, no doubt – and the Potter had smoothly pushed it open, stepping into the moonlit room as easily as he might have stepped into his own quarters at Malfoy Manor. He had barely closed the door behind him however, before the momentarily shocked bluish-grey eyed canine that had been curled at the foot of the bed Harry was on had snapped up, ears flat on it's head, and lunged at him with his teeth barred.
A smirk spread across the stationary hazel-eyed male's lips…again, he knew Sirius, and the Black did not disappoint.
The canine Animagus transformed mid-jump, landing cleanly in front of the Death Eater and shoving him furiously against the closed door, face contorted in a snarl. "You!" he just short of roared with an over-boiling hatred. Xantos had done this? Xantos had set this up? Xantos had been the reason for the temporary split of their family? It was about as logical as it was confusing – if Xantos had gone to all the trouble of setting this up, then why show himself now?
"Me," Xantos acknowledged amusedly, before adding, almost secretively, "You might want to tone it down a bit, though… The Dursley's just might think I'm in here with more than a kid and a mutt. Not good."
Sirius scowled, releasing the Potter and drawing his wand in one swift, fluid like movement, leveling it at the other male's chest. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you right here…"
Xantos blinked a few times, contemplating this question briefly before sighing with a rueful grin. "I can't think of any good ones at the moment, Black, you've caught me at a late hour. Oh, irony. Fire away as you will."
The Black's eyes narrowed. "Draw your wand."
"I'd rather not…" the Potter replied wryly.
"I'm not going to fight someone who's defenseless," Sirius growled, jabbing the wand a bit harder into his former schoolmate's chest.
"Which is why I believe both of us better off if I kindly refrain from drawing…Harry might not like me as much anymore if he found out I had been the one to hurt you," Xantos chuckled darkly at this, smirking once more at the slight widening of the Black's eyes.
"What are you talking about?" Sirius asked guardedly...the sense of uncertainty underneath his tone only made this more entertaining for Xantos. "Harry…Harry doesn't even know you!"
"Ah…I'm sure that's how you'd like things, Black. You probably haven't even mentioned me to him. How thoughtless," Xantos sneered, bringing a hand up to roughly push the wand at his chest down and away, dusting his shirt off. Sirius kept his gaze on the Potter, but allowed his wand to stay at his side…it was not like he was going to hex the man at this precise moment, anyway, not with his head swimming in this lake of confusion it had been shoved into.
"Harry and I know each other so well, that it could almost be proposed that we've lived together for the past five years."
Sirius shook his head incredulously at this impossible revelation. "That's not…"
"He's quite fond of me, actually. But I'm afraid he's so much like James in some areas that it almost stings. Have you noticed their differences and similarities, Paddy? I don't doubt it. One thing, though…the main one, maybe…Harry cares so much about you that my friendship with him would undoubtedly be over if you and I fought and you got hurt…wouldn't that be a terribly close repeat of history? Not exact, but...close. First you get James, and then you get Harry…you're quite the little Black abyss. A Potter makes the mistake of falling in and ends up dead."
"Bastard," Sirius snarled, and the two men had their wands – the Black had not even seen Xantos finally draw his – at each other's throats in an instant. "What happened to 'refraining'?" the canine Animagus glared.
"I'm not an idiot. There's a time and a season for everything," Xantos replied easily.
"…Padfoot?" came the uncertain voice of Harry. The Potter heir was definitely relieved to wake up and see him and not his relatives…
The two glaring adults broke away, lowering their wands almost simultaneously, eyes snapping to the young Potter.
"…Xantos?? …Am I…still sleeping?"
Sirius looked guardedly horrified at this question – through dreams! Bloody friggin' hell! - shaking his head. Harry did know his second cousin… This could not be happening…
"Not this time, little Jamie…" Xantos answered with a somewhat sad smile as he took in the child's bruised appearance, taking a step towards the boy.
"Get back," Sirius ordered dangerously, raising his wand once more at the Death Eater.
Xantos amusedly complied, gaze not wavering form the somewhat confused Harry. "What'd I tell you," he muttered, loud enough to be heard by the two, bringing a hand up to cup around the side of his mouth so as to hide it childishly from Sirius. "He hates me," he murmured, pointing a few times at the Black with his wand hand.
Harry was not sure whether to smile or frown at the validity of that. …After all, Xantos had always said Padfoot and Moony hated him, but…to feel it – and Sirius' emotions were definitely full of it in regards to Xantos – was a somewhat depressing realization. The tension in the room was the highest the young Potter had ever felt. ...Merlin he was confused.
"Don't talk to him, Prongslet, it's his fault you're even here! He's the one who told your aunt and uncle they should write to Dumbledore. He's a Death Eater for Voldemort! He's the one who doesn't want you with us," Sirius conveyed earnestly.
Harry's emerald green eyes widened a fraction at this news, and Xantos sent the Black a harsh glare.
"Now that's taking things to the extreme, I'd say! You shouldn't talk about things you don't fully understand, Black," Xantos hissed, before shifting his gaze back to Harry who looked a mixture between confused, hurt, and thunderstruck. "I'll explain things to you better when it's just us, kid, in the clearing. Your Godfather's got things jumbled like usual. I…well, I did make sure you had to come here," he admitted reluctantly, pausing briefly before adding, "But it was to make sure you never had to see these Muggles again afterwards. To show them what an eye for an eye was all about. ...And to help teach some new things to Draco that he'd come and teach to you. …You enjoyed the power sharing, didn't you?"
"I..." Attempting to comprehend a barrage of information was proving to be extremely difficult for the young Potter, and so he just bit his lip uncertainly.
Sirius opened his mouth to retort to this, but was cut off as the door to the room was swung open to reveal one Petunia Dursley. "Who in the world is in--!" she shrieked…and it was the last time she ever would, because Xantos Potter leveled his wand on her...and she saw green. Her husband would likely not be as fortunate.
A/N: Hot damn… I've gotta end this here. xD And this…is your chapter forty! –Nods.- Lots of info, and lots of…no-info. I would have finished and posted this yesterday, buuuuuuuttttt…I got extremely sidetracked on YouTube watching this show by a YouTuber named 'sxephil' who is quite possibly the next best thing for me to stumble upon since Dane Cook. But…er…enough about me and the things I find entertaining online. LOL.
M'not sure whether this chapter's ending would be considered a cliffie or not…erm…I don't think it is, but…you never know. xD
Anywho, as always, I adore hearing your thoughts on the chapters, and the same applies here. :-)
Now onto this chapter's Curiosity Filler!
"If you had been able/could be able – dunno what age you all are – to attend Hogwarts, what House would you have likely been Sorted into?"
And, of course, as I'm sure you know by now, I shall reply with my answer once you tell me yours
Until next time, dear Readers,