Hadrian followed the Flamels to the dining room, which was on the ground floor near to his bedroom.
There was only a small table, possible of seating six people at most. Nick sat beside Hadrian on one side, Nell on the other. House elves appeared a moment later, bringing plates of fish and chips.
“I’ve been in England, so I got takeaway,” Nick said to Hadrian. “I figured you’d be missing it.”
“I think I’ve only actually eaten fish and chips once,” Hadrian said, slightly confused. “At a friend’s house. It turned out another friend of mine hated it, so we didn’t have it again.”
Nick and Nell both looked at Hadrian in horror, their eyes wide. That was another odd thing about Nell: how expressive she was. Hadrian was used to people who said one thing and meant another, or who tried to tie you up in word games even as you laid your own trap around them.
That was his only experience of people for the entirety of his childhood.
“You’ve only had fish and chips once?” Nell was aghast. “Well, you have to eat it now. Fish and chips are delicious. You’re British! This is appalling.”
“Now, down to questions, Hadrian,” Nick said, having wolfed down his food already. “How old are you?”
“I’m sixteen,” Hadrian answered.
“So you did your OWLs a month or so ago?”
“Yes,” Hadrian said. “They were a few weeks after the EDUW.”
“I notice you’re wearing your trophy still,” Nick said, gesturing to the small silver sphere on a string around Hadrian’s neck. Hadrian brushed his hand against it, the orb unfamiliar compared to his bone wand. “What’s the other pendant?”
Hadrian tensed minutely. “It’s a… talisman from my childhood,” he said.
“I only ask because I can see the runes for shrinking, which implies there’s more to it than seems,” Nick said, looking at it curiously.
“I… carved those runes in, so I could carry it around inconspicuously,” Hadrian admitted. “It’s actually a wand I made when I was young.”
Nick’s eyebrows shot up. “Can I see it?” he asked. Hadrian considered it for a moment, before shaking his head.
“I’m sorry, it’s something…” Hadrian trailed off, unable to express his reasons.
“No, I get it. A wand can be a dangerous thing to give to someone else,” Nick waved off. “May I ask what you made it off?”
Hadrian paused, unsure whether his answer would ruin the cheerful atmosphere. “Human bone and Dementor cloak. And some of my own blood,” he said, pulling the wand in question off the necklace and expanding it.
Nick stared at him in shock, while Nell had a sad expression on her face. “Why were you near Dementors?” the ancient wizard asked. “And a human skeleton?”
Nick had clearly figured something out, but didn’t say anything, just moving onto his next question. “When did you get those Parselmouth tattoos? I don’t remember you having them last time we met.”
Hadrian flexed his fingers, looking at the thin lines on his fingers. “Nell gave them to me a week ago.”
“Nell, you shouldn’t tattoo children,” Nick said. There was an exasperated tone to his voice now, and it sounded, oddly enough, like they’d had this conversation before.
Nell frowned at him. “He’d never heard about it before and he’s a Parselmouth. It’s my responsibility to the educate him, and he specifically asked for the tattoos.”
Nick frowned back at his wife. “Fine, I’ll move on to the next question.” He turned back to Hadrian. “Are you related to Charlus Potter, the boy-who-lived in Britain?”
Hadrian straightened. “Yes, he’s my brother,” he said, keeping his voice bland as his instincts whispered to not show weakness.
“Then are you Hadrian Potter-Black, the boy who was said to be dead for seven years?” Nick asked.
Nick tilted his head. “I read an article about your grave recently. Was the message your work?” he asked, the corners of his mouth curling up into a smile.
“It was,” Hadrian said, a small smile on his face. “I… don’t get along with my parents.”
Nick let out a snort of laughter. “I figured that.”
Hadrian fell back into his routine with Nell, spending the day in the workshop or on the manor’s grounds before dining with her and her husband.
He learned many new Dark spells, and was also involved in the creation of a few.
True to Nell’s word, he was becoming more comfortable with his Azkaban tattoo, and the long scar on his other arm, but he still winced sometimes when he caught it out of the corner of his eye and old memories reared their ugly head.
And then, three and a half weeks into the apprenticeship, Flora visited for a day and stayed the night.
She cheerfully bounced through the Floo in the morning, her short-sleeved shirt and shorts much more appropriate for the hot weather than Hadrian’s dark trousers and shirt – but at least he had rolled his sleeves up.
“Hadrian!” Flora exclaimed as she wrapped him in a hug and then looked him over. “I’ve never seen your forearms before,” she commented, investigating his thick, white scar. “But your scar isn’t as impressive as mine are.”
Hadrian laughed. “You haven’t seen all my scars yet.”
At that moment, Nell strode over from the staircase, where she’d been letting her apprentice have a more private greeting with his friend.
“Hi, I’m Perenelle Flamel,” she greeted, sticking her hand out.
Flora grinned at her, shaking the witch’s hand vigorously. “I know, Hadrian’s a huge fan of your work. I’m Flora Carrow.”
“Those are quite some scars you’ve got,” Nell said, gesturing to the swirling red lines visible on Flora’s arms and legs.
“Thank you so much!” Flora said. “I got them trying to steal your stone.”
“Oh my,” Nell gasped. “What wards did Albus put up?”
“We have no idea,” Hadrian said.
Flora looked at her revealed skin again, smiling. “They’re awesome scars, though.”
Hadrian rolled his eyes; Flora punched his arm.
“It’s lovely to meet you, Flora,” Nell said, grinning.
“You too, Lady Flamel.”
“Please, call me Nell. Everyone I know does,” Nell told her.
“Okay,” Flora said, then turned to Hadrian. “When did you get new tattoos?” she asked, picking up his hand. “They’re identical to Nell’s.”
“They show that we’re both Parselmouths,” Nell said.
“Felix is going to mock you for having secret society tattoos, you know,” Flora said, grinning at her friend.
Hadrian rolled his eyes again. “Felix mocks everyone.”
“He’s finally getting past mocking me about Malfoy, though. He has to find somewhere to release all of his teasing, or he’ll explode,” Flora countered, her dark red eyes dancing with laughter.
“Who is this Felix?” Nell asked, a curious expression on her face.
Flora grinned. “Felix Rosier, he’s a friend of ours.”
“Is he the son of Julian Rosier, the accused Death Eater who fled to France?” Nell asked. “I’ve met his father and that man is obnoxious.”
“Yes, but Felix hasn’t seen his father since he was young,” Hadrian said. “He doesn’t talk about him much.”
“Lady Rosier is quite different to her husband,” Flora added, “so he wasn’t raised like a Rosier, despite being the heir.”
“Yes,” Nell said, frowning. “The Rosiers don’t have a great track record, do they? Julian Rosier fled the country to avoid imprisonment. Evan Rosier was killed trying to resist arrest. Druella Rosier was the proud mother of Bellatrix Black. Their father was one of the first Death Eaters. I’m glad that their family is finally returning to their former glory.”
“Did they use to be an important house?” Hadrian asked, a little curious. Felix so rarely discussed his father’s side of family, and when he did it was mostly to complain.
Nell smiled, a reminiscent look on her face. “Oh, yes. They used to be great. My best friend growing up was a Rosier, but she died a long time ago. They’ve slowly turned to prejudice over the centuries, joining Grindelwald and then, later, Voldemort.” She turned to the teenagers. “You’re both part of families in that Sacred Twenty-Eight document, aren’t you? Just like your Rosier friend.”
“Yes,” Hadrian confirmed, looking down at his Black Lordship ring. Flora also nodded, her own Carrow heirship ring glinting on her finger.
“Don’t put too much stock in it,” Nell told them. “It was written by a biased fool, and is exclusively written about Britain.”
Flora sighed. “It’s my parents who care about it,” she grumbled, thinking of her marriage contract.
Hadrian spent the day with Flora, lounging around the grounds and then they ate dinner with Nell and Nick.
“So, Nell tells me you got those curse scars from some wards Albus placed around the stone,” Nick said, gesturing towards Flora’s bare arms and legs.
“Yes, I did,” Flora said. “They didn’t really hurt or anything, they just look cool.”
“You almost died,” Hadrian disagreed, a sharp edge emerging in his voice.
Nell exchanged an unreadable look with Nick. “We didn’t expect Albus to do anything like that,” Nell said, disapproval in her voice.
“I like my scars,” Flora shrugged. “They’re cool.”
Hadrian rolled his eyes. “Lora is a fan of them,” he assured the Flamels.
“Anyway, what do you want to do when you’re older, Flora?” Nell asked, changing the topic.
Flora shrugged. “I like learning about wand lore, but I don’t know if I want to actually do it as a job. I’ll probably do something to do with potions.”
“Oh, do you have an interest in them?” Nick asked.
Flora nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, I brew every day. I’ve been reading a book I found from the tenth century recently, and it’s absolutely fascinating.”
“Where did you get one of those?” Nick had an interested look on his face. “I’ve got one or two, but I’ve kept them for a few centuries. I assume it’s a family book?”
“It’s actually not,” Flora said. “I picked it up when Hadrian and I went into the Chamber of Secrets.”
Nell’s eyebrows shot up, and she leant forward with a new interest. “You found the Chamber of Secrets?”
“Yes,” Hadrian replied. “Hogwarts had some problems with the heir of Slytherin and the basilisk inside last year.”
“Oh, I heard about that,” Nick said.
Nell ignored her husband. “Where is it? Salazar Slytherin was one of the greatest Parselmouths of all time, and the Chamber of Secrets is said to contain his entire work on the subject. He invented the tattoos we both bear, and showed that a Parselmouth can be more than just that.”
“Didn’t he want to kill all muggleborns?” Hadrian asked, raising an eyebrow.
“It was more complicated than that,” Nell said. “He did want to remove muggleborns from Hogwarts, yes. But you have to remember that he lived in a time when muggles were persecuting witches; historical texts often say that his sister was killed by muggles because she was a witch. Some historians believe that he was afraid muggles would attack the school if they let muggleborns in.”
“I thought he created the Chamber of Secrets to kill muggleborns,” Flora said, but her face was more curious than doubtful.
Nell shook her head. “History changes with perspective and time. A descendant of his later said that Salazar Slytherin wanted them to kill the muggleborns using the monster, but if that’s the case, why didn’t Slytherin do it himself? He was definitely prejudiced against muggleborns, I can’t deny that. But events must always be put into context. We should not celebrate his prejudiced views, and should also take everything he did with a pinch of salt. But we can – and should – respect his other work.”
“That’s interesting,” Hadrian said thoughtfully. “I did wonder why Slytherin put a library in the Chamber if it was only intended to house the basilisk.”
“Would you be able to show it to me?” Nell asked. “It’s supposed to contain so much forgotten Parseltongue knowledge.”
Hadrian considered things for a second. “You could ask Dumbledore to visit on a weekend, and I could show you to it,” he said.
Nell nodded, excitement on her face. “I’ll write a letter at once!”
Flora slept on a conjured bed in Hadrian’s small room that night, but when they woke up the next morning, there was a surprise in the newspaper.
“‘Escape from Azkaban’,” Flora read aloud, frowning. “Hadrian, I think… I think Sirius has escaped from Azkaban.”
Hadrian froze on his bed, his mind whirring.
Why didn’t he tell me?
I need to find him as soon as I get back to England.
I need to write to Remus.
Hadrian pulled a piece of parchment out of his chest of drawers, grabbing the first quill he could find.
‘Have you seen the paper? If you see him, tell him he’s an idiot. I’ll be at Rosier manor from the first - HPB’
He whistled for Hedwig, and the owl flew over from her perch to let Hadrian attach the scribbled note to her leg before she took off.
The last week or so of the apprenticeship flew by after that. Hadrian said a long farewell to Nell and Nick on the last day, before taking the Floo to Felix’s manor in the evening.
“Hadrian!” Felix exclaimed as he walked into the living room they normally used. “How was the apprenticeship?”
“It was fascinating,” Hadrian said, letting himself fall onto the sofa next to Luna. He brushed a kiss to her forehead as she shifted position to curl up around him with her head on his shoulder. “I learnt a lot of magic, and even helped to create some new spells.”
“I see you’ve got some tattoos,” Hestia said, gesturing to his hands.
Hadrian smiled, looking at his fingers. “Yes.”
“Is that a new scar?” Lucian asked, pointing at the thick scar made visible by Hadrian’s rolled up sleeves. “I don’t think I’ve seen it before.”
“No… no, I’ve had this since I was five,” Hadrian said, wincing. “I just… normally keep it covered up.”
Luna’s hand came to rest on the scar, rubbing his forearm gently.
“Have you seen the newspapers, Hadrian?” Barnaby asked, worry in his voice. “They’re looking everywhere for Sirius.”
“I know,” Hadrian replied. “He’s an idiot. He could have written to me, at least.”
Luna frowned. “He didn’t tell you he was going to escape?”
Hadrian shook his head.
August went by quickly, and soon enough it was September 1st, and the group of Slytherins (and Luna) arrived at platform 9¾ to board the Hogwarts Express. They quickly found their normal compartment, throwing their trunks onto the luggage rack before settling into their seats.
“I swear we arrive earlier every year,” Felix moaned, spreading his long limbs out.
Flora made a face at him. “It’s the exact same time as last year.”
“It’s still too early.” Felix made a face back at her.
The train left an hour later, the whistle blowing faintly.
“I heard dearest Malfoy’s daddy got kicked off the Board of Governors,” Felix said suddenly, grinning. “Due to blackmail and bribery.”
“Bellatrix Lestrange says that he’s not normally found guilty of his crimes,” Hadrian said. “I’d be surprised if that rumour were true.”
“Bellatrix Lestrange hasn’t met Lord Malfoy in twelve years,” Hestia pointed out.
“She’s also insane,” Flora added bluntly. “Besides, Malfoy still has the Minister’s ear.”
Luna sprang to her feet suddenly, her eyes gleaming wide and unfocused. “Wrap up warm,” she said in a dreamy voice – much dreamier than when she was playing it up for divination.
She collapsed like a puppet with her strings cut, and Hadrian leapt up to catch her, laying her down on the seats, her head in his lap.
“Luna?” he asked, worry in his voice.
Luna blinked, her pale silver eyes coming back into focus. “What happened?” she asked, sitting up and beginning to shiver.
“Do you not remember?” Hestia asked, pulling her coat off and throwing it to Hadrian, who wrapped it around the fifth-year.
“You stood up and said ‘wrap up warm’, then collapsed,” Lucian told her. “Your eyes went really unfocused too.”
“Oh,” Luna said, frowning. “I don’t think that’s happened before.”
Hadrian pulled her into a hug, his body warm. “We can ask Madam Pomfrey when we get to school.”
Little else happened for the next hour, Hadrian watching Luna carefully to make sure she was alright.
Then he felt it.
“No,” Hadrian said, the tinge of familiar – too familiar – cold at the edge of his conscience. “No, no, no.”
“What is it, Hadrian?” Flora asked, moving to brush his arm. He pulled away as if burnt, backing up into the corner of the compartment.
Flora exchanged a look with Luna, then Felix. “Hadrian, I need you to tell me what’s wrong,” she said, even as she took a step back to give him space.
“No, no, n-no,” Hadrian moaned, burying his face in his hands, his legs cradled against his chest.
Frost began to grow on the glass, spider-webbing unnaturally quickly. Hestia looked at it, her eyes narrowing.
“‘Wrap up warm’,” she murmured softly. No one heard her, everyone else focused on the panicking Hadrian.
They said I’d be safe here. They said I’d left for good. They said I’d gone.
Whispers of memories began to pool in Hadrian’s mind, memories he’d spent five years trying to forget.
They said I’d be safe here, he repeated in his mind like a mantra that would make everything stay as it was. They said I’d be safe here.
Flora began to shiver then, the cold beginning to affect her. She turned to Luna. “Do you know what this is?”
Luna silently shook her head, shifting closer to Hadrian.
“Can you see something through the window?” Lucian asked, standing to peer through the frosted glass. “I think there’s something out there.”
“D-d-dementors,” Hadrian murmured. He could only faintly hear his friends’ voices behind the crashing in his head. “The Dementors are here.”
“What?” Barnaby asked. He was the only one who heard Hadrian. “Guys, Hadrian just said that there are Dementors.”
Hestia leapt to her feet, casting, “expecto patronum,” but there was only a sliver of silver mist from her wand. “Shit,” she swore. “I can already feel their effects, it’s stopping me from casting the spell.”
A bony hand pressed against the door, sliding it open. A creature in a black coat.
Bella pinned him down as her nails tore through his skin.
“I’m going to rip your heart out, little Harry,” she whispered. “Rip it out and give it to my Darkest Lord, wrapped up all pretty.”
Rodolphus grinned savagely, his fists hitting Hadrian’s chest. They seemed to light up, glowing purple.
“Harry Potter,” he snarled. “Filthy half-blood, thinking he could come into my cell.”
Antoin’s teeth were bared, his hands gripping the bars of his cell- of his cage.
“Come a little closer, Potter,” he spat. “So I can tear your traitorous tongue out.”
Barty was on him before he could blink, silver flashing as the blade sliced through skin like it was paper.
“Do you bleed black, like me?” the man sang. “Or red like your mudblood mother and blood-traitor father?”
Hadrian screamed, the feel of the Dementor’s bony fingers on his cheek. All he could see was the cold stone walls of Azkaban.
They said I’d be safe here.