The Sugar Quill
Author: Potioncat  Story: Between the Lines  Chapter: Marius, a Squib
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In years to come there would only be a scorch mark where his name had appeared on the tapestry





Marius, a Squib


Marius stood beside his mother, watching the last of the green sparkles dance and fade away in the fireplace. His auntie and sisters had just taken the floo to Diagon Alley. "I wish I could have gone too," he said.


"Don't be silly! You wouldn't like shopping with the girls."


"I'd like to see the owls at Eeylops’ and the magic mice at Magical Menagerie. I'd like some ice cream at Fortescue's. It's been a very long time since I went." In fact it had been a very long time since he had gone anywhere. He had been left at home the last time the family had gone to his Uncle Sirius and Aunt Hester's house. He hadn't been invited to the Macnairs' with his sisters either. "I never get to go anywhere any more," he whined.


"Nonsense, you went to your Gran and Grandfather's over Christmas," his mother retorted. He looked at her from the corner of his eyes. There was that certain tone in her voice that grownups used when they were trying to convince a child of something that wasn't entirely true. "Didn't you enjoy that?"


"Yes." He had indeed enjoyed that. He was the only one of the four children who liked Phineas Nigellus Black. Of course, it wasn't fun of course to be on the receiving end of a rebuke or one of his grandfather's mean comments, but Marius managed to bear up under those rare moments and mostly got along with him. They took walks and played chess. Grandfather told good stories, if you would sit still and listen. Gran made the best cookies in the world and she made them herself.


The visit had been fun, but the reason for the visit had not. His older brother Pollux wanted to invite a classmate from Hogwarts for the holiday, but he didn't want Marius around. Marius didn’t care. He didn't like Pollux anyway. "I don't want anyone to know he's a Squib!" Pollux had said.


Pollux had been sent to his room without dinner, but his mother had never said, "Marius isn't a Squib." That had hurt. In the end, Marius had gone to his grandparents and Pollux had had his friend to visit.


"Your Grandfather and Gran are coming today," his mother said, as if it had just occurred to her. "Maybe if you're good they'll take you for an outing!" She looked at him with a very wide, artificial smile. Then she bolted from the room.


Marius had a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and for one moment he thought he would be sick. He went outside to the front step to wait for his grandparents. He considered the past few days and wondered if everyone was acting strangely or if it was his imagination. Dinky had asked Marius to please stay out of the bedroom so he could clean this morning, but Marius had watched him clean lots of times. Auntie had given him a too tight hug when she said goodbye just now. His mother had spent yesterday alternately snapping at him and hugging him. His father had given him disapproving looks; some things didn’t change.


There was the sudden jingle of harness bells and Marius looked up. His grandfather's carriage pulled up in front of the house.  Marius ran down the steps and jerked the door open. "Hello! Hello!"


Phineas Nigellus came out first, and turned to offer a hand to Ursula. She rushed over to Marius and gave him a tight embrace. "It's a big day today, isn't it?" she asked, but she looked sad.


He shook Grandfather's hand. The older man was studying him intently. Phineas looked at Ursula, "He doesn't know! Cygnus is a coward and Violetta is an idiot! The child hasn't been told."


Marius looked from one to the other. "Mother said you might take me on an outing."


"Oh, yes. We will do that!" Phineas agreed.


The front door opened and Marius's mother hurried out, "Professor, Mrs. Black, come in. It's so good of you…"


"Yes, it is good of us!" Phineas snapped, while Ursula made calming noises. Violetta ushered her parents-in-law into the sitting room, giving Marius a look that said he was to blame for Phineas's ill humor.


Cygnus came out of his study across the hall. "Run along, Marius."


Marius did move, if not at a run. He heard his grandfather's taunt, "Cygnus, you represent everything that is undesirable in Slytherin House and every thing that is wrong with the Black family!" One of the adults must have worked a spell because the sound became muffled.


Marius relaxed. Whatever was happening today wasn't to do with him, but with his father. He went to the head of the stairs to play, so that he would know when the fight was over. He didn't want his grandparents to leave without him.


It wasn't very long before the doors opened and Violetta came out. She started up the stairs and saw Marius. "Come here. We need to talk to you," she said, and immediately went back into the room.


Marius hurried down the stairs. The fire had been lit and his grandmother was sitting in the chair closest to it. His grandfather stood beside her, scowling. His parents stood apart from each other on the other side of the room.


Ursula held out her arms and Marius ran to her for another hug.  At last Phineas cleared his throat, but it was Cygnus who spoke


"Marius," he began, looking not at his son, but at a spot in thin air. "You know that Pollux lives away from home most of the year. We think that would be a good thing for you too." Phineas made a noise that might have been a word, but Marius didn't catch it. Cygnus continued, "You'll be visiting your cousins."


"Which ones?" Marius asked, confused.


Phineas answered, "Your Great-Aunt Isla's daughter. My niece Mary."


"The blood traitors!" Marius gasped.


Phineas shot a withering look at Cygnus, but his eyes were softer when he turned back to Marius. "My sister and her family are very dear to me."


Cygnus offered, "Your cousins are fine Mug...people, I'm sure."


Gran smiled, "Phineas and I are taking you today, dear. We know them very well and they are so pleased to have you."


Marius looked from one face to another, trying to understand what was being said to him. When his eyes met his father's, Cygnus looked away and spoke quickly, "It's best to get this done quickly. Let's say our good-byes."


His mother began to sob. She rushed over and grabbed him, kissing and crying all over him. Cygnus pried him away from her, gave him a quick squeeze on the shoulder and a brisk slap on the back. There was a confusing flurry of motion and Marius was sitting with his grandparents in the carriage. He had caught the barest glimpse of trunks now secured to the top.


The carriage began to move forward but before it could Magick itself away, Marius yelled, "Stop!"  He bolted out of the coach and up the steps back into the house. "Dinky!  Come here, Dink!"


There was a loud pop and the house-elf appeared. His nose was running, his eyes were red and his face was wet with tears. "Dinky is here, young master."


Marius dropped to the floor and hugged the elf. "Good bye Dinky. I'll miss you."


"Dinky will most grievously miss you. Be good for your new family, young master," he sobbed, then gasped in horror and glanced guiltily at the senior Blacks.


Neither of them was crying now and both looked very angry. Marius understood. The elf had said what his parents had not. "I will, Dink. Take care of yourself." Without another word or look at his parents he ran back to the coach.


"All right, Marius?" his grandfather asked.


"Yes, sir, thank you. I needed to say a goodbye," he said, obeying Ursula's motion to sit between them. She held his hand, but no one spoke for a long time.


"Do you understand what is happening?" Phineas asked at last.


"I'm being sent away, because I'm a Squib. Aren't I?"


His grandmother squeezed his hand tighter, and said, "Yes, dear. You're going to live with a very nice family. Phineas and I think you'll be happier there."


"It was your idea!"


"In a way it was," Phineas agreed unperturbed at Marius's glare. "My sister Isla married a Muggle a long time ago," he began, reverting to his lecturing tone. "Bob Hitchins is a fine, upstanding man. Your grandmother and I visit them quite often." He paused to look at Ursula, and Marius noticed the affection in his grandfather's eyes. "I was hoping to invite their child to Hogwarts, but she was born without magic."


"A Squib?"


Phineas shrugged. "Squib. Muggle. Who knows? Mary has grown up to be a fine young woman and she has also married a Muggle."


"They are a very nice couple," Ursula agreed, "but they haven't been able to have any children. Marius, we saw how unhappy you've been lately and we've seen how…what…"


"Cygnus and Violetta haven't handled this at all well, Marius. You've nothing to be ashamed of. They had some ideas…"


"But Mary and Hugh wanted children so badly, and we asked them if they would be interested in taking you in," Ursula interrupted.


"Like a stray dog?"


Phineas glared at him. "Have a little appreciation, sir! You should be thanking us on bended knee! Your parents wanted to hide you away. We're giving you a new life with a new family. Think on that!"


There was a very long silence. Ursula continued to hold Marius's hand and he was afraid to let go. She sniffled from time to time. Phineas stared out the window.


"What if I don't like them?" Marius asked in a small voice.


"That's of no consequence," Phineas said firmly.


"What if they don't like me?" he asked in a smaller voice.


Phineas actually turned to look down on him, "How could they not like you? You are my grandson."


Marius felt warm inside, but he said, "So is Pollux.'


"Well, point taken, then if you insist." They actually smiled at each other.


"I wanted to come to Hogwarts and be able to have tea with you each week. I thought we'd be able to play chess," Marius said, looking into Phineas's eyes. Phineas swallowed hard, and patted Marius's knee.


"Please understand, Marius," Ursula said. "Mary and Hugh want you to come to live with them. They're hoping the three of you will be family."


"I'll be a Muggle." Marius said softly. Then he took a deep breath, sat up straight and announced, "If I can't be a wizard, I'd rather be a Muggle than a Squib. I'll be a damn good Muggle, too!"


Neither grandparent reacted to the swearing. Phineas was thinking Marius would have made a damn fine Slytherin. "Muggle then, but still our grandson," he said.


"You can visit us and we'll visit you," Ursula added. Marius noticed that no one was suggesting any of the rest of the Blacks would visit.


The carriage unmagicked itself and Marius leaned forward to look at his new home. Ursula began pointing out things. "There's the shop. It's Hugh's. There's his name on the sign. They live above it and look, you can play in the park at the end of the street."


"I won't have to stay on the steps anymore," Marius said. He studied the storefront and read the sign that hung over its door. He said the name silently, then whispered it to see how it sounded. Just to be sure, he asked, "You're sure they want me? And you'll always be Gran and Grandfather?"


"You have my word." Phineas said, and Ursula nodded.


Marius looked at the sign again. When he stepped out of the carriage he would no longer be Marius Black. From now on, his name would be Marius Snape.




Thanks to Gufa, my beta reader.























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