Evan let out a grunt as Zephyr's foot connected with the forearm he'd only just lifted in time to block the kick. He quickly grasped Zephyr's ankle and jerked it, trying to unbalance the smaller boy. When Zephyr staggered, fighting to regain his balance while only standing on one leg, Evan grinned and gave him a shove. He chuckled at the startled shout and heavy thump that followed and extended a hand to help his brother up. "Again," he said. "Be faster."
Zephyr growled softly and gripped Evan's hand, quickly regaining his feet and dropping into a defensive crouch. When they'd been unable to find a chess board, Evan had pushed the coffee table out of the middle of the floor and taken up a fighting stance. They'd been going at it for hours now, and Zephyr was sure he'd be sporting a few new bruises tomorrow. Not just from Evan's blows; he'd fallen quite a few times. He couldn't help it - Evan had the advantage of size, and he used it well.
Despite that, Zephyr was determined to get the better of his brother, and a quick learner. He had the basics just about down, something that both he and Evan were proud of. When Evan pointed out where he made his mistakes and corrected them, he committed it to memory. His reflexes proved to be sharp when Evan tossed or threw various objects at him – which happened often, as an attempt to throw Zephyr off-guard.
Evan had slowly loosened his muscles as Zephyr paused, as if he wasn't expecting the little boy to launch an attack anytime soon. But the look in those chocolate brown eyes was calculating, and Zephyr had learned that no matter how calm he appeared, Evan was studying his body language carefully. Even the smallest twitch of a muscle would tell the experienced fighter which way he was going to try to strike from – and then Evan would be there before Zephyr could land a hit.
Zephyr couldn't help the small glow of admiration at his brother's calm skill. Evan was a smart fighter, and probably just as clever when it came to other things - like reading people. He had to bite the inside of his cheek hard to keep himself from grinning. He needed to focus.
What had Evan said? The trick is to use your smaller size and speed to your advantage against a bigger opponent. They might be stronger or better at fighting, but if you're faster than them and you don't get caught, you might be able to run away.
"Be fast". But no matter how fast he tried to be, Evan somehow seemed to be just a bit faster. The advantage of being alone for so many years, Zephyr guessed. He was drawn from his thoughts by Evan's amused-sounding voice asking, "Have you frozen like that, brat?"
With a growl, Zephyr stood, twisted, turned his hips over, and swung his foot at Evan's side as fast as he was able.
Only to feel a slightly painful, sharp jolt as Evan brought up his arm again, so quickly it was almost a blur, and blocked his kick yet again. Zephyr gasped as the impact sent shockwaves up his leg, and his hesitation made him lose his balance and fall again.
Evan blinked, slightly surprised. He barely noticed the smile that was slowly spreading across his face at his brother's dazed expression. Lifting one hand to his mouth, he coughed lightly to hide the laughter that was building in his chest, but he couldn't quite get rid of the small half-smirk.
"How the heck are you so fast, Evan?" the black-haired child asked, narrowing his green eyes.
Evan couldn't help his wide grin. "Very good reflexes. It's the gift of the gods, Zephyr. You'll get there one day." He ruffled the unruly raven-black hair fondly and started for the kitchen. "How about we take a break and get something to eat, kid?"
Zephyr perked up considerably at that and scrambled to his feet. Food sounded awesome.
A few minutes later, Evan settled at the table with a still-steaming cup of tea. It was loaded with cream and sugar, just the way he liked it. He took a sip, ignoring the heat, and couldn't stop his tiny sigh of appreciation. He wrapped his hands around the mug, trying to warm them, and felt the same surprise that he'd felt when he'd first discovered the everyday cups return. Dumbledore was so eccentric he'd almost thought he'd be drinking out of a bowl.
He took another sip, relishing the warmth. It burned down his throat and heated his stomach even long after he'd swallowed.
He hummed to show he was listening without pausing from his drinking. Oh, he needed this...some familiarity in this upside-down world. He could hear Zephyr's fingers tapping uncertainly, and lowered his mug reluctantly to give his brother a questioning look.
"Um...do...do you...ever sing?"
Well, that was unexpected. Evan set down his tea with a light thunk and stared. It seemed to make Zephyr uncomfortable - the child tapped his fingers faster and wouldn't make eye contact. He seemed to know he'd taken Evan by complete surprise.
The chestnut-haired man felt his jaw muscles working as he tried to form a response. Yes, once upon a time, he'd enjoyed singing. But that was years ago. "...When I was younger, I did," he murmured, looking down at the wooden table and tracing patterns in the wood with his eyes without really seeing them. Oh, yes, he'd loved singing. But he'd learned, and quite quickly, that drawing attention was the worst thing you could do when you were on the streets alone. His left shoulder seemed to burn at the memory.
"...Why don't you sing now?" The question was just as hesitant as the first.
Evan winced, bringing one hand up to thread his fingers through his hair. His answer came out low, unsteady, and harsher than he'd intended. "It was a mistake I couldn't afford to make on the streets. Besides, there wasn't time for hobbies or relaxing. Survival comes first." He stood, his chair moving back swiftly, with a harsh scarping noise. "I'll be in my bedroom if you need me, Zephyr." So saying, he left the kitchen.
Zephyr looked down at the potato chips on his plate, biting his lip. He hadn't meant to pry...he was just curious. But clearly, Evan's past on the streets was a sore subject even now. He glanced at Evan's half-finished mug of tea, sighed, and stood up. He wrapped his small fingers around the still-warm handle and lifted it. Then he left the kitchen, taking care not to spill Evan's drink, and followed the older male to his room.
Once outside the locked door, he knocked gently twice and turned the knob. "Evan?" he asked softly, opening the door and stepping into the room, looking around.
The door to the small bathroom opened, and Evan stepped out. Zephyr felt his eyes widen in surprise. The older male had taken off his shirt, exposing a well-muscled stomach, chest and shoulders. But that wasn't what drew Zephyr's attention.
Evan's chest, biceps, and stomach were covered in scars. There were small ones, probably caused by introductions to asphalt and concrete…and bigger, narrow ones, long white lines that could only have been the result of fights. But even more shocking was the fact that across his chest, carved into his flesh with painful, curving letters, was the word sinner.
"What did you come in here for?" Evan asked quietly, crossing his arms over his chest in a way that covered the ugliest of his scars. Though he registered the question, Zephyr's throat felt tight with horror. He couldn't speak, couldn't remember why he'd come here. For a few minutes he could only stare mutely at his brother, until Evan clicked his tongue softly and moved to put on one of the few shirts he owned.
Zephyr shook his head violently, suddenly snapping out of his sickened daze. Calm, calm, he tried to counsel himself, taking a deep breath. The visual of those scars was still floating in the front of his mind. "I-I brought your drink," he murmured. But it seemed a feeble response after what he'd seen.
Evan made a soft noise that wasn't quite a sigh or a laugh – a short huff, full of a thousand undecipherable thoughts and memories. "Appreciate it," he muttered, turning to face Zephyr again and taking the mug from him. He downed its contents in three gulps, handed the cup back, and began to pull on the long-sleeved white cotton shirt he'd taken from the closet. Though the scars were hidden from view, they were still there, and Zephyr found himself staring at Evan once more.
Evan sighed and said, "Stop thinking about it, Zephyr, because the event that gave me these scars is in the past. There's nothing to be done about it now."
"I can't stop thinking about it!" Zephyr blurted. "Whoever did that is sick! Who could do such a thing?!" He was aware of the growing hysteria in his voice, but he did nothing to suppress it. Truly, he was at his breaking point. First Dumbledore kidnapped them both, then he brought them here to a place that was both unfamiliar and forbidding, and then, Zephyr found out his brother's body was scarred forever by some maniac who he really wished he could sink his blade into right this second and -
He was brought back to himself by Evan grabbing his shoulder roughly. Not enough to hurt, but enough that he had Zephyr's complete attention.
There was a look in those chocolate-colored eyes that made chills go up Zephyr's spine. It was a haunted, deadened, almost defeated look, but there was still a spark of strength in them as well. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, Zephyr thought, remembering one of Evan's favorite sayings. Well, if he was seeing Evan's soul, then whatever had scarred him had done much more damage than just physical. The memories, Zephyr realized, would never have left the older male. They probably replayed...over and over in his mind, every day.
"He wasn't in his right mind, Zephyr," Evan murmured. "As I've told you, there's a difference between wanting to hurt someone, and needing to, to save yourself." His grip tightened a moment, before he moved his hand to gently cup Zephyr's chin so the black-haired child couldn't look away. "The man who scarred me wanted to hurt me. He was a sadist of the worst kind." His thumb gently brushed Zephyr's cheek, and Zephyr realized that at some point he'd started crying. Evan's voice had lowered to a whisper by the time he said, "I killed him to save my own life. I'm not proud of it...but it was me or him."
Zephyr stared at his brother – the man he'd always looked up to – and believed him. The bleak look in those eyes was enough to confirm what was being said.
Evan had the blood of another human on his hands.
"The bond between them is remarkably strong," a raspy, high-pitched, almost weak-sounding voice remarked. A soft hiss in the voice stressed the "s" in his words, as if the speaker had spent too much time around snakes in his life.
"Yes," a lower, much stronger voice responded. "And the older...he could prove to be a useful ally."
"Correct." The conversation was clearly carried by two different people...and yet the young, tall man was the only one in the room. "But then...they both could. The younger has no idea...who he really is. And...clearly...they both distrust Dumbledore."
"All the more to our advantage, Master."
"Of course….This could prove to be an…interesting year at Hogwarts, wouldn't you agree?"
"But of course. After all...whoever thought something like this would happen?"
The first speaker let out a cold laugh. "Not even I thought things would turn out this way. Dumbledore has made his biggest mistake yet. How...amusing it is to watch him struggle...oh, yes...this will be fun."
They'd been silent for half an hour now. It was killing Zephyr. The quiet was overwhelming, though he knew that Evan would speak when he wanted to, and not a moment sooner. At some point, they'd shifted so that Zephyr's back was pressed against his older brother's chest and Evan's arms were wrapped loosely around his midsection. Zephyr could feel his brother's quiet, even breaths against his neck, and he was impatient to break the long pause.
Finally, five minutes later, he could take it no longer. "Evan?" he whispered.
"Mm..." Zephyr took that to mean that Evan was listening.
"...Will you sing to me?" he asked softly, hesitantly.
Evan sighed. "You're not going to give it up until I do," he murmured, sounding as if Zephyr had stopped him from dozing off. He cleared his throat, and began to sing softly, almost uncertainly, in a voice that cracked a little from disuse:
"I have often dreamed of a far-off place, where a great, warm welcome will be waiting for me. Where the crowds will cheer when they see my face, and a voice keeps saying, 'This is where I'm meant to be'..." He took a swift breath and continued, more confidently,"I will find my way; I can go the distance. I'll be there, someday, if I can be strong. I know every mile, will be worth my while. I would go most anywhere, to feel like I...belong."
The silence had returned, but this time Zephyr didn't feel the need to break it. Evan's singing voice was...nothing like his speaking voice. It was a clear, strong tenor, unlike like the low, sometimes hesitant way Evan usually spoke.
"You have a nice singing voice," Zephyr whispered after a while.
Evan didn't reply, but the arms around Zephyr's waist tightened affectionately, and the boy could've sworn that had he turned around just then, Evan would've been smiling.
After he put the child to sleep, Evan sat in Zephyr's window again that night, staring out into the darkness. Almost without realizing he was doing it, he opened his mouth and sang softly, "I am on my way; I can go the distance. I don't care how far - somehow I'll be strong. I know every mile, will be worth my while. I would go most anywhere to find where I belong."
Yes...he definitely would. He'd be strong. He'd stay...for Zephyr. Somehow, he would find the tolerance to endure Dumbledore's manipulations.
And eventually...he would put the horrors of watching his beloved Amanda fall to the blade of the one he would have died for behind him.
He hugged his knees to his chest, the familiar hollow feeling opening up like a dark void where his heart should be. He missed her desperately, even now. He swallowed a pained moan, not wanting to wake his brother. Oh, Amanda...he could heal from the pain...but he could never get rid of the memories...
Song used – "Go The Distance" from Disney's Hercules