Losing a 'Brother' and gaining a 'son'
The entry-way of the Baranov estate on the outskirts of Moscow was silent except for the sound of Vlad's footsteps pacing back and forth. His wife, Anna, had traveled to Durmstrang to collect their Nephew, Roman, and his three sons. By all logical purposes, Roman was technically his second-cousin as Roman's parents were his cousins. Since Vladmir and Lavrentiy had been raised as brothers, however, the whole family felt their close connection defied biological rules on that matter. Thankfully, school was at the very end of term. The exams were finished so Vladmir and his wife could pull them from the school a couple days before they were due to head home, and it wouldn't hinder their studies.
After pacing for some time, Vladmir's father, Ivan, who stood nearby with his cane in hand, finally snapped. ”Oh, will you stop pacing, Vladmir?! It's not going to make Anna or Tatianna arrive any faster! Instead of fussing, how about we plan on making sure the mistakes of Olga and Lavrentiy are not repeated!”
Vladmir sighed and replied in a cold, irritated tone. ”Yes, I know. What each of them did was extremely stupid. I'm not going to hold back the truth from the boys. They'll be upset at first, but they'll learn to cope. I'm more worried about the Chinese witch who killed Lavrentiy.”
What if she was after the entire family now? If the roles had been reversed, that's what the Baranovs would have done. Wipe out any possible threats.
As he resumed pacing, Ivan sighed. ”Your mother will let us know soon enough.”
Vladmir nodded, but that didn't stop him from pacing. Fed up, he heard his father stomp out of the room grumbling. But a moment later, a crack sounded and Vladmir froze in his pacing. He heard his father's footsteps just before he resurfaced. ”Well?”
Vladmir asked, waiting for an explanation. His mother took her gloves and cloak off and smacked the gloves against Vladmir's arm before handing them to the waiting house elf. ”Stop being so impatient!” ”Mother, this is serious.””Yes, it is, but impatience is what caused this nightmare to begin with!”
Vladmir didn't have a reply. His mother had him there. Rather than continue the argument, he waited until she was settled and followed her into the sitting area. Once they were seated, his mother began talking. ”Negotiations were difficult at first, but the Chinese Witch was willing to come to an agreement. After Lavrentiy killed her husband, she wasn't just angry by his death, but because her name wasn't on his business yet. So his business goes to his parents and she was left with nothing.”
Vladmir's eye widened a bit in surprise. He was silent for a moment as he processed the information, but as he thought about it, he realized he couldn't blame the woman. If she had married her husband out of good business and not love, then Lavrentiy had ruined her good future. Not that Vladmir wasn't royally ticked-off by the death of a man he had considered a brother. ”What did you do?”
Vladmir finally replied.
His mother continued speaking once more, ”I made her a business deal to replace the one she lost. I signed over enough funds for her to get a business of her own going. In exchange, she and her allies will not hold Lavrentiy's actions against the rest of the Baranov family.”
Ivan chuckled and Vladmir sighed in relief. Money was something they could afford to give. Especially if it kept their family safe. ”And that was enough? She wanted nothing else?”
His father asked for clarification.
Tatianna shook her head. ”Nothing else. To reinforce the offer, I also told her she would have contacts in Russia if she ever needed investors. She said once she gets things off the ground, she might take us up on that offer so expect an owl. But we've thrown money into lesser investments so I think we benefit from this either way.”
Ivan and Vladmir both nodded in unison. Vladmir took a moment to enjoy being relieved from the worry of his family's safety. The Chinese witch may not have had loads of money, but she had plenty of skilled allies. And the last thing Vladmir had wanted was for his family's safety to be threatened by her little group.
But Vladmir was reminded of the other issue he had to address as another crack sound rang out. A second later, Anna, their three sons, and his nephew all walked into the sitting area while removing their travel cloaks. Immediately, the oldest, Alexei, spoke. ”Mother said this couldn't wait, what's going on?”
Vladmir's only response was ”Sit.”
He made eye contact with Roman, his nephew, and patted the spot next to himself. Roman sat as directed and Vladmir turned to him first while everybody else sat down. ”Roman, due to you being at school and Durmstrang's privacy measures and exams, we had to go through the proper channels to pull you guys from the school early. I need you to try and listen to me all the way through so you know all the details.”
When Roman nodded, Vladmir glanced at his mother and Anna, who both smiled at him reassuringly. Vladmir took that as his sign that he wasn't being too insensitive and continued. ”A few days ago, your mother had a miscommunication with a Chinese wizard and thought she was being insulted. Rather than question the language barrier, she fought back with violence. Their duel killed her.”
He noticed Roman's expression was shocked, but it looked as though the thirteen-year-old was trying very hard to keep his composure as he had been told. Vladmir gave him a silent nod, appreciative of this. ”Your father hunted him down and killed him, but the wife of the Chinese wizard killed your father out of vengeance. Now, the Chinese woman had not yet had her name added to her husband's business, so she lost a good deal when he was killed. Your grandmother already sorted things out financially with her by giving her the funds to start her own business and offering an investment deal. She will not old your parents actions against the rest of us. But unfortunately, that still leaves the unfortunate loss of your parents.”
As Vladmir finished, he placed a hand on Romans' shoulder, appreciative that the young boy had managed to let him finish before losing his composure. Still, Roman looked as though he was fighting to keep control. Vladmir wasn't quite sure how to properly comfort the boy but his mother seemed to have figured that out. Tatianna had stood up and made her way over to Roman and started whispering to him. Vladmir stood from his spot so his mother could sit with him and walked over to where Anna sat. He placed a hand on her shoulder and glanced at his three sons, all of whom were eyeing Roman carefully with saddened expressions on their faces.
Finally, after a few moments, Roman was leaning against his mother and his mother had her arm around him. When their attention returned to the rest of the room, Vladmir spoke once more. ”I'm sure you've probably guessed, but you're going to be living here with us. Anna and I have already legalized the adoption process through the Ministry.”
He paused and glanced at his father before his gaze shifted back to Roman. ”We have also worked things out so that the estate you and your parents lived in, their share of the money, and everything inside of that estate are in your name. You are not legal to live there until you become of age since you need a guardian. But they are still yours by birthright.”
If anything seemed to cheer Roman up even the slightest, it was that. Vladmir noticed his mood seemed to lighten a bit, as though part of the burden had been lifted. For the first time since the conversation had started, Roman finally replied. ”I appreciate that. If my parents acted irrationally, I guess they sealed their own fate.”
That was all they got out of him, but Vladmir would take it. He wasn't naive, though. He knew as soon as the young lad disappeared from view of himself and his father, he'd probably let the emotions out to his wife or mother.
But until that moment came, Vladmir was thankful in the moments that followed as his own kids tried to lighten the mood a bit. Nicholae, who had always been better with social habits and dealing with people, spoke up, ”Think of it this way, you were always just another brother to us. Now it's official.”
The other two boys nodded in agreement. Roman smiled but remained silent.
To keep the awkward silence away, Vladmir turned to the twelve-year-old, Evgeniy, ”The suite near yours will be his to live in. Can you go make sure the house elves haven't skimped on any of the details?”
Evgeniy nodded and strolled out of the room. He waited a moment before adding, ”Nicholae, Alexei, go make sure he doesn't set up any pranks.”
The fifteen and sixteen-year-olds snickered and walked out of the room in pursuit of the youngest. His father, Ivan, stood up and strolled from the room, muttering something about making sure dinner was being prepared for all of them.
Vladmir glanced at Anna and clasped her hand once tightly with a smile, and she returned the smile before standing up and walking over to Roman and Tatianna. Vladmir glanced at Roman and said, ”I truly am sorry this has happened. Lavrentiy was my brother for all intents and purposes. If you need me, you know where to find me.”
The younger boy nodded and Vladmir walked from the room and headed back to his office. He'd let the women deal with the emotions. Making sure Roman learned from their actions could wait a couple days. And he, personally, still needed some quiet time to digest the fact that he had officially lost the closest thing he had to a brother.