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Chapter Text

Setting: Wizarding Greece, 1990

Context: Gellert has gone to Olympia to research the magic in some of their temples, and has left Hadria in the courtyard of an old House in Magical Athens (which has become a public place for trading, leisure, and other activities) where she would be watched over by an acquaintance, and was encouraged to socialise with other children.

New Characters (which are properly introduced in Chapter Seven):

Thaleia, Polydeukes (Polys), Kastor - Kids that Hadria had just met and befriended shortly before the scenes below.

Adrasteia and Damianos- The shop keepers of a store selling animals both magical and non-magical.

"A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A Basilisk." - Nightvale Proverb (WTNV)

(From Danse Macabre Chapter Seven):


"Little Hydra!"

The children looked at Adrasteia waving at them as they stepped back into the first courtyard. Hadria hurried towards her and the other children followed hesitantly.

"You look rather excited, Kyria Adrasteia. What's the good news?" Hadria asked when they reached her stall. Kyrie Damianos was nowhere to be seen.

Adrasteia laughed. "Oh, it's not so much of a good news, since I doubt we'll be able to sell this one... But someone has found this baby, and gave it to us. We're not sure what to do with it, but I never thought I'd ever get to see one!"

Some times, Adrasteia reminded Hadria of Hagrid in her passion for interesting animals. Not that she had any right to judge, considering how she seemed to have developed an affinity towards most magical creatures.

"So... what is it?"

Adrasteia looked around, before bending down and whispered into Hadria's ear. "It's a Basiliskos."

"A what?!"

"King of Serpents. Prince of Reptiles."

Hadria wanted to exclaim that she knew what a Basilisk was, but stopped herself. Was this how Gellert felt whenever she adopts a new animal?

"Can I see it?" Hadria decided to whisper back instead. The other children were looking at the two of them curiously.

Adrasteia hesitated. "Well... A blindfold has been charmed over its eyes, and we do have an emergency batch of Restorative Draught made from stewed Mandragoras ... Alright. Just a quick look. Come."

Hadria followed Adrasteia to the back of her makeshift stall, where curtains hid metal cages and glass tanks containing small animals, leaving the other children outside. There were falcons, lizards and tortoises, mice and hares. Of the magical variety, there was a Kneazle sleeping on top of a cage containing a small grey mouse with large grey eyes, a fire salamander in the corner, nestled in a magically contained fire, and three owls perched freely above the cages containing hares. Adrasteia unveiled a glass tank containing a large snake the size of an anaconda, and the length of a python. When Adrasteia adjusted the brightness of the lamp, Hadria could see that the snake was a shimmering forest green, with a dark scarlet plume on it's head, the colour of blood and wine. A male basilisk hatchling.

"He's a beauty," Hadria breathed. The serpent looked very different from the one she encountered in the Chamber in her past life. Though that was probably largely because she had seen it as a monster then. It was a wonder how time and different circumstances could change the way things are seen.

"Yes, that he is. Beautiful but dangerous. Very dangerous. I will be sad if we end up having to kill it," Adrasteia said. "Damianos is contacting some of his friends to see who could manage it and want it as we speak."

"How much would he cost?" Hadria questioned.

"Nothing. It's hard enough to find anyone who could and would keep it as it is."

"Me singchoreite!" someone called out from outside the curtained section of the stall, and Adrasteia hurried out to greet the potential customer. Hadria was left alone with a dangerous serpent that could kill with a look.

(Oh good. She's gone.)

Hadria stared at the serpent. (You don't like her?)

(A Whisperer? I cannot see nor smell you. Tell me, what's your name, Whisperer.)

(I'm Hadria. What is your name, Princeling?)

(Dark One? That is a nice name. I do not yet have a name, though my Mother called me Little One. Perhaps you could name me, Whisperer Hadria?)*

(How about Vasiliás?)

The serpent made an odd hissing sound that seemed to mean nothing. Was it laughing?

(You have given me a name fit for a king, Whisperer. I like you. You are not dumb nor uncouth like other humans. Will you let me smell you?)

Hadria hesitated, before examining the charms placed on the glass container. The container had tiny holes for air to pass through, but runes had been drawn to prevent any scent from passing through, lest the serpent smells something delicious and tries harder to escape. Adrasteia must have been paranoid, Hadria realised, and rightfully so. More runes were drawn to ensure that the glass could not be broken by ordinary means.

A wave of her wand, and she removed the runes, letting them dissipate into the air, releasing their magic.

(You smell of Death, of darkness and magic, Whisperer. And yet there is another scent. Of... fire and Life. How strange.)

(That may be because I'm the Master of Death, Vasiliás.)

(Master of Death? My Mother has told me many times, when I was still in my egg, a story of Three Brothers who managed to delay Death. I did not think I would meet a Legend. Does that mean you have Death's Three Gifts?) *

(Well, none of them with me at the moment, but I will soon gain His Cloak.)

(Death's Freedom is the best Gift out of the Three. But if you are indeed His Master, you must have gained all Three Gifts before... In your previous life, perhaps?)

Hadria was quite startled. (How did you know...?)

(Anyone with a brain would know the Master of Death cannot truly die,) the basilisk retorted, then made that weird hissing laughter again. (Oh how wonderful! The Master of Death cannot die. Not by unnatural means. And even then, you will be reborn, like a Fire-bird. We would make a good pair, you and I!)

(Wait, does that mean your gaze will not affect me?) Hadria questioned.

(A Basilisk's eyes are so terrifying to behold, that it kills all who meets it. The effect is lessened, of course, when one does not meet the gaze directly. You have faced Death, stared at him, and seen your mortality stare back. And yet you have Mastered Him, accepted the transient nature if your life... I suppose you greeted Him like a friend when you finally died? If this is true, then you will have no problem looking at me, a Lesser Being compared to Him, in the eye, and live. It would be a great honour to be your companion. Yes?)

Hadria blinked at the surprising proposition. (Is it possible to have more than one animal companion?)

(Are you thinking of the Spirit-Shadow that you wear? Or the Hound of Death that you spend some time with? I can smell them on you. The scent of beasts, blood and shadows, and a scent I have never smelled before, but know it to be the scent of Hell. I will not ask you to forsake your other companions. But I do hope you will at least, know that I am Above that tamed Shadow-demon?)

The Lethifold seemed to understand the tongue of serpents, for it suddenly flared up and billowed threateningly at the Basilisk. Vasiliás simply snarled back at it, exposing venom-laced fangs and forked tongue, and the Lethifold went limp, much to the amusement of Hadria. She didn't think she'd ever see a Basilisk and a Lethifold face off in a competition for dominance. The Basilisk was proving to be quite an interesting creature, intelligence accompanying its terrible beauty.

(If you want to be my companion, you will have to obey me. I cannot have you slithering about uncontrolled, and killing everyone you meet.)

There was a brief silence. (Then, I swear by the Truth in the Tongue of Serpents, that I will obey your every command that is within your idea of reason. You are, after all, deserving to be my Master, though I would rather not have one.)

Hadria accepted the Oath—she knew Parselmagic was something Basilisks could use to a certain degree, and she knew that one cannot lie in Parseltongue—but she couldn't help but ask, (What will happen when you disobey me?)

(I expect I will become no more than an ordinary gigantic snake with fangs. But even without the Oath, are you not powerful enough to subdue me with your magic? The scent of your magic is strong and alluring. So wild and untamed, like a Water-Horse without a bridle.)

(Alright. In that case, I shall let you out. Please behave,) Hadria said as she undid the wards around the glass container and erased the runes. Then she lifted the cover and the Basilisk slithered out.

Hadria froze as the large snake glided up her arm and around her neck, settling its lower body around her chest and shoulders, and coiling its tail around her waist. Despite knowing that the serpent would not harm her... Well, she was quite glad she did have some instincts of self-preservation left.

(Relax, Whisperer Hades. Can I call you Hades?) Vasiliás chuckled.

(Another nickname?)

(What have you been called so far?)

(Harriet. Henrietta. Hadria. Hydra. Nymph. Now Hades. And Hades isn't even a girl's name!)

(Fine. Hydra then. Though I still think—Oh. She's coming back!)

And that was when Hadria realised that she hadn't thought things through when she released Vasiliás. Gellert was going to kill her.

"Hadria? Sorry, the customer wanted—" Adrasteia began, before seeing the Basilisk resting on Hadria, stopped short, and began shrieking incomprehensible words in Greek.

From behind her, Thaleia, Kastor and Polys peeped in and all three gasped as one, faces paling rapidly.

(Oh look at their faces! Can you smell it? That, my dear Whisperer, is the heavenly scent of fear. Ohhh my Mother was right when she told me—)

(Vasiliás, shut up.)

"You—You're... You're a Psithyristis?" Adrasteia gasped. "That is, er… Whisperer. Snake-Tamer. One who speaks the language of serpents."

"Ah, yes. Why?" Hadria said with a rueful smile and waited for the accusations to start. None came.

It was a second of silence before, "Bless you! To think that little Hydra is actually Fork-Tongued! Wonderful! The Basilisk listens to you? Excellent, now I can tell Damianos that our problem is solved. Our Princeling has found a new home! Your father won't mind, will he?"

Hadria blinked. "Well... He may not be as appreciative of this as you."

"What? Why?" Adrasteia demanded. "It is such an honour to meet one who knows the Lost Tongue. I didn't think I would be so fortunate today! Not only did I get to see the King of Serpents, I also get to see his Master. It's been a very long time since anyone in Greece has seen either, you know."

"Some view it as a Dark ability, considering the reputation of previous Parselmouths," Hadria explained. "And I don't think Gerwald will be very pleased that I've gotten another Dark and dangerous creature without his permission... again."

"Basilisks are dangerous, yes. But now that we have a... Parselmouth... is that what its called in your country? Well, the Princeling listens to you, you're not dangerous, so there's no problem. Dark ability? Ha! If the Greek Council of Magic finds out, the President will want to shake your hand! It's a pity you're not Greek," Adrasteia replied. "Come on, let's spread the good news!"

And Hadria was led out, past the shock-frozen forms of the other children, and into the courtyard.

(So... what's going on now?) Vasiliás asked. Hadria sighed.

(Now, we're going to be surrounded by people who have never seen a Basilisk or a Whisperer before.)

(Sounds horrible. Make sure they know their places,) the Basilisk said haughtily. And then there were people crowded around them, talking animatedly and muttering among themselves excitedly.

Hadria smiled sweetly at them, answered questions, and pretty soon, she was seated on a carpet beside Adrasteia's stall, conversing with a Magizoologist about what was known about snakes as sentient beings. Most of the other witches and wizards preferred to stand warily at a distance, content to just talk from wherever they are and stare at the large snake, which had taken to coiling most of its long body in Hadria's lap.

All was well, despite Hadria's wavering patience with the adoring public, until the Magizoologist subconsciously reached out a hand to pet the snake. The Basilisk automatically reared back, hissing harshly.

(How dare you touch me, you filthy human!) Vasiliás snarled and bared his fangs. Hadria hurriedly placed a hand onto his head to restrain the agitated snake.

(Calm down, Princeling,) she murmured to him, and he snapped his jaws shut. If looks could kill... Well, Hadria was immensely glad that the serpent was blindfolded.

"He does not appreciate being touched by strangers," Hadria told the wide-eyed Magizoologist who looked very alarmed and was clutching his hand to his chest.

"R-Right. I... I should go. Nice speaking with you, Whisperer Hydra," the Magizoologist said and hurriedly scrambled away. The crowd edged back slightly. Then Vasiliás hissed threateningly at all of them. The crowd quickly dispersed after that, and went back to doing whatever they were doing earlier, though some still kept sneaking glances at the girl and her snake.

(I scared them away,) Vasiliás said happily.

(You sound too pleased,) Hadria noted.

(Are you not pleased? I thought they were bothering you too. I could smell your irritation,) said the Basilisk, sounding a little confused. Hadria laughed then.

(No. You're quite right. Good job, Vasiliás.)

The Basilisk seemed to preen under the praise, much to Hadria's amusement.

"Um... What's his name?"

Hadria looked up to see Polys and his brother crouching near them. Thaleia was nowhere to be seen.

"Vasiliás," she replied. Polys nodded to himself.

"He's quite a handsome beast," Kastor commented. "You know, when we saw you today, I don't think any of us expected you to be a Whisperer. I mean, when we first approached you, we just thought it would be interesting to get to know a foreigner. Especially one who knows some Greek."

Hadria scoffed. "My level of Greek is about the same as that of the four-year-old children around here."

"How old are you?" Polys asked.

"I'm turning eleven in eight months. Where's Thaleia?"

"Oh, she went home, I think. That girl's scared of snakes."

"And scorpions," Kastor added. The two brothers grinned at each other.

"Let me guess. You've pranked her with a scorpion or a fake one before," Hadria said.

"How did you know?" Polys asked, surprised, while Kastor said with a laugh, "We sent a scorpion puppet after her when she was eight. I supposed it looked pretty realistic."

"I knew of a pair of twins who pranked their younger brother before. Changed his toy into a gigantic spider," Hadria commented wryly.

"Ah... Well Polydeukes here, is scared of—"

"Skáse!" Polys snapped at his older brother, then turned to Hadria. "What are you scared of?"

Hadria blinked. Then shrugged and grinned sheepishly. "My guardian finding out about Vasiliás?"

The Basilisk shifted then, almost in response to his name, before resting his head on top of Hadria's head and sighed sleepily. The snake was enjoying the midday sun, even though winter had already settled in Greece. Hadria heard that it might snow the next day.

"What will happen if he doesn't want you to keep Vasiliás?" Polys questioned.

"I'm not sure... That's actually quite a good question," Hadria mused. Gellert had only become truly angry with her twice before. The first time was the time he threw her out of the house. It was one of Hadria's scariest memory of him. His eyes had been dark and cold, like frozen lakes in winter that hid a water monster beneath the ice, and his face had been utterly expressionless, like the time he met Aunt Petunia.

The scariest part, Hadria remembered, was that he had behaved as if he weren't human. No outward emotion. No sign of the fire that wrath should have. Just an uncaring winter mask. One could face Death fearlessly, but at least Death was not human—never was and never will be—and Hadria didn't think she had ever heard of Death getting angry before. Merely annoyed. But then, she doubted anything would be left in the world if Death truly got mad.

Then there was the time when Hadria had tried to climb the bookshelf (there were a lot of things that Gellert had been able to bring along with him while travelling, between his ability to shrink and expand almost anything with a wave of his wand, and his trunk, which had an Undetectable Extension Charm cast on it) to reach a book placed on the top shelf.

She hadn't thought of asking Gellert for help, and had slipped and fell, bringing the bookshelf down with her. It was only sheer luck and quick reflexes that had her escaping the worst of possible damages. Unfortunately, some of Gellert's priceless magical and ancient books were ruined and could not be repaired with ordinary magic.

When Gellert rushed into the room, processed the scene and analysed the damage, he had been eerily calm. It was when he started examining her for broken bones and casting diagnostic charms that she felt his magic, shimmering just beyond his skin, barely controlled and yearning to go wild. While he was exceedingly gentle with her injuries, his eyes were hard and calculating, as if dissecting her, measuring her worth, and deciding if she was of any value to him. It was the third time she truly feared him, and they did not speak for days after except when absolutely necessary.

But she didn't think he'd actually get mad to that extent with the Basilisk. In fact, he hadn't gotten angry with her since she regained her memories... With the exception of the Pig Dementor incident. But then she had really deserved it. And she had enjoyed his anger then, as it had showed her his concern over her health, physical, mental and spiritual.

"What will you do then?" Kastor asked.

"If he gets angry?" Hadria said. "Threaten to run away."

And it would work. She would never have thought it would before, especially not on any Dark Lord that was powerful enough to simply force a person to stay, but she knew it would. That one time she spent a week packing, unpacking and repacking and Gellert had walked in to see her with a half-packed trunk... He had demanded to know what she was doing, and she had told him, rather nervously, the truth—that she had been considering Scáth's offer to spirit her away, for she enjoyed living with him, she truly did, but his anger was the worst thing she had experienced, perhaps because with the Dursleys she had known that they cared nothing for her and she hadn't much to lose, but with Gellert, it was different, and she didn't want to wait for the day he really exploded on her. Better to leave before one gets abandoned or hurt.

Scáth had laughed a lot when she told him about it later on, and never explained why, not until her memories were recovered. Apparently, he had made that offer for the sole purpose of making Gellert realise that he wasn't quite ready for her to leave, let alone with a Grim of all things. And then, of course, when Gellert was finally ready to make such a decision, she had grown on him so much that he could no longer calculate her worth the same way as he once tried to do.

"Run away? Where to?" Polys asked, a little incredulously.

"I said threaten. I'm not actually going to run away," Hadria replied, wondering since when did she gain such a Slytherin trait. She blamed Scáth for it.

"So... all will be well?"

"Yeah... probably. He'll get over it, the same way he gets over... Anyway, who's hungry?"

Kastor raised a brow at the change of topic, and commented, "You're quite unlike any girl I've met before."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Hadria replied with a grin. "Come on, it's lunch time."

The three of them ended up having lunch with Adrasteia and Damianos, which mainly consisted of salad, cream cheese and pies. Vasiliás was given a fat partridge to eat, which he happily swallowed in one satisfied gulp. As Damianos had managed to get a live partridge, it was a little... strange to watch the large serpent tackle the panicked and struggling bird while they had their meal... Especially since Vasiliás had chosen to bite into the bird first, poison it, and swallow the shrieking bird (birds should not be able to make that sort of tortured sound, Hadria thought) feet first. It was, however, a rather clean kill, except for a little blood spilled, and a fair bit of stray feathers. But it attracted a lot of attention. Many had stopped whatever they were doing for a minute just to watch the Basilisk eat its meal.

"When it grows to its full size, you're going to have a hard time feeding him," Damianos observed.

"I would suggest a couple of Chianina cattle, or bison or moose... What does Vasiliás think about fish?" Adrasteia said.

(Vasiliás, do you like to eat fish?) Hadria asked.

(Fish? Like, the things with the tails of Water-People and the eyes of a squid and the face of a Water-Demon?)

(... Yes.)

(I don't know. I've never eaten fish before. But Mother said they taste cold and salty. I prefer warm food.)

"Vasiliás prefers warm-blooded animals," Hadria told Adrasteia.

"Pity. If not, he could eat some cod, or giant catfish. Or even a shark," the lady sighed.

"There's all sorts of rumours about you now," Kastor commented, having finished eavesdropping on some Greek conversation.

"What are they saying?" Hadria asked.

"Some say you have Drakaina blood, others say you're the descendent of Herpōn. Or Paracelsus. Or Slytherin. Or possibly, all three. A few claim that your hair is actually made of long thin snakes."

It was, Hadria decided, rather absurd.

"The majority are admiring you though. Apparently, you're the picture of sweet innocence, so pure and lovely that even the greatest, wildest, dangerous serpent cannot help but be tamed by you," chuckled Polys.

Hadria nearly choked on her sour cherry cordial, wondering how the public would react if they knew she was friends with a Grim, had a Thestral watching over her from the rooftops and a Lethifold wrapped around her. Then again, if they believed the Basilisk was charmed by her purity or innocence like a Unicorn, then the argument could probably work on the others. Utterly ridiculous.

"Then why do I get compared to the mainádes instead?" Adrasteia complained. "I'm not a mad woman."

"If it helps, some compare you to Ártemis," Polys grinned.

"And we know that Hadria here is actually a nymph," Kastor added good-naturedly. "All the evidence points to it."

Kastor then became Vasiliás's new resting place, and the boy couldn't move for fear that the giant snake would wake up and bite him faster than Hadria could stop him. Polys didn't bother helping his older brother out of his predicament.

"Be honoured," Hadria told him when he whimpered pathetically, after keeping still within the coils of the serpent for an hour. "Vasiliás nearly bit the hand off someone who tried to touch him earlier, and here you are, getting cuddled by the Princeling, with all the opportunity to feel his smooth and beautiful scales."

"What if he had bitten me?!" Kastor exclaimed when he was finally released. Adrasteia had to help him remove his severe pins-and-needles with a potion.

"He wouldn't. Not if he could help it. You're pureblood." Hadria replied dismissively as she played Tavli with Polys. It was a bit like Backgammon, but a Greek variant, and she was horrible at the game.

"What? You mean he's actually a blood-purist?!"

It was a good question, one which Hadria had wondered about before, and she turned to ask the serpent, (Vasiliás? Why don't you want to bite a Pureblood?)

The Basilisk, which was once again coiled around Hadria, replied lazily, (Mother told me their blood is boring. All Pureblood smells the same. The taste of Newblood is more unique. The magic in their blood is different. Smells different. It's like... rabbits and birds. I don't mind rabbits, but I love birds. A different Newblood is like a different bird, pigeon, pheasant, quail... A different Pureblood is like a different rabbit—there is no difference. Mother says Father prefers the good old Pureblood taste. The taste of Olde Magic. Like wine, he says. Mother says Father thinks that Mother is too adventurous with her food. I have never met Father, so I listen to Mother.)

(That is... interesting. I would rather if you didn't eat anyone though, no matter how good their magical blood smells. What about Muggles?)


(Humans without magic.)

(Ah. The Strays—)


(Yes, because they have lost their magic and do not belong. They are not food. Mother says they taste funny. It's either too sweet, too sour, too salty, too spicy or too bitter... Strays are better as toys. Mother played music for me to hear before. Strays screaming is very exciting.)

(... Right...) Aloud, Hadria said, "Apparently it's just a food preference. Some Basilisks prefer the taste of Purebloods, while others, like Vasiliás, prefer what they call 'Newblood'. To Vasiliás, who learned from his mother, the taste of a Pureblood is boring."

Kastor gave them an odd look. "I'm not sure if I should be insulted or not, but I don't think... I assume that Newblood refers to Muggleborns?"

"Yeah. It seems so."

"I don't think we've ever thought of it that way before," Polys commented. "That Muggleborns are Newblood... Won't that make blood traitors 'blood keepers'? Because they'll be keeping the line uh... fresh or something. And the line won't 'spoil'. Ah, you lose."

"Damn it. I'm really terrible at board games."

Polys laughed then looked around. "Kyrie Adrasteia, what time is it?"

"Hmm? Sometime past three. Why?"

Polys scrambled up and packed the table game while Kastor grumbled.

"We've got to go. Mamá wants us to be home by four," Polys explained.

"Oh. Okay, nice meeting you, Polydeukes," Hadria replied with a grin.

"Maybe we'll meet again. What's your full name?" Polys said, grinning back. "We're the Pyrites."

"Hadria Grinsen," Hadria replied almost automatically, before she realised that that was technically a lie, but did not bother correcting it. "See you around then."

"See you, little Nymph!" Kastor said, before yelling, "RUN!"

And they fled. Hadria didn't bother sending Vasiliás after them, and instead wondered how different Wizarding Greece was from Wizarding UK.

"So, what do you want to do now, Hydráki?" Adrasteia asked when the boys were gone.

Gellert return to the House of Aether feeling quite pleased. The Greek temples in Olympia revealed some really Ancient Magic present in warding, connections to the Realms Beyond, and dormant curses similar to, but less malicious, than those present in Egyptian tombs.

His pleasant mood dissolved the moment he saw Hadria. Nothing but past experiences prepared him for the sight.

The girl was helping Adrasteia decorate the store with posters featuring ink-drawn sketches of various animals on sheets of papyrus. But that wasn't what made him falter. It was the huge dark green serpent with a red-plumed head coiled around her, long body resting in loops on her shoulders, upper arms, waist and hips.

The serpent was blindfolded, but Gellert didn't need to see its eyes to know that they will be a citrine yellow, cold and deadly as the Killing Curse... which incidentally shares the same colour as his beloved Hadria's eyes, which were shining with excitement as she hurried around the makeshift shop, roll of papyrus under her arms, as if she didn't have an XXXXX-classified beast on her. That was if he disregarded the Lethifold that was still wrapped around her, beneath the serpent, like a cloak. And nobody in the courtyard gave any indicator of the evidently abnormal scene, aside from the occasional awed gazes that Gellert had already seen before he left.

"Oh, you're back early," Damianos drawled. Gellert raised an eyebrow.

"Of course I am. Considering how I can't seem to leave her alone for half a day without her coming across some deadly creature and adopting it as a pet."

"Vasiliás is very tame," Adrasteia laughed as she approached the two men. Damianos looked like he wanted to Banish Gellert out of Greece, while Gellert didn't seem as jovial as he usually did.

"Vasiliás? Tame?" Gellert echoed disbelievingly, and looked like he was trying hard not to start ranting in front of the lady.

"Yes. Hydráki named the Basilisk Vasiliás, and he's quite tame as long as you make no attempt to touch him. Much like a Gryphon in fact," Adrasteia explained with false lightness, wondering if Hadria really was going to be in trouble. She glanced over to the girl who had just spotted them and was approaching them cautiously.

"Hi, good trip?" Hadria said tentatively with a sheepish grin, as she dragged her feet and shuffled closer. The Basilisk coiled around her raised its head inquisitively.

"Never mind my trip, Hadria. Where did you get that Basilisk from," Gellert replied with forced calmness. The girl was going to the death of him. Literally.

"Kyrie Adrasteia...?" Hadria replied hesitantly, then hastily added, "But it wasn't her fault! Not really. I mean, she didn't plan on giving me Vasiliás. He likes me, and I like him. And he didn't have a home... Please say we can keep him?"

"Unless I were Salazar Slytherin, I wouldn't keep a pet Basilisk!" Gellert exclaimed, frustrated. "Don't you understand how dangerous that thing is?! And do you have any idea how big that thing will grow?! What will you feed it?! How will we keep or hide it?! What are you going to do with it when you're in school?!"

(He sounds funny. What's he saying? Who is he?) Vasiliás commented. (I like him—he smells nice. Not like food, but like... uh... burnt flowers. Except that he doesn't make me sneeze.)

Hadria cast a sideways glance at the serpent.

"But he likes you," she said to Gellert, pouting slightly. "And he doesn't like humans. Except me. And now you. And I mean, the normal 'like', and not, well, the food or taste preference kind of 'like'."

"Is that supposed to endear me to it? Well it's not working," Gellert replied sternly. "You don't have proof it likes me. And you've failed to answer my questions."

"Vasiliás can stay with me when I go to school. He can stay in a Secret place in Hogwarts. And we can build a similar place in the basement of our manor. We can just feed him birds. Pigs and goats when he's older. And cattle or large deer when he's all grown-up," Hadria suggested with an expectant grin. She had realised that Gellert wasn't exactly angry with her keeping the Basilisk. Just appropriately worried. Even though he was once a Dark Lord. But Hadria knew he was just being concerned over the safety of his dear little girl, and wasn't that sweet?

Hadria giggled to herself as Gellert took a deep breath.

"I'm not made of money, Hadria. A den just for a gigantic serpent is going to cost a lot. Plus I'd like to keep the basement as it is. And what do you mean 'secret place in Hogwarts'?"

"You mean we don't have enough money?" Hadria said with a frown. "The Secret place is a secret. Scáth told me about it before. Maybe I'll tell you the secret when there aren't so many people."

"We have more than enough money. But—"

"I'll help. If we combine our money, it should be fine, right?" Hadria knew that Lord Grindelwald should have quite a fortune, not only his own, but those of his dead she shouldn't know this, as 'Gerwald' was not a Grindelwald. And Hadria herself had discovered that she had a massive fortune after the war in her previous life, because she could gain access to the Peverell vaults as well as the Black vaults and her own Potter vaults, which contained three times as much gold as her trust vault (it would have been more if half of it had not been spent on the war efforts before October 1981). But of course, she shouldn't know of this either. Not yet at least. And Grindelwald probably didn't know any of these either, except the Potter vaults, which he now had some control over as her guardian.

The goblins wouldn't reveal the inheritance of any Olde, Ancient or Noble Heir unless said Heir were to test their blood in Gringotts personally. Even if their guardians requested for it.

Gellert gave her a long look. Then he sighed as he ran a hand through his hair, "In May, I'm planning to have us move to Cornwall, because it'll be more convenient for us when you start attending Hogwarts. I've already discussed this with the goblins, and they've found us a house in a forest clearing, some distance away from a semi-Wizarding village. Apparently it used to belong to a great-uncle of mine, though he never used it, and never willed it to anyone. We'll be checking it out, and if they have a basement, we'll enlarge or have it rebuilt for the snake. If there's no basement, the snake will have to stay in the forest. And... If the snake ever kills anything I don't want dead, I'm shipping the serpent to Iceland."

Hadria beamed, "Thank you, Gerwald! I love you! You're the best!"

Then she turned to Vasiliás, ignoring Adrasteia's laughter. (It's good that you like him. He's my Dark Guardian. And he has given us permission for you to stay with us as long as you behave! Awesome right? We need to do something about your eyes though. The blindfold doesn't look good on you.)

(Dark Guardian...? Is that a title or a nickname?) Vasiliás asked. (He's not bad for a human. I shall keep my eyes closed whenever I smell him, unless you tell me otherwise.)

"... ..."

(Nickname. I call him that because he's my guardian—well actually, he's legally my father but we usually pretend otherwise 'cause it's awkward for us—and he's Dark. He's a former Dark Lord you know. But you can't tell anyone that. It's a secret. Even if the other person isn't a Whisperer. You mustn't take the risk. Unless I bring it up first.)


(Oh. A Dark Lord? I definitely like him now. Not to worry, Whisperer Hydra, my allegiance lies with you. No other Whisperer may command me. I will keep your secrets.)


Hadria turned away from the Basilisk. "Yes Gerwald? Sorry, I was just telling Vasiliás about you."

"... You're a Parselmouth."

Hadria noted that Gerwald, amusingly, had the same look on his face as the time she introduced him to Scáth all those years ago.

"Oh yes," she replied with a sheepish grin. "I must have forgotten to tell you when I found out, but it hadn't seem important at the time."

Gellert gave her another long look. "Of course."

Chapter Text

 Setting: Wizarding Japan, (year XXXX)

 The sky was a deep sea blue and blanketed with silvery stars like a vast upside-down ocean glittering under the moonlight. Dusk had fallen but Gellert had yet to return to the guesthouse they were staying at. He had left in the morning, before the sun had risen, to ascend Mt Hōrai, in search of a legendary peach medicine that could cure almost any ailment. He'd taken Nacht with him, as the mountain could only be accessed via magical flying mounts, and a Thestral was as good as any.

Finding Mt Hōrai was difficult enough—it was only visible to those attuned to magic, once every four years, never in the same location it had been (there were a few times when it visited China instead)—but it was also an island by itself, the same colour as the clouds it floats amongst. Hadria was only assured of his safe return by Scáth. The Grim wasn't prophetic, but he did know that Gellert's soul wasn't about to leave his body anytime soon.

The blonde wizard hadn't told Hadria when he'd be back, but she expected him to be home by nightfall. It wasn't as if they needed that peach medicine urgently, though it would be useful to have when they do. But it was a mythical item, even in the Wizarding world, much like the Deathly Hallows, and there was no guarantee of finding it. And it seemed unlikely that such a rare and precious item could be obtained freely without some sort of test or trial. No doubt the medicine would have a keeper or guard, and despite the fact that Gellert was a very powerful wizard, he was just that: a wizard. A wizard granted with a second chance at life, perhaps, but a wizard nonetheless. Scáth said he'd return alive, but that didn't mean he'd return unharmed. There were so many possibilities—he could be badly Cursed, or wounded, or imprisoned for a hundred years in another dimension…

Hadria could only hope he'd return while the guesthouse still existed. The roof of the kitchen was already gone. The kitchen itself was slightly burnt but intact, as she had managed to repair everything with a few overpowered Mending charms, but one could not repair something that wasn't there, and so the roof remained… gone.

It wasn't her fault. Not entirely. But Gellert had been gone for a long time and she had nothing to do. Hadria swore the recipe in the book had instructions for an exotic New Year's dish. (Not that there was any evidence left to prove her claims, since the book itself had been incinerated). How as she supposed to know that Noh would retrieve the wrong ingredients for her? (He'd never failed before, but she supposed there were only so many languages a carnivorous shadow-creature could learn before mixing them up in the worst way possible). At least she now knew a creative but expensive way to make fireworks. As well as way to make a Lethifold breathe smoke. All one had to do was feed it Erumpent fluids.

"It is a wonder the poor scrap of cloth did not explode," Scáth had commented when he returned from visiting the village whose borders the guesthouse sat upon.

The kitchen had still been covered in ash then. The moment Hadria realised it was a bad idea for the smoking Lethifold to breathe upon the kitchen stove where she had been frying slices of pork in butter and oil, she had immediately cast in quick succession all the variations of the Shield Charm she could remember. The kitchen was thus burnt, the roof reduced to dust, and there was a sooty black patch where the stove should be, but in Hadria's opinion, it was a lot better than what had happened back in her previous life, when Mr Lovegood had struck that Erumpent horn in his home and blew up the place.

While Hadria was cuddling with the Boggart and the still-smoking (normal smoke now, not… Erumpent smoke) Lethifold under the kotatsu in the living room, hoping Gellert would return before the owner did, said former-Dark-Lord was (finally) at the foot of a floating mountain-island that seemed to drift away pretty quickly whenever he thought he was nearing it. It didn't help that he already had an encounter with some fox spirits on his way up the nearest mountain. They hadn't been deterred by the Thestral he was riding, and even seemed inclined when he left the mountain peak and took to the air. Fortunately, they seemed to have found another source of entertainment in the form of a lost tourist when he tried to lose them.

On his way towards the floating island, he had then been assaulted by fierce Veela-like creatures who insisted that he was trespassing in their region of sky. They wore the robes of a monk and waved their feathered fans at him, chasing him upon crow-black wings with strangely coloured fireballs until he was far enough and high enough from whatever mountain they had been protecting.

However, that was only the beginning of his adventures.

Mt Hōrai reminded Gellert of the Island of Courts that floated above the Abyss in the crepuscular Realms. But this island was a lot more pleasant to look at, with silvery green grass at its base that gave way to strange white-gold trees higher up the mountain, bearing leaves the colours of a blushing sunset and pale pink flowers. The mountain peak itself was wintry white, the rivers that flow from it were like crystalline dragons, twisting and winding down snowy slopes.

Upon landing amongst the soft grass damp with glistening dew—because the mountain evidently existed in its own world where it was already springtime and still morning), Gellert was not amused to find himself facing a huge white serpent with obsidian-black eyes, which had been disturbed from its slumber in the grass.

That was when the serpent spoke.

"And a very good morning to you too, Mister Grindelwald," it said in fluent English.

Gellert stared blankly at it.

"You know, I don't think he speaks English. His magic… It smells German," said another voice. When Gellert turned, it appeared to have come from a frog. A large and greenish-brown talking frog with bulbous eyes and spotted limbs.

"I beg your pardon, I was merely surprised by your ability of human speech," Gellert finally said politely. It was a strange and mystical island. Naturally, there would be strange and mystical animals there too, he reasoned with himself. Strange and mystical animals that could talk and knew his name.

"Stay here long enough, and you will learn the languages of all that lives under the heavens," explained the frog. "Why, there's an old badger, in the woodlands on the other side who can speak to flowers!"

"Is that what you have come to seek for, Mister Grindelwald? Knowledge beyond time?" the snake murmured silkily. "Or perhaps to have a dip in the Fountain of Fair Fortune?" It laughed to itself.

"Don't mind the snake. She likes to boast of her wit. That's why she likes to say your name—to brag about her knowledge of names. And the Fountain? It's utter nonsense. By the time anyone reaches it, they'd already have found their fortune," grumbled the frog.

"But if you're still seeking it, its in a garden on a hill behind the mountain," added the snake, still chuckling.

Gellert hesitated, faced with these two creatures. He didn't know what to make of then, for they were harder to read than humans. (He bet Hadria could, or even if she couldn't, the lot of them would probably still be drinking tea and exchanging jokes by now. She had a certain way with animals).

He's looking for the legendary peach medicine, came a haughty voice as soft as shadow. And he nearly had a heart attack when he realised that it was the Thestral that had spoken.

"The Night Lady speaks!" the frog gasped, and got a kick that sent it flying into a particularly spiky patch of grass.

Anyone with magic can speak and hear the language of the mind, you fool. Five years here and you are still as stupid as a tadpole.

The snake sighed at what seemed like an unlikely reunion of… acquaintances?

"I would have mistaken your Thestral to be an ordinary foal if she had remained quiet. Members of the Night Herd have always been able to hide their appearance in their silence. In other words, even those who have seen death may not be able see them if they stay silent as shadows. Or perhaps… 'Notice' would be a better word than 'see'. Sound gives away their presence, which allows those who can see ordinary Thestrals to notice them."

Gellert blinked at the serpent. "… Pardon?"

The snake chuckled over the noise of two arguing creatures in the background, and grinned, forked tongue flickering in and out of its mouth. "Keeper of Nightmare, I can taste your power. You are a great wizard, but you will need to be better if you hope to find what you seek. There is a palace on the mountain. If you seek food and rest, you could find it in there. Its gardens are filled with magical herbs and fruits, each are precious and rare. Most have a specific property, but the peach medicine you speak of is greater than these and comes from the magical peach tree that grows in the courtyard in the heart of the palace. It is heavily guarded and it is impossible for anyone but the Master to retrieve a fruit from it. But you may have a chance of proving your worth and obtain a bottle of medicine from the Master."

"Wait, who makes the medicine?" Gellert interrupted.

"The Master's friends who makes a little—just a pinch, or a drop, depending on which version of the story is correct—every month. But first, you have to ascend the mountain, and it will not be easy for one like you who accumulate knowledge like a jar collecting water."

"What do you mean? And who is this Master?"

The serpent merely smirked. "If you do continue this quest of yours, you will see."

He gave the serpent an exasperated glare, which was returned with such a glint in the eye that reminded him of Hadria's look of mischief. Speaking of Hadria… He wondered what she was doing now. Hopefully, tucked safely in bed, assuming it was night-time back in Japan.

As Gellert led Nacht away from her argument with the frog, under the clouds, in the city below, Hadria was preparing for the New Year without her guardian's supervision.

"I really do not think this is a good idea," Scáth said, as Hadria drew out another rune. In the middle of the backyard, there was a pentagram drawn in the snow, surrounded by runes. Sitting in the middle of the pentagram was a single firework rocket, which was large enough (courtesy of an Engorgement Charm) for Hadria to ride on.

"It's cold here, and I don't want to risk touching the fireplace. Plus, its tradition to visit a shrine for the New Year," she replied. The Grim glanced back at the house, which now had another portion of its roof gone. Light snow had started to drift down from sky, which had slowly been covered by shimmering white clouds. Between the gaps, one could still see the night sky, black and glittering.

"It would probably be safer to touch the fireplace than attempt what you're doing. You might just raze the entire backyard to ashes," the Grim commented dryly.

The fireplace was, at the moment, covered in some sort of unidentifiable slime, which Hadria did not want to risk setting aflame. She still wasn't sure how it happened, but it had involved the burping Boggart, the still-smoking Lethifold and the kotatsu catching fire. Which was why her only source of warmth now was the Lethifold wrapped around her like a cloak as usual. The Boggart was of no help, as it always felt neither warm nor cold.

"Midnight's in fifteen minutes, and the nearest shrine is too far to reach in time by foot," Hadria said. "If this succeeds, we'll be there in a minute. Do the runes look right to you? That one is for protection, for containing the blast. That one is for speed, and that one for energy, to aid with our take-off."

"I don't know runes. If this doesn't work… well, I think two explosions in one night is quite enough, don't you agree?" Scáth sighed.

"At least there won't be anymore holes in any roof," Hadria replied cheekily and grabbed the Boggart by its tail. "Alright, we're ready. Meet us there?"

"Okazaki, right?"

"Yes, see you there. And if you reach first, please don't scare anyone."

With that, the Grim disappeared in a cloud of black mist, and Hadria settled herself as comfortably on the rocket as she could, one hand still holding onto the Boggart. Then she turned and with a jab of her wand, ignited the rocket, after which she quickly tucked her wand back into the voluminous sleeves of her kimono and held on tight to the rocket.

And five, four, three, two… one!

The rocket made an odd whistling noise before there was a terrific blast and there were off, soaring through the cold night sky, a trail of colourful sparks and fire behind them. When she glanced back down at the guesthouse, there was a burnt patch in the backyard and scorch marks in the shape of the pentagram and runes she had drawn earlier. Nothing else seemed to have been destroyed, which was always a good sign.

It was a lovely feeling, riding the rocket like a comet. It had been ages since Hadria had been in the air, spinning and diving and shooting up and about with the wind in her face, adrenaline in her blood and exhilaration in every breath. The only difference between riding the rocket and her good old Firebolt was that the rocket could not be steered, and there were flames on its tail.

Halfway through whooping and cheering as the rocket abruptly changed direction, making her heart leap and her stomach drop, she froze.

Because sitting before her, on the arrow-tip of the rocket, was a fat white rabbit. Well, it only seemed fat because it was larger than any rabbit should be, with thick snowy fur, large hind legs, huge long ears and a pink twitchy nose. Its eyes were just as big as the rest of it, full and round, and red as cranberries. For a moment, all Hadria could do was stare at the rabbit that kept making a soft snuffling noise with its twitching nose and twitching ears. Then there was a strange sensation, as the red eyes of the rabbit darkened, as if…

Konbanwa, okosan.

It was a gentle ageless voice, both young and matured at the same time. Hadria had no doubt the rabbit had just performed Legilimency on her, and had somehow gotten past her Occlumency barriers, as strange as that may seem. She hesitated, before replying, in her mind:

Konbanwa, Usagi-san. Uh, sumimasen, demo… do you know English?

Ah. Gomenasai, I thought you were a local, said the rabbit.

Hadria stared. I'm pretty sure Japanese do not have green eyes.

Those who can use magic, like you, could have… unique features, the rabbit explained. Are you going to Okazaki Shrine?

Uh… Yes. Are you on your way there too?

Hai. Thank you for letting me catch a ride. I would've used my mortar and pestle, but it seems like your rocket is a lot faster and I'm about to be late.

… Mortar and pestle? Hadria questioned, thinking of Babayaga, the Medieval Russian Hag that she had seen a few times on a Chocolate Frog Card. According to Muggle legend, she also used a mortar and pestle to fly.

Gomenasai… It seems I've forgotten to introduce myself! I am Mochi Tsuki, a Moon Rabbit. My family and I live in the moon and make legendary food, said the Rabbit. Mortars and pestles are all I use.

Ah? I'm…. Hadria Potter. Is your last name Mochi or Tsuki? You live in the moon? Do you make mochi then? What other food do Moon Rabbits make? Where do you get your ingredients from?

The Moon Rabbit blinked her large red eyes at the space in the air between them, as if she could see the stream of questions that had spilled from the excited girl.

Well, we're all called Tsuki. But we differentiate ourselves according to our occupations. I make mochi, so I'm Mochi Tsuki. We… live inside the moon, yes. We are Moon Rabbits, but Rabbits all the same. We do not come out of our burrows when we do not want to be seen. My brothers make tea and wine. Ingredients are supplied by Ao-dono. He comes once a month to collect them, when the moon is dark and no one can see him.

Images of Rabbits merrily making food flashed through her mind, courtesy of Mochi Tsuki. Hadria thought it was all very fascinating. Even though she was used to the magical world, there was something… surreal, or dream-like about a conversation with a Rabbit from the Moon.

Have you always lived on the moon? Hadria couldn't help but ask. Rabbits on the moon! She thought that was only a legend. After all, no Muggle had seen one despite having landed on the moon before. But then again, that was of no surprise. She had no doubt their rabbit-holes were bound to be invisible. Did they use wards, perhaps? Or maybe the Fidelius Charm? Hadria badly wanted to visit the moon, now that she knew it was more than a chunk of rock reflecting sunlight.

Long long ago, Mochi Tsuki began. The Snake-Headed One came to visit, disguised, and Father sacrificed himself as food for him. He was then brought back to life, rising like a Fire-bird from the ashes, and the Higher Ones gave him the honour to live in the sky. The Golden-Faced One brought him to the moon and there he stayed. He then made a deal with Ao-dono, who visited, and in return for a great feasting every year, he made medicine every month. We don't need food, for we are now amortal, but we can still eat and it is grand indeed, to have a feast fit for kings every New Year. He met Mother later—Ao-dono's mochi maker, and we came about thereafter.

It was an interesting story, like a fairy tale, and Hadria immediately blurted out her next question, a very important one, in her opinion, And then? What happened next? Did you all live happily every after?

Hmm… We're happy, certainly. Making mochi is hard work, but I enjoy it. And I get to go play at Ao-dono's place when it's Mother's turn to make the mochi. We all take turns, you see. And I'm sure my siblings feel the same. Here, an image of two Rabbits playing with rice the way kids play with sand appeared. Hadria had a strong feeling that the rice wasn't supposed to be played with like that, but she supposed the Rabbits were young… er.. ish? (Hadria honestly had no idea how old the Rabbits were, though they sounded pretty playful yet ancient at the same time).

I see. Were you making mochi before you… arrived, then? Is that why you're late? Asked Hadria. What were the chances of the Rabbit having some mochi on her? She wanted to try some, having never tried mochi made by a rabbit before. But looking at the Rabbit, who was wearing nothing and carrying nothing, she doubted it.

No… the Rabbit muttered sheepishly. We don't work on New Year's Eve. Instead, we celebrate early and have our own feasting at Ao-dono's place, so that we have the time to make mochi, tea and wine later, for the Feast of the Higher Ones. I've just returned from our feast, and it's my turn to go to the shrine and collect the requests left there for the New Year, before returning home to work.

There was a short silence afterwards, as the Rabbit was evidently quite reluctant to elaborate on his lack of punctuality. Hadria would have assumed that Mochi Tsuki was late due to the feast, but the snuffling she was making had increased in volume, making her look very nervous.

Suddenly, her ears perked up straight and alert, her eyes wide with alarm, and her entire white fluffy body stilled.

We've reached! Mochi Tsuki exclaimed and leapt off the rocket. Hadria, who hadn't been paying attention to the rocket's course ever since the Rabbit got on board, made a split-second decision before following the Rabbit and leapt off, only to find herself far too high above the ground for anyone's comfort. Luckily for her, the Boggart had chosen that moment to be useful and transformed into a gigantic crow who had a harder time slowing their too-fast descent than a real crow should. It did give her time to cast a Cushioning Charm though, and they reached the ground safely. A second later, there was an explosion, and when Hadria turned to see what it was, she saw colourful smoke rising from a distance, above the thicket of trees.

"You said there won't be anymore holes in any roof."

It was Scáth, come to meet them at the shrine, with a judging look in his yellow eyes. When Hadria looked around, she realised the Rabbit had disappeared.

"Whose roof did the rocket crash into?" Hadria asked, wincing slightly.

"Luckily for you, it was an abandoned shed. Let's avoid a repeat of the Obliviating Incident, alright?" the Grim replied.

The Obliviating Incident, as Scáth put it, took place a year ago, when Gellert and Hadria had to Obliviate everyone in the village they stayed in, because the presence of her Lethifold hadn't been taken very well, and she had been accused of being a Hag-in-the-making (because apparently, only a Hag could keep such a creature as a pet, never mind the fact that Hags were beings that always had the appearance of warty old witches and it was actually impossibly for a girl like her to become one). Hadria made sure Noh spat out the boy he'd swallowed, thankfully, still alive and kicking—literally, before Gellert returned him to his family and they erased the memories of every last torch-bearing villager. (They all woke up in the village square the next morning, under the impression that they'd had too much drink the night before.) Hadria had made sure to never leave the Lethifold alone ever again.


"Yes, it's just three holes in different roofs now, but if you had, let's say, crashed into the shrine…" Scáth trailed off, knowing Hadria could guess at the consequences by herself. "Now, why are we here again? This shrine is for the god and goddess of childbirth."

"Because it's the nearest one, and look," Hadria replied irritably, and pointed at the placard at the entrance of the shrine, reciting: "It is also believed to house the god and goddess of dispelling evil related to the compass points and other sources."

"Fine, so what are we going to—" muttered the Grim, before suddenly padding closer and sniffing the girl. "Why do you smell of… rabbit?"

Meanwhile, on the back of a gigantic flying turtle, Gellert had finally gotten to the top of the white mountain, where a palace stood, tall and magnificent. For a moment, he was disorientated, too many voices whispering too many secrets in his head. He wasn't even sure who he was or where he was and what he was doing there. There was the wind murmuring to him the names of all the birds in the air, and the sea roaring with the words of all the fishes in the sea. And there was world that was flat and spilled waterfalls over its edges, and a world that was a cube, with tunnels that went deeper than its sides could contain. And there was golden time spilling through his spine, and the blood of the earth, flowing red in his body, and the songs of the stars still thrumming through his bones.

And there was a Harrumph! And a ice-hot breath on his cheek.

Gellert blinked at the Thestral. "Nacht? Oh, I—"

But he couldn't remember what it was he was before he became himself once more. All the ancient knowledge that had been breathed to him by the shades of those who went before him were gone. Their voices had increased in intensity the higher he went up the mountain, saturating the thin air with their old thoughts of older things. When he had reached the peak, for a moment, he had felt both weighed down and enlightened. Then the moment passed, and everything he might have learnt was forgotten, flowing away like… too much water out of an already filled jar.

All the same, it was better to lose all those precious knowledge and information than to have lost himself.

An old man greeted Gellert at the gates of the palace, which swung opened on his approach. The old man turned away swiftly and walked faster than one at his age should be capable of. Bewildered, Gellert and Nacht passed through the gates and followed the old man through gardens filled with rare plants and strange flowers.

Finally, the old man stopped at the main doors of the palace, and Gellert managed to catch up. Could this old man be the Master?

The old man certainly looked the part, with long white hair and a long white beard, much like Dumbledore, but there was a gleam in his eyes that made him seem far younger in heart and far older in mind than the wizard Gellert knew. The old man wore soft white robes lined with silver silk, and with a wave of his hand, the palace doors were open.

"I am not the Master," he said as he gestured for Gellert to enter. Gellert wasn't sure if he should be surprised or not that the old man had known of his query.

But as he wondered what was waiting for him in the palace, the old man simply smiled and did not answer the unspoken question and led him through a richly furnished hall, leaving the Nacht to wait outside.

The palace was a labyrinth of hallways, rooms and corridors, and Gellert noticed too late when his mysterious guide disappeared, leaving him lost in a foreign place that could well be a maze in three-(and hopefully not four as well)-dimensions.

When Gellert finally found the exit of the palace after what seemed like tiring days later, he was very much bemused. He hadn't met the Master, nor had he found a single sleeping chamber nor dining hall. There seemed to be nothing of use in the palace except beautifully decorated halls and rooms that were empty. He hadn't seen anyone either. Save for the dragon in the tower, the chimera in the basement and the cockatrice in one of the otherwise empty courtyards. All three had insisted on attacking him, but he had managed to escape their brimstone and fire relatively unscathed. His cloak was a tad more singed than he would've liked it, but he was just glad that was all he got after an entire day of avoiding fireballs. It almost seemed as if Someone wanted him toasted that day. As if it were a New Year requirement to be reminded of one's mortality by either the Grim or some Higher Entity.

Nacht greeted him outside with a huff. You failed, didn't you?

"Failed?" Gellert repeated. "Well yes, it seems I've failed. I have found neither the Master nor his medicine."

The Thestral merely sighed and turned around. Come on, let's head down.

They didn't see the old man again, nor was Gellert assaulted by information from shades of those who have passed on, but when they reached the bottom of the mountain, they met the snake from earlier that day. This time, however, the frog wasn't there. Instead, there was a cat who appeared to be waiting with an eager expression.

It was evening now, and the sky was painted with the vibrant colours of fire.

"So you are the visitor," the cat commented. "Many of us have heard of you. It's not often we get a newcomer. How goes your quest?"

"I doubt it was fruitful," said the snake. "I suppose you did not find what you were looking for?"

"No, I did not," Gellert replied. "I reached there and found nothing."

The cat snickered, while the snake shot him a look. "It's not that funny, you know."

"But it is!"

"It is humorous in its own way, I suppose," the snake admitted grudgingly. "But I don't think Mister Grindelwald here understands what just happened."

"That's the funny part!"

"… Never mind. Mister Grindelwald, did you see the Master? Old man? Long white beard and long white hair? Wears all white?"

Gellert stared. "I did meet an old man like that who invited me into the palace, but he said he wasn't the Master."

"Oh, that's because that old man technically isn't the Master, but is the physical human representation of the Master. The Master himself is the Turtle who carries this island on his back," explained the snake. Gellert groaned. This was getting absurd.

"And the reason you saw nothing in the palace was because the palace itself was the second test. After you had proved your worth, the palace would test you once more, to ensure that you will receive only what you should receive."

"I… still don't get it," Gellert muttered and the snake smiled. It wasn't a nice smile, for smiles on snakes generally just make them look hungry, but it was a smile.

"You didn't need to prove your worth because you didn't need it. Those who seek rest find rest in the palace, those who seek to fill themselves are given food there, those who are sick are healed there, those who seek wisdom are provided with the experience to gain it, those who seek love and belonging will find comfort there. But you have need for nothing, and so, you found nothing. You wanted the medicine, but do not need it, and therefore, you did not find it."


"Oh," mocked the cat, still laughing at Gellert who now had a strange expression on his face. Surprise mixed with equal parts disappointment and happiness.

"I see. That's it, then?" he finally said. "I suppose I shall be content with that for now. Would be nice not to return empty-handed though."

"Well, did you learn anything from your trip up the mountain?" asked the snake.

"… No. Except that the way I've been learning things has been wrong the whole time or something," Gellert grumbled.

"Better late than never," sad the snake. "At least that's something to bring back. Next time, if there is a next time, don't bring a jar of water. You can't gain anything from it, without losing some of what you have already."

"Then what should I bring?"

"A sieve. The important bits will stay while the rest will flow away. You will not learn a lot like this, not unless you stay for a long time, but it is certainly something, and certainly something important."

"Or better yet, bring the girl," chuckled the cat. "I hear she's—"

The snake stopped the cat with a glare. "What have you done?!"

"Nothing. Just, you know, did a little nudging… They do it every year anyway! And I swear she told me to."

"Who told you to help the Rabbits with their annual 'souvenir'-taking this year?"

"The Ram-Headed One!"

The snake made an unintelligible sound. "You do know that if whatever it is ends up with a mortal, someone will have to pay for it?"

"Not my problem," sniffed the cat.

"I think you should leave, Mister Grindelwald," the snake finally said. "I'm sure your ward is waiting for you."

Hadria was indeed waiting for him when Gellert returned on Nacht's back. The journey back had been even more unpleasant than the way there, for the Tengu and the fox spirits had been overly enthusiastic upon seeing him again.

Of course, he didn't expect her to be waiting in a guesthouse with two holes in the roof, a missing stove and a missing kotatsu. Or perhaps a small part of him that had learnt from experience had expected it but had hoped it wouldn't happen.

"How do you think we're going to explain this to Saito-san?" Gellert inquired sternly.

"Well… We could offer to pay for the repairs and another stove and kotatsu?" Hadria suggested, shifting about on the spot sheepishly.

"We're going to have to do that anyway," Gellert bit out. "But he's still going to ask for an explanation, including one for the burnt marks in the backyard."

"Eh… Obliviate him?"

"Obliviate who?" demanded the owner, who had returned to check on them. He was a kind and hospitable man, albeit a little prone to Japanese superstition, despite being a Squib, and he often came to made sure his guests were alright.

"Gomenasai, Saito-san! We didn't intend for the outcome to be so disastrous, but it wasn't entirely our fault," Hadria immediately blurted out. "You see, there was a Moon Rabbit who visited me, on her way to the Okazaki Shrine, because she needed a way to get there on time. She was running late, and she needed a ride, so I tried to provide her one, but there were a few explosions along the way, because I made some mistakes somewhere while experimenting with a firework rocket. But with some of her help, we managed to get to the shrine safely, and she gave me something in return."

Digging through her pockets, Hadria fished out a peach that seemed to glow with an ethereal light. "Here, I hear it's supposed to be… very good for one's health. She says it's from a land beyond the clouds."

Saito-san stared at the peach with wide eyes, awe and disbelief on his face. "But… it can't be. Throw it to me."

Hadria threw it, and it arced gracefully before floating down into the man's hands. She knew, because she had held it too, that it would feel as light as a Patronus.

"We'll pay for the damage too, of course."

"You will be staying for a few more days, right?" the guesthouse owner questioned.

"Yes, until the fourth, when the celebration ends."

"I will test out this… peach. If it is what I think it is, you will not need to pay for the repairs. In fact, you will not need to pay for your entire stay here. This is… This is priceless! I think, I shall insist on it. I won't allow you to pay for anything if this is indeed a peach from the Immortal Land. And you will always be welcome to stay here again, at a discounted price."

Then the owner of the guesthouse was gone, riding his bike home to where, Hadria will later learn, his sickly parents stayed.

There was a brief moment of silence as they watched Saito-san leave, riding into the lantern-lit streets of New Year's pre-dawn.

"This is going to be a long story," Hadria warned Gellert before he could say a thing. And she regaled to him the entire tale, ending with how she met the Rabbit again, after the celebration at the shrine had died down and some drunk teenagers had begun singing in a heavily butchered version of Japanese. The Rabbit had then given her a small basket of two peaches in return for the ride (after finding out she was a Favourite of the Higher Ones), nicked from the tree in Ao-dono's palace. Apparently, they always took something from the place each New Year visit, and the Turtle knew it, the way he knew about the going-ons of everything on his back, but he never stopped them, for they were great friends and he knew they always put whatever they stole to good use.

They left on January 4th, with Saito-san jokingly thanking them for the trouble they had caused in the process of gaining him something very precious. He encouraged them to return, should they visit Japan again, for they seemed to help him each time they stayed at his guesthouse. (The previous time they had stayed there, Hadria had caught and tamed a dangerous Lethifold).

Hadria had a lot of fun that New Year, and when they left, she was in high spirits, knowing she would remember all of this for years to come, the second peach resting comfortably in her pocket. Gellert had somehow managed to retain a small degree of sullenness despite having enjoyed himself at the New Year fairs, but Hadria wasn't sure how much of the sullenness was pretence for the sake of drama, because she knew Gellert wouldn't be so petty as to be irked about going through so much trouble in vain, only for his ward to effortlessly get something of more worth than what he had been searching for… Right? Wrong.

"I wasn't upset!"

"You shouldn't read someone else's journal over their shoulder while their writing in it, Gerwald."

"I wasn't upset."

"It's rude. And an infringement of privacy. Do you want me to start behaving like a rebellious teenager?

"You're twelve, and I wasn't upset."

"Why are you repeating that? I never said you were upset."

"… Never mind."

The End

Chapter Text

There was a scent reminiscent of freshly baked treacle tarts, rich mahogany, and warm chocolate. The fragrant aroma rose, spiralling, from a steaming cauldron surrounded by colourful bottles.

A large sign floated above the collection, shouting in fancy looping letters: Most Powerful Love Potion!

Gellert had to drag Hadria away after she had spent the last five minutes standing there, doing nothing but breathe in the fragrance of Amortentia.

It wasn't as if she wanted to actually buy it, as she later protested. After all, she had no use for such a thing. So Gellert had to teach her how rude it was to stay so long with a product while having no intention of purchasing it.

They were at the European Annual Potions Convention, and all around them were booths and more booths featuring assorted potions. Love potions, truth potions, poisons, antidotes, solutions, essences, draughts, elixirs and many more. There were also booths, but less of them, marketing rare oils, mixtures, and extracts of herbs and animal parts (such as preserved Erumpent Tails). Of course, none of the booths had non-tradeable substances, or if they had, they weren't publicly displayed.

The former Dark Lord had two reasons for going to this Convention with his ward, even though he knew how dangerous it was to bring the ever-curious troublemaker to such an event.

The first was that there was a rare concentrate he wanted, that he'd been searching for with no luck, until the recent advert for the Convention had stated that it was one of the many potion items to be featured there.

And he wasn't sure if he should leave Hadria home alone for more than half a day. Bringing her along was the lesser of two evils.

The second reason was Hadria's disinterest in the art of Potion-brewing. Oh, she was fascinated enough by the physical properties of strange potions such as the flavourful Amortentia, but had little interest in anything else.

Gellert suspected that it may be because she just didn't have enough patience to actually follow proper instructions and go through all the methodical steps of brewing potions. The kid was just too hyperactive.

"It's like cooking," Gellert once sighed, exasperated after the ninth failed attempt at making a common Antidote. "You could cook at five years old… Why can't you manage this?"

Hadria had pouted and, equally exasperated, explained that cooking was a lot different, because one didn't actually have to follow the recipe to the exact detail to produce the perfect dish, partly because there would always be personal taste preferences.

Then she went on to complain about how, with a dish, one could taste the dish to decide if it had enough of this or that. With a potion, one could only tell by its appearance if one was on the right track. Experimenting or improvisation was also rather dangerous when it came to potions, whereas the chances of a dish exploding was infinitely small unless one were simply that horrid a cook that one shouldn't even be allowed anywhere near a stove.

It had been a very long rant and Gellert had wisely avoided the topic of potions for the next couple of weeks.

Back to the Convention, Gellert was desperately trying to bedazzle his ward with the kaleidoscope of potions for sale and exhibition, hoping it would spark some greater interest in Hadria, to prove to her that it was worth her precious time and meticulous effort to brew potions. He was pretty sure she was a lost cause, but he still wanted to try anyway.

"Gerwald, look!" Hadria exclaimed as she pointed to a booth in the distance. There was a whole crowd of people surrounding it, but she could see someone waving a flask of strange-coloured liquid above their heads. On a small stage beside the booth, someone stood tall, features morphing and changing even as he looked into the mirror he was holding.

"Oh, that's Polyjuice Potion," was Gellert's tired reply as he brought her closer to have a peek. It seemed like he was trying to be enthusiastic, but after half a day of wandering through crowds of people and failing at his self-appointed mission, it didn't quite work out. "It changes your appearance to match someone else's, but you'll have to drop a strand of that person's hair into the potion before drinking it. However, it's incredibly hard to brew."

But halfway through his explanation, Hadria had managed to slip away into the huge crowd, something he'd been trying to prevent from happening since the start of the Convention, and had succeeded in doing so, until now.

Meanwhile, Hadria was slithering through many taller and larger people like a little snake, snickering to herself as she heard Gellert start swearing in what was probably a mix of German and Hungarian.

Frustrating Gellert had become a pastime for her, though she wasn't sure when the whole Potions thing began… But sometime ago, she'd expressed a distaste for potions-brewing, and later began refusing to brew a proper potion for Gellert whenever he tried to teach her.

Perhaps, back when she was a teenager in her previous life, she would say she hated the subject, mainly because she had been horrible at it, and the snarky Potions Professor hadn't made things easier. Of course, later on, she'd discovered how rewarding it was when she could actually brew a perfect potion and use it for something. But Gellert didn't need to know any of that.

And now that she didn't have a guardian breathing down her neck, Hadria was free to check out the more strange (and dangerous) products. She even had a hoard of galleons sitting in the stomach of her 'cloak', which she'd saved up from the pocket money Gellert had been giving her every month, which he assumed she'd spent on Owl-ordering chocolate… Not that she didn't Owl-order chocolate in large batches, because she did, just that she had known she was the Girl-Who-Lived for longer period than he thought, and had no problems—at least, this time around (which she blamed Gellert for—using her name to getting whopping discounts.

In the short span of fifteen minutes, Hadria had bought a small flask of Mandrake Restorative Draught, a vial of Tentacula Essence (made using the sap and juice of Venomous Tentacula leaves, which she wanted to use in some experiments, an idea she got from Weasley twins in her previous life), and a bottle of Ageing Potion.

All of these, she stored in Noh's storage 'stomach'—which was really more like the Undetectable Extended version of a mammal's cheek pouch.

Noh had proven to be a very useful cloak, and his dark shadowy colour always went well with the robes she liked to wear. Today, she was dressed in Slytherin colours, black, green and silver.

Once Hadria was certain she'd gotten everything she wanted, she wondered if she should search for Gellert, who was thankfully taller than the average wizard, or continue wandering around and wait for him to find her.

Her decision was made, the moment she saw one of the last people she wanted to meet.

There was a mop of wavy golden hair above a smiling face with too-white teeth, and Hadria didn't need a second glance to identify the booth the man was visiting as one that had Forgetfulness Potions.

She patted her fringe, making sure the wild black locks covered her forehead, and brushed Noh's cheek. The Lethifold reared its flat head, flaring out a dark shadowy hood, the way a cobra or frilled lizard might when threatened, and she flipped it over her head. Then she hurried away, before he could even catch a glimpse of her.

Hadria knew that it was unlikely anyone would recognise her as the Girl-Who-Lived without prior introduction, since she hadn't even received the Letter yet, but she was taking no risks.

At one point in time—which was to say, the first few seconds she saw him during her back-to-school shopping trip with the Weasleys, before second year had begun—she had thought that Lockhart looked charming enough, but as they say, light travels faster than sound, and he appeared bright before she heard him speak.

(Of course, now that she knew Gellert, Gilderoy Lockhart paled so far in comparison, that even if that fraud was indeed as capable as he claimed he was, Gellert could still steal all his fans if he wanted to… Assuming the fans were either Dark-supporters or ignorant of Gellert's former reputation).

As it turned out, losing herself in the crowd was fairly easy, but finding Gellert was harder, even with his height, because he wasn't the only wizard around with a mop of honey-blonde hair.

Sometimes, Hadria could sense Gellert's magic. It was something she could do after she was familiar enough with the person, though she never really did it consciously until recently. However, this also depended on a combination of physical proximity with the person as well as the level of projection of the person's magic, which in turn depended on the person's magical power.

Gellert was supposed to be easy—he was powerful, and she was familiar enough with it to identify it's wild and fluid nature. But here, in this Potions Convention, there was no way Gellert would leave his magical aura projected about him. He wasn't about to out himself as a very (very) powerful wizard, or risk attracting his old friend's attention just yet. That, and there was also the fact that there were many people here in the convention, and when Hadria tried to focus on the magic in the air instead of the noise and colours, she was left with a numb tingling feeling of sensory overload.

Then she considered projecting her own magic outwards, another thing she'd learnt she could do, because she knew Gellert would be able to find her as easily as she would if he projected his.

Most Wizarding folk's magic stayed obediently just beneath their skin, and occasionally fluctuated out in the form of accidental when they loose control of their emotions, unless they had more magic than their own skins could contain. Then they would have to train to keep their magic tamed and quiet.

Of all the people Hadria knew, only Voldemort and Gellert had magic that she could sense. Voldemort, possibly because he was powerful, and most likely because of the Horcrux connection they had. Gellert, because he definitely was powerful, and she'd spent six years living with him.

(Hadria also suspected that she should be able to sense Dumbledore's, but back in her previous life, she hadn't been so magically-sensitive as she was now, not until Dumbledore had long been dead and gone, and he was always so good at keeping calm and collected that she wouldn't be surprised if he could tame his magic pretty well).

So the question was, how many people would be able to sense her magic if she projected it, and if she would be drawing unnecessary and unwanted attention with it. She certainly didn't want someone to take a second look at her and go: Isn't that Harriet Potter?

Five minutes later, Hadria began to wonder if it wouldn't be too outrageous for her to learn how to be an Animagus at age eleven.

In Hadria's previous life, she finally got around becoming an Animagus halfway through her Auror career. But after her 'death' and subsequent time-travel 'rebirth' into this parallel universe, it appeared that such an ability could not be passed on as it wasn't one she was born with (though she did have an innate talent for it), and she would have to relearn it all over again.

Having an Animagus form she could take now would be convenient. All she had to do was to pretend she was a lost (uncommon) pet or animal companion or familiar. Amidst all the crowd and confusion, she was sure her small form would not be noticed even if she were to change right in front of so many people. And if she needed to, she could Disillusion herself while transforming. Then she could make all the noise and attract all the attention she wanted, until Gellert found her (which would actually bring attention to Gellert, but she didn't think it'd be anything he couldn't handle).

In the end, Hadria didn't need to resort to any drastic measures that would certainly draw unnecessary attention to her, like shooting coloured sparks into the air, or using a sonorous charm to yell for Gellert.

No, she bumped—or perhaps, crashed, would be a better word—quite literally into what would later be her solution to her problem.

Because it was the sort of thing that would happen to Hadria.

Like meeting future Professors that she may or may not want to meet.

As it was, Hadria had escaped from being noticed by a totally incompetent wizard whose only real skill was the Obliviate, to crashing headfirst into the frustratingly confusing Potions Professor, who was confusing only because Hadria had still, after more than a hundred years, yet to untangle the mess that was Severus Snape's involvement in her life.

It didn't stop Hadria from being Hadria, however.

So when she looked up after getting a face full of black robes, and saw the scowling expression on a sallow face, with too-dark accusing eyes above a hooked nose, all of which was framed by greasy black hair that looked like he could do with less time with potions and more time in the shower, well.


(In hindsight, she really should have expected this. It was not just any magical convention, but the European Annual Potions Convention after all.)

But Hadria took it all in stride and grinned sheepishly, easily slipping into her role as a lost child who had just embarrassed herself by colliding with a stranger.

"I'm very sorry, sir," she said, in her most child-like voice (which seemed to get more accented the more childish it got), cheeks flushed with a warm hue that only made the greenness of her eyes stand out. "Gerwald always tells me to look where I'm going, but that potion was very fascinating, sir. So please excuse me, sir." And she bobbed a little bow.

It was all true, of course. Hadria had been just caught a glance of someone showing off his tiny cauldron of Felix Felicis, and she had to crane her neck in her attempt to stare at it a little more through the gaps between people. It was when she was just considering heading over to compare his potion with her own sample that she had walked right into Professor Snape. Who probably hadn't seen her, because she was at least two heads shorter than him, and she'd probably been a small shadow amidst all the other people in the crowd.

At least until her 'hood' had fallen backwards, spilling long and wild raven-black hair, revealing a rosy face with killing-curse eyes.

There was a tense silence, and then, in a soft voice that sounded irritated and vaguely condescending at the same time, "Which potion is this, that has you so easily forgetting sensible instructions?"

"I don't know, sir," Hadria replied bashfully. "But it's golden, like sunshine, and it looks very happy and playful, jumping about in its cauldron."

The dark-haired man glanced over the heads of the milling crowd, being around the same height as Gellert. He must have seen the Felix Felicis booth, but when he looked back down at her, the scowl was still etched into his face.

"And pray, what is a child like you doing by yourself? Where is your guardian?"

Hadria shrugged. "I've lost him, sir, and now I'm trying to find him." She pretended to look thoughtful and innocent. "If you've heard or seen a blonde man saying bad words in German and Hungarian, it's probably him?"

Incredulousness flashed across Snape's face, and Hadria giggled inwardly at it.

"Excuse me, sir, but do you know what that golden potion was?" She questioned when he looked like he was trying to wrap his head around a German (or was it Hungarian?) wizard and his lost child whose eyes were brighter and greener than his lost love's.

It wasn't that there weren't any foreign wizards or witches here, but even though the convention was for anyone in the region to attend, it was being held in the United Kingdom this year, and people from other countries were a minority. (The convention naturally had more variants in nationality when it was held in countries like France or Switzerland).

"It's Felix Felicis, though an ordinary witch or wizard may call it Liquid Luck. It is incredibly difficult to brew, but if done properly, it would make its drinker lucky for a period of time, depending on how much is consumed. However, it should only be taken sparingly, because it'll induce a sense of overconfidence and recklessness when consumed in large quantities. Naturally, it is also banned in competitions."

This was said in his usual soft tone, but with the hint of passion Hadria could detect whenever he spoke about potions (even all those years ago in her previous life, sitting for his lesson for the very first time). When he had finished his explanation, he blinked and sneered at her, and she wondered if he had perhaps begun talking about it before he considered the fact that she wouldn't understand or appreciate what he was saying anyway.

But here was a golden opportunity. And Hadria grabbed at it with both hands, and held on to it so tight the opportunity might just suffocate.

"Wow, you know so much about it. Is it like wine, then? Gerwald tells me I can't have any, 'cuz I'm too young. But I heard it can make you do stupid things if you drink too much," she gushed, widening her eyes and tilting her head so that the lights above might reflect in her green eyes the way she knew would enchant a lesser man.

"I suppose that is a possible comparison," Snape admitted. "But there are many other potions that can do strange and wondrous and just as frightening things to the mind and deceive one's senses."

"Whoa… And you can make potions that does all of these, sir?"

"I am a Potions Master," Snape said, looking at her as if she were an idiot. Which she was fairly used to. But she didn't miss the slight stunned look that had briefly flickered across his face. Perhaps it wasn't often he was praised so openly for his Potions ability?

So she pulled a Colin Creevey without his camera.

"A Master? Even Gerwald isn't a Master! What's your name, sir? Have you invented any potions? Written any books? Can I have your autograph, sir?"

"A Potions Master is a term used to describe the one in charge of supplying necessary potions in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," was Snape's irritated and exasperated explanation. "While I have improved on many a potion, I have yet to invent a completely new one. Neither have I written an books, and no, you may not have my autograph."

"Gerwald's told me about Hogwarts! You must be still be very good at potions to be the Potions Master. Has any other Potions Master at Hogwarts improved on potions like you? Do you teach there, sir?" Hadria said, still beaming brightly. She was secretly wondering how long it would take for him to finally get around shaking her off.

"I'm sure there have been previous Potions Masters that have attempted to correct some of the brewing procedures for some potions, but none that I am aware of. And yes, I am a Professor there. Now, if you're quite done—" And there it was, but Hadria was not done.

"Oh, that's just awesome! I'm going to Hogwarts this year. Gerwald says I should receive my Letter by my birthday! If you've improved on brewing potions, does that mean you've experimented on them? Gerwald does not allow me to experiment, which is no fun. He says it's too dangerous, but nothing's really fun if you can't experiment a little. Will I get taught by you? I do hope so."

"… Is Gerwald your guardian?"

"Yes, he's the best guardian I've ever had!"

"Well, your guardian is quite right. Potions can be very dangerous when brewed improperly. Do not even dream of experimenting before you know your textbooks by heart, and can brew all the potions in there with your eyes closed," said Snape. "If I do end up teaching you in Hogwarts this year, I will expect you to follow my instructions to the letter."

Hadria nodded eagerly. "Yes, sir."

Snape looked like he was disinclined to believe her, but said nothing on that matter. Instead, he said, "What's your name, child? Perhaps we could return you to your guardian before you run off and crash headfirst into a boiling cauldron."

"It's Hadria, sir," she answered, flushing once more. "And I'm really sorry, sir, for bumping into you."

He gave her a curt nod, "Yes, you've said that already. Now, since you say you're going to be a student at Hogwarts this year, you may address me as Professor, or Professor Snape."

"Yes, Professor," Hadria blithely replied. He gave her a sideways glance.

"How would you describe your guardian, aside from the swearing in German and Hungarian?"

"Gerwald's tall, like you," she said eagerly. "But he's got short blonde hair. It's like a lighter shade of Felix Felicis. And blue eyes like the sea. Or sky. And he's wearing a black scarf with midnight blue robes over a dark grey shirt, black pants and black dragon-hide boots."

And while it was something Hadria wouldn't think she'd ever see him do, here he was, Severus Snape, helping a lost child find her guardian. But it was possible, she suppose, that he didn't want to imagine what might happen if he were to leave her alone. It seemed as if he'd picked up her troublemaking tendencies a lot faster than Gellert had.

But then, he had wasted no time shelving her in his mind as a troublemaker back in her previous life. This time, while he didn't seem to recognise her name as 'Hadria' as in 'Hadria Potter, daughter of James Potter' (she had Scáth confirm the existence of a Book of Admittance which would have recorded her changed name), he still didn't have any problems drawing the same conclusion from his short interaction with her.

Hadria suspects it's partially because she had crashed into him while distracted, and partially because she herself had admitted to him about wanting to experiment with potions.

And in the subsequent conversation he had with her while helping her find Gellert—a conversation that he didn't have much choice in, Hadria did not bother correcting his assumptions. She was probably going to get House points deducted in the future, when he could do so, simply because he found her or her parentage annoying or something, but she wasn't going to let that stop her from having fun.

"But why does the direction of stirring make a difference?"

"If everything must be so precise, how can anyone just say 'add three porcupine quills'? I'm sure not all the quills are of the same length or mass? Shouldn't there be a more accurate way of finding out how much you need?"

"And when you heat the potion until it turns a certain colour, how do you know when to stop? Green? Lime green? Apple green? How much green is green? And what if the colour of your cauldron, or your own colour perception affects what you see? What if I'm colour blind?"

The more they walked, the more Hadria seemed to get, and the more questions she asked, throwing away some of her childish air and politeness in her enthusiasm.

Severus Snape first viewed her as a typical child—clumsy, easily distracted and far too hyper. And he actually half expected her to stammer out an apology before running away, as some children were wont to do when they accidentally bumped into him.

She didn't.

Hadria seemed sweet enough when she first spoke, but it appeared that she was some terrible combination between an excited Lion and a curious Raven. If not for the fact that he was concerned that left alone for too long, there was bound to be an explosion, Severus would have made his escape from what appeared to be a strange fangirl as quickly as he could.

Her name was Hadria, and was on a first-name basis with her guardian.

(Which meant that someone who wasn't her parent, either a parent's friend or a babysitter—or both—had, for some inexplicable reason, brought what seemed to be a slippery troublesome child to a Potions Convention of all things).

Severus wonders whose child she is. She had to be a Half-blood or a Pureblood, since she was here even before receiving her Hogwarts letter, and her name sounded familiar, for some reason. But he couldn't remember where he'd heard it.

And her appearance!

The thick jet black hair that framed her flushed face in wild locks reminded him of Bellatrix, before she was sent to Azkaban. Hadria, too, had long black lashes that framed bright shining eyes, but these eyes were not dark, like Bellatrix's. They were, instead, unnaturally green, and Severus knew of only one other person to have had irises that came so close to the colour of the Killing Curse.

But Severus wasn't comfortable, comparing this child he knew little of, to the two women who were so different from each other, it didn't make sense to imagine a child that was a combination of them both. And he didn't really want to think about that nightmare of a dark witch or his lost love…

So, he didn't.

He stopped finding similarities in the child's appearance with people he knew, and instead, found himself humouring the child's endless questions about potion-brewing. To his relief, her questions weren't as idiotic as the ones he'd heard some of his older students ask before.

It didn't make answering her questions any easier, partially because he wasn't sure how to answer some of them.

For example, using colour as a reference for how the potion had progressed was supposed to be a simpler way for non-experts to follow. Why was the child making it sound more complicated than it was? From the sound of it, this child was inclined to hesitate in front of her cauldron figuring out if the colour was really just right or not.

And there really wasn't a need for a first-year to be that precise in their brewing. He expected a certain degree of competency in his students, not perfect genius.

But if he were to tell her that, he feared it discourage her from actually trying to be perfect in her potion-brewing! And possibly start doing things her way. And cause her cauldron to melt or explode. And he already had had enough of those in his classroom.

Then he spotted a striking figure.

Dressed smartly in dark coloured traditional Wizarding robes, a man stood still in the middle of a bustling crowd. He had rich blonde hair that was almost untamed as Hadria's and a young face that was betrayed by strangely old eyes that surveyed the crowd with a razor sharp gaze.

"Is that him?" Severus pointed, only to remember that the child was too short to see anything he could see.

Hadria craned her neck anyway, automatically exclaiming, "Where, Professor? Where did you see him?"

Eager to be rid of the energetic and talkative girl, Severus immediately gripped her wrist and dragged her as he weaved through the crowd expertly.

"Gerwald!" Hadria yelled, when she caught sight of familiar blonde hair.

For a moment, the Potions Master was caught off-guard as he thought he was seeing someone else's eyes (again).

There was nothing reflected in those eyes that hinted at any emotion, but they were just as soul-piercing as Albus Dumbledore's. And they weren't the colour of the sky or sea, as Hadria had described, unless she had been referring to the sky and sea in stormy weather.

"Gerwald!" Hadria repeated blithely, and barrelled right into the tall dark-robed wizard the moment she had a clear path to him.

And the ominous steel blue cleared to reveal light azure sky.

This was promptly followed by a string of harsh words that tumbled out so fast that Severus weren't sure if they were insults or perhaps an entirely different language altogether. Or both.

"I was just… around, if you're asking me where I've been," Hadria gestured vaguely, before giving the stern-faced man a toothy grin. "But if you're asking me where I found this super awesome Potions Master, it was near the Felix Felicis booth."

Severus blinked, and came to a few strange conclusions (some of which were just reinforcements of the ones he'd came up with earlier).

Her guardian was, indeed, a foreign wizard, and had quite some influence on the girl, evident in the girl's strange accent (which usually sounded close enough to British) and the advice she occasionally quoted. But the child was not as foreign as he was, because she clearly did not fully understand what he just said, which had indeed, been something in a foreign language (probably German), but not a bunch of curses or insults. And if she were foreign as her guardian was, she was likely to end up in Durmstrang instead of Hogwarts.

"I need to teach you German—"

So it was German, Severus nodded to himself. Though the wizard's English was as strange as Hadria's, with an accent that wasn't quite… anything at all. It was as if the two of them had spent their lives travelling all over the world and had picked up hints of each country as they went along.

"—And what do you mean 'super awesome Potions Master'?"

He also noted that the guardian, Gerwald, had given up the subject of the child's disappearance far too quickly to be normal.

"He's a Professor at Hogwarts, and he's gonna teach me Potions someday!" Hadria gushed. "I can't wait!"

"I beg your pardon? Since when were you interested in learning Potions?" Gerwald sounded incredulous.

"Since I met Professor Snape!" Hadria replied excitedly, and this unexpectedly got Severus a sharp look from her guardian.

But all he said was, "I see. Well, I think I should thank you, Professor, for returning Hadria, and… igniting her passion for Potions. I do hope it wasn't too much of a trouble for you…"

The Potions Master didn't think it possible, but something in the guardian's tone made him feel like he was standing in front of the Dark Lord once again, back when the powerful wizard was still a charming, shrewd and dangerous man. It felt like a cold breath on the nape of his neck.

"Oh no, she was quite a well-behaved precocious child, all things considered," Severus said politely, while he wondered just who on earth were they. "Especially if I were to compared to many of the… students I've had to teach."

Gerwald nodded, though it was just a short and abrupt sort of movement of the head. "That's… good."

Except that didn't sound good at all.

Then there was an awkward silence in which Hadria glanced from one man to the other. She seemed to make up her mind about something, and turned to Severus.

"What he means to say is that he is very grateful to you," she said with a sweet but sheepish smile. "But at the same time, I think he's rather envious of you, Professor, for finding me and… converting me to Potions, before he did, so you'll have to forgive him for that."

Severus stared, and Hadria stuck her hand behind her, into the depths of her cloak—which he only just noticed was darker than it should be, almost as if its very material was sucking light out of its surroundings.

"Um, a token of thanks and apology," Hadria said, and produced a bouquet of flowers the way magicians do—with exaggerated flourish and bow. The bouquet was a bundle of silver-grey cloth wrapped below spikes of white inflorescence interspersed with the forest-green and chestnut-brown of sepals and leaves. "I heard from Gerwald that they could be useful for Potions?"

He accepted the bouquet from her with uncertainty that he did not show. She couldn't possibly have kept the bouquet in some pocket in her cloak the entire time, could she? But then, he had seen Muggle magic tricks as impressive as that before, like releasing a flock of doves from a hat.

"See you at Hogwarts, Professor?" The raven-haired girl said as she watched him expectantly.

And he found that he could only sigh and say dryly, "I don't think we can help that."

Hadria grinned and waved, as he gave her a last nod, gave Gerwald one last wary glance, looked between the two with a disturbed expression, and left, eyeing the flower bouquet in his hand as he did so, half-expecting it to disappear or turn into something else.

It said something, however, that he had accepted the flowers in the first place, but it was as strange as the girl herself, that it had seemed almost natural to accept them at that time.

Hadria giggled as she watched the Potions Professor leave. She mentally patted herself on the back. It had been a job well-done.

"Do I want to know what you currently have in Noh's storage stomach?" Gellert asked.

She didn't actually pull the bouquet out of the Lethifold, of course—she had actually conjured them wandlessly and non-verbally—but she didn't bother to remind her guardian of that she could do that, since it was funnier to just follow along and…

"Well, I've got an emergency supply of Chocolate Frogs, blood pops and pumpkin juice in there, and a couple of books, an umbrella, a stuffed spider, a wooden snake toy, and I think Snag's in there as well." (And neglected to mention the several potions she had as well).

Gellert glared at her. "I didn't actually ask for a list."

The girl merely gave him a toothy grin.

"And what was that with… Professor Snape?"

"Don't worry, Gerwald. You're still my idol."


"So, did you find what you were looking for?"

"Don't ignore my question, and no, I was too busy looking for you!"

"What is it, anyway?"

"… Tentacula Essence."

"Oh, it's that way."

"… And how do you know that?"

Hadria smiled to herself but did not answer.

Hadria – 2, Gellert – 0, Snape – 0.

And because I could not resist, here is a little extra:

It was rare, that Severus had anyone in his office during the holidays, but a new school year was starting, and sometimes, Albus liked to pay him a surprise visit instead of inviting him to the Headmaster's office.

This was usually after the annual start-of-year Head-of-House meeting.

To make sure he's prepared for the new students, and not to be so harsh on them, and they can't all be Potions prodigies, and he knows why he can't possibly have him as a Defence Professor.

His office was a dimly-lit room filled with shelves of morbid curiosities kept in jars. He had a table in the middle, made of dark wood, and a fireplace in the corner, beside his personal Potions cupboard. Few liked to find themselves in this room, for it had a certain gloomy and secretive atmosphere, as if the shadows themselves hid stranger arcane things that no one should ever meet.

It suited Severus just fine, for it made his students wary, and less likely to touch something they shouldn't. And he didn't like children lingering in his office for too long anyway.

But now, there were two new additions to the usually grim ensemble.

The first was the Albus Dumbledore, in all his brilliantly purple glory, complete with twinkling blue eyes behind half-moon spectacles, his long silvery white beard, and a small bowl of sherbet lemons.

He sat there, smiling gently, looking just a little serious and grandfatherly enough for their conversation, which was soon interrupted by a knock on the door. The elderly wizard then looked at him curiously, but Severus wasn't expecting anyone.

"Severus! Albus!" Professor McGonagall was standing there, when Dumbledore answered the door—because Severus had taken his own sweet time about it, not being very keen on having anyone else here at the moment. She looked like she might have ran all the way here from her office.

"Minerva," Dumbledore greeted in return, now looking like he had been expecting her. "Is it good news?"

"Well, in a way, I suppose," the witch dressed in deep viridian replied. "We don't have an exact location, but the Letter was addressed to 'Cornwall'."

Now Severus knew what it was all about—the Potter girl, or, as he liked to think in his mind, The Troublesome-Brat-Who-Disappeared. The Order, whose current (only) purpose was to keep an eye out for the girl, had been waiting for this very day, when the Quill of Acceptance would help address a Hogwarts Acceptance Letter to the girl.

"That's all?" Dumbledore sounded a little disappointed. That was unsurprising, as Cornwall wasn't small, and if the location was Unplottable or under a Fidelius, they wouldn't be able to find it at all.

"Here," McGonagall took out a letter and handed it to Dumbledore. "But should send it out by tonight. An owl should be able deliver it, detailed address or not, as long as there are no owl-repelling wards around the area."

So much fuss, Severus lamented, over a brat who couldn't even stay where she should. And there was no doubt she was going to come to Hogwarts all spoilt and self-entitled, having been brought up by Wizarding folk who would only treat their Saviour like a princess.

"Ah, 'The Little Sanctuary'," Dumbledore read aloud, looking at the Letter over his long crooked nose. "That would be the name of her bedroom, I presume?"

"Yes," said McGonagall. "And from the sound of it, she isn't treated too badly, or we might have something along the lines of 'Second Dungeon Cell'."

There was a snort, and Dumbledore glanced over.

"Names could be deceiving, Minerva. But yes, I doubt a kidnapper would legally adopt her and change her name only to ill-treat her. Hopefully, we'll get a positive reply, and our worries can be temporarily put to rest. And Severus, please keep in mind that she is also Lily's child. You, too, should hope that no harm of any sort has befallen dear Hadria."

This was promptly followed by a crash, and both Minerva and Dumbledore were startled to see that Severus had accidentally knocked over a vase of flowers in a sudden bout of clumsiness.

The vase of flowers was the second addition to the room that was unusually bright, something which Dumbledore had noted when he first entered the dungeon office, but Severus had been curiously tight-lipped about them, saying nothing except that they had lasted a lot longer than he had expected them to.

They were snow-white, and bloomed in spiky clusters like miniature frost-covered pine trees, sprouting out of a dark glass vase… Or at least, they had been, before Severus knocked them over. Now, they were spilled across the cold stone floor, like a splash of brilliant moonlight amongst raven-black shards and scattered emerald leaves.

Then they heard their colleague cuss aloud for the first time.

Hadria – 3, Gellert – 0, Snape – 0.

Chapter Text

Lethifolds and Dementors weren't related, contrary to popular belief. Some people thought they might have been, seeing as the two species were as dark and amortal as any creature could get. Those people were wrong. But there was a relationship between the species, a relationship that Hadria unknowingly forged with her Lethifold named Noh, when she established dominance over it.

That's right. Lethifolds were sometimes treated as pets by the Dementors. Not the ones at Azkaban of course, because it was actually more likely for the Lethifolds to eat the inmates than for the Dementors to 'accidentally' inhale their souls. And anyway, most Lethifolds were found in the tropics. 'Most' being the keyword here.

Hadria had a Lethifold as a pet, and it went by the name of Noh. Hardly anyone knew about it. Which really meant that the entire batch of Slytherins in her year knew. But of course, no one breathed a word about it, for fear they'd get eaten in their sleep by said Lethifold. It probably helped that the Lethifold was growing bigger, because it hadn't really been full-grown when Hadria first met it, and now it was being fed regularly with heavy meals by the Hogwarts House-elves.

Regardless, it didn't make Hadria immune to the effects of several full-fledged humanoid Dementors invading the Hogwarts Express.

The raven-haired girl was sharing a compartment with Draco, Blaise, Neville and a Remus Lupin when it happened. The only reason her compartment seemed like reversed harem was because Draco and Pansy wasn't on talking terms for some reason unknown to Hadria, while Hermione was sitting with a few other Ravenclaws in a Silent-Reading-Only compartment.

When Hadria felt the chill, she knew what was going to happen. Sirius had escaped Azkaban, it was her third year, she was even sitting in the same compartment as before! So she wrapped herself up in Noh, who was very full—and hence very thick and warm—and waited.

"What's happening?" Neville was the first to ask, probably because he wasn't engrossed in a game of chess like the other two were. Interestingly enough, Blaise was better at chess than the Malfoy scion.

"Winter is coming," said Hadria in her best Trelawney-impression as she sunk deep into the swathes of her Lethifold like a tortoise into its shell.

This was greeted by odd looks all around.

"In two to three months' time, yes. It's September," Draco pointed out.

Hadria shrugged and amended, "Winter is coming early."

Her friends wisely ignored her nonsense, but heeded the implied advice by taking out their scarves and winter coats out of their trunks. Except for Blaise who was already wearing an expensive dragon-hide ensemble. Not that it really helped much, when the cold just kept spreading—fern frost on the icy windowpanes, visible breaths of vapour like smoke from a dragon's mouth…

"This is ridiculous," Draco complained. "We should've kept that dragon from first year."

"It wouldn't be able to fit into the compartment," Blaise laughed.

Snag, the Jarvey, took the opportunity to peek its head out to gasp, "Numbskull!" Then buried itself close to Hadria for warmth once more, because it was too cold out even for more insults. Blaise sniggered while Neville choked as he tried to hold in his own laughter.

But that was when the rattling began, and the lights went out, plunging the compartment into swift and total darkness, and it seemed like they were stuck in some terribly cliché horror story.

The three boys automatically lit their wands.

"Hadria?" Neville whimpered—because when things get dark and scary, from psychopathic professors to berserk basilisks, Hadria was your best bet—and glanced over at the girl who could no longer be seen.

There was an odd-shaped bundle of pitch-black in her seat, and even that bundle wasn't very visible in the dim compartment. A muffled "Yes?" came from somewhere within the bundle that appeared so dark that even when the light from Draco's wand shone upon it, the only colour revealed was black. Not grey, not brown, not dark blue or dark purple, but black, the colour of nothingness.

It would have been funny to see in any other situation, but not in this one.

"What if we don't survive this winter?"

"Then my guardian, the Malfoys, the Black Widow, and your grandmother will storm the school together to demand an Explanation and there will be hell to pay," the shadowy shape replied. Again, no one laughed, not even Blaise.

It might have been because the door screeched open the very next moment, and everyone with visible eyes stared in numb terror at the hooded figure that leaned in.

"A bloody Dementor?" Draco whispered. "They can't be serious!"

"They're not Sirius, because they're looking for Sirius."

"Not the time, Hadria," said Blaise, but just as he was about to glance in her direction, a burst of bright light filled the room, brighter than the light of any Lumos.

Everyone was momentarily blinded, and when their visions cleared, they could make out a shining white creature with nine heads driving the Dementor out of the compartment. Hadria had shed her living cloak and was standing in the middle of the compartment with her wand out, untamed raven-wing-black hair a halo of darkness around her, making her look very much like an peeved goddess.

"That was a remarkable Patronus."

And the sleeping Professor was now very much awake.

When Professor Lupin had distributed his chocolates and left the compartment with his own Patronus—a loping canine-like thing—Hadria immediately dropped to her knees. Not in exhaustion, or for any reason that would have been normal or human, but...

"Where did you learn—What are you doing?" Draco exclaimed. The girl had her head stuck under the seats, but she crawled out backwards and looked up with an alarmed expression. Her friends had never seen her look really alarmed before, so they were understandably worried now.

Then she said, "I can't find Noh." And Draco and Blaise gaped.

"What's 'Noh'?" Neville asked as he stared at Draco's rapidly paling face in concern.

"It's—" Blaise looked at Hadria uncertainly, who sighed and twisted a lock of black hair around a finger.

"It's my pet Lethifold."

They found Noh later on, after all the Dementors had left the train. The Lethifold had managed to sneak back into their compartment without getting spotted, which was a relief. It seemed like no one had gotten attacked by it, and it hadn't gotten attacked by anyone. That had also been the reason why Hadria didn't attempt a Summoning Charm at first, lest Professor Lupin come across a Lethifold soaring through the air towards their compartment.

So all was well and peaceful.

Or as well and peaceful as it could get, when the rumour mill began and by the end of the Start-of-Year feast, Hadria had supposedly single-handedly fought off an entire army of Dementors with nine basilisk-Patronuses that could petrify any Dementor with just one blazing look.

"But Dementors can't even see!" Hermione protested as softly as she could, nose buried in a book about amortal beings and creatures.

"And Patronuses are not actual creatures with corresponding abilities. Your point, Granger?"

"Is no one else going to talk about how Hadria has a pet Lethifold?"

"Relax, Longbottom, it has been two years and it hasn't eaten anyone... yet... As far as we know, that is." Which naturally wasn't as reassuring as Blaise had hoped to be.

Hadria huffed, propped her elbows on the library table and rested her head in her hands. "I'm just here, you know. And I can teach you how to conjure a Patronus, if you'd like?"

Draco's silver eyes lit up. "Do you think I could get a dragon? With wings and spikes and all?"

"I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way," Hermione commented, almost condescendingly. "You can't choose your own Patronus."

"But Hadria's got a massive hydra," Blaise pointed out.

Hermione glanced at all of them with an expression suggesting that she thought them all idiots. Then, slowly, as if speaking to kindergarten kids, the bushy-haired girl said, "She's Hadria. And… You're not."

Then Luna drifted by their table, complete with beetle-wing-earrings and a butterbeer-cork-necklace. "Well, I'd like to have a Crumple-Horned Snorkack as a Patronus."

It was a whole week, before any real excitement began, in the form of the Weasley twins.

There was the Boggart class, of course, which was interesting enough...

Pansy's Boggart was Draco declaring his abhorrence of her in front of everyone (which got turned into Pansy kicking Draco in the—). Blaise's Boggart was a clown of all things (that one got turn into a murdered clown, which was even creepier, but Blaise laughed, which was totally broke the creepy-meter and seemed to freak the Professor out). Meanwhile Draco's Boggart was an overgrown ferret that looked suspiciously like Snag with all his things broken and strewn around it (the Jarvey ended up being turned into a fur scarf). Unfortunately, Hadria didn't get a chance to meet her own Boggart, because Professor Lupin thought she couldn't handle it, which was a real pity.

But at the end of the first week, Fred and George came searching for Hadria, to help them prank Filch and Mrs Norris.

The caretaker spent the next month or so belting out Christmas songs whenever he opened his mouth to yell the ears off whoever displeased him. His cat, however, was missing from his side, indisposed by a particularly bad case of hiccups that couldn't be cured except by waiting for it to wear off naturally. (The hiccups were really caused by the hallucinations Mrs Norris had been spelled to see, hallucinations of big yellow eyes staring back at her in the reflection of dark water).

"Why Christmas songs?" Hermione finally asked. By then, Halloween was drawing near.

Hadria shrugged. "Actually, I don't even know why we're pranking Filch and Mrs Norris in particular."

"Because he's a grumpy old man with a grumpy old cat?" Blaise suggested.

"But if you didn't know why, why did you do it?" Hermione demanded.

"It's fun," Hadria replied with another shrug, and fished out some coins. "And they paid me for it."

Draco stared. "Don't you already have enough money?"

The answering grin he got was a tad bit unnerving (though it still wouldn't compare to the image of Blaise laughing over the corpse of a bloody clown). The raven-haired girl tossed a coin to him. "Catch!"

He caught it, and with a loud sound like might have been a fart, a rubber chicken appeared in his hands, and Draco looked utterly flabbergasted.

"Trick coins!" Hadria proclaimed happily. "Amazing, aren't they?"

Halloween was The Day Things Happen. Hadria wasn't exactly sure what would happen this time, but she did hope she could catch Sirius attempting to break into the Gryffindor tower before he made his escape again.

But they didn't get to meet then.

By the time Hadria managed to sneak away to the Gryffindor tower, the Fat Lady's portrait had be damaged. Instead, when Hadria returned from checking out the Fat Lady's portrait, she found a shaggy black dog and a large ginger cat outside the entrance to the Slytherin Dungeon.

"Crookshanks, you know what Pansy says about bringing other animals into our common room," she chided the cat. Though Pansy had really meant the random dead animals the cat liked to leave by their fire whenever anyone accidentally let the cat in.

Hadria turned to the dog. "Whose doggie are you? You do look remarkably like Scáth, you know. Except that you've got lovely gray eyes."

When the grim-like dog didn't make a dash for it as she half-expected him to, she spoke to the wall, "Ophidia in herba."

A stone door appeared in the wall and slid open. She walked in, then turned back to see the two animals silently communicating with each other.

"Coming?" Hadria asked. The cat joined her and the dog followed.

Once inside the empty Slytherin common room (everyone else was still at the Feast), Crookshanks and Padfoot sat in the middle of the hearth rug and looked at her expectantly. Well, this was interesting.

So Hadria opened her arms wide and said, "Welcome to the Slytherin common room, Crookshanks and Crookshank's New Friend. And…" Here, she walked over to a passageway. "I shall now show you to the girls' dormitories, provided neither of you ever leave anything nasty there. I'm looking at you, Crookshanks. No littering."

The two animals followed after her obediently, but when the three of them entered the girls' dormitories, Crookshanks darted to the foot of her bed and hissed. The Lethifold, that had draped itself over the top of her bed like a canopy, dove downwards to—

"Noh!" The Lethifold froze in the act of opening its maw, which was really more like a mini black hole. But the cat, which had narrowly escaped from being eaten, yowled what seemed like a battle yowl and leapt… right into the Lethifold's large mouth.

Hermione was going to murder her. And then Gellert would murder Hermione. And then there would be another epic duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald and possibly the start of the next Wizarding War… All just because her pet Lethifold ate the wrong cat.

Said Lethifold was now having what seemed like some severe indigestion.

"I do hope Crookshanks comes out alive," Hadria commented to Padfoot. "But at the same time, I do hope Noh won't suffer too much internal damage. I don't know a Wizarding vet that would take in a Lethifold. Do you?"

The black dog merely gave her a strange look, as if it was seriously questioning her sanity. Coming from a wizard just recently escaped from Azkaban, Hadria supposed that must say something.

They met in Professor Dumbledore's office—McGonagall, Snape, Dumbledore, Hermione and Hadria. With Hadria was Padfoot and Noh, with Hermione was a Crookshanks that looked like it'd been to hell and back... Which mightn't been too far from the truth, since Hadria wouldn't be surprised if Lethifolds actually had portals to hell in their stomachs.

"A pet Lethifold?!" Professor McGonagall was equal parts outraged and alarmed, and her eyes kept darting at the casual way Hadria had said Lethifold draped over her shoulders like a cloak as per usual. While it was usually hard to tell what Professor Snape felt behind his almost permanent scowl, Hadria could still tell there were cogs and gears turning as he reviewed all the interactions he's had with her, wondering if he'd ever unknowingly seen Noh before. Professor Dumbledore himself looked a little worried, but was otherwise still smiling with twinkling blue eyes.

"Noh usually listens to me," Hadria tried to explain. "And really, it's not our fault—"

"My cat was in its stomach!" Hermione all but screeched.

"It jumped in!"

"You're saying that Crookshanks jumped into Noh's mouth?!"


"Whatever for?!"


There was knocking on the door, and Dumbledore smiled even wider. "Come in!"

They turned to see a freckled red-head open the door, only to freeze at the sight of all of them.

"You asked to see me?" Ron said, eyeing the Slytherin and the Ravenclaw suspiciously.

Hadria coughed. "As I was saying earlier, Crookshanks jumped into Noh's mouth to retrieve a rat called Scabbers."

"So it's you!" Now Ron was the one yelling. "You slimy stinking snake!"

"Mister Weasley—"

"Ten points from Gryffindor for calling names!"

"Fred and George was sure it was Mrs Norris, but it was you! Where is he? Is he dead? Where's Scabbers?!"

"I don't get it, why would my cat want to retrieve Ron's old rat from the stomach of a Lethifold?"

"And you! Is that where Scabbers is now? Did your cat eat—"


And then, as Hadria expected, there was dead silence. Professor McGonagall was the first to recover. She said, her Scottish accent thick now, "Pardon?"

Meanwhile, Professor Dumbledore was watching the whole thing in a rather unconcerned manner, while Professor Snape looked like he had accidentally swallowed one of the Headmaster's sherbet lemons.

Hadria grinned, now that she had their full attention once more. "You see, Scabbers, an old rat that has been living with the Weasleys for at least ten years now, is actually Peter Pettigrew, who is an Animagus."

"What are you saying, Miss Potter?" McGonagall sounded like Hadria had been speaking German, and hadn't understood a single word she'd said.

"Well that's easy to prove," said Snape, the practical one whose patience was wearing thin and had enough. He drew his wand. "Miss Potter, produce the rat."

The Slytherin girl turned to her Lethifold with an open palm outstretched. "Wormtail, please." And the Lethifold spat out a dishevelled but very much alive rat.

But before Ron could even yell or do anything else, there was a flash of blue light, and Hadria quickly threw the transforming rat to the ground. It was a most disgusting transformation that ended with a semi-conscious short man with grubby skin.

Professor McGonagall drew in a sharp breath and looked like she was holding back some cuss words. Ron, however went ahead with, "Bloody hell! What did you do to Scabbers?!"

Hermione looked horrified. "Th-That's… He's supposed to be dead, isn't he? But... If he's alive, then…"

"Sirius Black can't be accused of killing him," Hadria finished for her. "It's not like he had a trial anyway." Professor Snape sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

Then Dumbledore stood up, and went around his desk. He casually stunned the man on the floor before he could regain his awareness, and smiled genially at all of them.

"Crookshanks is a highly intelligent cat," he began, which made Hermione perk up. "He must have found out, somehow, that Hadria's pet Lethifold had swallowed Scabbers, who turns out to be Peter Pettigrew, and had bravely faced the Lethifold to retrieve the rat. Which brings us to the question of why the cat was so determined in finding him, and whether Sirius Black is really guilty of all the crimes he's been accused of."

Hadria raised a hand. "That's because Sirius is after Pettigrew, sir, whom he claims was the one who betrayed them all and framed him for all those crimes. And clever Crookshanks helped him."

"Miss Potter, do you mean to say that you've been in contact with the mass murderer and never thought to report it until now?" Snape glowered, as he always did whenever Hadria did something he deemed as ridiculously-low-self-preserving.

Now Hadria was raising both hands in front of her sheepishly. "My apologies, sir, but I'd only talked with him right after Crookshanks brought out the rat. I had to stop him from grabbing the rat and making a dash for it, after all."

Now Hermione appeared rather faint as her brain worked away and… "Wait a minute, I remember you saying that you had a… Dogfather?" She glanced at the black dog sitting innocently at Hadria's feet.

Hadria laughed, though inwardly, she thought cackling like a villain might feel better. "Lo and behold, ladies and gentlemen." Then she hugged the dog, which was more of a tackle than a hug, to prevent him from fleeing should he even think about it. "I present to you, the Animagus, Sirius Black!"

She ended up clinging on to a dirty man who managed to stagger to his feet even though he had a thirteen-year-old girl clinging onto his back.

He grinned. "Hello, Minnie, Albus, Snivellus. Long time no see."

Later on, after a whole long explanation of basically everything, after Snape had swept out of the room, tired of it all, and Ron had fainted from shock, they agreed they had best tie up the man lying on the floor and ship him to the Ministry of Magic.

"Gift him to Amelia," Sirius said. "She'll love it."

But it was already close to twelve midnight, and hardly anyone was going to be at work. So Hadria took the initiative, told Noh to open its mouth, and proceeded to shove the entire man into the black hole.

"I'm pretty sure that's creature-abuse," Hermione protested weakly, to which Hadria had the cheek to say, "Who are you talking about? Pettigrew or Noh?"

But it was the general consensus that one of them deserved it and the other was a Dark creature that had jaws and body more extendable and elastic than any snake.