|cocoa_cardigan (cocoa_cardigan) wrote in snark_n_bark,|
@ 2008-08-25 21:27:00
|Entry tags:||complete, cymbeline, gaia, lysander, regulus, remus, severus|
I heard the news today, oh, boy...
Characters: Severus, Regulus, Remus, Cymbeline, Lysander, Gaius, Sekhmet, Winslow, Cyanide
Summary: Regulus drops by to introduce his new friend, and give news about an old acquaintance
"Look, I rolled six! One, two, three, four, five, six! Oh, no, I'm on your spot, Daddy! How much do I have to pay?"
Lysander looked up at Remus, giving him a mild case of the "wolf eyes". Remus chuckled, reaching over Gaia's head where she sat in his lap in order to ruffle Lysander's hair.
"That won't work on me like it does on Papa, you know. That's forty-three Galleons rent," he said.
Over time, Lysander had discovered that looks of wide-eyed innocence or tragedy could sometimes get him out of trouble or earn him extra treats from unwary adults. Cymbeline had known this almost by instinct - probably part of her heritage from Severus - but Lysander had learned to use it as well, and Remus once more pitied Minerva when his children made it to Hogwarts.
With a sigh, Lysander began to count out the chits which represented the Wizarding money, and Remus looked on, smiling as his son concentrated on the task with all the seriousness of a Gringott's Goblin. The game was a Wizarding twist on a Muggle one, where each player bought properties in Diagon Alley and moved pieces around a board, charging people who landed on their places. The game was accurate so far as the places went, and in their family, it was quite a competition to see who would get to "own" Alchemy & Ecstasy, which Gaius had managed to transfigure to the most valuable spot on the board, even above Gringott's itself.
From her place in Remus' lap, Gaia clapped and counted along as far as she could, before chanting "more, more, more!" when they'd gone past twenty, and Remus glanced over at Cymbeline in time to catch her rolling her eyes at her sister's words. He shook his head slightly, and she grumbled a bit, turning her attention to where Cyanide lay in her lap, purring softly as Cymbeline stroked her snowy fur. On the fourth side of the board sat Severus, and Remus' smile grew a touch more wicked as he winked at his mate, enjoying this family time before dinner, all of them in the parlor and just being together, as a family, playing together.
"Your turn, mate," he said, passing Severus the dice after accepting Lysander's money. "Looks like you're in danger of owning us all - as if you didn't already!"
Severus accepted the dice, pausing to shoot a warning look at Winslow, who was staring longingly at all the shiny metal pieces being moved around the board; the damned mutt had a habit of trying to steal the dice as well, but for now, he was lying beside Severus with his chin propped on Severus' leg, looking at, but not touching all the temptations before him.
"I can buy and sell all of you to the gypsies if I please," Severus said haughtily. "Some of you would do well not to forget it."
With that threat hanging, he rolled the dice and moved his piece - a tiny metal cauldron, which was always his piece - to the "Just Visiting" space in front of Azkaban. He didn't get the opportunity to buy anything on this round, but he didn't have to pay out any money, either.
"I'm sure Tybalt would consider us a bargain," Remus replied drolly. "Or Celestra. She has a proper appreciation of pretty boys! You'd miss us, you know, if for no other reason than you wouldn't have anyone to snark at. Or give you back rubs."
"Don't sell me, Papa!" Lysander looked over at Severus, the tragic look not put on this time. "I'll be good, promise!"
Unlike Cymbeline, who understood when her papa was teasing and rolled her eyes at his 'threat', Lysander hadn't quite figured it out yet, and Severus reached out to smooth his hand along the back of Lysander's head.
"I couldn't possibly sell you," he said. "No one could offer anywhere near the price you are worth."
Lysander gave a sigh of relief, then watched as Remus rolled the dice. "Ha, Daddy, you landed on Mine's space!"
"So I did," Remus said, giving a dramatic sigh. "All right, Princess, how much do I owe you? And no inflating the rent this time! You can't charge extra because I'm a man and a wolf!"
Having already gone a couple of losing rounds on that point already, Cymbeline didn't argue; instead, she added up the rent for having two brooms on Madam Malkin's. Two more brooms and she could upgrade to a broom shed and collect even more rent! "Thirty galleons," she said happily.
Remus handed the chits to Gaia, having her count out twenty, and then having her repeat the numbers until they hit thirty. She smiled, pleased with herself. "That yours, Cym'bleen," she said as Remus handed the money to her sister.
"It is indeed. Your turn now, Princess," Remus replied. He turned his head and leaned over to give Severus a kiss on the cheek. "Ha! That was a surprise tax on Potions Masters."
Severus gave a quiet 'hmph!' at that, but he tilted his cheek to accommodate the kiss, looking not entirely displeased by the attention, and the children giggled. Cymbeline reached for the dice, but before she could roll, the flames in the fireplace flared green, and a face appeared.
"Am I interrupting anything?" Regulus asked, and Severus leaned back enough that he could have an unobstructed view of the hearth.
"No, we are playing a game. It can be put on hold." He glanced at the rest of his family, one eyebrow raised. "Or you all could concede defeat now. Either way, you are welcome to come through," he added, glancing back at Regulus.
"Thank you." Regulus smiled, and he disappeared, only to appear in person a moment later with Sekhmet cradled against his chest. "I hope you don't mind. I thought perhaps Sekhmet should meet Winslow and Cyanide."
"No problem, I never could beat any of you," Remus said, rising to his feet and giving Regulus a friendly smile. "Oh, she's beautiful! Gaius told us about her, but I hadn't seen her before."
"Pretty!" Gaia agreed, reaching out from her perch in Remus' arms toward Sekhmet, opening and closing her fists. She looked at Regulus, her green eyes wide and imploring. "C'n I pet, pwease?"
"Of course," Regulus replied, moving closer so that Sekhmet was in easy reach for Gaia. "She loves attention." He glanced at Remus, smiling at the compliment. "She is beautiful, isn't she? Very intelligent, too. I'm quite grateful to Gaius."
Gathering Cyanide in her arms, Cymbeline stood as well and approached Regulus, gazing at Sekhmet with obvious appreciation. "She's big."
Gaia beamed, reaching out with one small hand to stroke Sekhmet gently on the head. Having been raised with a feline Animagus and her sister's cat, Gaia knew to be gentle or risk sharp claws or teeth. "Soft," she said approvingly, then laughed with delight as Sekhmet pushed against her fingers imperiously and purred loudly.
Lysander came over as well, looking up at the big cat with wide eyes. "Yes, very big!" he agreed. He was used to his uncle's tiny cat form and the small Cyanide. "Is she a tiger?"
Regulus smiled, amused by the question, and shook his head. "No, she isn't a tiger, but she is a very special cat. She comes all the way from a temple in Egypt."
Severus rose to his feet and moved to join the little group, Winslow trotting at his heels, but he wasn't as curious since he had already met Sekhmet. He did reach out to stroke her head, however. "I'm glad you have become so attached," he said. "Gaius went to a great deal of trouble to acquire her, and he was anxious about whether you would accept her or not."
"It seems I have a weakness for anything that can purr," Regulus replied lightly.
Lysander reached out to stroke Sekhmet's back. "Can we go to Egypt and get a big cat, Papa?" he asked, turning to look at Severus imploring. "Cyanide needs a friend!"
Knowing Severus' feelings on adding yet more four legged occupants to the manor, Remus laughed and shook his head. "She definitely beautiful, but I think we have enough pets for right now, Lysander. Winslow and Cyanide might feel a little jealous if we get any more. Besides, Sekhmet is indeed very special. I don't know if we could get one of her kind to come with us and put up with all the noise and chaos."
"Oh." Lysander gave a regretful sigh, then turned and reached up toward Remus. "Well, then, I'll take my baby, all right?"
Remus handed over Gaia to her brother, smiling as he held her quite protectively. "Why don't I put away the game? Regulus, would you care for something to drink? And we're going to be having dinner, soon, so you're welcome to stay. Lurch always makes plenty, since we never know if the children are going to pick at their food or end up eating enough for an army."
"Thank you, I would like that," Regulus replied as he lowered Sekhmet to the floor so she could get to know the new people and explore the new surroundings. "Nothing to drink, however."
"Have a seat, then," Severus said, heading to the sofa since Remus didn't really need help in clearing away the game.
Winslow lingered, staring raptly at Sekhmet. Or rather, staring at the shiny gold rings in her ears. He whimpered softly and edged closer to the large cat, who was busy touching noses with Cyanide.
Knowing Sekhmet could take care of herself and was smart enough not to hurt the children or the other pets, Regulus moved to one of the plush chairs and took a seat, debating when would be a good time to bring up the other reason he had come, namely to break the news about Barty to Severus. Not yet, he decided.
Remus drew his wand and efficiently packed up the game, the board and pieces levitating into the box, before the box closed and he sent it with a flick of his wrist toward a shelf. He watched as Lysander sat on the floor with Gaia in his lap, watching the animals, then moved to join Severus on the sofa.
"Sekhmet seems very good with the children," he observed. "Do you plan to let her have the run of your shop when it's finished? Shop cats are a fine old tradition, of course, although she's rather fancy to be considered anything quite so mundane."
"I do, yes," Regulus said, watching her with fond affection. "She has already begun accompanying me to the shop while Gaius and I get it ready, so she is familiar with it and has grown comfortable there. She is very protective and a good judge of character, so I imagine she will be helpful to me in more ways than one when it comes to the customers."
"Are you close to being ready?" Severus asked.
"I may very well open within a week," Regulus said, nodding. "Things are coming along nicely."
On the floor, Winslow edged closer to Sekhmet, lowering himself to the ground and inching along, his tails raised high.
"A week? That's great! You must both be working hard," Remus observed. "And how great if she could help you at the shop! Winslow would be of no use at Alchemy & Ecstasy, unfortunately, even if Severus could stand to have him underfoot. He'd just try to steal all the bottles and mirrors." He glanced over at the criffler with fond exasperation, then raised a brow. "Uh oh... speaking of which, his fixation seems to have found a target!"
"Do you want to head him off?" Regulus asked, glancing back and forth between Severus and Remus. "I've no doubt Sekhmet will teach him a lesson if he goes for her earrings, but I don't think she would seriously hurt him."
"Let him learn," Severus said. "He isn't entirely stupid. If he tries once and is trounced for his pains, he will remember the next time and won't try it again."
Remus chuckled, watching as the criffler continued to creep closer to the big cat, his eyes focused on the flashing hoops in her ears. He obviously thought much of his prowess, as he inched along carefully, then with a joyous bark of victory, he sprang, intent on getting his teeth around one of the hoops.
Moving with lightning-quick speed, Sekhmet evaded his lunge and swung one heavy paw, claws sheathed, and popped him across the muzzle. She gave a warning hiss, her ears flattened, for good measure.
Winslow gave a yelp, more startled than hurt as Sekhmet clouted him. Used to smaller opponents - not that he'd even managed to get Cyanide's sparkly collar, given Cymbeline's protectiveness - he reeled from the blow, then turned with a whimper and sprinted toward Sharp Tongue, jumping into Sharp Tongue's lap and pressing against him, trembling as he waited to see if the big cat would come after him to deal out more punishment.
"Let that be a lesson to you," Severus murmured, but he curved his arms around Winslow and held him close, stroking his back until the trembling subsided.
Meanwhile, Sekhmet sat down, curled her tail around her hind legs, and lifted her forepaw to wash it daintily as if the creature that had assaulted her had already been forgotten.
Regulus watched, chuckling quietly. "Hopefully she didn't scare him off for good."
"I doubt it," Severus replied. "But I dare say he won't go after those earrings again."
Remus clucked admonishingly at Winslow, but he, too, reached out to pet the criffler. "Necessary pains, I'm afraid. We had to charm the little nutcrackers on our Christmas tree to poke him with their swords to keep him away. Warnings just don't work with him when anything shiny is involved; he has to have it proven to him forcefully."
"Winslow okay, Daddy?" Lysander asked with concern.
"He's fine," Remus assured his son. "Why don't you take Gaia upstairs, and you can start getting washed up for dinner? You too, Cymbeline - and please pick up those books you left in the nursery earlier, so that Nanny Stella doesn't have to do it."
"Oh, all right," Cymbeline grumbled, but she went upstairs willingly to do as she was told with Lysander close behind, Gaia in his arms.
Once the children had disappeared upstairs, Regulus recognized that he had a perfect opening to bring up the subject of Barty; he didn't want to, but he supposed it was best to get it over with.
"While the children are out of the room, perhaps I could introduce a more serious subject?" he said, keeping his tone casual. "There has been a new development that I thought you should be aware of."
"Oh?" Severus' eyebrows climbed, and he fixed Regulus with a searching look. "Bellatrix hasn't tried anything, has she?"
"No, nothing quite so dire," Regulus replied reassuringly. "It's just... I hired someone recently. Someone from our mutual past."
Remus looked back and forth between Regulus and Severus, his expression pensive. "I assume it's not someone entirely harmless, however, or you'd not have needed to wait for the children to leave." He reached out for Severus' hand, capturing it and lacing their fingers. "Who is it?"
Regulus took a deep breath and sat up straighter. "Barty Crouch Jr. Although he is going by a different last name now. He answered my advert, and I didn't realize it was him until he came in for an interview," he explained. "He said he has changed, and he wants a second chance. All things considered, I would have felt like a hypocrite if I had turned him away."
Severus stared at him, silently boggling for a moment, but he recovered his voice quickly enough. "Have you gone utterly mad? Do you know what that madman did?"
"He told me a little, yes," Regulus replied calmly. "But he is different now. He has-"
"Fused souls. Yes, I read that twaddle in the paper," Severus retorted, waving one hand. "I don't trust it. He successfully impersonated Moody for a year, which says much about his capacity for deceit."
"No... oh no," Remus said, squeezing Severus' hand hard. "It's different with him than it was with you, Regulus. Very different. He was mad, utterly insane, a real killer! I'm not saying you were a saint, and neither was Severus, for that matter, but he believed all the rot Voldemort was spreading, and he's a murderer! Sweet Merlin, he's the reason Voldemort was able to come back, so in a way the entire end of the war is all his fault! What if this is all an act, a ruse? He could kill you. Or worse." Remus didn't have to explain that part. Regulus of all people knew quite personally what 'a fate worse than death' really meant.
"I believe him," Regulus said simply, giving a little shrug. "I listened to him, and I listened to my own instincts. I'm not without a sense of self-preservation, and I didn't get any warning bells. I believe he has changed and sincerely wants a second chance. That does not mean I intend to trust him blindly, of course. I will be keeping a close eye on him, and at any sign of danger or duplicity, I will react accordingly."
Severus shook his head. "I hope you are not making a mistake," he said. "I have not encountered Barty again, nor do I wish to. He gave me enough trouble at Hogwarts, and I would as soon hex him to oblivion as look at him."
Remus hadn't been at Hogwarts for Barty's little stint as Moody, but he'd certainly heard about it. "I believe in second chances, Regulus, as you know, but him..." He sighed, his expression troubled. "It's like Lucius or Bellatrix asking for another chance. Still, it's your choice, but definitely keep your eye on him. Both eyes, even." A wry smile curved his lips as he glanced at Sekhmet. "Or perhaps four eyes. Gaius told us that Sekhmet is protective, and she is supposed to have excellent instincts, too. If she reacts badly to something he does, it's probably something you should heed."
"I intend to," Regulus said. "I also have wards and protections on the shop. He will have to prove his trustworthiness over time, but in the meantime, I intend to give him a genuine opportunity to prove himself, if that is what he wants." He glanced at Severus pointedly. "You and I both should understand how difficult it is to start over. At any rate, I am not asking either of you to trust him or befriend him. I merely wished to forewarn you that he is working for me so you would not be taken by surprise if you visit the shop and he is there."
"I appreciate the warning," Severus replied, privately resolved not to take the children anywhere near the shop if Barty Crouch was in the building. "I hope for your sake that your kindness is not misplaced."
"As do I," Regulus said dryly. "I have no desire to be taken for a fool. But time will tell."
"Have you told Gaius?" Remus asked, still feeling troubled at the thought of someone so evil wandering about free. As dangerous as he had once considered himself - less so, of course, now that Severus was his Lupicinus - he'd never been knowingly evil, and even as a werewolf, he'd never turned anyone. "He'd have no reason to be suspicious, and if you weren't around and Barty... did something..."
"No, I haven't told Gaius anything," Regulus replied. "Barty won't be in the shop when I am not also there while Gaius is finishing the decor, and once the job is finished, Gaius being alone with him will not be an issue." He paused, then added dryly, "I realize it seems Gaius is setting up shop with me rather than in Alchemy and Ecstasy, but I promise I am not deliberately monopolizing him."
I'm sure he wishes you were, Severus thought with considerable disgruntlement, but he said nothing of the sort aloud. "He should be warned to take care, nonethless. Even if he isn't told the extent of what Barty has done, I will not have any of my family endangered through ignorance. I assume Serenus is already aware thanks to Tybalt, but one of us needs to warn Gaius."
"I will do it," Regulus said. He didn't particularly like having to put Gaius on guard against Barty if Barty was indeed trying to start anew, but he supposed it was better that than live with the guilt if something did happen to Gaius because he hadn't been warned.
"Good," Remus said, then glanced up as Lysander, Gaia, and Cymbeline came back into the room, faces and hands obviously washed and still damp. He smiled and held out his arms, the shadows brought on by the news about Barty pushed aside by the sight of their children. The past would stay in the past, and if Barty was up to no good, Remus would make damned sure the man couldn't hurt those he loved. "There are my cubs! All clean and ready for dinner?"
"Ready!" Lysander said.
"Mama!" Gaia piped up, holding out her hands to Severus. "Up!"
Severus released a grumbling sigh, but he didn't bother to protest as he bent and picked up Gaia. He had tried repeatedly to get her to call him "Papa" again, but it was to no avail; she obstinately insisted on calling him "Mama" instead.
Regulus stared, wide-eyed, first trying to decide if he had indeed heard what he thought he had heard, and then trying to decide if he would be risking life and limb if he said anything about it. Deciding discretion was the better part of valor in this case, he cleared his throat and stood up, offering his hand to Cymbeline.
"May I escort you in to dinner?" he asked, and she beamed up at him.
"Yes, please," she replied, clasping his hand with all the regal hauteur of royalty.
Remus chuckled quietly, standing as well and brushing a kiss against Severus' cheek. "Come on, Lysander, we'll bring up the rear. In fact, let's go put Winslow in the kitchen; maybe Lurch will have a bone for him to soothe his bruised ego, and a nice bit of something for Sekhmet, too."
"Okay, Daddy," Lysander agreed readily, picking up Winslow. "Come on, Winslow - you can have a treat." At that the criffler's ears perked up and he whimpered, tails wagging as he licked Lysander's face.
"So much for washing up!" Remus laughed, then headed off after his son, hoping that Winslow wouldn't decide to go after anything they gave Sekhmet.