February sunlight streamed through the curtains, making his eyelashes flutter as a hand ran through his hair, over the edge of his nose to trace the parting seam of his lips.
A kiss lingered on his cheekbone, hair fluttering closely behind it. Artemis sighed and turned toward the retreating touch. “I love you, too,” he mumbled. He reached out blindly and was glad when warm fingers intertwined with his own. “So much.”
Harry’s warm body snuggled into his arms before a quiet laugh was pressed against his neck. “I have fairy dust in my eyelashes.”
“Probably,” Artemis said, only half awake. “Who were those people in masks when we ran into the woods?”
“Death Eaters—the last of the Dark Lord’s followers.”
Artemis sighed against Harry, pulling him closer. “I saw his dead body. Albus burnt it in the rubble of some house. He’s really gone.”
Harry sighed. “I suspected as much.” Then warm lips were on his, kissing away the lingering taste of cold, and Harry was moaning into Artemis’s mouth. “I love you,” he murmured, tears coming to Harry’s eyes and gently falling over Artemis’s face. “Since I was eleven and you warned me—you wanted to keep me safe and told me the truth—I’ve loved you since then.”
Overcome with the emotions pouring out of Harry, Artemis arched upward and clasped his arms around his crying, desperate fiancé, pouring all the love he could into that one heated kiss.
His hands were roving in Harry’s hair, pushing it back from the smooth forehead, no trace or even a hint of a scar, loving Harry, wanting Harry, needing to feel the scramble of fingers as they tried to find purchase against his shoulders.
“Artemis,” Harry hummed as his knees fell to either side of Artemis’s body, snapping up so that he was sitting across Artemis’s chest and leaning down to kiss his mouth tantalizingly, both swallowing the gasps of the other. Heat spread through Artemis, one hand resting on Harry’s hip, the other in his messy hair, even more disorderly from having slept on it all night.
Far too soon Harry was pulling away, a gentle half-smile on his face before he bent down and placed a lingering kiss on Artemis’s swollen lips. He was completely at Harry’s mercy and he rather suspected that, with the flash of some sort of secret knowledge, Harry knew it and reveled in it.
Sighing, he lay down across Artemis’s chest, his fingers playing with the pajama buttons. “What else did you dream?”
“Of Draco Malfoy—he’s dating Krum.”
Harry looked up startled. “Really?”
“Yes, they went to some kind of ball together and, well, Draco’s excited about meeting you but afraid you won’t like him like some boy in a robe shop.”
Shifting uncomfortably, Harry didn’t answer.
“I saw Ginny and Hermione, which was disturbing,” he shuddered at the recollection. “I saw Lily Potter fall in love with a boy and call out his name and not her husband’s on her wedding night.” He allowed his voice to trail off, not certain what else to say. It was a difficult situation. Lily Potter had given birth to Harry, and he wasn’t certain how quickly the adoption magic would work on Harry, shifting his perceptions slightly so his previous life was nothing more than a dream, which was perhaps as it should be.
“Lily Potter?” Harry asked, interested. He didn’t call her Mother or Mum. It might have already begun, then.
“Yes, she was in love with a boy named Severus Snape, believe it or not.”
Harry snorted. “He made my life Hell in Potions,” Harry said, sighing. “She has bad taste.”
“Most likely. Still, they had an argument.”
They lapsed into silence again, Artemis’s hands in Harry’s hair, running through it lightly and watching the strands turn to a fire-gold and then black in the morning light.
“Draco really wants to meet me?”
“Yes,” Artemis assured him, pulling him up so that their eyes locked together. Kissing him gently and trying to ignore the aching want in his member, Artemis laid his head against Harry’s, just breathing in his scent. “Yes, he desperately wants to meet his cousin.”
“I’ve never had a cousin before—not a real one anyway.”
“Well, now you have one who has the lightest blond hair I think I’ve ever seen.”
Harry began to laugh, the seriousness of the moment slipping away. “He and Krum, really?”
“Yes. They were very happy dancing with each other and, well, Krum offered to win the task so that Draco had bragging privileges about his boyfriend to you.”
“And do I get to brag about my boyfriend?” Harry said, teasing.
“I thought you had a fiancé, or was I misinformed?”
“Well, we wouldn’t want to make Draco feel inadequate if he’s known Viktor Krum longer and still hasn’t managed to get a proposal out of him.”
They dissolved into soft laughter, lying in each other’s arms before Artemis reluctantly got up, needing a cold shower quite badly. By the time he was fully dressed and dry, Harry was waiting for him with a far too angelic smile on his face before he ran out of the room again in their familiar chase.
There was less than a week left until they were flying to London and then taking the train up to Scotland. Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy had arranged it, at Harry’s request to have the Hogwarts Express employed directly from King’s Cross so that they wouldn’t have to deal with International Portkeys and could travel to Scotland at their leisure. They would be the only passengers.
Letters were being exchanged almost daily with last minute details and Artemis watched amusedly as Harry cursed his penmanship and quill, and delighted in the expressions that crossed his father’s face when Harry walked in with ink stained fingers or received owl post during meal times.
Minerva, unfortunately, was still his mother’s guest, but there was nothing to do about it. Harry ignored her, Minerva did the same, and Artemis would only speak to her during mealtimes if she asked him a direct question.
He had known she was stubborn, but it was far less endearing now than it had been when the secrecy of the existence of the seven fairy races was at stake.
Unfortunately, the day before they were to fly out of Dublin, she managed to catch him alone in his study. “Artemis,” she began, her voice soft and cajoling, and he sighed. He thought the telephone conversation just after Christmas had been enough, but here they were, nearly two months later, and it clearly wasn’t.
“Minerva.” Artemis doubted he could pour less of an invitation into a single word.
Sadly, she decided to come into the room and sit down.
“Business first,” she decided and he didn’t disagree with her. “As I tried to tell you on Christmas, there’s been demon activity, and it’s located in Scotland.”
“I am aware of that,” Artemis replied evenly. “It’s being looked into.”
“I know for a fact you haven’t left Dublin since before Christmas,” she argued back, her curls falling around her face prettily.
“Yes, well, I am almost positive I know exactly where the demon activity is centered, and it’s difficult to get in. I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“I thought you were visiting Hyperion’s relatives in England tomorrow.”
“I am, and they just so happened to invite us where the demon activity is located.” The demons were stalking Harry and Harry, up until recently, was at Hogwarts. No one knew where he was; in fact, the identity of Harry Potter no longer existed. He might as well be dead. Artemis was also almost certain that Dumbledore was somehow involved and that Harry’s entrance in this competition was somehow meant to facilitate the demons and their rather ignoble goals.
She crossed her arms. “I’m coming with you.”
“And get yourself captured again?” he asked, his eyes wide. “You’re not invited anyway. I’m only allowed to come as Hyperion’s fiancé; they’re not going to suffer anyone else.”
“You could easily—“
“No, I couldn’t,” he said calmly, patiently. “We’re entering the fairy world, you can’t just go especially when I’m going to try and masquerade as someone of fay descent.” He wasn’t going to explain the wizarding world to her and this was the closest explanation he could come to that she could understand. “The risks are already high enough and I will not have your insipid attempts to steal me away flashed in front of Hyperion anymore than I must, especially in front of his cousins.”
She blushed and looked away.
That was all the confirmation he needed.
“I just—“ she began hesitantly, but Artemis didn’t let her finish.
“Anything you say on the subject is inappropriate, given the fact that you know my feelings on the matter.”
“He’s a boy.”
“I’m a man who only likes those of my own gender.”
Her small hands were now balled up in fists, shaking.
“I waited for you for three years, three years while you disappeared.”
He turned back to his computer, looking at the latest stock report. He’d been neglecting this passion for several months and although his father had returned years ago and taken up the mantle of head of the family again, some habits were just difficult to break. He also liked numbers.
“I never asked you to wait,” he said softly, looking at the computer screen. “You were twelve when I left. You’re twelve in my head—and I don’t want you. I never did.”
“But,” she began hesitantly, “we’re made for each other.”
“Statistically, perhaps. We’re both wealthy, good looking, and have high IQs. That’s about all we have in common though. Give up. There’s nothing for you here, Minerva. Go back to Spain, to your family and leave mine alone. If you persist, I shall simply take Harry and leave.”
She remained seated, staring ahead, and he sighed.
“Is my bodyguard and I will have him throw you out. No matter whatever fondness he has for you, he won’t hesitate.”
This was getting tiring—and repetitive. She just needed to get it through her head that there never had been a “them” and never was going to be.
A knock sounded at the door and he looked up to see his mother who was smiling at them. His eyes narrowed. He should have known her desire to “help him” would result in this impromptu tête-à-tête. She meant well, but that didn’t mean that any of her plans turned out the way anyone wanted them to.
“Darling, there you are,” she greeted, an expectant smile on her face.
“Harry’s off writing to his cousin to confirm our train ride when we arrive,” he said absently, turning back to the computer.
“Don’t you think, Artemis, that perhaps you should allow Harry to get reacquainted with his family without interfering?”
He could almost hear the small smile forming on Minerva’s lips. For one so intelligent, she could be incredibly daft at times.
“He and his cousin Draco want to compare boyfriends,” he murmured, knowing that that was probably going to happen. “I also would never dream of not going.”
“You’re needed here, dear. The family should be together.”
She had now entered the room and was sitting in one of the few available chairs. In her casual housedress and pearls she looked out of place among the modern state-of-the-art technology.
Artemis grinned at her, causing her to start at his frightening smile. “Perhaps you should have thought of that before you and father took the twins to Switzerland last October. Father approves of Hyperion, Mother. You should just admit defeat and leave.”
“He’s not good for you.”
“He’s the best thing that ever happened to me, Mother,” Artemis snapped back. “I’m in love with him, I’ll never stop loving him, never stop wanting him. We will walk away from this family if we have to. I have more than enough money to manage it and Harry, well, his fortune is in gold and he has vaults and vaults of it,” he said with a satisfied smile. “You can’t win this—so stop before you push me completely away.” At the slightly defiant look on her face, he snapped. “Gods, Harry thought it would be like this, but I assured him that you would welcome him, that I could give him a family—but you can’t see past your own warped desires to see that I’m happy, Harry makes me happy, he makes me want to be a better person so that I can get just one more smile from him. You know how that feels like, Mother, I know you do.”
He didn’t bother to turn off the computer as he left the room, certain that once he and Harry left for England they weren’t coming back to Fowl Manor, at least for a very long time.
“You don’t have to,” Harry said tiredly from the bed, the night before they were leaving. “It’s all right.”
Artemis, though, couldn’t answer, just staring at the glass of water in one hand and the vial in the other. “I need to be prepared,” he finally murmured, pouring it into the glass. This wasn’t going to be remotely pleasant.
Harry sighed from beside him and wrapped his arms around Artemis’s waist. “I’m here,” he murmured as the fairy dust caused him to fall into a deep sleep.
The man was sitting in a high winged-back chair that was covered in molding purple upholstery. Artemis couldn’t see his face, but something about this man in the decaying house was familiar to him, like he had seen him in another of his dream visions. Flecks of blue and violet were scattered across the mantle, the entire aging house breathing magic into every one of Artemis’s pores.
He found himself walking to the chair, wondering if he would see the face of the hand that was now gently tapping it with a harsh rhythm of fingers.
An owl tapped at the window, the glass cracked and smudged with dirt and, with a flick of a wand dangling from a pale hand, the glass opened and the bird flew in with a message attached to its legs.
The faceless man reached out, seized the owl and took the parchment, quickly opening it.
It was too dark in the room for Artemis to even hope to read the letter even if he were close enough to read, but the man began to mumble. “It’s over. All over. I’m free.”
Hastily the letter was dropped to the carpet and the man lifted his hands, running them through his hair, his face still turned away and cast in shadow so that Artemis could see nothing.
“Twelve years in Azkaban and now I’m free—free of all charges.”
“Sirius Black the Third, my uncle,” a voice whispered from his side as firelight played against the graying walls. “He was imprisoned in the wizard prison for twelve years for a crime he didn’t commit then, when he realized the man who had framed him was free, he escaped for revenge. Now the man has been found and, well, if it weren’t for me he would be the de facto heir of the House of Black.”
Artemis looked down and saw Hyperion staring blankly at the back of his chair.
“This is my inheritance,” Hyperion continued to whisper, indicated the grimy room that hadn’t been dusted in years. “The Black family estate. It hasn’t been lived in since 1985 and I suspect it was in pretty bad condition even then.” A small smile played on his kissable lips and he glanced at Artemis, revealing one bright green eye and another that was a perfect gray—the same eyes that Draco Malfoy had, the same half-gaze as Sirius Black—the Black eyes, Artemis realized. “My grandmother was quite mad and let it fall into ruin once Father disappeared. No one knows what happened.” He paused. “Uncle Sirius will tell you that he was a Death Eater and that the Dark Lord killed him. It’s all speculation, though. One day he was alive and then the next day the year 1979 was embroidered on the family tapestry.” Hyperion waved toward a wall that had an aging, blackened tapestry on it. “I’m not on there. Not quite yet. Wait for it and it will come.”
Sirius was now out of the chair, his black hair falling about his once-handsome and yet still gaunt face, his gray eyes gleaming with unshed tears of joy.
He hastily ran through the room, searching for something on the desk before finally finding a spare bit of parchment. “Kreacher!” the man called. “Kreacher, I’m going out! I’m in need of clothes.” A bark-like laugh escaped his lips and he was quickly hurrying out of the room again, the door banging shut behind him.
“When was this?” Artemis asked, not quite expecting Hyperion to respond. He wasn’t surprised when he found himself alone, a strange creature with bat-like ears and large tennis ball eyes limping into the room, mumbling about his mistress.
The sun fell out of the sky before quickly rising again, Helios carrying his sun chariot across the sky. Time appeared to flit past and for a moment a small girl with large green eyes was looking up at him, a smile on her lips, so like Harry’s and yet too innocent, so young. In a blink of an eye, she was gone again.
The tapestry grew cleaner, shining brilliantly before shimmering into dusky browns and fading threads.
An owl at the window startled Artemis and he quickly made his way to the window, forgetting that here Sirius couldn’t see him and he probably wouldn’t be able to open the window. He stared at the bird as it fluttered its wings, tapping again and again until, finally, Sirius ran back into the room, an embroidered dressing gown being hastily thrown over his naked frame.
Artemis turned his eyes. He didn’t need to see that, especially when the man hadn’t bothered to tie it when he made to open the window. He wondered if these dreams would keep on bringing him to these displays. Ginny, the Potters, and now Sirius Black. It was all so wrong to him.
“Come on in,” Sirius muttered to the bird as it swooped in, quickly taking the large, official looking envelope from it. He didn’t bother to look up at the owl as it swooped away again out the window.
A small hand squirmed into his and he looked and saw the little girl—his child—smiling up at him. “Father,” she murmured and Artemis smiled lovingly down at her, seeing the glints of red and gold in her hair, showing the same unearthly inheritance that Harry appeared to have received. A moment later and his hand was empty.
He glanced back up to Sirius Black and saw that he was now standing almost directly in front of him, his eyes staring unbelievingly at the parchment in his hands and his robe completely open and forgotten.
“Hyperion Jacques Black,” Sirius finally breathed out before he began to chuckle. “A bastard most likely as not,” he said to no one in particular and then rolled up the parchment and tossed it into the otherwise empty grate.
Artemis swallowed, blue and violet mist shimmering about the room and then it was evening, another day perhaps, and the beautiful woman with flowing auburn hair was standing in a corner, watching him with interest, before the door opened and Sirius Black swept back in.
“I don’t know why you’re here, Narcissa,” he said, an insult in his voice. “It’s not like we spoke when we were children.”
Sirius Black was well groomed and wearing a set of dark blue robes, his hair falling to his shoulders in soft curls while a well-groomed mustache and goatee made him look more sophisticated, despite the obvious lack of decor.
An aristocratic and beautiful woman was now sweeping into the room. She had flowing golden hair that was pinned into a complicated knot, and was wearing a stunning and expensive set of rose robes. Although she was clearly forty, she carried her age well and Artemis suspected she would just get lovelier as the years passed.
Closely behind her was a well-dressed man with a pointed face and cropped white-blond hair. He bore a striking resemblance, Artemis thought, to Draco Malfoy, proving to Artemis that these were the Malfoys.
“I would not come if it were not necessary,” Narcissa was saying. “It is, however, a matter of importance as I’m sure you know.”
“What could possibly be so important, Cissy?” Sirius asked rudely before taking a seat. He didn’t offer his guests any of the chairs.
Narcissa sniffed and sat down, her husband strangely silent, perhaps because he had only married into the Blacks and it was a Black family matter.
“I trust that you received the announcement from Gringotts about Hyperion?” she questioned and Sirius laughed in answer.
“I threw it in the fire.”
Mr. Malfoy raised an eyebrow showing what he thought of the professed action.
“Well. If the letter had been sent a few days sooner, this would not be an issue for as the last pureblood and legitimate Black I had precedence in the matter of his reintroduction to the family. As you, however, have been cleared of all charges and are now a free man as well as Hyperion’s uncle—“
“I have precedence, yes, I know,” Sirius said gruffly.
Mr. Malfoy opened his mouth, hesitated as he cast a glance at his wife, before continuing. “Your position is tenuous at best as you were disinherited from the Black family. This is merely a courtesy call.”
“Of course, Lucius. Let’s all be courteous, especially when torturing Muggles at the Quidditch World Cup.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re mean,” Lucius Malfoy sneered politely, if that were even possible.
“Are you going to contact your nephew at all? If so, we need to coordinate our schedules so that we do not leave the boy with too many invitations and overwhelm him too soon. He’s living in France after all and most likely attends Beauxbatons.”
“I don’t care if he lives with Muggles,” Sirius said contemptuously. “He can go to Hell for all I care along with his supposed father.”
“You doubt the Goblins in this matter? They hold all our records and only blood and gold speaks to them, and gold cannot buy old blood. Hyperion is undoubtedly your nephew.”
“I have no nephew as I had no brother,” Sirius said. “There’s your answer; I trust you can see yourself out.”
“Of course,” Narcissa said, rising. She glanced about the room and quickly approached the tapestry, her finger tracing the lines while her husband stood behind her, his hand on the small of her back.
“Cissy,” Sirius said angrily.
“Just checking Hyperion’s exact birthday. The letter didn’t say.—Ah, there it is.”
Artemis hastily walked over and saw her hand pointing to the name Hyperion Jacques Black, 9 September 1980—. A thin line led upward to the names of Regulus Arcturus Black and Amarante Alix Vilaneuve.
“A few months younger than Draco,” she said fondly, “though a year’s difference at school.” She tisked. “Such a shame. It would have been lovely if they were at the same level, but c’est la vie.”
“If you’re quite done,” Sirius sneered.
“Of course, cousin,” Narcissa said politely as Lucius led her out of the room, his hand still pressed to the small of her back affectionately. The door was closed behind them and Artemis found himself floating through it, wanting to hear what the Malfoys said in private.
The hallway was cast in darkness, but Lucius Malfoy had already taken out his wand and it glowed in the darkness, lighting the path.
“Well,” Lucius began, “at least Black won’t be interfering.”
“No, thank the gods,” Narcissa replied as they walked down the stairs, briefly bowing to a portrait and then exiting through the front door. “He’s quite a stain on the family and I don’t know if the man could show kindness or affection to a child that wasn’t a rambunctious Muggle-loving prankster. Azkaban still affects him. Hyperion will require more than that.” She smiled up at her husband. “Two invitations? One for Easter Holidays and one, oh, for perhaps the Second Task? He might enjoy seeing Miss Delacour compete for his school.”
“An excellent idea, my dear.”
And then, Artemis was floating away again in a swirl of blue and violet.