As a special treat, I'm finally making Empathy a story as a special birthday present to my fans, instead of the other way around. Oh, and just to clarify, the ending scene in this chapter is where they started the TV show off. With Walter getting arrested for hacking NASA.
Petunia Dursley nee Evans was at a crossroads, not that she knew it yet.
She had just been informed her sister was dead and she now had the sole custody of her sister's son, Hadrian. There was no way she could reasonably handle raising the brat along with her own son. And Vernon wouldn't hear of raising a wizard...he barely tolerated the mere mention of Lily.
Which left her at a standstill. Until her eyes fell on the bi-decade invitation to the family reunion. It had already passed, but an idea formed.
Surely one of her many Irish cousins could take the boy in? It wasn't that much trouble to arrange bringing Hadrian to the reunion and leaving him, and no one would think twice about him being there.
Plan in mind, she waited to tell Vernon. Just in case They were watching the house.
And they were watching.
Petunia had dismissed Arabella Figg at first, thinking nothing of a new neighbor.
Then she noticed something odd. Something that raised all forms of alarms in her mind.
Arabella Figg was unemployed. She was at home all day, had no husband and far too many cats. And she seemed too interested in the activity in Petunia's house.
She kept the fact her nephew was there, mostly making sure that when she took Dudley out, Harry had a cap on to hide that horrible scar on his forehead.
Petunia attempted to oust Figg from their neighborhood once she slowly began to realize the woman might be a witch, but to no avail. Her plan to hand her nephew over to one of her cousins now had an immediate urgency.
Thankfully she was finally able to locate one part of the family willing to take the boy in, no questions asked.
The O'Brien family had a daughter and a son who was about Hadrian's age. Walter and Megan.
Petunia couldn't hide her relief when the family reunion came up. Vernon waved off bringing Dudley, agreeing to watch their son for a few days while Petunia left Hadrian with the O'Brien family at the reunion. She would come home late, so no one would realize Hadrian wasn't there for a few days.
More than enough time for the adoption to go through, once the appropriate bribes were made.
It would be a closed adoption, meaning the magical idiots wouldn't be able to view the files without alerting Petunia.
Hadrian looked around with wide eyes at his family. They weren't like his Uncle, who hated him for something he had no idea about.
His aunt was decidedly neutral about the whole thing. She knew it was just a matter of time before the reunion, and she made it clear she was passing him on to a family that had no idea of his... abilities. She couldn't handle having him in the house, and Vernon definitely didn't want him around Dudley.
This was the best of a bad situation.
"I see you brought Hadrian with you," said Rose O'Brien Beside her was Walter, who was hanging close to his sister.
"Hadrian, this is Rose and her two children. Walter and Megan."
Walter timidly said hello, while Megan clearly wanted to hug her cousin. He was too cute!
Petunia and Rose watched the children interact. Petunia felt a ball of worry uncurl in her stomach, mostly at the relief that there was a very real possibility of leaving Hadrian and knowing he was safe with a much more tolerant family.
Rose's husband was a bit old fashioned, and not very quick to accept strange things...but he wouldn't take it out on the child like Vernon would. Not without cause.
When the reunion wound down, Petunia handed the O'Brien a few papers that signed over legal custody of Hadrian to them. She walked off with a final goodbye to the boy...she owed him that much, but she left the matter of his living arrangements out of mind.
She arrived home around midnight two days later, and it would take almost two full weeks before someone took note Hadrian might be missing.
It took a month before Figg revealed herself as a spy from the senile bastard who took her sister away and got her killed.
Petunia would feel vindictive pleasure knowing that Hadrian was safely away in a country she knew the old goat had no jurisdiction in. Lily had once commented how there were competing schools in Ireland and Scotland, and how weird it was learning magic in a Scottish castle while they claimed to be British.
She could only hope this Irish school snapped up Hadrian before the man could send the familiar letter at eleven. It would serve him right for just dumping Hadrian in a home he should have known the boy wouldn't be welcomed in. AND he never paid them the extra money they would need to raise two children!
Four years later...
The O'Brien parents weren't entirely shocked when the school came calling. If anything, they were just surprised it had been Le Fay's who found him first.
Adrian O'Brien was a wizard. Not only that, but the British were scrambling like mad trying to find where here his "muggle" aunt had misplaced him. Because of the tensions between the Irish and the English, the British had been unable to enter the country.
Mostly because the boy in question had been given a new name and was registered as "Adrian O'Brien", rather than Hadrian "Harry" Potter with the magical and mundane consulate.
The O'Brien were a family of squibs...mostly. Walter had shown some signs of magic, but it was limited. And Megan's core had been twisted, so she couldn't use it. And they couldn't afford the expensive treatment to fix it.
Without any evidence the Potter boy was in Ireland, they had passed it over entirely.
"Mr. O'Brien? I'm from the Le Fay School..."
"For Adrian," he interrupted.
"Yes. And possibly Walter, if he's willing to put in the effort."
"Aye, he'll put in the effort when he realizes Adrian is going."
Adrian and Walter were as close as real brothers, though he was closest to Megan for some reason.
Adrian seemed to gravitate to the happy, slightly protective girl, but when there were too many people he always stuck close to Walter, despite the fact that the boy had very little ability to properly emphasize with others, and didn't seem to realize that he offended people with his blunt attitude.
"When will the boys be home?"
"In a few hours."
Adrian and Walter were wide-eyed learning they had magic. Then again, strange things always happened around Adrian.
"Come along lads, we'll have ye home for supper soon enough. Then you can pick which courses ye will be taking at the school," said Mr. Collin.
"What sort of school is Le Fay?" asked Adrian.
"It's a school for magic, the best school. Then again they all claim that, particularly those tossers in Scotland. Don't let the hype about Hogwarts fool you...it's full of stupidity and bullies."
Adrian scowled. The last time they had a bully, it was a teacher who picked on Walter for being the smartest kid in class. The last time he had went to 'punish' Walter because he didn't define his parameters, Adrian had melted the rubber on his shoes into the stone and they had to cut him out. Never mind that Megan pulled the alarm to get Walter out...they shouldn't have had to do it in the first place.
"How bad is it?"
"Well for starters, Hogwarts strictly a boarding school. Your parents are arranging a part time lesson course, so you can take lessons at night and still attend your mundane courses. While Hogwarts claims to be one of the top ten schools in Europe, it's actually closer to the forty-eighth school and that's pushing it. And the less said about the house rivalries, the better. It's mostly a school for the older families to dump their children to get something close to an education, than it is for teaching the New Bloods about their magic. And it doesn't help that the older, established lines think of the New Bloods as rude, so they tend to push them away. More New Bloods have left the British Magical society in favor of getting the education they were denied on the mundane side than any other country. They also have an unpleasant habit of belittling them with made up words."
"What kind of words?" said Walter.
"They call New Bloods 'muggleborns' and mundanes such as a good portion of your classmates 'muggles'. Anyone who isn't from a fully established line or has only one magical parent is a 'Half-blood', while those from two established lines are considered 'pure bloods'. It's a lot of codswallop to us, but they put far too much stock in magical breeding over magical proficiency."
Walter made a face. It sounded ridiculous to him.
"Now you see why we've been accepting children under eleven. The sooner we snatch them up, the less chance they have falling into the same rut as those poor students of Hogwarts."
"How will we get home every day though?" asked Adrian.
"One of the first things we teach you is how to traverse the old paths and make minor bargains with the Small Folk. The British have more or less enslaved theirs, so the pathways have become unused for centuries, but we would never be so foolish as to force the Small Folk to work as our servants."
"They're real?" said Walter in shock. He had never put much stock in the stories of leprechauns and fairies. That was all Megan and Adrian.
"Aye lad, and here's the best word of advice for ye...never accept gold from a leprechaun. It always vanishes. Speaking of gold...this here is the bank. We need to confirm your parents have an active account, since your sister was unable to attend."
Adrian scowled. He could sense something was wrong with Megan, but he had no idea how to fix it. He hated that.
"You first Walter, then your brother."
Walter walked up, held out his hand on instruction, and dropped three drops of blood onto the odd quill.
"Confirmed. Wait over there for your guide and we'll begin the process in a moment," said the wizard.
The British trusted their gold to goblins. The Irish knew better than to trust any of the Fair Folk, so they hired muggleborns who understood math and weren't inclined to be nice to the idiot Englishmen.
Adrian was next. Five seconds later, the man frowned a bit.
"Excuse me, we'll have to bring in the branch manager for this."
"Is there a problem?"
"He has multiple active accounts, most under the control of the English...and the goblins. We'll need official authorization and some decent fast talkers to access the accounts without having to go through the Ministry," he replied.
Adrian was confused, but he already knew he was adopted. He remembered the woman who left him with his new family and her awful husband and son.
It took two hours, an extended stay with the inheritance office and having to deal with an unhappy goblin from the Unseelie court...but eventually they were able to circumvent whoever it was that was currently in charge of the account until Adrian turned eleven.
The only catch was he couldn't access more than five hundred gold, two hundred and fifty silver and a hundred copper coins before his eleventh birthday, which was the traditional age for the English to send their children off to Hogwarts. But that was okay, because most of the school supplies for the brothers would be paid for with the all the copper and fifty silver coins, with some left over. The rest was spending money to be refilled on his birthday.
However...that didn't mean he couldn't transfer the coins to another account.
The cost for the treatment required to fix Megan's core was a hundred gold, too high for a small family like the O'Brien's to afford since it required multiple visits and twenty-five gold coins for each visit.
Adrian transferred all the gold coins he had available to the O'Brien account, and Megan would hopefully begin treatment within the year and attend classes with them.
Two years later...
There were two owls watching the house.
When the children returned home from school, the owls flew down to the fence and waited.
"Da! There are owls outside!" shouted Megan.
"Bring them in," said Rose.
Five minutes later, they went from confused to irritated. Adrian was already attending a magical school of his choosing, so he should have been automatically removed from the roster of Hogwarts. And they got his name wrong.
The magical adoption had clearly made him an O'Brien, not a Potter.
The other was, much to the shock and relief, for Megan.
"But you said you'd come to our school," said Adrian.
Megan patted her brother on the head.
"We both know I was rejected twice because of the fact my core is still unstable. Besides, it might be interesting!"
It had come as a shock learning Adrian was an Empath. It was why he gravitated to Megan so much...she was rather bubbly and upbeat and completely honest in her intentions. It was also why he used Walter more or less as a shield when the ability became too much for him to handle.
Walter, as it turned out, had an extremely low EQ rating. It meant he had trouble processing emotions normally...but to make up for it, his IQ was extremely high.
When Adrian's empathy had been explained to him, and why it was likely he would gravitate to people with low EQ since they would impact him the least. He focused on Walter's feelings because it provided a barrier to everyone else.
It also meant that he would always have trouble focusing or handling being around a lot of unfamiliar people, especially when emotions were high. Hospitals were anathema to him, crowds would slowly drive him into a corner, and funerals would drain him of all energy. So long as he could focus on one person with his complete attention, he could use them as a barrier to everyone else.
As a consequence, he would generally be eager to please around that person, to make sure they didn't leave him alone.
Empathy was a blessing...and oftentimes a curse.
"Well I for one don't want to go some Scottish school. I like being with Walter, and they never sent him a letter," said Adrian flatly, throwing his into the fireplace where it burned merrily.
He frowned at the way it changed colors.
"Da, I think that had some spells on it," said Adrian.
Megan frowned, before she tossed her own parchment into the fire. It didn't change the colors.
"I think he's right," said Walter.
He scowled. Someone had tried to bewitch Adrian with a letter.
"Adrian, I think you and Walter should stay overnight at the school for a few days. Megan, we'll see about getting some tutors once we have a list of courses you can learn with your core as it is," said Rose.
"Alright Ma," said Adrian. Obviously they wanted the children out of the house for a few days while the consulate cleared up this mess. Especially since they learned Adrian was an empath. He didn't do well when tensions and emotions ran high.
They returned almost a week later. Rose seemed furious about something, but refused to tell them anything.
All they were told was that the British had tried to get above themselves and pull rank, but it failed miserably because the man who represented the magical consulate had been there.
Rose was primarily angry because of how rude the man had been towards them.
"It's nothing dear," she said, cooling her anger. Poor Adrian had to be born an empath. "Just some rude Englishmen who think their blood is all it takes to get what they want."
"Oh. So we're still going to Le Fay's?"
"You'll not be rid of us that quick, Adrian," said Rose with a laugh.
Two months later...
"What. Did. You. Do. Walter?" said Adrian hissing.
"I just wanted the blueprints for our wall," said Walter sheepishly, as the document finished printing out. Just in time to hear the men break down the door, scaring their mother and Megan.
Walter had begun learning how to code computers at school, and Adrian had dutifully learned with him. He had thought nothing of it when he saw the oddly complicated script, since the teachers liked challenging them.
At least until he realized Walter had hacked into something he shouldn't with Adrian's help.
"If we get arrested for this, I'm blaming you," said Adrian. Walter grinned back at him sheepishly.
When the men broke into their room, Adrian was quick to say "Walter's an idiot, but please don't shoot him!"
"It's just a couple of kids..." said one soldier in disbelief.
Adrian shot Walter a look, and he had an embarrassed expression on his face.
"We're so grounded for this," muttered Adrian.