Title: The Militia
Summary: Hadrian Dawson lives his life in the shadows, constantly hiding behind a mask. Unexpectedly, he attracts the attention of Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy and, through them, of a certain Dark Lord. Welcome to the Militia, Harry. LVHP SSDM Slash
Tags: LVHP, SSDM, Slash, Dark!Harry,
Dislaimer: I don't own anything, except the idea for this story.
A/N: This is the one time were I will write anything which is not the story itself in here, unless something really important comes up. If you want to find out anything specific, or ask any questions, drop me a review!
The next step in the Animagus Transformation involves the aptly named Encounter. This is a crucial step in the transformation which varies in difficulty from person to person. As mentioned in previous chapters, the Animagus reveals part of a Wizard's inner core in its acquisition and identification, and oftentimes a Wizard finds himself unable to cope with the revelations. However, if one is comfortable with himself, and what he finds throughout the process, then the Encounter may well be a pleasant experience during which...
Hadrian closed the book –Animagus— with a snap as he heard footsteps approaching his work space in the library. This development was rather rare; he had rapidly taken over this area during his first year at Hogwarts, scaring any others which tried to intrude or being just generally antisocial. Within a week, the word had spread out, and he was not bothered anymore except by the unusual First-Year who had not yet learned better. It was not often that one of the other students approached it. It was out of the way and inconspicuous, precisely the reasons for which Hadrian had chosen it; it was the closest thing to privacy which he could obtain in a place as allergic to privacy as Hogwarts was.
He quickly set the book apart and under a History tome, hiding the cover from view, and opened a Herbology book which he'd been reading earlier.
The footsteps which approached were fast, sure but soft. The person clearly was confident in that they knew where they were going and in their reason for going there. Furthermore, they didn't sound as if they would even care enough to announce their approach rather than just barging in and for Hadrian, this spelled nothing but trouble.
The person actually entered into his line of vision a few seconds later, the blonde hair falling around his pointed face with a lax grace that few outside the Malfoy line would ever achieve. Hadrian kept his face narrowed on the book, pretending not to have noticed the blonde boy in his complete absorption of the book as the boy stopped in front of Hadrian's desk, while instead maintaining the other boy firmly in view through his peripheral vision.
The Malfoy heir did not move or make a sound for a few seconds longer, and Hadrian wondered if the boy was merely biding his time until Hadrian noticed him or actually doubted his reasons for coming here. He sincerely hoped it was the latter; but, after a few more seconds of Malfoy not doing anything, Hadrian started to get uncomfortable and decided to break the blonde's obvious observation of him. He turned his head up slightly, as if he had just awoken from a trance; he trailed his eyes upward, taking in the other boy's appearance slowly until he reached the pale grey eyes. As soon as their gazes locked, he yelped and jumped backwards; causing his chair to fall and the book he'd been pretending to read to fall noisily on the table.
For an instant, he worried that he'd overstepped the boundaries of the act, and carefully scrutinized Malfoy's expression with wide, fear-impregnated eyes. It was a habit which he had carefully cultivated in himself, that perpetual worry, so that he would never get too comfortable in his acting. The uncertainty in his own limits was both a barrier and a magnet which were very important to the upkeep of his mask.
He didn't want to get too carried away in his acting so that the mask might actually be identified by others as a mask, due to it being too unbelievable otherwise; he also didn't want to lose himself in it, become the mask. It was a delicate balance, dangerous but exciting, and Hadrian loved it.
Now, Malfoy's expression adopted the exasperated aloofness that Hadrian knew meant Malfoy had believed his role as the strange, uninteresting nerd. With anyone else, the worry would be almost inadequate, since they were the kind of people which would never care to change their initial impression of others. Hadrian could have not acted at all in front of them, and their own minds would do all the work for him, supplying information or even making it up so that the initial image of his was unchanged. Sometimes, Hadrian really appreciated the short-sightedness and inherent laziness in most people.
However, Malfoy was not most people, and Hadrian had more than once caught the blonde looking at him with a strange keenness, as if searching for an illusive wisp of something in him. It was unnerving, more so because Hadrian was well-aware that Malfoy was smart enough and well-connected enough that, if he took an actual interest in Hadrian, his mask wouldn't last for a month under the careful inspection he knew the Malfoy heir capable of. His mask was as near perfect as Hadrian had, in his 3 years of molding, been able to make it; but it was still not perfect, and so Hadrian yelped and lowered his eyes and adopted the most pathetic body language he could –drooping his shoulders, eyes falling, fiddling with the edge of his shirt— so that Malfoy would not look too hard. He knew that the blonde would never dirty himself in the loathsome filth that Hadrian worked so hard to radiate from his mask whenever Malfoy was near him, and that dirt kept him safe from too-close scrutiny. It bit at his pride, just a little, but he knew it was necessary.
Malfoy cleared his throat, and Hadrian tensed at the impatient, disgusted tone.
"Professor Snape wants you in his quarters, Dawson. I'm to lead you there right now; pick up your books quickly so we can get going. Some of us actually have a life."
Hadrian nearly snapped back "Clearly you wouldn't know anything about that," but he bit his tongue. He nodded shakily, quickly grabbing The Herbology book and stuffing it into his bag. He grabbed the Animagus book and the History one at the same time, maintaining the Animagus book hidden, and those two he also quickly packed. He then turned to Malfoy and nodded bleakly. "I'm ready to go."
When he'd began to fathom his mask, Hadrian had been forced to actually create it as if it were a character from a book he was planning to write. The qualities that he wanted it to have he wrote down in a notebook; mostly it was the more generalized aspects, since he clearly wasn't able to decipher the exact reaction he should've had in every situation. He also wrote down the qualities that the mask should not have; he'd written down, as a sort of exercise, a few scenarios and tried to imagine what he should be like, what his mannerisms should entail, what his speech patterns should reveal and hide.
He wondered, for a few weeks, if what he was attempting was not too much for him, a strange fantasy that he would eventually have to tear down and remake from scratch. But once he had started bringing out the mask into the sunlight, he had discovered a factor which had previously evaded his equations.
Before, he'd simply been playing on his own evident characteristics as the reasons for the necessity of the mask; he wanted to remain in the shadows, wanted simply to observe rather than to take part in disputes, wanted to learn from the world around him as the spider on the wall does, with no one looking his way and no one to remember the path that he'd taken, until well after he'd disappeared.
Then, he'd discovered he loved the mask.
Not this precise mask, surely; it was very weak at times, crumbling into itself when Hadrian wanted instead to lash out viciously, rolling away piteously when Hadrian would've preferred to kill. No, he did not love this mask, but he did love acting. And what could have been a more perfect, more complete performance than this? Since clearly no one was capable of going into his mind and searching, then Hadrian was able to perform to the outmost of his capabilities. No one knew he was an actor, so no one would comment on his acting except to sneer and draw back from the filthy Mudblood which they sometimes were forced to communicate with, as Malfoy was in this moment.
It is a human quality to trust in appearances; one cannot go through the world doubting everything one sees and hear and remain happy. Paranoia, fear and depression come with such skepticism, and most people are not strong enough to sustain that strain without crumbling. Therefore, as long as Hadrian did not particularly force his hand in some substantial way, it was safe to say that no human, be it Muggle, Witch or Wizard, was too likely to see past the deception.
Then, there were those who were just a bit more observant, just a bit smarter. Hadrian had hoped that he would not meet any such people while at Hogwarts, or if he did, that they would not be interested enough in him to actually study him. Unfortunately, there was Malfoy. The blonde was most likely not entirely aware of what he saw as off in Hadrian; he might not even consciously be searching, but Hadrian could see it, and that was enough for the warning bells to ring every time he saw the blonde. Fortunately, Malfoy was still young and so still largely prejudiced. Hadrian was not overly worried.
They walked out of the Library quickly, Malfoy taking long steps as if Hadrian was the one following him around like a lost puppy. Hadrian trailed behind him, often tripping on his feet as he tried to keep up with the clearly annoyed blonde. In his mind, however, he was going down a list of reasons why Snape might want to talk to him.
There's always the potions assignments, he thought as they walked; but he knew that it would not be anything as innocent as that. He quickly discarded it and a new option popped in his head. Malfoy's presence isn't a coincidence, or a whim. He must want him there. He licked his teeth in a nervous gesture which he'd been unable to rid himself of, even after years of trying; it was not often that Snape called him down to his quarters. In fact, it had only happened once before, when Hadrian had answered a question which, had he actually been as dumb as he appeared to be, he should not have had any idea about. In fact, every single other person had gotten it wrong, and Hadrian had only known the answer due to the fact that, earlier that day, he'd read about it in an obscure Charms book which he's been looking into to find a charm to change his physical size. He hadn't been sleeping well in those days; he hadn't noticed the slip until Snape had called him on it in the privacy of his quarters after classes.
That had been the first true test of Hadrian's mask; it was the first time he'd had to submerge himself so deep into the mask that he himself could no longer see the surface. Snape was older, more experienced and more mature than the children Hadrian lived with. He was colder, sharper and more skeptical. Hadrian had known, as soon as the man's dark eyes locked on him, that it would take all of his acting skills and concentration to pull it off. Even now, he wasn't sure he'd actually brought it off; Snape had let him go after listening to his rather paltry excuse, but his eyes had since then every once in a while trained in on him at seemingly random times. During meals, in the halls, in class, sometimes Hadrian would feel a twitch and look up, and his gaze would meet Snape's. Sometimes, the man looked disgusted, although whether with Hadrian or himself, he was not sure. Other times he looked angry. Then, there were the times when he looked thoughtful. Hadrian always looked away quickly in those times, fearful that the man would somehow see through his eyes and into his mind and drag out Hadrian's mask, destroying it as the full glare of the sunlight hit it, exploding into a barrage of glorious sparks which would burn Hadrian to a crisp. So far, however, nothing had happened.
Have I done something wrong? They were not too far from the dungeons now, and Hadrian felt a trickle of dread creep up on him. Have I slipped anywhere? He tried to think back to all encounters which he'd had with Snape—in the classroom, in the halls—but came it empty with anything which would incriminate him. He gripped his bookbag tightly against his side, noticing faintly that Malfoy's steps were turning shorter and calmer as they began to go down the longer stairway which led to Snape's quarters. The blonde had not turned once during their decidedly long walk from the Library to the dungeons, no doubt relying on the sound of Hadrian's footsteps to remain aware of the other boy. Hadrian, giving up on the matter or Snape now that there was no time, took in the blonde as the boy's manner softened further.
It took him less than a second to realize that something was off in Malfoy. Hadrian prided himself in being able to spot emotions and specify reactions in all kinds of people and in all kinds of situations. It was an ability he'd had to develop masterfully to be able to properly formulate his mask, and now he pressed it fully onto Malfoy in the few moments he had.
Within an instant, the wrongness clicked.
He's not acting impatient anymore.
And that was the key word; acting. The possibilities immediately flooded Hadrian's brain. Malfoy had been acting before, when he'd showed disgust at Hadrian's mask, when he'd snapped at Hadrian to hurry up. He hadn't actually been impatient at all; in fact, Hadrian reasoned, the blonde probably had been reading Hadrian's own act and reacting accordingly. He'd been acting in accordance to Hadrian's own acting, throwing prompts so that Hadrian would see what he wanted to see.
This thought process caused a sudden spike of fear inside him, and he stopped seven steps before Snape's door, the darkness around him suddenly settling like a blanket. In front of him, Malfoy stopped suddenly too.
The smooth, silky voice rang out from behind Hadrian like the knife of a guillotine, cutting off the staircase which Hadrian had been moments away from using to escape. He turned, his green eyes widening in sudden panic as Snape seemed to materialize from the wall of the staircase, his figure towering over Hadrian's in the uneven footing. Malfoy's voice behind him made him press his back instinctively against the wall as his mind reeled. The two men appeared to ignore him.
"Only by two."
"I still win."
The light banter gave Hadrian the seconds he needed to regain his composure and his voice; he turned his head to Snape, gripping his wand in his bag but keeping it hidden from view, keeping his back to the wall.
Snape's black eyes turned to him, expressionless and yet something like relief seemed to emanate from the man. His posture was somehow relaxed—for Snape— and Hadrian found himself relaxing very slightly as well, despite the clear danger of the situation.
"Draco and I made a bet on which step you would stop. Draco bet that it would be after the sixth. I bet that it would be before the sixth. You stopped on the seventh, therefore I win."
Hadrian couldn't quite believe his ears as he listened to Snape. Then his rattled brain actually processed the information.
"I…see." He tried to get a grasp on the situation, watching Malfoy's vaguely amused expression and Snape's slightly more serious one. "You knew I would figure it out?" he was guessing by this point, but he had no idea what was happening and was prepared to stall for time, if he needed it. He wasn't even aware of what Snape and Malfoy were planning; only that he'd been brought rather spectacularly – and easily, he thought with an internal grimace – into a trap. Of what kind, he was not yet sure; he could only hope that it would not end badly for him. As it was, he already felt rather stupid for not realizing sooner.
Snape looked at him with a strange expression for a moment before nodding to Malfoy. The blonde walked down the last few steps and opened the door to Snape's quarters, stepping inside lightly but staying in view. He turned and looked expectantly up at Hadrian. The raven turned and looked at Snape, who gestured with a nod to the door. Deciding that there was nothing he could do otherwise, Hadrian stiffened his shoulder, gripped his wand tighter and walked down the last few steps slowly, pausing at the door. Snape came down beside him, remaining behind slightly. So that I can't run.
"Please, come in."
Snape's voice, welcoming and yet also a light order, pushed Hadrian the last step into the quarters. Snape stepped in and the door closed, locking magically. Hadrian's breathing turned shallow as the feelings of helplessness and ignorance swirled inside him. He didn't know what was going on, what to expect; he had no idea how he should act.
He watched with desperate keenness as Snape and Malfoy had a short conversation through their gazes, which Hadrian could only guess at. Finally they seemed to come to an agreement as Malfoy bent his head slightly towards Snape, as if in salutation. Snape also performed the same action, reminiscent to Hadrian strangely of an action which he himself was prone to give to those who he found himself respecting. It was a sign of acknowledgement, and yet also slightly submissive in nature, and before this moment Hadrian had thought it a strange feature of his own which no one else did. Clearly, this was not the case, and he felt anticipation build inside him and both Malfoy and Snape focused their sharp, intelligent gazes on him. Finally, Snape spoke, his voice low and airy.
"Hadrian Dawson. What do you know about the 'Militia'?