Hadrian returned to his dormitory alone later that evening, as Luna had to get back to the Ravenclaw common room. The entire common room was full, with every student had been required to return to their dormitories packed in and waiting for news.
People stared as he walked through the common room, still covered in the dark green basilisk blood.
Hadrian ignored the sixth-year who was brave enough to try to get some answers from him, instead going straight to his dormitory, where all of his friends sat, worry on their faces.
“Hadrian!” Flora cried as soon as he walked in, jumping up from his bed to squeeze him in a hug. She pulled away a moment later, looking at the substance now covering her clothes. “What’s this?” She wrinkled her nose.
“Basilisk blood,” Hadrian told her, removing his ruined robes before sitting down on his bed.
“So you killed it, then,” Lucian said, relief on his face.
Hadrian nodded. “It was remarkably easy.”
“Well, thank Salazar it’s all over now,” Barnaby said, relaxing back onto his bed. “They were probably going to have to close the school down, if a student had actually died.”
“When’s Hagrid getting back?” Hestia asked, eyeing Hadrian carefully.
“McGonagall said it would probably be another day or two before the Ministry processes the forms,” he said, his fists clenching. “Because they’re fucking useless.”
Flora gave a sigh of relief. “At least he’ll be out. It was terrible, how long he’s been locked in there, and it hasn’t been doing you any good.”
“I assume Ginny Weasley is fine?” Felix said, raising an eyebrow. At the curious looks from everyone, he shrugged. “I heard a rumour saying she was the one who was missing.”
“She’s fine,” Hadrian said. “I had to carry her to the Head’s office, because she couldn’t walk. She’s in the Hospital Wing with her parents now. Charlus tried to save her, but he arrived a bit late and accused me of being the heir of Slytheirn.”
Hagrid returned two days later, and Luna was one of the many to greet him. Hadrian just felt the anger that he’d been feeling since the groundskeeper’s arrest fade, and he finally relaxed after his OWLs.
Dumbledore also returned, retaking his post as Headmaster with ease. Lucius Malfoy was fired from the Board of Governors, making Malfoy look a little less smug as he strutted about the castle.
The Weasley twins, whom Hadrian had never interacted with before except from through Luna, had both given him a hug and thanked him for saving their baby sister.
Luna had her regular lunch with her Gryffindor friends two days after she and Hadrian went into the Chamber of Secrets, and they were impressed by her adventure.
“Thanks again for saving Ginny,” Fred said, a frown on his face. “I don’t know what would have happened if she died.”
“And we don’t need to know, either,” George added, grimacing.
Lee nodded, then changed the topic by turning to Luna with a grin on his face. “So, how big was the basilisk?”
“About fifty feet long,” she told him, looking absolutely delighted, “and a metre thick. Its teeth were as long of my forearm. They were huge!”
“Merlin!” Lee exclaimed. “That is big. How did you defeat it?”
“Well, Hadrian blinded it and then I took away its sense of smell and then Hadrian ripped its head off,” Luna said. “It got blood all over our robes, though, which was annoying.”
“Hadrian… ripped its head off,” Fred repeated slowly, trying to make sense of it.
George frowned. “With a spell?”
“I thought most spells can’t get through a basilisk’s skin,” Lee said, curious.
“So did he use a… a special spell?” Fred asked.
“I don’t know if I’d call it a ‘special spell’,” Luna mused. “But it was a very unusual spell. Very Dark, too.”
The Gryffindors froze.
“A very Dark spell?” George asked, suddenly wary. “Like…illegal Dark?”
“No, no,” Luna reassured them, and they relaxed a little. “Hadrian just knows a lot about the Dark Arts from his childhood.”
“The childhood you won’t tell us about,” Fred said wryly.
Luna gave a large grin. “Yep, that one.”
Lee shook his head, then changed the topic again. “I heard you got a Special Award for Services to the School.”
She shrugged. “I’m more pleased by the two hundred house points I won.”
George gaped at her. “Two hundred house points? Charlus only got fifty.”
“Charlus didn’t kill a basilisk,” Luna reminded him, a smile on her face. “Charlus was too late to help us.”
The school year came to a close not long after, with the petrified students being woken up the day before the end of year feast.
Slytherin won again, Hadrian’s two hundred points giving them the boost they needed to beat Hufflepuff. Ravenclaw came a close second, but Luna’s points weren’t quite enough to tip them over the edge.
The students piled onto the Hogwarts Express, Hadrian and his friends settling into their usual compartment.
“You have that apprenticeship starting in two days, don’t you Hadrian?” Lucian asked his friend.
Hadrian nodded, a smile on his face. “Yes, it’s for the whole of July, with Perenelle Flamel.”
“You said I could come visit on your day off, right?” Flora said, an excited smile on her face.
“Yes, on the twenty fourth.”
Felix sighed. “It’s going to be odd not having you at my manor for the first month of the holidays,” he said. “At least you’ll be there in August.”
“And I’ll be there this year,” Luna said cheerfully. “I didn’t see any of you for two whole months last summer.”
“It will be nice to see you this year,” Hestia agreed. “But I’ll still be weird to not have Hadrian there. We haven’t been away from him since that week at the beginning of last summer. That’s a whole year.”
“Speaking of not seeing people,” Felix began, a grin on his face, “how’s your girlfriend, Lora?”
“I already told you that Gemma and I didn’t work out,” Flora said, exasperated.
“I thought you were dating?” Lucian said, confused. “That’s what you said originally.”
“First of all, that was over a month ago,” Flora told him. “Things change in a month. We did go on a few dates, but nothing really came of it.”
“Did Malfoy mess things up again?” Barnaby asked quietly, and was surprised when Flora shook her head.
“It was actually her relationships that messed things up a bit,” Flora said, an exasperated tone to her voice. “She kept on talking about her ex.”
“Speaking of exes,” Hestia said, amusement on her face, “I heard that Elora Dunn slapped Felix for not replying to any of her owls.”
Felix groaned. “I don’t tell any of you about these rumours, and then Hestia goes and does it anyway. I’m the people person, not you.”
“But you clearly aren’t telling us all of the rumours,” Hadrian said, his eyes dancing with laughter.
“What happened with her? You kissed her a few times, right?” Flora asked. She always delighted in teasing Felix.
Felix gave a dramatic sigh. “Yeah, and she seemed to think that I’d say yes if she asked me out on a date, despite the fact that I was already with Lucian at that point. I said no, then ignored the messages she sent me. Elora found me a few days ago and I let her slap me.”
“I’m sure,” Flora said. The words were practically dripping with sarcasm.
“I did! I knew she’d stop bothering me if she slapped me, so I let her,” Felix said, his eyes widening defensively.
Lucian laughed, then pulled his boyfriend down for a long kiss on the lips. “You’re ridiculous.”
“Why do you always have to kiss?” Hestia complained, looking away.
Felix pouted at her. “You don’t complain about Hadrian and Luna kissing.” The words were practically a whine.
“Hadrian and Luna,” Hestia told him, “rarely kiss on the lips in front of us, and even when they do it only lasts a second or two. You two are always kissing.”
“They slept together on his bed that time, remember?” Felix said, grinning. “Lucian and I have never got into trouble for something like that.”
“That wasn’t anything inappropriate, and you know it,” Hestia said.
Felix thought for a second. “They shared a bed at that European duel thing that Hadrian won,” he said triumphantly.
Hadrian just rolled his eyes.
Hadrian stayed at Grimmauld Place for the first day of the holidays, before Flooing to the address that Perenelle had given him in France.
When he stepped out of the fireplace in a grand entranceway, Perenelle was reading a book on a nearby armchair. There were odd black lines tattooed on her fingers, catching Hadrian’s eye as she turned a page. She looked up when she heard him.
“Ah, Hadrian. Comment était l’école?”
“L’école était intéressante,” Hadrian replied.
“Excellent French,” Perenelle praised. “Do you speak any other languages?”
“I can speak Gobbledegook and also Parseltongue,” he said.
Perenelle’s face lit up. “You’re a Parselmouth? I haven’t met another for a few years now.”
Hadrian raised an eyebrow. “You’re also a Parselmouth?”
“Yes, don’t the markings give it away?” Perenelle asked, waving her hands towards him. On each finger, there was a thin, black line parallel to the finger.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean,” Hadrian said, looking at the tattoos curiously.
Perenelle frowned. “Didn’t you know? These tattoos show that I’m a Parselmouth. People like us are often seen as evil and therefore persecuted. The tattoos are a way to let others know that you’re like them without having to confess to it.”
“Also they look cool,” Hadrian added in English, a smile forming on his face. “How do I get them?”
Perenelle smiled back at him. “They do look pretty cool,” she agreed. “You can ask anyone to do them; they’re simply normal tattoos, in a certain design.”
Hadrian thought for a moment. “Could you do them, please, ma’am?” he asked, looking at her hopefully.
Perenelle considered it for a second, before nodding. “I wouldn’t normally agree to tattoo a sixteen-year-old, but I think I’ll make an exception,” she said. “Follow me, I’ll show you the lab. It’s where you’ll spend most of your time while you’re here this month.”
Perenelle led him down some stairs to a basement, where there was a large room. Books were haphazardly strewn across the multiple surfaces, papers scattered everywhere. There were scorch marks on the walls, and stains across old, wooden table. Multiple half-empty mugs were forgotten on desks.
Perenelle ignored it all, moving to sit down at a chair, pulling Hadrian’s left hand towards her.
“You sure about this?” she asked, looking up at him. He nodded. “Alright, then.”
She muttered a string of words under her breath, tracing her nail down each of his fingers, black lines a few millimetres thick left in their wake.
It tingled slightly, but didn’t hurt.
Once she was finished with his left hand, she moved on to his right. Hadrian flexed his hand, admiring the tattoos.
“Now any Parselmouth can tell that you’re also one,” Perenelle told him, a smile on her face. “If anyone asks though, it was not me who gave tattoos to a sixteen-year-old.”
Will Charlus get these when he’s old enough? He is a Parselmouth, after all.
“Now that I’ve given you those tattoos, you need to practice your Parseltongue,” she continued. “Practicing increases the speed at which you talk and means you can switch more easily between Parseltongue and another language. So, I’m going to talk to you almost exclusively in Parseltongue.”
“Now, I need to show you where you’re going to sleep, so you can drop your bag off.” Perenelle strode back out of the room.
Hadrian followed her out of the basement and across the entrance hall to a small room with a bed and a chest of drawers. He set his trunk down on top of the drawers.
“You’ll stay here for the whole month, so feel free to spread out your belongings,” she told him.
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Perenelle frowned. “I’d rather you call me Nell. It’s what most people do, especially if you’re staying for a whole month.”
“Then thank you, Nell.”
Nell looked at him for a moment. “Is there a nickname that you go by?” she asked. “I once met a Hadrian who was called Harry.”
Hadrian tensed. “I’d rather not be called that,” he said. A decade and a half of practice let him sound calm and collected. “Almost everyone calls me Hadrian.”
“‘Almost’? What do some people call you?” Nell pushed.
“My teachers call me Mister Potter-Black,” he offered. “And Luna calls me Hadry.”
“Luna was the girl you went to the EDUW with?”
Hadrian smiled softly. “Yes.”
“She was weird. I liked her,” Nell said bluntly. “I like you too,” she added, “because you’re hiding things. And you don’t try to hide that you’re hiding things.”
Hadrian didn’t let his confusion show.
Hadrian’s apprenticeship properly began the next day, when he spent the day testing variations of a spell that Nell was creating.
“The spell I’m creating is supposed to be cast, sending a spell to hit a shield, and congeal there; only on the fourth time of casting will it trigger, shattering the shield,” Nell explained, showing him various runic diagrams. “I need you to test each of these, using the incantation ‘quartum fortuna’.”
Hadrian repeated it a few times in his head, making sure to remember the words.
“The incantation should only have to be said on the first time for all four of them to work. Do you know how to interpret runic patterns?”
“Yes,” Hadrian said as he checked the first diagram. “They show you the wand movement to use.”
“Great. I’ll have a simple protego up, and you can cast it on me,” Nell said, then moved to the other end of the workshop.
Nell cast a wandless protego, then Hadrian incanted, “quartum fortuna,” swishing his wand in the pattern dictated. A spell flew from his wand and hit her shield, but once he had done four, they simply pulsed, then dissipated.
“Oh,” Nell said, frowning. “Well, better try the next one.”
Hadrian spent the rest of the day casting the spell with different patterns, stopping only for a sandwich at lunchtime. Unfortunately, none of them were successful, but Nell had made improvements to the diagrams. She fully expected them to have solved it by the next day.
Hadrian ate dinner with Nell, still talking exclusively in Parseltongue.
“Nicolas will be home in a week,” she hissed to him. “So there’s no reason to talk English until then.”
“Alright,” Hadrian said. “What about spells?”
Nell shrugged. “You have to use the proper incantations for that, and they aren’t English anyway. So it doesn’t count.”
It was on the sixth day of Hadrian’s apprenticeship that he went out into the grounds, to practice a particularly explosive spell with Nell.
“Why are you still wearing a long-sleeved shirt?” Nell asked him, looking curiously at his dark grey shirt. “It’s wasteful to use a Cooling charm constantly.”
Hadrian shrugged. “I prefer having my arms covered.”
“I have some scars I don’t like seeing,” he told her, thinking of the tattooed Azkaban number. It was so different to his new Parselmouth tattoos; every time he saw them, he was reminded that other people shared the same ability as him. That he wasn’t alone.
Every time he saw his Azkaban number, he was flooded by memories from his childhood.
“Why don’t you like seeing them?” Nell asked, her brow furrowed.
Hadrian took a deep breath. “They bring back memories I’d rather forget.”
“I have some scars of my own,” Nell told him seriously, “and I may want to forget the event that caused them, but covering them up doesn’t help. If anything, it makes you more aware of them.”
Hadrian thought about it for a moment. “I’ve only ever shown them to a few people,” he told her. And it was true; only his friends and the Azkaban inmates had seen his Azkaban number. Only Luna and Sirius had seen the scar down his arm from Barty.
“I wouldn’t tell anyone,” Nell said, an honest look on her face. “And sharing always helps. Always.”
Hadrian did, strangely enough, trust the deceptively-old witch despite knowing her for only a short time. So he rolled his sleeves up to his elbows, gazing down at the marks.
Nell stared at the Azkaban tattoo, its blocky numbers reading ‘#1075’, then the end of the thick, jagged scar he was given by Barty’s knife.
“I’ve seen those tattoos before,” she said slowly, “on people imprisoned in that barbaric British prison you have. What’s it called?”
“Azkaban,” Hadrian hissed quietly, pushing down the memories that tried to rise up with the tattoo.
“Were you imprisoned there? You can’t have been, even the British Ministry for Magic wouldn’t expose an underage wizard to those foul Dementors,” Nell said, looking him in the eyes as if daring him to say more.
“I was with my godfather when he was wrongfully imprisoned twelve years ago. I was freed when the mistake was realised five years ago.”
Nell stared at him for a few seconds, utter horror in her eyes. “They let a four year near Dementors?” she whispered. The English was jarring to him after almost a week of solid Parseltongue.
Hadrian simply nodded in response.
Nell closed her eyes, taking a few deep breaths before looking at his other arm. “What’s this one from?”
“I was in the same block as some Death Eaters, who taught me most of the time. However, they sometimes had bad days, when they attacked me. Bartemius Crouch Junior was one such Death Eater, who snuck a knife a few months before he died. He cut me from my wrist to my shoulder,” Hadrian said. He kept his voice even and spared some of the gory details from the story.
Like how he tried to struggle, but it only made it worse. Like how Barty let me run back to my cell crying, a grin on his face. Like how Sirius had to scream for the guards because the bleeding wouldn’t stop. Like how they only had dirty bandages to bind it with, because the Ministry doesn’t care about the inmates of Azkaban.
“And the guards let this happen?” Nell asked, quiet fury in her eyes.
Hadrian violently shook his head; the idea was nearly repulsive to him. “There were only four guards for the whole island, as the Dementors are seen as the ‘proper’ guards. As soon as they heard what had happened, they did what they could to help.”
Nell looked at him, her fingertip hovering just over the thick scar, white with time.
“Leave your sleeves rolled up,” she said eventually said. “It’s good to get used to your scars, and the painful memories.”
Nicolas Flamel arrived home the day after, his arrival announced when he cheerfully bustled into Nell’s lab.
“Hello, my beautiful wife,” he exclaimed, pulling her into a deep kiss. Hadrian averted his eyes a little awkwardly; it was one thing to see his friends kiss, and an entirely different thing to see two adults he respected. “And you, my wife’s apprentice. Hadrian Potter-Black, the impressive one.”
“Yes, sir,” Hadrian replied, the English fitting awkwardly in his mouth after continuous use of Parseltongue.
“Oh, call me Nick. I’m too old to bother with all those niceties,” the man said. “I trust Nell isn’t working you too hard?”
“No, it’s been great,” Hadrian said with a small smile. He’d learnt so much in the last week.
Nell flicked her husband on the forehead. “You can’t come in here and occupy my apprentice yet, wait until dinner to ask him all the questions.”
“Alright, alright,” Nick replied, his face amused as he backed out.
Five minutes later, he returned.
“What do you want this time?” Nell asked, looking up from a book she had written on Dark shield magic.
“It’s dinner time,” Nick told her, pointing to the large clock on the wall, a grin on his face.
Nell squinted at it suspiciously, then checked her watch. “Oh.” She turned to Hadrian. “We’d better go to the dining room.”