When Marcus sent his brother to Italy, the idea was that Nathan would be safe there: their parents were dead, killed by Aurors. Hogwarts had been shut down. Nathan was living by himself in that old country cottage, keeping chickens and trying to feed himself with the book of cooking charms that their mother used to keep by the stove. Every letter that he sent to Marcus was full of threats to run away and join the Lord's Army, but Nathan didn't even have the heart to wring the necks of old hens that had stopped laying. The few times that Flint had time to check in on Nathan over the monitoring charm that he'd set up all those years ago, he found Nathan still went to bed cuddled up against the big tabby that they'd inherited from Aunt Lucinda, now gone grey at the ears and whiskers from age, and with a Lumos charm flickering at the food of his bed because he was afraid of the dark.
So Flint pulled a few favors. He took C. aside and asked him to look up some things and maybe sneak some letters on with the next international owl packet; Pansy talked to her father, who got Marcus a Portkey that would take his brother all the way to Italy.
Nathan remembers being asleep. Bed. His blankets. The familiar smell of the cottage, the familiar sound of rain on familiar old panes, and the weight of Auri -- short for Aurelius, short for Marcus Aurelius, and their father used to joke that Marcus was named after the family cat -- sleeping on his chest. One moment, he was just awake because there'd been an exceptionally loud crash of thunder outside; the next minute, there was a shadowy figure at the end of his bed, and Nathan was awake because the world was dissolving in the watery, disorienting rush of a long-distance Port.
"This place is stupid. I want to go home."
"This whole thing is stupid. Why didn't you ask me first?"
When the rush was gone, Nathan was still sitting in his bed. The cat was still on his chest, and his Quidditch broom was still tucked at the foot of his bed, but the whole contraption had been moved outside. Stars were overhead, and the bed was rocking a little because it was standing on cobblestones. A breeze made the sheets move a little; trees rustled from neat little wooden planters on either side of them, and it looked like torches were coming towards them from the far end of the courtyard. Shouts coming towards them. In sort of a sleepy panic, Nathan fumbled for the wand that he'd left lying on his bedside table, and eventually, the black shape that had been standing at the foot of his bed shoved it into his hand.
"Do you always leave the back door uncharmed like that?" the black shape hissed. He was dripping water onto the cobblestones; Nathan could sort of imagine the puddle that was forming at the end of what used to be his bed all the way back in -- there. The black shape then dropped a packed duffel bag at the foot of the bed; it made the whole bed bounce, so Auri made one of her chest-deep grunts of irritation at being jounced and glared. Her eyes were a funny sort of yellow in the light of the torches that were getting closer and closer.
Nathan knew that it was Marcus standing there at the side of the bed, scowling at him like that, and he knew he was in deep shit for forgetting to close the back door, but he was quiet, then, because he was tyring to wrap his head around the fact that those were orange trees waving behind his brother's head.
The black shape turned to look at the people who were almost upon them, and it then said, "Your broom looks like shit, Nathan."
"Our cousins are stupid. You should let me have a translation charm so that I can at least talk to them."
"No. Learn Italian."
"Can I at least have a scooter? Cousin Angelo has one."
Nathan had a few vague memories connected with Italy. Mum had talked about it a lot since she missed it, particularly on nasty days during the winter, and he had also been on a visit to Italy when he was very young. Nathan didn't remember it, but his grandmother showed him an album full of nothing but pictures of him on that visit: Nonna showed it to him. Nathan, at three years of age, standing on the cobblestones where Marcus had landed them the first night. Nathan standing by one of the topiaries at the Villa Borghese with Mum bending down to straighten the collar of his robe. Nathan pointing to a statute at the Forum and asking his grandfather a question that made his lips move and his grandfather laugh. No sound, though, because these pictures had been taken with an old-fashioned camera, and on that trip, they had gone on that trip mostly to visit Mum's family.
The idea, Nathan later learned, was that it was something of a tour of reconciliation. It'd taken his grandfather years to get over the idea of his precious favorite daughter, his beloved Eva, who looked so much like her mother, marrying an English wizard and choosing to live over there instead of home. A dozen years or so had helped take the edge off of that.
So had, apparently, Nathan's complete and utter fearlessness as a baby. Some of his nastier cousins decided to play a joke by tricking him up to the highest tower of the villa and get him to crawl off the ledge after a bit of illusory candy -- they put a floating charm on him so that he wouldn't fall to his death, but the idea was that he'd get about five feet out and then start shrieking in terror and crying and embarrass the stupid fucking Brits.
Nathan had, instead, gotten out into the air, squealed with delight, and forgotten all about the candy. He was entirely too charmed with the idea that he was now up in the air, and when a whole herd of adults tore up the stairs to retrieve him and make sure that he was safe and spank senseless the cousins who'd done that to him, Nathan started crying because, in his words, he thought that he was going to be allowed to play Quidditch just like Marcus now.
Maybe it was something about one of the pictures, or maybe it was the fact that Mrs. Flint had sent her parents pictures of both the boys regularly after that visit and Nonna had added them to the album, but the updates stopped abruptly the year that William and Eva died. Regardless of the cause, Nathan had nightmares that evening. Something about Aurors, something about white-colored phoenixes swooping through the window, something about being buried alive and Mum and Dad both being stuck in the shadows and over the sea. Nathan was sitting upright in bed and screaming while still asleep -- Aurelius was cowered at the foot of the bed, staring at him with wide eyes, and Marcus was banging on the door, yelling and shouting.
Nathan doesn't remember any of this. Not the yelling, not the shouting, not the fits. He's heard from mediwizards that this is a common side effect of night terrors like this, and he assumes that he somehow calmed down from that and went back sleep. He also assumes that, at some point, Marcus got in: there were wood bits all over the floor from where Marcus had blasted the lock off so that he could get inside.
There were also bruises on Nathan's arms from where Marcus had held him to keep him from injuring himself. A smallish bruise, too, on the side of Marcus's face. It almost even looked like a bludger had made it. Nathan saw it first thing the next morning because he woke up and found that his brother had wrapped himself up in his robe and had gone to sleep on the stone floor next to the bed.
"Why aren't you staying longer? It has to be nicer here than back in London. It's sunny here."
"I'm teaching some of the cousins how to play Quidditch. We've scraped up some brooms, and Alexandria -- she's the pretty cousin, the one with blonde hair who goes to Beauxbatons -- is helping me put levitation charms on some other brooms that we've managed to scrounge up. You should help us. I'm getting much better at them; I made one of those little scooters float for almost fifteen minutes yesterday."
"I will beat you black and blue, Nathan Flint, if I ever catch you playing Quidditch on a scooter."
"At least I got you to say something besides 'No.'"
Since the age of six, no wizard, witch, or magical beast had ever been able to get Marcus Flint to do anything that he hadn't wanted to do. His mother had come close with her ability to make him feel guilty with a single word, and Mr. Flint had a way of explaining things that made them sound reasonable, but before Marcus went back to England at the end of his three day furlough in Italy, Nathan -- who had already learned such basics as how to ask for more food, flip someone off, and suggest, in Italian, that the pretty lady leave her ugly boyfriend and come walk with him instead -- insisted that his brother go down with him for a bit of a sight-seeing tour of Italy.
Marcus had been at Hogwarts during the last trip to Italy, so he'd never seen the sights. He didn't have much of a mind to, but Nathan forcibly dragged him out the door: they were going on a special tour. There was a point to this. He took his brother down to a fountain in the heart of Rome, and he put a silver Galleon in his Marcus's hand. It was the last British money that he had on him, Nathan explained as he folded Marcus's fingers around it.
Nathan sounded a little choked as he explained that he'd been doing a little research, that he'd found a legend had it that anybody who threw a coin into this fountain was bound to return to Rome. After this, they were going to visit a statue in the Capitoline that supposedly granted wishes; after that, they were going to a well on the Seventh Hill with water that, if drunk, kept the drinker safe for at least six months from missiles, negative hexes, and upper respiratory infections.
Marcus looked at the coin in his hand, then over at his brother. Nathan was still fairly short, a little gawky in the shoulders, but he was turning brown from the sun and filling out from regular, decently cooked food. He was wearing a new shirt that his grandmother had given him; he was supposed to start a local wizarding school in two weeks. There were hints of a growth spurt, and his voice was starting to creak a little whenever he got excited.
Marcus paused for a moment, looked at the coin again, then threw into the fountain as hard as he could. Nathan heaved a little sigh of relief, then pointed out the street that they ought to take to get to the Capitoline, and oh yes, there was a wizarding place that sold scooters along the way, so they ought to stop in there and just, for surveying purposes, look around.