Chapter 12: Two Letters and a Confession

The letter came in the early morning. Delivered by a tawny owl with a second letter bundled together on its leg. The owl landed in front of Edric and presented its leg. Edric finished his sip of tea before taking both letters. After a moment the owl snatched a piece of Edric's sausage and flew off. Hopefully back to wherever it had come from. The first letter was addressed with the official Hogwarts seal and was exactly what everyone seated at the table was expecting. Edric passed it over to Lepus without a word.

Hadrian watched, half holding his breath as he watched Lepus break the shiny Hogwarts seal on the front.

"It's my letter.' Lepus whispered. He was staring at it reverently, hardly daring to believe that he was holding the very invitation that would have changed his life had he received it a year ago.

Lepus read it quickly, the again, hoping that this was real and not a cruel joke like the Braxton's had played on him years ago.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Mr. Lestrange-Black

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than August 4th (Due to Extenuating Circumstances)

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

UNIFORM

First-year students will require:

1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)

2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear

3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)

4. One winter cloak (black, with silver fastenings)

Please note that all pupil's clothes should carry name tags.

COURSE BOOKS

All students should have a copy of each of the following:

The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1)

byMiranda Goshawk

A History of Magic

byBathilda Bagshot

Magical Theory

byAdalbert Waffling

A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration

byEmeric Switch

One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi

by Phyllida Spore

Magical Drafts and Potions

by Arsenius Jigger

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

by Newt Scamander

The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection

by Quentin Trimble

OTHER EQUIPMENT

1 wand

1 Cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)

1 set glass or crystal phials

1 telescope

1 set brass scales

Students may also bring, if they desire, an owl OR a cat OR a toad.

PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS

ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICK

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

"This is real?" He asked. Edric nodded with a soft smile. Indeed, it was real.

"Lord Malfoy confirmed it with me last night. Part of that was why I gave you the portkey, you are going to need every advantage you can get." Edric's wink belayed the seriousness of the comment. Neither boy was particularly reassured though.

Hadrian noticed that Edric didn't open the second letter, simply shrunk it down and placed it in his pocket. Edric had been getting lots of letters recently, all of them unopened when he was in public or near Hadrian. Perhaps that was what gave him the idea that the letters were about him, and moreso gave him the idea to find out what they said.

"We must go to get your school supplies and I daresay you boys would like a day on the town." Hadrian had actually been to Diagon Alley only twice before, the first two times being within a few weeks of Edric adopting him, one to Gringotts to seal the guardianship, the second to buy him clothes that were 'befitting of a young Lord'. Both times had been rushed and rather uninspiring as far as Hadrian was concerned.

"I've never been to Diagon. The Braxtons never felt the need, considering I wasn't going to Hogwarts." Hadrian decided then and there that Lepus would not have his day ruined by mysterious letters and Hadrian's dislike for the small Alley where the majority of Magical Britain did their shopping.

"We won't be going to Diagon Lepus. Too many people likely looking for us" by 'us' he meant Hadrian and they all knew it, "besides… I know somewhere better."

A glance in his half-brother's direction revealed how upset Lepus was about not getting to see the small place that had been all but forbidden to him since his placement with the Braxton Family. Hadrian made a mental note to make that families life just a little bit more difficult.

"Well we have to go to Gringotts so that we can make our withdrawls. I'm sure Edric wouldn't mind us having a look around for a moment or two after. Besides, I have business at Flourish and Blotts."

"You have business?" Lepus gave him that incredulous look, one he had been perfecting for the majority of the year. Most often it was used when Hadrian said something that made him sound old. Or rather proper.

An exaggerated sniff and a snapped "yes" had Lepus giggling beside him, Hadrian counted that as a success (especially after a rather hard look down his nose at Edric, mentally daring him to challenge his decision).

"Very well. I suppose that couldn't hurt. Especially when we have such important… business… to take care of. Although why you would want to do your school shopping in Diagon, especially when practically the entirety of Great Britain is there I don't know." Edric grumbled. Hadrian wasn't fool enough to think he'd outsmarted the man at all, he'd simply gotten the better of him in a moment of weakness. An oversight that wouldn't likely happen again. He had been getting better at manipulating situations to his favour. Giving orders masked as suggestions, making people think they had come up with certain idea's. It was a trick he had learned from watching Narcissa in their deportment lessons. She wielded her femininity like a sword and wasn't afraid to attack. She had used this 'technique' against Edric frequently, often to the detriment of Hadrian's down-time. Narcissa hadn't been around as often, telling him he was learning quickly and would be ready for an official "exam" by the end of the year.

"Narcissa tells me you've been progressing well Hadrian." Speak of the devil – or think of her in this case.

"Yes. She mentioned an exam. I was wondering if there will be a party I must be in attendance for, not Lucius as my proxy."

"Not one that I am aware of. Though Narcissa has been known to throw a party at the very last minute. She catches you at the one weekend you want to have off. I expect she'll be throwing a party for Draco's going away to Hogwarts. It'll be his first year."

"I think I might like to have him over again before he goes away." Another masked order. Hadrian almost gave himself away, stopping himself before he held his breath in anticipation for the answer.

"I'm sure that could be arranged." Edric gave him a smile, hidden by the rim of his mug. Edric knew what he was aiming for, not subtle enough then. On the other hand, Edric hadn't said no.

"What time are we leaving?" Despite being twelve and entering his second year of Hogwarts, having successfully passed his first-year exams with flying colours, he was as nervous and excited as a first year, barely eleven.

"We should be in the Alley by eleven today. The streets will be getting very busy at two, and practically immovable by four, mostly due to smaller businesses closing earlier than the more mainstream shops." Edric said. With the final word on the matter of Diagon said, Edric stood and left the table. Hand stroking over the pocket where he had secreted away the second letter.

"Thank you." Lepus whispered. Hadrian nodded in response, waiting until Edric was long out of sight before speaking.

"I know how much you wanted to go. I wasn't going to let that be taken away from you." Hadrian smiled brightly before hopping down from his chair and taking off towards his study – or rather the small corner of the library he had commandeered as of late.


Edric was pacing his study as he read the letter. It was another from Dumbledore, a threat more than a letter. Albus Dumbledore had never been better at getting people to see things his way in person, but in writing he was as transparent as a first year Gryffindor. Which was probably why he very rarely corresponded to his own letters. And from what he had seen of the headmaster's letters to James during the war, he barely wrote more than two sentences when he did take up a quill.

The letter had been concerning Hadrian's grades and his decision to forego formal training in magic. Had anybody but a steward or a Lord had read this they would only see the concern and maybe even think that the old man was genuinely worried for the young wizards training. But Edric knew better. He had been playing this game far longer than Dumbledore knew, this letter, coated in compulsions and confundus' before it touched the wards, was nothing more than child's play.

The letter asked for a measure of assessment by a credible – impartial – third-party. Something Edric had taken care of. Edric had Hadrian complete his first-year exams alongside Lepus when he had known that his young lord's education would be called into question once the announcement was made.

Dumbledore had requested he come to Blackwell Hall himself, a rather bold move. One that Edric had no intention of granting. The man had likely thought to place monitoring spells inside his home, or compulsions attached to frequently used items. The man was used to using subtlety as his choice of weapon, but it was improperly used and had poor technique. His manipulations were far better thought out and executed. And that was one more reason to keep him away from Hadrian and Lepus. Lepus couldn't be helped, his Hogwarts education was too important to deny the boy, but he could keep Hadrian from any potential interaction with the aged Headmaster.

Determined not to have the Headmaster of Hogwarts in his home he sat down to. Compose his response, pulling a copy of Hadrian's exam records from the top drawer in his desk.

Mr. Dumbledore,

Despite your gracious offer, I find that I must decline a visit from yourself.I have attached Hadrian's marks for his first year exams, adjudicated by a reputable Ministry Official. As a future Lord of a Noble House it is well within our rights to choose homeschooling as primary education, provided he take all ministry approved exams – including OWL's and NEWT's – in the same span as his peers. By receiving passing grades for all 1st year subjects, Hadrian Potter has been granted approval by the Board of Education to pursue his Wizarding Training via private tutors.

Good Day,

Edric Blackwell.

The response was short and sweet, to the point. Edric saw no point in dancing around the subject or mincing words, Albus Dumbledore step a hairbreadth's distance towards Hadrian as long as he was able to stop it.

Once the response was sent off with his own private owl, Edric began to consider their trip to Diagon. He hadn't wanted to go to the shopping hub of Britain, purely because of how packed it would be. Hundreds of witches and wizards would be flooding the Alley today, and it would be far worse tomorrow. He had planned to take them to the La Plaza in France – a large open trade pavilion in the heart of the French Capital. Around September there were many gifted artisans selling wares specifically for students heading out to Beauxbatons, Hogwarts, and the many universities scattered around Europe. The quality was good, and the prices were fair. It was large enough that there was never too big a crowd that one could be trampled, but neither was it so exclusive that you felt you had to whisper.

Edric supposed he could understand the need for Lepus to see Diagon. It was a marvel – especially how it never fell down – and it was something that every young witch or wizard in England should see once in their lifetime. Edric wished that the boys didn't have to worry about being kidnapped or killed purely because of their family names or alleged deeds.

With a huff and a sigh, he sat down to compose his next letter. To business again.

The next letter was more of an invitation than anything else. Hadrian had expressed his interest in meeting his cousin again and Edric was hardly opposed to it, and Lucius couldn't very well refuse, the opportunity was too great to pass up.

For a moment, Edric wondered if he had somehow placed a wall between Hadrian and his remaining family, driven a wedge between the two families that ought to have been one. He had been the one who had made Lucius proxy of his nephew's seats – something that would have come to pass anyway had the Malfoy Lord been Hadrian's guardian – and it had been he who controlled who Hadrian saw or didn't see. He had justified it of course, but beyond seeing Lucius as a business man, and his blood father's name upon his birth certificate, Edric somehow doubted that Hadrian had made the connection at all.

The thought consumed him, forcing his pen from his hand.

"Mick," he called, "fetch Hadrian for me, will you?"

Seconds later the house elf had returned with Hadrian attached to his arm. Edric looked him up and down for a long while, suddenly – as if for the first time – seeing the similarities to Lucius.

"Have I done something wrong sir?" The honorific brought him back to reality. He truly hated it when Hadrian called him sir, a subconscious remnant of his abuse.

"No. But I believe I have." Hadrian frowned, not quite understanding.

"Si—sorry… What are you talking about?"

"Hadrian, to you, who is Lucius Malfoy?" Hadrian was very taken aback by this, his eyebrows furrowing and his teeth biting at his lower lip in deep thought.

'I'll have to break him of that terrible habit' Edric thought, watching his ward think over his question.

"He's a peer. He is also my proxy for the House of Black until I come of age, or I appoint an heir to take over for me at the time of my coronation. Have I missed something?"

"Yes. I'm afraid you have. And it is entirely my fault." Edric took a moment, scrubbing his hand over his face. He had thought the day was going so well too. It was entirely too early for this. "Hadrian… Your father – the Lord Consort – was Thaddeus Malfoy. The younger brother of our good Lucius Malfoy. And also… your uncle."

Edric saw the realization slip into Hadrian's face. He realized what he had been missing this entire time.

"So… Draco would be…?"

"Your cousin, yes." Not the question he had expected, but he wasn't about to argue it.

"And you hadn't thought to tell me?" Hadrian was more than a bit confused now, he was angry.

"I truly hadn't considered that you didn't know. But the only time you had seen your birth certificate was-"

"Was at Gringotts after you took me home from the hospital." Hadrian turned away from him, preferring to take an interest in the bookshelves.

"You've been reciting the great family names for nearly a year Hadrian, it hadn't occurred to me that you didn't know until you asked to see Draco again. An oversight, on my part for forgetting what had happened to you after-"

"After I was stolen and my mother killed. I realize that this isn't your fault. I think I knew that he and I were related, why else would you make him my proxy, but it had never truly sunk in until now just how close we are. By blood anyway." Hadrian returned to staring at his guardian, something of a more curious look on his face. "Does he know? That I'm his nephew?"

"Yes he does."

"Does he not want to see me then? Or has it not occurred to him that I might want to know my family." Hadrian was angry, Edric could understand that. He had been without a family for so long, that now, discovering he had blood relatives who may not even want to know him beyond the casualness of business partners, was something out of his worst nightmares.

"Lucius has always struggled with making connections of a more personal level. He loves both his wife and his son, but the closeness he has with his wife is fleeting and he shows his love for Draco through sharp words and encouraging his pride. He is not a soft man, Harry." Edric didn't quite know why he had called his ward Harry. He usually hated the name, but perhaps it was that level of familiarity and laxness that he needed in this moment.

"I am truly sorry I have not been nurturing this connection, but I have begun to craft an invite for Draco to visit for a few days." That put a slight smile on Hadrian's face, reminding him of a much younger boy. Or just showing him the ten-year-old that Hadrian had never truly been. It was likely he would never know.

"I am going to my room. I need to think." And just like that he was gone.

With a deep breath, Edric set to writing again.

The letter was sent before midday.


Hadrian did indeed do some thinking, his mind trying to catch up with everything that had happened in the last few days, but he did not go to his rooms. Instead, he took to the grounds of Blackwell Manor, preferring to take a long stroll to sort out his thoughts and feelings.

Edric had been needing to make up for plenty of things recently. First, he had forgotten that they were children and needed room to breathe, and now he had kept Hadrian from forming connections with his blood family. While he had met Draco and had formed an acquaintance with him, he wanted to be closer. The idea of having a cousin who would be more like a friend to him than Dudley had ever been had its appeal. Hadrian wasn't sure what to think about all this if he were being honest.

His mind began to wander off of the topic at hand, going back to the journal of Arcturus Black. The Staff of Merlin had possessed his thoughts for weeks now, the concept that it could be real made him curious as to what else could be out there – lost to the centuries and now no more than fairytales.

"Harry!" Hadrian tripped over his feet as Lepus' voice jerked him back to reality.

"What?"

"I've been calling you for hours! Where was that big brain of yours? Camelot?" Lepus teased, his grin betraying his merry mood. Hadrian shoved him slightly.

"Shove off." He righted himself and self-consciously tried to flatten out his hair. "What do you want anyway? I was sort of busy."

"Busy doing what? Collecting mothballs?"

"Thinking. Not like you'd know what that's like." He grumbled. He wasn't ready for Lepus' high energy and perky attitude anymore. Not after the news he had received from Edric. He supposed it wasn't entirely his stewards fault that his relation to the Malfoy's had gone unnoticed, he had been trying his very best up until this point and honestly Hadrian should have realized sooner too. It wasn't like he hadn't spent hours studying the family trees. His anger about the issue was best placed aside. There were more important things to think about.

Lepus elbowed him in the side for his rude response and pretended to pout. The expression honestly looked silly on the older boy. Hadrian did the mature thing in response; he stuck out his tongue. They shared a laugh at that, going back to playful – gentle – shoves and pushes. Soon enough their laughter was echoing off the stone towers of Blackwell Hall.

"But seriously, what were you looking for me for?" Hadrian asked, a short time later. Both boys were flushed from running and had burnt off a fair amount of energy.

"Edric decided that we're to go to Diagon tomorrow instead of today. I'm fine with that, but I just wanted to let you know. You know… for your business with Flourish and Blotts." Lepus grinned again. Hadrian knew there was no point in hiding it, Edric had known there was a deception the entire time.

"Well… I'm sure it can wait a day or two. In fact, there might not even be business there. I just really wanted to look at the new arrivals."

You read too much." Was all Lepus said in response, before flopping down onto the grass. Hadrian copied him curiously, turning to watch the clouds pass over head.

"What do you think Hogwarts will be like?" Lepus finally asked. Hadrian knew there had been something like that burning inside the older boy for a while now.

"I've got no idea. Edric said it was the best times of his life though, and everyone I know has always praised it. I think it'll be just like here, lessons and then brief breaks for lunch before more lessons. I imagine you'll be top of the class. Edric certainly left no gaps in either of our educations." Hadrian was trying to be positive, when despite it all he really had wanted to go to Hogwarts. The jealousy that had been building up slowly began rearing its head. He squashed it deep inside him again. Lepus needed his support right now, not more of his issues.

"I suppose. The only difference will be that… you won't be there." It was said in such a low voice that Hadrian had almost missed it, despite the silence of the grounds. He couldn't help the smile that stretched across his face.

"I can feel you grinning Harry."

"I'm not grinning. I'm not!" Hadrian was ashamed to realize that he had just whined, a noise that had never come out of his throat before in his life. He blushed, hoping Lepus would take his silence for pouting. Without a warning Lepus tackled him. They spent the next several hours chasing each other about the grounds, laughing like children.

"I'll miss you too. Brother." Hadrian whispered, watching as Lepus pranced away from his hands with a joyous laugh. Truth was, he would miss Lepus, and he worried for him. Dumbledore was sneaky and wouldn't pass up the opportunity that they had practically gift-wrapped for him. But Lepus was smart, he would be fine. Hadrian hoped anyway.

TBC

A/N: So. There we have it. Finally done. Whoo! I'm just coming out of finals for school and let me tell you, four days on set is brutal! It was tons of fun though and I hope that I can win my pitch, coming up on Tuesday. Not only that but I have to rethink my entire concept! Whoever thought going to Film School would be a good idea? I did. Moron.

As they say on YouTube please like and/or subscribe to my Facebook page, the link is in my profile. There you can find excerpts from upcoming stories and stuff that hasn't been posted yet. You can also ask me questions, I try to answer usually within the week.