Little One.

AN: I could start this off by saying I'm new here, but I won't, because I'm technically not. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Em's sister. So I know quite a lot about the PL fanfiction world, as well as some of the creepy forums you guys get yourselves into. But I won't say more than that. Because that is not the point of an Author's Note. Instead of my biography, you're supposed to be reading this (so whoever has read this whole thing, you didn't have to. It was pointless):

I decided to try my luck at PL fics just to see how they go. This story is based off a theory that has been, as far as I can tell from every single one of the Azran legacies spoilers, neither confirmed nor denied, and a theory that I think is only reasonable. If it's not true, then I'll just keep believing my theory anyway. And yes, it is about Dessy. How could it not be? Also, just in case I haven't made it clear yet, this contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Azran Legacies. If you haven't seen the 'Descole's Identity' video, then the names will really throw you. You have been warned...

Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton (sigh) or any of the franchise (sigh) or Descole (starts bawling like crazy). Level 5 does, though (sigh).

Raymond had heard it from the old lady next door, who had heard it from her friend, who had heard it from her sister.

The Reinel family had been kidnapped.

"Only the parents, mind you," the old lady, Mrs Tigget, had said. "Little Hershel and Repard were left behind. But Hershel was adopted a few weeks ago, or so I'm told."

Raymond had found himself staring blankly at the woman as she rambled on about 'Layton' and 'Government Organizations'. Why had the news taken this long to reach him? Three weeks after the incident, no less. And this town was so small.

"...The poor dear," Mrs Tigget finished, "I'm afraid we'll have to fear the worse for little Repard."

"And no one has checked the house yet?" Raymond pressed, suddenly feeling very drained, "The police? Anyone?"

Mrs Tigget frowned. "Nobody, I believe," she replied, "Not yet - Where are you going?"

Raymond turned to look at her for a moment. "To find little Repard," he said, and was off down the street.

Now, Raymond was a bright man, and he knew that Hershel - the sweet child - was incredibly clever for his age. The boy's devotion for his younger brother wouldn't allow him to leave the two year old behind only to be adopted himself. Raymond found that it just didn't add up, and so he quickened his pace.

The Reinels lived - or used to live - in a neat house at the top of the hill, with a tidy garden and a low stone wall. It had always looked homey and warm. The climb to the top of the hill had left the thirty-two year old man huffing slightly, and as he gazed through the empty windows, Raymond found the Reinel's house, for the first time ever, to be radiating loneliness.

The gate was unlocked, and so was the front door. Raymond let himself in, and the house was freezing. An obvious reminder that winter was approaching - and fast.

"Hello?" Raymond called, and his breath came out in a thin wisp of steam. There was no answer, and so he called again. "Hershel? Repard? Are you here? It's Raymond." Still there was silence, but something in the back of his mind kept him from leaving.

He swiftly checked the bedrooms upstairs, calling gently every now and then. When rendered unsuccessful, Raymond began to search the downstairs area. The kitchen, dining and living rooms were empty. Bronev's study was empty, but looked as though it had been torn apart by wolves. The next room was the library, and Raymond found the door ajar.

First he just saw books - they lay all over the floor, scattered, torn, ruined. But in a neat pile in the very middle were what looked like the remainder of the still legible books. And in the middle of that, pale as death, and in a crumpled heap, was -

"Hershel!" Raymond rushed forwards, feeling desperately for a pulse. The boy's skin was cold, but the pulse was still there - fluttery and weak as it was. The man shrugged off his coat and, with utmost care, wrapped the child in it, noting as he did so how thin Hershel had become, and lifted the boy into his arms.

But then he paused in indecision. The quicker the boy reached warmth, the better. There was a bed upstairs. It would suffice until the proper medical services could arrive. However, there was another part of him urging to take the child to his own home, and to care for him there. After all, the little part of him said reasonably, you were studying to be a doctor.

It didn't take long for Raymond to decide, and soon he was running, as gently as he could, back down the hill and past Mrs Tigget, who gaped.

"Isn't that-?"

"Hershel, yes." Raymond finished for her.

The old lady stared. "But I thought-"

Raymond slowed as he passed her gate, contemplating his actions. "Mrs Tigget," he said finally, "Please come inside. I may need your help."

She shut her mouth and nodded twice, following Raymond through his garden and to his front door, where he fumbled with the knob for a moment, and then raced straight to his living room, where he deposited Hershel on the lounge and made his way to his bedroom, calling over his shoulder, "May you boil some water please, Mrs Tigget? For the hot water bottle?"

He pulled, from his cupboard, as many spare blankets as he could find, then felt around until his fingers found the hot water bottle. He returned to the living room and removed the child's shoes, then spread the blankets over his body, smiling reassuringly over at Mrs Tigget when she came back in.

"He needs to be kept as warm as possible," he explained as he took the jug and precariously tipped the boiling contents into the hot water bottle, "Of all the times for this to happen - just before winter." he slipped it beneath the blankets and lowered himself into a nearby armchair. Mrs Tigget did likewise nearby and gazed sadly at Hershel's still form.

"Where was he?" she asked finally, and Raymond sighed, relating to her the events since his sudden departure.

"The Laytons," she muttered, "They thought they'd adopted Hershel. It was Renard, obviously. Do you think Hershel swapped their names?"

Raymond smiled sadly. "Most likely," he said, "Hershel is a smart boy, and he loves his brother too much to just desert him. It just shows you what people will do for their own family."

"And he's only ... six?" Mrs Tigget mopped at her eyes. "Life can be so cruel. And he's so young."

"He turns seven in spring," Raymond smiled fondly, but this was soon replaced with a worried expression. "It's a wonder he's survived this longer. Did nobody bother to check on him?"

Mrs Tigget shook her head. "Nobody. I would've, but this hip replacement," she gestured at her mid-section, "prevents me from doing anything. I can't even work in the garden any more!"

They both drifted into silence, and Raymond stared at little Hershel's porcelain white complexion, coming to a quick conclusion.

"Mrs Tigget," he began slowly, "I need this to be kept a secret. Between you and me. I have a feeling - giving Hershel to the authorities, the orphanage, isn't the best thing for him. The questions, the atmosphere; it would be too much for him. I think we should keep him here. Until he is well, and ready to do what he likes."

The old woman was silent, but then smiled at him kindly. "I agree," she said. "And I'll help you care for him. Hershel has been through a lot."

Raymond felt himself release the breath he had not realised he had been holding, and allowed himself a grateful smile. Taking one of Hershel's hands in his own, he felt the skin slowly regaining warmth, and he relaxed.

However, he could see, even with Hershel's body under the blankets, how thin the once healthy child had become. And the damage is done, he thought mournfully, this ordeal will affect him for the rest of his life, both physically and mentally.

The two adults drifted into silence again, waiting for the child to wake.

AN: I could leave this as a one-shot ...but I won't. I have too many ideas to just leave it this way. If you can, please press that button down there that says 'Review'. I appreciate feedback on my work!

Peace is a blessing, so treasure it always!