Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter
Hadrian scrubbed his eyes furiously as he walked down the empty hallway on his way to breakfast.
He had spent the last two nights searching through books with no results. He'd found plenty of interesting information from volumes he knew to be balancing on the precipice between legal and illicit, but nothing that would help him.
He'd only slept for three hours during his last night at Hogwarts and these past two sleepless nights were really starting to wear on him.
"Good Morning, Hadrian." Lady Malfoy's greeting was quiet as he walked through the doors to the dining room, four minutes before seven.
"Morning." He nodded back.
Hadrian noted, with disinterest, that Draco had yet to appear. Continuing further into the room he pulled out the seat that had been assigned to him yesterday morning.
"I trust you slept well?"
Ah, polite conversation. Hadrian glanced at the open doors suddenly wishing for the Malfoy heir's presence.
"Yes." He murmured back, reaching for the tea pot.
He vaguely remembered what sleeping felt like.
The sharp call of his name had him glancing up at the witch in bewilderment. What could he have possibly done wrong now?
Her mouth was pinched tightly and her back was ram-rode straight in the velvet seated chair. "I do not know what manners you grew up with, Hadrian," His mood darkened at the obvious insult. "In my house, we do not serve ourselves until all those who are eating are present."She informed, her eyes flashing. "Understood?"
Hadrian breathed out harshly through a disbelieving laugh. Keeping his eyes locked with her challenging ice blue, he slowly lowered the silver teapot back onto the table.
He smiled thinly. "Perfectly."
Hadrian didn't bother following the woman's distracted gaze as Draco strode confidently into the room.
He briefly entertained the idea of pouring himself that cup of tea now, before the blonde had taken a seat. Technically, all those who were eating were now present, he internalised bitterly. It was her own fault that she had left room to wriggle within her words. But he didn't. No use antagonising Narcissa over something so trivial. Especially, as Hadrian knew she hadn't told her son her suspicions about him. He would merely be giving her reservations fuel to burn.
His classmate threw him a displeased look as he took his own seat beside him.
"Mother, Blaise owled me this morning." Draco leaned forward in his seat as Narcissa nodded her head to show she was listening. "Everyone's meeting in Diagon Alley at ten, to go look at the new broomstick. You know, the one that's just been released."
Hadrian withheld a snort. This is what the Slytherin's did in their holidays? Caught up like seventy year old women to gossip?
That explained a lot.
"And who is everyone, Draco?" Lady Malfoy asked softly, but Hadrian could tell by the humouring expression on her face that she had already decided to allow her son to go.
Hadrian let his mind float away from the deliriously boring conversation to his fruitless search. Lucius Malfoy was scheduled to arrive at the Manor today and he had been extra careful in reapplying the wards around the study earlier this morning. He had been startled, at first, to find wards of only moderate strength protecting the books. He had been sure that he had somehow missed something but quickly reasoned that the conspicuous location was a larger defence than almost any magical protection.
The sound of his name drew his attention quite effectively.
"...Yes, alright Dragon. Just be sure to be home for dinner. No doubt, your Father will have arrived back by then. You and Hadrian should probably be leaving by nine fourty five to ensure a timely arrival."
His head snapped around, eyes wide. Did she just say...?
"Mother!" Draco's voice had adopted a very unflattering squawk of outrage and his cheeks flushed with colour. "I'm not bringing Walker!"
Hadrian quickly set down his lukewarm tea and nodded his full agreement, cursing internally. He couldn't think of a worse way to spend most of his day! Flittering from shop to shop with his Slytherin classmates...he'd likely kill them after hours of uninterrupted exposure!
"Draconis Lucius Malfoy." Mrs Malfoy's wintry caution cowed her son instantly.
Hadrian bit his lip harshly. Was the idiot completely spineless? He refilled his nearly empty tea cup, needing something to distract him from wanting to glare at the blonde with lethal distain.
"Hadrian is our responsibility, your responsibility. You shall indeed..."
"Excuse me," He cut in softly.
Narcissa seemed to draw back into herself before turning to face him without emotion, while Draco simply tensed in anger.
"I don't think I was invited. I would feel awfully intrusive and rude accompanying Draco." It would indeed be rude to stain the popular alley with the hard to remove colour of his housemate's blood.
The Malfoy heir sent his Mother a look that clearly said, 'see!' before a frown wrinkled his brow and he spun around to look at his unwanted guest.
"Wait..." He laughed in disbelief, "You don't want to go?" His eyes were mocking.
Clearly the thought of the Slytherin outcast not actually wishing to associate with his friends and himself had never crossed his mind. Faced with the proof of Hadrian's deadpan face, it was amusing watching the boy try to grabble with, what he believed, to be an impossible notion.
"I really would prefer to just stay here." He confessed with a carefully calculated sheepish grin. This particular degree of shyness crossed with clumsy humour, he had found, disarmed almost everyone.
"I'm afraid that just isn't possible, Hadrian."
It appeared that Narcissa was not, 'almost everyone.' Why wasn't he surprised?
"I need to leave the Manor for the day to call on some acquaintances and I don't want you being here all by yourself. What if something happened to you? There wouldn't be anyone here to help."Lady Malfoy said calmly.
Translation? What if he stuck his nose somewhere it wasn't wanted while nobody was here to monitor his movements? That's what she meant.
Absently, Hadrian wondered if these unnamed acquaintances of hers were the escaped convicts of Azkaban, Bellatrix Le'Strange, in particular. The brief musing was quickly pushed to the back of his mind.
"There are the house-elves, Madame." He pointed out softly, knowing full-well that the refusal to use her first name would irritate her.
The witch had used his first name every chance she had in the past two days. As if it symbolised some invisible power she had over him.
She smiled back tightly. "Still, I would feel far more comfortable if you accompanied Draco and his friends."
He was sure she would.
"What are the others going to say if I just turn up with Walker, Mother?" Draco finally piped in, his reasoning so pathetic Hadrian wished he hadn't opened his mouth at all.
It was a lost cause. Nothing they could possibly say would sway her. The fact was, she needed to leave the Manor and didn't want Hadrian left to his own devices.
...Unless...his neck twitched in thought.
"Are we to be back for Lunch, Mrs Malfoy?" He questioned innocently. The woman had been pedantic about all meals being eaten together since his skipping dinner that first night. There were to be no more exceptions.
Hadrian watched as her lips tightened even further, "No. Just dinner." Her tone was clipped and cold.
He smiled crookedly. "Alright."
"Merlin, Walker. So help me, if you embarrass me in any way...!" The Malfoy heir let the threat hang as he pushed Hadrian's soot covered body off his own and stalked through the crowded Leaky Cauldron.
"Malfoy, wait!" He called out, getting to his feet swiftly and chasing after the blonde.
The pureblood was in the process of tapping the bricks in the familiar sequence that opened the magical portal to Diagon Alley.
Hadrian rolled his eyes at the juvenile behaviour of his companion as he continued forward, acting as though he couldn't hear him.
Having had quite enough, Hadrian tilted the wand within his sleeve at a cane basket hanging from one of the shop fronts on Malfoy's path. With an audible snap, the thick rope broke and the large basket fell directly in front of the dark heir, halting his steps long enough for Hadrian to catch up.
It was a pity that the blonde's progress had slowed at the last instant, attention caught on a passing shop window. The cane basket would have fallen directly on top of him, otherwise.
"What?" The boy swung round angrily and fixed him with a glare. "What could you possibly have to say, Walker? Isn't it enough that you're barging in on my time with my friends, uninvited! What?"
Hadrian didn't let his face show how unimpressed with the boy's uncouth behaviour he was. Instead, he let his eyes conveniently drift behind Draco.
Malfoy looked over his shoulder at what had caught his attention and his cheeks abruptly coloured. Curious bystanders were openly staring at the spectacle the pair was making of themselves in confusion.
Before he had a chance to speak, Hadrian cut in. "I need to get some school supplies, Malfoy. I know that you don't wish for my company," And he could think of several torture curses he would rather suffer through than be in the Slytherin's presence. "So, I'm going to make myself scarce until we need to floo back to Malfoy Manor."
Mercury eyes narrowed. "No..." He smirked. It was the first Slytherin expression that he had seen on the boy's face all morning. "I have a better idea."
Hadrian raised his eyebrow.
"You will get whatever you need to get within three hours and then come back here. The others and I will be waiting and you can spend the rest of the day carrying our bags, with no magical help, being absolutely silent." Malfoy took a step closer to him, invading his space. "I don't want to know that you're there. You will act as our personal house-elf, okay? You jump, when I say jump." A sneer painted his lips and Hadrian had to forcibly move his eyes away from him. Not trusting his optical glamour to hold due to the level of rage storming through him.
"Am I clear, Walker?" He taunted. "It's either that, or you can put on your tea cosy right now. Your choice."
"...Three hours, Malfoy." He echoed, before abruptly turning and walking back the way they'd come.
As soon as he felt the Malfoy heir's eyes leave his back, he quickened his pace and allowed a dark scowl to form across his features.
They had left the manor an hour later than Lady Malfoy had patronisingly advised, so it was currently eleven.
Draco would expect him to be out the front of the wizarding pet shop at two.
They wouldn't start looking for him seriously until three, maybe three thirty.
Hadrian estimated that he had five hours until Lady Malfoy was made aware of his disappearance at four. She would likely inform her husband of his absence and they would alert their network.
They would have people and creatures attempting to locate him from four fifteen until seven; which was when dinner started.
Eight hours. He had eight hours.
If the Dark Lord was indeed behind his change of guardian, green grew brighter as a heart stopping glare sharpened his eyes. As Hadrian knew he was...
Hadrian would have until dinner, at the very earliest, before the man was told, he suspected. The Malfoy's wouldn't be eager to tell their master. They would wait and give their web of contacts a chance to locate him.
After all, he was certain 'missing' qualified as 'harm'. He sneered spitefully.
He had just short of eight hours.
Exiting the pub, Hadrian turned sharply down the side-alley.
That way, Lord Voldemort need never know of his spontaneous excursion. He doubted his guardians would tell the Dark Lord after he returned. They would, undoubtedly, wish to keep their security blunder under wraps, so as to avoid any possible punishment.
His lip lifted in a snarl.
The Slytherin five would just have to suffer through their shopping hassles without him.
Hadrian spun on his heel and disapparated with a loud crack. Too angry to exert the effort to muffle the noise.
"Goodness, I'm parched!" Pansy exclaimed and Draco threw her an exasperated look.
"I wouldn't mind a drink myself." Blaise agreed.
"Let's stop at the small bistro up ahead, I heard it's fantastic." Daphne pointed.
"Is it new?" Draco asked in surprise, not recognising the crimson and cream coloured awnings or English box palms decorating the front. Diagon Alley was historic. It was very unusual for a new shop to open. Normally the businesses were passed down through families. Like Ollivander's, his family had owned that building for centuries.
"Mmhm," Daphne murmured, her eyes excited to try something new. "Astoria and her friends came here yesterday. It opened a couple weeks after Hogwarts started. Apparently, it's really popular!"
"Alright, come on!" Theodore beckoned them with a wave of his hand.
"Oh, no." The irritated groan caught all of their attention, Draco looking up towards the voice standing above their table. "What are you lot doing here?"
"Potter!" Blaise spat.
"You work here, Potter?" Daphne giggled in ridicule and Draco's own mouth smirked as he caught sight of the small, white apron tied around the Gryffindor's waist.
"Just helping out." He said shortly. "Are you going to order, or not?" he demanded.
"You know, Potter, menial labour suits you. It's done wonders for your complexion. I haven't seen your hair this unbearable a colour in years!" Malfoy grinned, enjoying the other's obvious anger.
If only Walker's reactions were so satisfying.
"Five butterbeers." He ordered.
"And make it snappy!" Theo called after the tall saviour.
"I wonder who he's helping out?" Pansy wondered out loud.s
They quickly received an answer as Remus Lupin walked out of the storeroom behind the counter to accept payment from a young couple with a broad smile.
"Remind me never to come here again." Blaise said with a grimace.
A girl, unknown to them, came back with their drinks and Draco shared a grin with his friends. It was obvious Potter had asked her to step in and waitress their table.
They'd been shopping for two hours now, just wandering from shop to shop, picking out Christmas gifts and other items for themselves that they deemed essential. Each of the five had access to their family's vault at Gringotts and used it to their best advantage.
"So, are you going to get a Christmas present for Walker like your Mother told you to Draco?" Daphne's question came from nowhere and he had to fight in order to control his gobsmacked expression.
"No." He snapped, wanting the subject closed. He didn't want to speak about Walker.
He'd told the others in as few words as possible that they would be meeting up with Walker at one, outside the pet shop, and to not be afraid of putting him in his place if he so much as blew his nose. They'd taken the less than subtle hint and not brought up the Malfoy's new ward again. Until now.
"Why did you give him three hours by himself? Wouldn't it just be easier if he stuck with us the whole time or himself for the entire day?" Theo asked pointedly.
Draco sighed and put his glass of warm drink onto the wooden table in front of him.
"Mother told me explicitly not to let Walker out of my sight. I guess she's worried about how it would look if Walker was seen wandering about, all alone." He reasoned in a careless manner, not particularly caring either way. "I just needed a break from him! He's driving me insane with his pathetic eyes and pathetic face. I can't believe we ever thought there might be something remotely interesting about him!" Draco growled lowly.
When no comments came, he raised his angry mercury eyes to see his four friends exchanging meaningful glances.
"What?" He demanded hotly. "You don't agree? Walker isn't the most irritating bore and total moron on the planet?"
Blaise snorted in amusement, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Look at you, Draco. I thought I was supposed to be the hot-head? The one blinded by my more negative emotions?" He drawled with a grin but his eyes did hold a hint of concern.
Pansy nodded seriously, "You're letting what happened with the guardianship distract you, Draco."
"Don't you remember what you told us on the train, on the way to Hogwarts, at the beginning of the year? Is any of that still registering with you? You said Walker was an enigma. We were all going to try and figure him out this term." Theo spoke beseechingly but Draco couldn't see it. He was beyond whatever childish notions of grandeur they had had at the beginning of the school year.
"That's because there is nothing to find! We were wrong!" He insisted heatedly.
"So the Dark Lord was wrong?" Daphne's soft words froze him. His thoughts ground to a halt and he looked up into her intense eyes. "I have been trying to make you see sense for weeks now, Draco. " She breathed out in exasperation. "You are not looking at Walker through a clear head. He's currently off somewhere in Diagon Alley doing, who knows what? If he's buying Christmas gifts, who are they for? Who does he consider his loved ones? Will he send a letter to someone now that he's outside your Manor's wards? Is he smart enough to use the communal owl post office? Will he use the owl that we saw on the train that none of us even knew he owned?" She whispered harshly.
Draco shook his head from side to side trying to reason with himself.
"He killed a man in front of us, Draco!"
Her voice was barely audible but no less passionate and he finally allowed her words to register with his cool logic. His reason and level head, which had been utterly buried in the past weeks.
"He is friends with powerful wizards and witches. Nobody knows anything of detail from his past. Nobody. That is not the background of an irritating bore and the world's most outstanding moron!" Daphne glared at her friend, sparks shooting from her eyes.
"And you sent him off by himself...to do whatever the hell he likes! With no one the wiser...Well done, Draco. Well done." The Greengrass heir leaned back in her seat, her tone coated with infuriated sarcasm.
He tried to swallow past the nervous weight in his chest, only succeeding on the second attempt.
"...One hour." He murmured.
Looking outside at the gently falling snow, Draco was suddenly wishing for time to pass far more quickly than he had only moments before. His Mother's serious words, telling him to keep Walker close to him, always in his sight, reverberated loudly in him mind.
"One hour." His repeated whisper was so soft his friends didn't have a hope of catching the words.
None of them noticed the amber eyes watching them with surprised interest, too caught up in their own thoughts.
"Yes, of course dear." Narcissa patted Mrs Zabini's hand sympathetically as her blue eyes wandered to the antique mantle clock to check the time.
She had waited for the two boys to leave the manor before she began her series of errands, hurrying anxiously, in order to have more time to spend with her recovering sister. Her son's dawdling had irritated and placed her severely behind schedule. Nevertheless, Narcissa hadn't wanted to risk the chance that Draco might simply leave Walker behind, without a further care, to wander the estate unsupervised.
She had spent the time writing letters to their various businesses and her acceptance to a number of functions, including a Ministry hosted one, as well as a series of declines to those who were too far beneath her station to be seen in association with.
These last two day's had unnerved her. Walker was...odd. Yesterday evening she had even considered the possibility of him suffering from multiple personality disorder. It would explain his bouts of challenge and the frustration she had seldom caught in his gaze when he hadn't thought she was looking, and she had been looking, very hard.
The clock rang once for the half hour and her lips smiled in pleasure, carefully keeping her relief hidden from her friend.
It was one thirty.
And this was Narcissa's last stop before she could finally go visit Bellatrix at the Dark Lord's home.
"Oh!...Narcissa...!"The black haired, petite woman blew her nose with the white cotton handkerchief she had conjured for herself, water running freely down her cheeks. "I really do think Casius...!" She hiccupped through her husband's name in misery. "Is, is...having an affair!" She wailed.
Among their circles the Zabini Lord's adulterous expeditions was a well known fact. His wife had just never found out before.
"Calm yourself, calm." Narcissa coaxed, "I am sure that this is nothing more than your imagination fuelled by a fear every married couple faces." She insisted gently, her blue eyes warm with support and comfort.
Casius did indeed love his wife; she knew that. The man just lacked even the smallest measure of self control.
"H-have you ever thought...Lucius may have..." The Zabini Lady trailed off as the blonde's spine straightened a little but her expression relaxed quickly.
Of course not. The Malfoy Lord wouldn't dare.
"Naturally, dear." She smiled soothingly.
Nothing on this Earth would save Lucius Abraxas Malfoy from her wrath, if her husband had ever dared cheat on her.
"I'm sorry," Another hiccup. "For keeping you so long, Narcissa." She whispered in regret.
"Nonsense." She waved the apology aside dismissively. "I had just recently finished visiting the family's accountants when your message reached me. I needed to sign some papers that required both my husband's and my signatures." She explained.
"How are you getting on with your new ward, my friend?" The attractive, black-haired witch frowned in concern.
Her neck jerked at the mention of the boy. "It's an adjustment." Her tone was tight as she stood from the French lounge seat beneath the window. "I really must be going."
"Oh! Yes..." The small woman stood and walked her to the fireplace. "I can not hope to express my gratitude, thank-you for alleviating my suspicions, Narcissa." Her dark eyes were once again happy and content.
She made a mental note to speak with Casius.
"It was my pleasure, Katherine. I shall see you soon."
If Zabini wouldn't voluntarily break things off with the African witch ten eyes his junior, she had more than enough blackmail material that would quickly change the wizards mind.
Narcissa spoke her destination and disappeared in a billow of fire and smoke.
Dull green eyes watched the brightly shining street with keen observance. He was in a particularly exclusive shopping strand in Berlin, Germany. Everything around him reeked of quality and affluence. The people, the clothes, the shops, the food...this was a place for the wealthy elite.
"Hey! You there!" Hadrian turned towards the source of the shout, thanking the translations spells Raven had forced him to learn some years ago. They were incredibly convenient. "We don't want any loitering round here."
The man was in his late twenty's and judging by the logo on his crimson shirt, a junior server of the magical jewellery store he was silently leaning against.
"Do you know where I might be able to find Mademoiselle Beaumont? It's important that I find her. I had heard that she frequents this strand often, and is, in fact, a special client of this boutique." Hadrian asked politely.
The attractive young shop assistant scoffed and assumed an even more arrogant and conceited expression.
"Mademoiselle Beaumont?" He sneered the name in mocking clarification.
Hadrian let it float over him, not affected in the least by the man's attitude. Instead, he just nodded, "That's correct."
"Who's asking?" He crossed his arms and went through the polite motions tauntingly.
Hadrian narrowed his eyes. He wouldn't be giving his name out. "A friend." He answered lowly.
His words seemed to annoy the man instead of amuse him as they had before.
"A friend?" He laughed in disbelief. "You?" His eyes raked over his short, weak frame, scuffed shoes and average woollen robes with distain. "Mademoiselle Beaumont is the heiress to the Beaumont clan, boy. She is lauded as one of the most beautiful woman in Europe; she has money coming out her ears and hundreds of acquaintances vying for her attention! Stop wasting my time."He spat. "And disappear, you're bothering the customers."
As the man turned away Hadrian soft voice caught him.
"You're not entirely accurate, you know."
Hadrian ignored him, "She doesn't have mountains of money." His tone was conversational but his attention was on the slowly approaching magic he could feel coming towards him. "Her family is relatively wealthy but nothing compared to the gold residing in any old pureblood family's bank vault." Hadrian straightened from his slouched position to face the man head on. "I wonder... with the way you talk about her. You are blatantly adoring, but your eyes are bitter..." Hadrian smirked. "How long ago did you finally work up the courage to confess your feelings to her, shop boy? Only to have her throw your declaration back at you in disgust?"
The junior store clerk's face was frozen in shocked look. Hadrian's self-assured words had been stunningly accurate and Simon burned with the remembered humiliation.
"You little...!" The twenty seven year old snarled furiously and advanced forward, completely forgetting that he was in a very public place, interested solely, in cursing the miscreant opposite him into oblivion.
Hadrian didn't move an inch. Unconcerned.
Simon jerked his wand above his head, his mouth forming the words of a painful spell. Bringing his wand down in a violent swish, he could visualise the coloured light leaving the wood...
"I wouldn't do that, if I were you." A nervous voice cautioned.
Simon, the shop assistant, stared at the hand wrapped tightly around his descending wand in confusion. Whoever had interrupted had stopped his spell! He swung angry eyes around to lambast the individual.
It was a middle aged, roe tonne man with a glaring bald spot, frowning up at him in displeasure.
"What the hell, do you think you're doing? Let go! Le...!" Demanding shrills abruptly cut off as Hadrian's powerful silencing spell settled over him.
Hadrian only lowered his wand after casting a notice-me-not charm bubble around them.
"You kept me waiting." Hadrian lifted dark eyes and pinned the man with a cool stare.
The plump wizard shifted uncomfortably.
"I wasn't certain that it was me you wanted to speak with." He said slowly.
Hadrian raised a disbelieving eyebrow, "I have been standing here for twenty minutes." His tone was silky.
He had been apparating through Europe for the past three hours trying to find the man in front of him.
"I don't know where she is!" The wizard suddenly exclaimed. "She just disappeared a week ago after a function at her family's residence and nobody's seen her since!"
Hadrian paused to look at the man. He was telling the truth but there was still a nervous tick in his jaw. "What aren't you telling me, Fredrick?" Hadrian questioned softly, his eyes alight with threat as he advanced forward slowly. "You have been her tutor since she was eleven. You always know where she is."
Simon watched the proceedings through wide eyes, unable to comprehend the significance of the loiterer's abrupt change in character. There was something...strange about the small boy, but he couldn't put his finger on in.
The man straightened. "I can't help you." He declared boldly.
"You will one way or the other, Fredrick."His eyes narrowed. "I'm running quite short on time and my patience right now isn't high."
Malfoy and the other four Slytherins should all be arriving at the pet shop in Diagon Alley at this very moment, in fact.
At the dark haired boy's threat, the meaty hands wrapped around Simon's wand and pushing down on his shoulder loosened. Not knowing exactly what he had stumbled into but certain that he wanted no part of it, he seized the opportunity and wrenched free of the restraining body. Spinning, Simon fired a wordless spell at the boy who had hit him with the silencing charm only minutes earlier.
He bit his lip. Common sense was telling him that he should have used the time to attack the middle aged wizard behind him. The one, who had previously restrained him and was in a position to do so again. Even so...he couldn't over-ride his screaming instincts. The one's telling him that the chameleon boy, directly opposite, was immeasurably more dangerous.
With a silent bark of triumph and a wide grin, Simon watched, through eager eyes, as his spell arched through the air in green eyes' direction.
Hadrian's wand snapped up, "Protego!"
The attacking curse reflected off his shimmering blue shield, back towards its original caster.
Hadrian watched, as the store assistant dropped his wand with a pained cry and fell to his knees, clutching at the burnt skin of his face.
Hadrian glided forward.
His eyes cut into Fredrick with sharp intensity. "Stay." He ordered. "I will get what I came for. You will tell me everything I want to know."
Hadrian payed no more concentration than was necessary to the fat scum of a wizard that scrambled away from both of them, in fright.
The balding man was intelligent enough not to test his patience and try to escape the privacy shield.
Hadrian looked down at the pitiful heap below him in thought.
He crouched down and met the conceited shop assistant's hateful glare with a passive expression.
He leaned close, enjoying the other's shivers of fearful confusion. "That was not a very nice spell." Hadrian face may have been blank but his eyes gleamed maliciously in the darkening light.
The young man whimpered pathetically at his feet.
Draco tried to control his racing heart as he stared at the gently falling snow.
It was two thirty.
Walker should have met them outside the pet shop at two.
Again, his mind went over it.
He had left Walker at eleven. Eleven plus three hours was...two.
It was two thirty.
Draco clenched his fists.
At a quarter past two, after fifteen tense minutes of waiting, he had sent each one of his friends off in different directions to search the alley for their classmate.
The Malfoy heir had stayed at the previously agreed upon location, hoping that Walker would appear with a heaving chest, gasping for air because he had sprinted all the way here after losing track of the time. His stupid, empty eyes would apologise profusely, sorry if he had worried Draco with his absence. He would scoff at the mere words and bark at the boy to pick up all their shopping bags. The same bags laying discarded and un-shrunk at his feet.
Eleven plus one hundred and eighty minutes was...two.
The cold that shouldn't have affected him through his elegant, warm clothes began to seep into his belly.
It was two thirty.
It was two...
"Blaise!" He gasped out in hope, as his male friend appeared in front of him covered in snowflakes. "Did you...?" His eager question trailed off as the Zabini heir shook his head.
Blaise stepped beside him and stuck his cold hands in his pockets.
"Shit!" Draco cursed under his breath before the pureblood next to his elbowed him in the ribs painfully.
"Daphne and Theo." Blaise's words were unnecessary. His mercury eyes had already spotted the two.
There was no third.
That ice in his stomach was beginning to crawl up his chest as his anxiety increased exponentially.
What were the chances that Walker was actually even in Diagon Alley? His friends had scoured the area and he knew that they had been thorough. A sense of unexplainable dread had pierced them all as the minutes had ticked by and Hadrian didn't show up.
They had arrived at the pet shop five minutes early. Draco hadn't been able to relax at all after their drink stop.
He knew that the tension within him wouldn't abate until Walker was finally within his sights.
It was two fourty.
No one said a word. All four pair of eyes were watching the snow in front of them. The tiny flakes fell in hypnotic quiet. Never ending.
"Keep Hadrian close to you Draco. Make sure he is always within your sights. Don't let him wander."
There had been a serious intensity in his Mother's cold eyes when she had whispered those words in his ear, this morning. She had drawn him into a hug and kissed his cheek goodbye but her eyes had been serious.
Two fourty five.
"Should we go see if Pansy is okay? She's taken a lot longer than any of us did." Theo asked stiffly, hyper-aware of how tense everyone felt.
"Maybe," Draco growled out, "she's being more meticulous than any of you were." He accused.
"Hey!" Blaise glared. "This is not our fault, Malfoy. You're the one who let him go off in the first place!"
Draco glowered out at the still falling snow. He knew Blaise was right. The panic beginning to get the better of him knew exactly how much this was a problem entirely of his own making.
Theo stepped forward. "Well, I'm going to go look for her."
"No need." Daphne murmured quietly.
The blonde girl emerged slowly from the white snow with a disheartened expression and no Walker.
Draco stopped breathing for a second, heart pounding loudly in his ears.
"Where is he?" he whispered hollowly, eyes wide with shock.
Millions of repercussions for his stupid actions began crashing down around him.
Narcissa's brow wrinkled.
She had been unable to enter the Dark Lord's home when she had finally managed to transport herself to the location, which was odd.
Most of the derelict dwelling was barred for any but the Dark Lord to enter. However, the man had essentially given the Eastern wing to his Death Eaters. It was there that the individuals that were being hunted by the Ministry lived.
Gaining access to that wing was relatively straightforward, if you knew what you were doing. It had been designed and protected with the idea of a come and go place in mind. A dangerously warded area, to be sure, but one she had often travelled and, therefore, learned to navigate.
Narcissa had left the Zabini Manor swiftly, keen to see Bellatrix. With the addition to her household she hadn't been able to visit her since Hogwart's term had ended.
Annoyed that she had seemingly wasted her time, Narcissa stepped out of the fireplace and onto the pristine white and marble floors of Malfoy Manor.
She sighed, but resolved not to let it bother her.
It was three in the evening.
Shaking off her unexplainable restlessness, she continued forward. The Lady Malfoy had plenty to do in order to get everything ready for tonight. If nothing else, the activity would take her mind off her unease until her son and Walker returned.
Narcissa hadn't taken more than five steps when an overwhelmingly dark and potent aura swept over her, freezing the witch in place.
The Dark Lord was here.
Her icy eyes instantly narrowed into thoughtful slits as her mind raced.
Lucius had said they wouldn't return from Russia until seven. She may have told Draco that his Father was in France but it hadn't been true. She simply felt too suspicious and protective of her small family unit to voice her husband's genuine location while Hadrian Walker had been there listening. On later thought, Narcissa decided that it was better that her son didn't know any details regarding Lucius's work for the Dark, anyway.
All she knew was that the Dark Lord had taken Lucius and her brother-in-law with him to the South of Russia and that the trip was meant to last a full day.
What were they doing back so early?
Had it not gone well?
Had it gone better than her Master had anticipated?
Furthermore, why would the Dark Lord come to Malfoy Manor instead of the luxury and solitude of his own home?
She wasn't stupid. Narcissa knew that Lord Voldemort could rapidly grow tired and irritated with prolonged exposure to his servants. But she also knew that that hard to gain favour was one of the reasons that the Death Eaters, and other people, found the man so intoxicating.
He was the Dark Lord.
His intellect was inspiring to be around and his magic addictive and dark.
He was a seducer.
Charismatic, charming, brilliant and...unspeakably dangerous.
Her steps were far more hesitant this time, as she forced herself to continue forward.
Her quick mind, sharp as it was, quickly supplied her with a possible reason for his presence.
Her teeth clenched and her sky blue eyes flashed with displeasure.
A deep frown furrowed her forehead.
...Was it possible that the Dark Lord's interest in the boy was that strong? Or, were her suspicions and feelings of disquiet simply projecting onto a perfectly explainable circumstance?
Her steps quickened as she strode through the rich halls, her chin held high. It was likely that the man was in the main parlour.
Almost as soon as the thought had fluttered through her mind, Narcissa heard the quiet murmurs of multiple voices wafting over her as she drew closer to the large entertainment room.
She stopped directly outside the parlour, her nose a metre from the panelled wood, and listened carefully; attempting to place the muffled sounds with faces she knew.
Narcissa breathed in relief.
While she couldn't make out individual words through the door, she was able to sense the tone within the room; that of soft conversation. No screams, crying or dark threats.
Narcissa knew that there was any number of ways her assumption may well be premature. Not to mention immature and recklessly naive; but it did help calm her nerves somewhat.
Still...nothing could distract from the heady, lazy blackness of her Lord's magic.
"Lucius," Narcissa heard the amused, silken hiss clearly through the closed wooden door in front of her.
She tensed. Goosebumps appearing on her cream skin as a cold wind swept past her.
The other voices immediately hushed.
Narcissa paid her discomfort no mind as her body hastily leaned forward. Her face was a beautiful painting of riveted attention at the call of her husband's name.
One could never predict or understand the reaction or source of Lord Voldemort's amusement. All she knew was that it was better not to take the chance and have it directed at you, or those you loved.
"..We seem to have a stray lingering outside this room, my friend."
Narcissa's eyes grew wide in shock and disbelief and she fell back a step. How had he known she was there?
"Why don't you open the door for your wife, Lucius?"
Hadrian narrowed his eyes on the small cottage in front of him.
He'd spent the last four and a half hours tracking her to this very spot.
He was surprised. It wasn't her style. The grey stone walls couldn't possibly contain more than four rooms. And the roof was made of an old thatch wood, likely having sprung several leaks.
Astrid liked luxury, elegance and a never ending night life.
So what was she doing way up in the remote seclusion of some of France's more wild mountain forests?
Hidden within the protection of the dense foliage surrounding the small meadow, Hadrian sent his magic seeking.
There was only one magical presence that he could sense.
He stepped out of the cover of conifers smoothly, indescribably pleased to not have to temper and restrain his muscles from gliding with his natural grace.
As he walked silently through the high grass, he let his glamour's fade.
Eyes fluttering shut, his steps never faltered.
The barest hint of a smile curled the outermost edges of his suddenly perfectly proportioned mouth. Like always, Hadrian released a breath as a small, constant weight on his magic was gradually lifted.
It felt like finally being able to stretch after holding the same position, absolutely still, for days.
He'd kept his glamour's up for the longest period of time. Normally, he was able to find extremely secluded places within the walls of Hogwarts to let them down. But he'd been too on edge and hesitant since school began.
Too many people were watching him.
To let go of his glamour's in such tumultuous territory...it was asking for disaster. And he preferred not to tempt fate.
He raised his wand to the rune lock and smiled as he felt his body grow.
He was standing directly in front of the rotting wood front door when he opened his eyes.
It was so unlike her.
Raising an arm, he knocked twice.
It was three fourty five.
"We need to tell your Mother, Draco!" Daphne hissed, for the umpteenth time. Her harsh whisper was louder than she had tried to keep her voice, but her nerves were too panicked.
"I don't even know if she's home!" Draco glared furiously.
"That's a pathetic excuse and you know it." Blaise said angrily.
All five were tense and snappy as their eyes never stopped scanning their empty and dark surroundings. Hoping, against all reason, that Walker would suddenly appear in a place that they'd already checked four times already.
In the darkness, snow fell softly.
With no warning, the Malfoy heir stopped moving. Eyes, staring ahead, down the deserted alley, saw nothing.
Gentle snowflakes coated their expensive robes, their hair wet and dripping.
All four Slytherins jerked to a halt and stared at the blonde silently in question. Their eyes were varying degrees of confusion, exasperation and sympathy.
Draco's mind reeled.
The truth he had refused to accept previously was no longer escapable. The icy realisation had his stomach plummeting with emotion.
"He's not here...Is he?" Draco's staggered voice whispered the words that they had all been thinking for the past hour. Simply unable to wrap their minds around the only realistic conclusion they had come to.
"...He's not here."
All of a sudden, he was much colder.
Forcefully, Narcissa took a hold of herself, embarrassed by her reaction. She should have known that such a powerful wizard as the Dark Lord would immediately sense her hovering presence.
She heard the quick, sharp steps of her husband's shoes increasing in volume as he grew closer to the door. The handle was pushed down and she was looking into bemused mercury eyes.
"Lucius," She murmured delicately in greeting. Showing nothing.
Gliding forward, she paused, to press a light kiss to his cleanly shaven cheek, before continuing on into the room.
"My Lord." Narcissa bowed her head respectfully to the smirking figure sitting elegantly in the corner of a conjured black leather lounge.
"I was beginning to think you didn't like our company, Narcissa." He teased silkily.
She lifted her chin, refusing to blush. "I was simply surprised, My Lord. I did not expect you to return for a few hours."
"Change of plans." The Dark Lord's eyes were amused as he swirled what looked like coffee, before sipping the liquid. "That is not a problem, I hope?" He set down the white, porcelain mug on the side table beside him.
"No, My Lord."She assured needlessly. The man had full access to any part of their lives and he knew it. The question had been a mockery in itself.
When the Dark Lord made no move to speak in the lengthening silence, a high pitched cackle sounded through the room and a strong hand grasped Narcissa by the elbow, pulling her harshly to the left.
"Cissy!" Bellatrix grinned broadly. Her excitement and pleasure exaggerated. It was such a waste; Azkaban had only left her sister with an occasional sanity. There were times when Narcissa almost believed she had her older woman back. She was as sane as she remembered her. But that mental stability slipped often, and for no reason.
"Careful Bella, you wouldn't want to deafen the woman." The teasing comment drew both Black women's attention.
Bellatrix's mouth twisted in displeasure at Rabastan Le'Strange.
His presence surprised Narcissa and, for the first time, she had a moment to actually look around the room and see the people that were in her home.
Rookwood, Macnair and Wenderly stood in a trio beside the fire, directly opposite the smirking Rabastan. Lucius had taken a seat in the arm chair nearest to where she was standing with Bella.
However, it was the stranger that she could see held most of the Dark Lord's attention that really piqued her interest.
"I don't believe I've made your acquaintance." Narcissa said to the tall, brown haired man.
Her eyes flicked to her Master, only to see his hooded crimson staring back at her, revealing nothing.
"This is Ian Kildare, Cissa. He is the leader of the largest group of vampires in Russia." Lucius informed her helpfully.
Her excitement ignited. They would make powerful allies if the Dark Lord managed to secure their allegiance. Maybe he already had. Or perhaps the man was in the process of courting Kildare, she didn't know.
"Pleased to meet you, Lady." The plain looking immortal tilted his head to her in a decidedly gentlemanlike manner.
The Dark Lord stood abruptly. His movement immediately obliterated the tiny feeling of ease that had only just started to heat.
All eyes followed the man as he walked over to the window to stare out across the darkening grounds.
She frowned slightly at the change in light. She hadn't realised it was so late. She glanced at Lucius's watch from the corner of her eye, reading the analogue hands quickly.
It was four. The boy's had been gone for five hours now.
Again, she pondered on her strange uneasiness.
Narcissa had told Draco to make sure he and Walker were back to the Manor for dinner at seven, but she knew her son understood her real curfew to be five in the evening. She would feel better once her eyes could rest on Draco's physical form.
"Is your son home, Narcissa?" The Dark Lord asked quietly.
He knew that he wasn't.
"He is at Diagon Alley, My Lord. Christmas shopping with his school friends."
Lucius shot her a look. He didn't approve.
She could admit that it wasn't exactly preferable to have the heirs of some of Britain's oldest pureblood family's out alone; at such a shifting political time. But they were in Diagon Alley, which was relatively safe, and they were together.
"...And Walker?" The Dark Lord turned to fix his piercing gaze on her.
Narcissa swallowed. He was displeased for some reason.
"Walker?" Bellatrix's disgusted cry echoed through the room. "A Mudblood?"
"Unfortunately." Lucius answered with his own grimace hidden behind a hand.
Macnair sneered. "Is this your new ward?"
"Ward?" Bella repeated shrilly, her eyes crazed.
"Oh, be quiet woman." Rabastan snapped harshly.
"Silence!" The angry hiss of the Dark Lord darkened the room and Narcissa sucked in a breath.
The man's lazy magic was rising for some reason. She could feel it.
The flames in the hearth fluttered perilously low.
Her Master's eyes were not looking at any person in the room. They were fixed entirely on the door.
Ian Kildare rose from his chair slowly. "...Riddle...?" His eyes were apprehensive. As a magical creature he could feel the swirling currents of black magic more keenly than the wizards and witches surrounding him.
The door to the parlour slammed open abruptly.
"Mother! Walker! He's gone mis...!" Draco's frantic call cut off suddenly as he was caught in swirling blood red orbs.
All eyes, and most wands, were drawn and aimed at the panicking figure in the doorframe.
The only one that didn't react defensively was the Dark Lord. He simply raised an inquiring brow. But emotions simmered in his eyes, hidden expertly.
Crimson that steadily darkened in colour at the young man's words.
"Draco?" Narcissa could feel her protective instincts rising at the wild stress on her child's face and strode forward quickly. Her son was, above all, a pureblood wizard. He had lived and breathed appropriate decorum and manners since his first breath. For the seventeen year old to forsake something so ingrained in him...
Lucius stood from his chair, his reaction more controlled. But his mercury eyes were locked on his small family.
Draco's wide gaze had yet to leave the Dark Lord. Incapable of looking away from the arresting stare.
Long, elegant fingers stroked his yew wand.
"Would you care to finish that sentence, Mr Malfoy?" A treacherous, unexplained ice cooled the air.
The fire's flames died.
Hey! The Dark Lord and Hadrian FINALLY meet again next chapter! :D
Don't forget to review! Please! ;)