When looking back on his mother, Laurent would describe her as tireless. She often tutored him daily, citing that he simply did not have the natural facilities required to become an exceptional mage, but that through practice and application his natural deficiencies would lessen over time. Laurent could not disagree with her assessment, forming even slight magics was exceedingly difficult, and even after hours of studying the form and technical applications, he still could produce very little. Her prowess with a tome was something he simply could not emulate, and her driven, acute sense of observation and curiosity were elements he also found lacking in himself. Laurent had a certain sentimentality that his mother acutely lacked, and that without doubt that had seemed like an entirely unnecessary adaptation in comparison to what he had not obtained from her. The passing of traits was not always kind.
When she would leave to her studies, Laurent would practice applying what she had taught him. His innate inabilities would have to be breached by sheer hard work alone, and it was not a task that Laurent shrank away from despite its daunting nature and how frequently it irked him.
His mother would spend copious amounts of time away on business, either of the scholarly nature, or when needed as a standing member of the Shepherds. Often, her time at home was spent with him, but it was equally as often that she was away on business of one kind or another. She was a driven woman with vast scientific interest, and her absence, though unsavory at times, was sensible.
His father was an altogether different dispute. Henry would often spend the majority of his time at home; whereas his mother was a desired member of the court of Ylisse, Henry was more of a recluse, an interloper to the otherwise Ylissan majority that made up Chrom's Shepherds. Laurent suspected his social standings as a former turn coat suited him just fine, for he never seemed concerned by it. His mother and father would both be summoned when there was fighting to be done, and they would be gone for months at a time when that took place, but when there were discussions of tactics and other political business to be handled, Henry would remain while Miriel left.
Despite often residing within the same house, father and son did not spend much time together. His father liked dead things and animals, and Laurent found that living things and people were far more interesting. It wasn't a far reaching problem. Laurent had friends that he occasionally spent time with, and what little time the two of them did spend together often consisted of stories that had no logical backing and that were meant to frighten him, or surprise assaults of affection, where his father would sneak up on him ever so quietly and sweep Laurent off his tiny feet, disrupting what ever Laurent had been doing at the time.
In honest speculation, Laurent enjoyed his father's companionship, but he did not understand him. His mother was easy to understand. She had high expectations of him, and the both of them worked towards achieving those goals. Laurent had no basis for understanding his father. Henry seemed to have few aspirations in life, wasn't intrinsically motivated or motivating, and had next to no expectations of his son. Laurent had rationalized that they were very different people, and thus such an intimate understanding of one another was inconceivable.
On one warm, sunny day they were practicing spells. Both his parents had spent over three months away in Plegia, and now that he had them back for a time, Laurent had every expectation of taking advantage of his mother's tutelage. He also had a pressing query that he quite desperately wanted answered. His mother was scribbling hastily in her little brown book as she observed him, his father was lounging under a shady tree nearby, and Laurent was struggling to produce a flame of substantial importance. Laurent had tried over and over again while they had been off fighting, but he could manage very little in the way of actual application of the techniques he'd learned. But now that they had returned, Laurent was insistent that he would get it right this time. Even though his mother had suggested a pause to reflect on his form and posture, Laurent had insisted that he continue; in his own estimations of self-analysis, he was not very skilled at moderation.
When finally he did produce a flame, his mother nodded astutely, and congratulated him on his hard work. It was more of an aside in truth, because for a child of two experts in magic, such a simple spell should have been exceptionally easy to produce. He was proud of his accomplishment, but the fact that he still had so little talent stung.
His mother had suggested a small break, and had continued scribbling in her leather bound book, when Laurent concluded that if he was to ask the question burning in his head, it would and should be at that moment.
"Mother, Severa is despondent. She no longer comes to visit me, and when I went to visit her, she screamed and yelled at me. Gerome also no longer visits me, and when I go to see him he is not there. I do not understand why."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his father stretching like a great cat waking from a prematurely disturbed nap; the cracking and popping of bones was unmistakable, his father favored odd sounds for one reason or another.
"Humans have a variety of coping mechanisms. Some include drastic change in temperament and distancing of traditional social norms. A simplified explanation is that they do not wish to see you due to external stimuli. The most conclusive cause is likely bereavement."
"So their sudden change in habit is not due to my direct influence?"
Miriel hummed to her herself for a few seconds before responding. "It is unlikely that you personally aggravated their currently vulnerable psychological state of being."
"I understand. Thank you, mother." Laurent nodded in confirmation, only to notice that his father was slowly and deliberately making his way towards them. When Henry did get to them, he placed a hand on Miriel's shoulder, and offered Laurent that feline-esque smile of his.
"It isn't so simple, Laurent. They're sad and upset. Your mother is right, it isn't your fault. You'd be sad if your mother died, wouldn't you? It's like that. But if you don't understand, that's alright too. Your mother and I are both really bad at sympathizing with people too. Sometimes, pain isn't real until it's your own."
Laurent nodded obediently, but couldn't really grasp why sympathizing would be such a difficult concept. If his mother died his lessons wouldn't continue, his academic scholarship would halt, and his magical progress would stagnate indefinitely. Certainly he could sympathize with someone losing a parent.
One day a few years later, Henry came home and found Laurent in the main living space practicing wind magic. Laurent had greeted him cordially. His parents had spent another stint of time away, and he was happy to have them back. His father had knelt down, given him a hug and smiled.
"I have something special for you." He'd said. Henry had then produced a small leather bound book, and placed it into Laurent's hands. It had looked small before, but in his tiny hands, it suddenly looked as if it had grown over night, and it was so heavy that it took effort for him to hold it.
"You're a smart boy." He'd said. "That's yours now." Then his father had slowly gotten to his feet, and headed for the door again. He turned back around and offered another smile. "Let's go shopping. The peaches this season are really sweet! Nice and juicy; they bleed all over! You know I can't cook anything without it having some silly side-effects, so let's go have something yummy together!"
Laurent had hugged the book tightly to his chest, sniffed a few times, and followed his father out towards the market.
For the first time in his life, Laurent got out of his bed after being tucked in that night. He thought about what his mother would say if she saw him, grabbed the little brown book from under his pillow, and left his own room.
His first stop was his parent's room, but even in the dim moonlight he could tell no one was in the bed. There were some crackling noises coming from the main room, so Laurent ventured there next. He found his father sitting on the floor, gazing into the fire place, where a dark purple flame billowed lively. His characteristic smile was absent, and his breathing was shallow.
Laurent stood in the doorway, unsure of what he had expected to find, or what he should do. He had made the key decision to leave his warm comfortable bed, but now that he was faced with disturbing his father, he was even more conflicted. He had concluded that a silent retreat would be prudent, when Henry spotted him. The smile was back in the time it took for Laurent's heart to beat and Henry motioned for Laurent to join him. Hesitantly, Laurent complied, his footfalls intentionally light and small so as not to disturb more than he already had. He took a seat next to his father, which promptly solicited a pout and a whine from Henry.
"Sit in my lap Laurent! Come on, I don't bite! Pleaaaaase?"
Customarily, he would have disputed such a blatantly affectionate request, but at the moment, Laurent couldn't find it in himself to put up much of a struggle. His father was much larger, and often got the closeness he favored one way or another and thus Laurent relented without complaint. He crawled into his father's lap, fitting comfortably underneath the wide birth of his shoulders and chest. Laurent was still somewhat small for his age, and Henry easily draped his arms over Laurent's shoulders in a possessive embrace.
The two of them sat in silence; they both watched the fire as it crackled and popped, and slowly it started to lose its deep purple hue. It transformed from a dark purple to a lighter purple, and then finally reverted back to a regular yellow orange flame. Henry laughed softly. "Guess that's it. I thought a fire would be nice, but I forgot your mother had been working on those colored flames the last time we used the fire place. Just normal fires from now on."
The chipper tone made him angry. He wanted to do something, he didn't know what that something would be, but he wanted to find out desperately. Instead he held the book to his chest tighter as his shoulders quivered; his father hugged tighter as well.
"It's okay to cry when you're sad. You're my son too. I cried a lot when I was your age. You never cry, so its okay once in a while."
Laurent attempted to ignore his father. Tears were simply a construct of sadness, the application of tears did not promote wellness, alleviate stress, or prompt reconciliation with traumatic experiences. Crying over grief was a singularly useless social phenomenon that entirely bypassed the actual function of tears. He didn't want to cry, it was illogical. His mother wouldn't have cried.
Hastily he rubbed at his eyes with his right fist, still gripping the book to his chest with his left. Rationally, his eyes were simply experiencing fatigue; it had been a very long and tiring day and thus this was not such an odd phenomenon. His hand was on the way back to the book, when his father gently took it in his much larger hand it and smoothed out the fist it was held in.
"Your hands are still so small! See how big mine are? Don't worry; your hands will get bigger. That book will look small in your hands one day too. But I think they'll still be smaller than mine. Mine are big!" Henry counted off his diminutive, childlike fingers, one by one in a simple, repetitive hum. But before he'd finished, a surprised little 'Oh!' escaped his mouth, and his body shifted.
"I almost forgot!" Henry reached into the small satchel he'd dumped about a foot away, leaning both of them over towards it. He dug around in there for a few seconds, his lips making exaggerated expressions as he searched blindly. He finally produced a small ring, of which Laurent was very familiar. Laurent remembered seeing it on his mother's hand. It had been delicately placed on her ring finger at all times. He'd often thought that it was exceptionally distasteful. He still thought it was, now that he looked at it more closely.
"This is for you too! I picked it out before I proposed to your mother! It's too big for your little fingers now, but we'll pick up a chain tomorrow. It was expensive, so make sure you take care of it."
Laurent couldn't help but look at the small sliver ring as it glistened in the fire's light. Despite its intricate workings, his mother had kept it immaculately polished, even the dark crevices of the ring were lacking in grit or filth. Its intricate design hadn't suited her, but she had cared for it dearly.
When Laurent didn't reach for the ring, Henry carelessly plopped it down into his right palm, and returned his arm to the position it had previously occupied. "I don't think your mom liked it very much. When I asked her if she did, she said it wasn't important how it looked. I was disappointed, cause I really like it. But she wore it every day, so I can't complain. Wasn't it pretty on her?"
Laurent kept looking at the ring in the center of his palm. It wasn't a large ring, but in the center of his small hand, it looked quite large and ominous. He shifted his palm in the light, and watched as the fires flames glistened off of ring at different angles. It really was distasteful.
Making a resolution to himself, Laurent closed his fingers around the ring, locking it securely within his right hand. He wriggled out of his father's hold, stood, and turned to face him. Laurent hesitated for a moment, the ring in his right hand and the book in his left, took a breath and extended his left hand, and the book, to his father. "Until my hands are big enough, I want you to keep it."
His father just looked at him. Really looked at him, with his eyes open and a smile markedly absent from his face. Laurent's resolve was wavering when Henry reached up and took the book from him. He opened its leather bound backing, and flipped through a few pages. "You probably won't get this back when I die." He stated plainly without raising his head from the books pages.
Laurent kept himself impassive as he answered."Then you will have to continue returning until my hands have grown to a suitable size."
His father smiled at that. "Everything dies Laurent, even this world will some day. We don't chose when either."
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Henry's smile widened, and he angled his head downward to look at the book once again. "You do have a point. You are a lot like me, but you're more like your mother. You're a very kind, Laurent, but you are also your mother's son. Don't worry, I already have a really good reason to be careful, but I'll keep this, for now. Since you insisted."
Slowly, Henry rose to his feet as well, and they held hands as both moved into Laurent's bed room. Laurent placed the ring on his night stand before getting into bed and his father tucked him in again. "How about a story! I thought up another one today, a really good one! You'll like it."
Laurent, to his credit, tried not to look entirely disinterested. "Father, I'm actually quite fatigued. Can I listen to your story tomorrow?"
The pout on Henry's face was unmistakable, but he shrugged and the smile came back. "It'd be better in the dark, but if you're tired then I'll have to wait! Sleep well Laurent. We'll buy you that chain tomorrow. The ring will look beautiful on you too."
Affectionately, Henry ruffled his hair, kissed his forehead, and left the room.
Laurent didn't fall asleep after that. He could still hear his father shuffling around the house, and his mind wandered to that little book, and all the secrets it held. Laurent knew he might one day regret giving it up, but if it brought his father back even once, it was well worth the loss.