Walburga was not happy with the way things developed. When she had persuaded her husband to purchase a werewolf, she had not meant the werewolf to become a playmate of her children. She had just wanted a replacement for the old house-elf, and Mrs. Flint had advised her to take a werewolf, which was cheaper and a better status symbol than a house-elf because, frankly, almost everyone had a house-elf nowadays, even some of the half-bloods.
Walburga decided that she would invite Mrs. Flint for tea next week and ask her how she handled her werewolf. Of course, the Flints' werewolf was female and a few years older than the Blacks'. Walburga sighed deeply. They had chosen a young werewolf because they feared an older one might be more disobedient. A young werewolf, however, they could still shape to their likes. But a younger werewolf was also less useful as he could not do many of the household chores yet. And Walburga could hardly order their werewolf to stay in the cellar and do nothing all the time. Well, she would have done it, but now that Sirius and Regulus had discovered him ...
I really hope that one day he will be a useful servant, Walburga thought bitterly while slowly eating her dinner without much appetite. But that day, werewolf servants will probably already be outdated again.
"I have a friend," Regulus announced out of the blue.
"Oh, really?" Walburga looked up from her barely touched dinner plate with mild interest. She had not been aware that Regulus had met other children since the last family gathering at the Notts. Unless ... Oh no.
"Who is it?" Walburga asked.
"Werewolf," Regulus stated proudly.
Walburga gritted her teeth when her assumption was confirmed.
"What?" her husband said incredulously.
"Why?" Sirius asked curiously.
"We played together and I asked him if he wants to be my friend and he said yes."
"He said yes?" Sirius asked.
"Yes." Regulus beamed widely. "And then he asked me if I want to be his friend, too, and I said yes, too."
Sirius frowned. "But he's much older than you."
Ignoring their sons' conversation, Orion threw Walburga a reproachful look. "Why do they play with the werewolf anyway?"
"There was nothing else for him to do," Walburga said in annoyance. "He had already finished his chores."
"Then give him more chores," Orion said. "I don't want my children to play with werewolves."
"Why?" Sirius asked again.
"Because it's too dangerous. Period. No more questions, no more arguing. You won't play with him again. Understand?" Orion finished his goblet of wine and put it down more loudly than necessary.
"But he's my friend," Regulus whined.
"Regulus, you can't be friends with a werewolf," Walburga said exasperatedly.
"Can I?" Sirius asked.
"Sorry?" Walburga turned her gaze to her older son in confusion.
"Can I be friends with him?" Sirius clarified, tapping his fork excitedly against his plate.
"No. What ... ?" Walburga was lost for words. What were they thinking?!
"But you said it's not dangerous when it's not full moon."
Orion Black took an audible intake of breath. "By that I meant that he could only turn you into a werewolf at full moon. Which will not happen because he's locked away during that night. But," he threw both boys a grave look, "you are not safe from other dangers. Werewolves lie and steal, they are violent and malicious."
"Werewolf wouldn't do that," Regulus said with a confidence only innocent children possess. "He's my friend." He seemed to think that argument put the werewolf above anything.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Orion said darkly.
"Why?" Sirius asked again but no one answered him.
"I don't want you to play with him," Walburga said in a tone that did not allow any arguments. "Werewolves are retarded and no appropriate playmates for you."
There was a gloomy silence and Walburga was just about to continue eating her meal in relief when Regulus asked, "What's 'retarded'?"
"It means stupid," Orion said curtly. "Finish your meal now."
"Werewolf isn't stupid," said Regulus and eyed his father reproachfully. "He can count to twenty-eight."
"Yeah, he taught us how to count to twenty-eight," Sirius backed his little brother up. "And he also knows how to light a fire and loads of other stuff."
"Will you finally finish your meals!" Orion bellowed, hit his open palms rather forcefully on the table and stood up to leave the dining hall without another word.
"You heard what your father said," Walburga said sternly. "Finish your meals." They did so in fearful silence. Walburga sent the boys up to their bedrooms, then called for the house-elf and the werewolf to clear the table and went to her husband's study. She knocked lightly on the door until she heard a muffled, "Come in."
Orion stood in front of the window with his back to her. On his desk stood an open bottle of high proof Red Currant Rum. It was almost empty.
"That werewolf needs to leave our house," he said in a low voice.
"Orion, we signed that magical contract, we can't just throw him out."
"I don't give a damn about raising him to be able to integrate into wizarding society and all that shit," Orion almost snarled. "I don't want him here. He's a bad influence on Sirius and Regulus."
"There's nothing we can do. The Ministry is going to check on him, you --"
Orion finally turned around to look at her. His thin fingers curled tightly around the glass with the dark red liquor so that his knuckles protruded. "And what if we say something happened to him during the transformation?"
"The Trace," Walburga said in annoyance. If Orion had not drunken so much, his brain would not be so befuddled to forget about that. "They'll know where he is."
Orion snorted, emptied the whole glass in one gulp and made to refill it. Walburga, however, was quicker and Summoned the bottle to her.
"Give me the rum," Orion ordered.
"I want a private tutor for Sirius and Regulus." She eyed Orion with contempt and felt a tinge of regret that she had had to marry this retarded would-be big shot.
"What for?" Orion asked, bored. "Give me finally my rum."
"For making sure that my children will never again be outdone by a werewolf."
"Fine, whatever. You can hire a private tutor. Give me my rum now."
And so she did. She had reached her goal - the best for her children and the best for the name of the Blacks. Dear Merlin, if anyone ever found out that a werewolf could count to twenty-eight but her children could not ...
When Walburga had left his study at long last, Orion snorted once more. Not for the first time did he regret that he was married to such a stuck-up hag. His thoughts strayed to the new secretary at the Ministry, young girl, just finished Hogwarts, half-blood (unfortunately), but pretty as a Veela. Picturing her in his mind, he put his hands down his trousers.
Unfortunately, his oldest son chose that moment to burst into his study – without knocking first. Spluttering, Orion rearranged his trousers and barked at his son, "Didn't I tell you to knock before you enter a room?!"
"Yes, but Benny's gone," Sirius lamented without really paying attention to what his father had said. Fortunately, he was also too young to understand what his father had done earlier.
"What do you want?" Orion snapped. "Why aren't you in bed?"
"Because Benny's gone and I can't sleep without him and I've looked everywhere but he's not there!" Sirius burst into a gush of tears. Upon closer examination, Orion realised that Sirius had probably already been crying for a long time because his whole face was wet, his eyes were swollen red and his whimpers blotchy. The sight pacified Orion a little bit. He was still annoyed as hell but not outright furious anymore.
"What is going on?" he asked, rather confused. He had not understood much of Sirius' torrent of words.
"Benny's gone," Sirius sobbed for the third time but that did not help Orion understand more either. Maybe it was because he had drunken too much that he could not make sense of Sirius' words.
"Benny!" Sirius screamed almost in hysteria. "I couldn't sleep without him and I just couldn't find him!"
Orion was at the end of his tether. "Will you just tell me who that bloody Benny is?" he demanded.
"He's my stuffed toy!" Sirius' lower lip protruded and he stared at Orion with a look that clearly accused him for not knowing 'Benny'. "And he's gone."
"That I have understood." Orion sighed. "Sirius, you have dozens of stuffed toys. Just take another and go to bed."
"But I can't sleep without Benny."
"Kreacher can look for him tomorrow."
"But I can't sleep without Benny!"
Orion finally lost the last of his rather thin patience. "You're not a little baby anymore, you should be able to sleep without a ridiculous stuffed toy." That only led to more high-pitched sobs, breathless chokes and whimpers of, "But I can't sleep without Benny."
Merlin's pants, I think I need two more bottles of Red Currant Rum to live through this, Orion thought rather desperately.
"Alright, alright, we'll go looking for it. When have you seen it for the last time?"
"Last night, and I have already looked everywhere --"
"Well, maybe Kreacher thought it was rubbish and disposed of it."
"Benny's not rubbish!" Sirius protested shrilly. "He's not!"
"For heaven's sake! Maybe Kreacher made a mistake!"
"But he can't just put Benny in the rubbish!!"
Orion decided to keep his mouth shut because everything he said made Sirius scream hysterically. He walked towards the cellar, Sirius, who kept sobbing quietly, followed him. The way down the narrow staircase was rather tricky because Orion had definitely had too much rum.
"Kreacher!" he called and only a second later did the house-elf appear next to him. "Sirius is looking for his stuffed toy. Did you, by any chance, remove it while cleaning up his room?"
"Kreacher would never do such a thing!" the house-elf immediately defended itself.
"It might've happened by accident. Just check the rubbish again."
Sirius rushed forward to dig into the rubbish bins. Appalled, Orion called him back. "Sirius! Don't touch that dirt!"
"But what if Benny's in there?"
Orion grabbed his collar and hauled him backwards. "That doesn't matter. Kreacher will search through it. That is no job of yours, do you understand me?"
"Maybe the half-breed has it," Kreacher suggested. "Kreacher saw him sneaking in this evening. He looked very suspicious."
"Okay. Let's see if the werewolf has it." Tiredly, Orion staggered further into the cellar. He cast a Lumos spell to see something in the dark but it only increased his headache. The play of light and shadows caused his head to spin. Come to think of it, everything seemed to be spinning. And just why where here so many things over which you could trap or into which you could run? There. That bundle of rags and old cushions must be the werewolf's sleeping place.
"He, werewolf, get up!" Orion shouted and pointed the light of his wand at the werewolf's den. At once, the rags started moving and out of it came the boy's head. His hair was mussed from sleep and his pupils were small in the wandlight – but very alert.
"W-w-what --" he stammered in confusion and clutched something to his chest.
Then there was a whirlwind at Orion's side and next moment, Sirius hurled himself at the werewolf with a shrill cry. The other boy cried, too. In shock or in pain – because Sirius punched him rather fiercely.
"Eh, what're you doing there?" Orion slurred. He tried to hold his wand arm steady to recognise something else but the blurred shapes of the two boys, rags and light and shadow. His arm, however, refused to cooperate.
"What did you do to Benny?" Sirius shrieked. Orion was not sure who punched who in that mess of entangled limbs and rags. He just knew that two young boys fighting caused an annoying noise.
"I didn't do anything to him --"
"You took him away from me --"
"Give him back to me!"
"He's mine now!"
"Be quiet!" Orion tried to interfere but nobody listened to him. Maybe he could use a spell ... but which spell would work here? Besides, it would be rather difficult to aim correctly.
"You stupid retarded Mudblood-half-breed-blood-traitor-muggle-idiot-thief!" Sirius enumerated all the accusations he knew. "Give Benny back to me!"
"No! I want to keep him!"
Finally, Orion had a glorious idea: He could use a Summoning Charm to get Sirius' stuffed toy back! Well, inebriated minds needed a bit longer to figure out the obvious. Orion cleared his throat. "Accio Benny," he intoned. He needed three more attempts for it to finally work. But then the light blue coloured stuffed hippogriff landed in front of his feet. He bent to retrieve it but changed his mind halfway because it made him feel like vomiting. Anyway, Sirius was quicker and had already dashed here to reclaim his beloved Benny.
"Father, he must get punishment," Sirius reminded him tearfully. "He stole Benny from me."
Oh, right. Orion felt pride swell in his chest. His son would make a fine Black someday. He had just the right sense of justice and honour.
"So. You, werewolf," Orion started what was meant to become a menacing tirade. "You ... did wrong. You ... stole Sirius' toy. Half-breed," he added to emphasise his point.
"But he has so many stuffed animals and I don't have any," complained the werewolf. "It's unfair. It's really unfair. Why can't I have a stuffed hippogriff, too?"
"Because ... because you can't just steal, that's why." Orion frowned. Was he really answering that half-breed's question? He was not the one who had to answer! "Who do you think you are, eh?" He advanced, growing more and more angry with the minute. The werewolf boy tried to do a runner but Orion was faster. He lifted his open hand and aimed a hard kick at the werewolf – but somehow his hand only met thin air – and Orion lost his balance. Cursing loudly, he toppled over a cauldron and spilled dirty laundry all over himself. He heard Sirius snicker and got only more furious at the werewolf.
"Bloody werewolf!" he growled. "Now you're really in trouble!" Rushing forwards, he made to grab the boy but the little half-breed was damn fast. He darted through the cauldrons and chests and vanished somewhere in the dark. Orion cursed and threatened and yelled at the werewolf to come out but of course that did not happen.
All of it was just a very wretched evening in the life of Orion Regulus Black, and so he decided to pass out.
Sirius was finally back in his bed. But he could not sleep. It was not only because of the emotional exertion of losing Benny and recapturing him. Then there had been more excitement: His father had gone completely crazy and had just lain down on the spot and fallen asleep. Sirius had woken his mother up so she would see what was wrong with her husband. In conclusion, Sirius had learned many new swearwords, which his mother had hurled at his father's sleeping frame. But that was not the reason that prevented him from falling asleep.
What kept him awake was something Werewolf had said: But he has so many stuffed animals and I don't have any. It's unfair. He had been angry at Werewolf for abducting Benny, very angry, and he had wanted to stay that way but that statement had come as such a shock that Sirius had fully forgotten his anger. How could a child not have stuffed animals? Sirius had dozens. And, more importantly, how could Werewolf fall asleep without a stuffed toy to cuddle? Sirius did not understand why it made him feel so sad. And there was a painful pang in his chest (Hopefully it was not a sickness?) when he thought about Werewolf all alone in his bed without a stuffed toy ... All that time ... Had Werewolf ever been able to sleep?
Resolving that he would not find sleep anyway if he kept thinking that much, Sirius stood up again and sneaked out of his bedroom and down into the cellar. How much scarier the big house was when everyone was asleep. It was so eerily silent, not to mention dark.
"Heh!" Sirius quietly called down the cellar. "Heh, Werewolf, are you there?" Carefully, he went a few steps further down the stairs. "It's me, Sirius." Two more steps and he had arrived at the base of the stairs. All his muscles were tensed, he was ready to bolt up the stairs again if something from the dark attacked him.
"I don't have silver with me," he added, presuming that maybe Werewolf's fear of silver was the reason why he had not replied to Sirius yet. "Werewolf?"
Although Sirius should have expected it, the soft voice in the dark and the rustling of fabric made him jump. "Er ... hi?" he replied.
"What do you want?" he heard Werewolf's sleepy voice coming from the corner of the room. "It's in the middle of the night."
"Do you really have no stuffed toys at all?" Sirius asked directly.
"No," Werewolf said simply.
"I just don't have any."
There was a long silence. Sirius stared intensely into the darkness, willing his eyes to see something. Could that shadow there be Werewolf? Sirius did not really feel comfortable talking to the darkness.
Finally, Werewolf spoke up. "You woke me up in the middle of the night to ask me that?"
"Yes. I thought you weren't sleeping maybe."
"I was sleeping."
"You can have one of my stuffed toys."
Sirius startled because suddenly Werewolf's voice was so loud, enthusiastic and not sleepy at all. "Sure, I have enough. You can come into my room and choose one. Just not Benny. Because he's my favourite stuffed toy. And not Plimpy either because she's my second favourite. And not my new dragon either because it can make real smoke come out of its mouth."
"Can I come now?" Werewolf asked eagerly.
"Yes. But you must be quiet. Mother will get really angry if she finds out that we're still awake."
Together, they tiptoed up the stairs and into Sirius' room. He was glad when they finally arrived and he could switch on the light and could see something again. He pulled the box with the stuffed toys from under his bed and beckoned Werewolf closer. One by one, Sirius divided his toys into two groups: one consisting of his favourite stuffed toys or those that could 'do' something special, and one of the remaining toys from which Werewolf could choose one.
"Which one do you want?" Sirius asked once he was finished.
Without much thought, Werewolf grabbed a grey dragon, examined it closely and then said, "This one. What's his name?"
"It's a she," Sirius corrected him, bewildered that Werewolf had not seen that. "And her name's Draga. She's Benny's grandmother."
Werewolf looked a bit worried when he heard that. "Can I still have her then?"
"Sure. I and Benny can come to visit you and Draga. Or you and Draga come to visit me and Benny."
Werewolf smiled and patted Draga's head and tail. "So who are Benny's parents?"
"He just has grandparents," Sirius explained. "Regulus' unicorn is the grandfather and his dragon is Benny's little brother." He thoughtfully watched Werewolf, who experimented with Sirius' dragon that could spit real smoke.
"Heh, Werewolf?" he said uncertainly.
"Yes?" Werewolf jumped a little when he got smoke in his nose, and sneezed softly.
"Are you and Regulus really friends?"
"Yes." Werewolf held the stuffed dragon a bit farther from him and pressed the button for the smoke once more. "That's a great dragon," he said, really impressed with the toy.
"Yes," Sirius said impatiently. "So, we are friends, too, right?"
Werewolf looked briefly up at him. "Of course," he said and pressed the button again.
"Oh. Good." Sirius sat down next to Werewolf cross-legged and with Benny in his lap and grinned at his friend. Werewolf grinned back at him and Sirius noticed that his front teeth had grown considerably. And another tooth was already missing. Sirius really hoped he would catch up with Werewolf at some part so he would be the first one to have lost all his baby teeth.
"I think I'm gonna lose another tooth soon," Sirius informed Werewolf and leant forwards to blow away the smoke from the dragon.
"Really?" Werewolf tried to blow the smoke into Sirius' face, making him giggle.
"Yes. I'll probably get another dragon for Christmas. One that can even spit little sparks."
"That would be great. I hope I'll get gobstones that can change their colour."
"And I want to get a toy wand, you know, one that makes light."
"I really want to get a toy broom."
And so they proceeded to enumerate all their Christmas wishes. There were so many that Santa Claus would certainly need years of bringing them everything they pictured in their fantasies.
Author's Note: As you can probably tell, next chapter will be about Christmas. Writing it will be pretty weird in the midst of summer ;-) Thanks to everyone who reviewed! I hoped you liked this chapter as well. Suggestions and criticism is always welcome, of course.