AN: First of all I would like to say thank you so very much for all the reviews. They are what keep my muse alive; thank you thank you so much!
I know that a lot of you are extremely annoyed at how the Vow went off, and as I re-read the story I realized that Hadrian's personality was not what I wanted it to be at all. It would clash horribly later, so now all of the earlier chapters have been edited. The main facts are still the same, but Hadrian's personality is quite different; I like him better now. ˆwˆ
Apart from that, some reviewers have been asking about Hadrian's past. This chapter focuses on that a little bit, so not much in the way of actual action will happen, but I promise in the next chapter the plot will advance! BTW, I will be introducing two OCs. One of them is central to the plot, the other not so much; there will not be many other OCs, though, so no worries.
Also, I have no beta, so do point out any mistakes in the chapter.
War had that funny little tendency to force things into perspective.
Hadrian wiped a bead of sweat which ran down his temple, feeling how his hands trembled from exhaustion and exhilaration. A sense of euphoria threatened to overwhelm him as he felt the residue magic stain his fingertips, and he clenched his wand harder so as to not loose notion of himself in his success.
The spell had worked. After 5 long months of planning, pouring over old tomes and writing dozens of feet of parchment, he'd finally succeeded in actually creating a spell and, now, casting it. The transfigured lion he'd been training with lay dead a few feet away, thick red blood gushing out from a side-wound; half of its rib cage appeared to have exploded, the bones sticking out at odd angles and his heart an unrecognizable lump of flesh in the carcass' mid-section. Hadrian felt a cold satisfaction at the gory sight, even if he couldn't help a mild disgust; he wasn't exactly used to this sort of thing, but it no longer bothered him.
He'd named it with deliberation; 'heart break'. It had two main phases; the torture phase, and the killing phase. The caster could decide how long to maintain either one, although the killing phase could not last for longer than a few seconds, since it focused on destroying the victim's torso completely. Hadrian hadn't yet been able to physically explode the entire body, but he was satisfied with the lion's horrific ending.
Creating the torture phase had been quite delightful to Hadrian. Not because he particularly liked torture, although he wasn't squeamish. It was because that one, unlike the killing phase, had to be designed to keep the victim alive, no matter how long under the curse.
Hadrian had studied torture curses extensively, especially the Cruciatus Curse. For being illegal, there were a lot of books about it in the Restricted Section. The main problem he'd found with it was its tendency to drive the victims insane after too little time. He'd decided this was due mainly to the fact that the spell focused on the brain. The books had elucidated this point extensively, going as far as actually explaining in terms of neurons and magical pathways how the Cruciatus went about with its job.
However, the technicalities of how the torture was carried out were rather brutish, in Hadrian's opinion. The terrible pain which characterized the curse was achieved through an overload of information into all sectors of the brain, through the magic, which in turn caused the brain to feel any and all stimulation—be it heat, touching, or even the skin itself—to feel like agony.
However, the brain was an extremely delicate organ. It was meant to be used like a scalpel, not the hammering ram that Cruciatus turned it into. Of course, it could only handle a few minutes without a few of the sectors shutting down, if not the entire thing.
Hadrian wanted his torture to be able to last for a while, without loosing the overall effectiveness of the Cruciatus. Granted, the Cruciatus was meant for battles and quick punishment, when it was not suitable to actually hold it for too long. That was when the killing phase of Cor Inscisio became marvelously useful; it did not need to actually be activated—the caster need only terminate the torture phase and the killing would begin, tearing through the heart and ribs and finally blowing up the chest. It could be held off for a while, but within 10 seconds the heart would give out and person would die anyways, if perhaps without the little explosion.
The only small problem Hadrian found with his curse was that the killing phase could not be held off. Once the curse was started, it terminated in the killing, and if the caster had by some mistake turned it against an ally, then there was no changing their mind. In that aspect, he almost preferred the actual Killing Curse than Cor Inscisio; with Avada Kedavra, the mistake was done and the sense of death was immediate. With Cor Inscisio, the victim was still alive when the caster realized his mistake. They could still be saved…except they couldn't.
He resisted the urge to kick the carcass as his left arm twitched in pain, reminding him of the long gash which he'd received from the animal's claws. It'd gotten in a lucky shot, when Hadrian was concentrating on casting a slightly more complex spell than necessary. Of course, he could have killed the lion with a well placed Confringio, or even Arduo. He'd done it before, once, when he'd been feeling particularly frustrated towards his own training. He lion had howled – Hadrian hadn't known they could do that – and then collapsed inside the raging inferno the spell had created. Hadrian would have enjoyed the spectacle more if it weren't for the smell of burning flesh which had emanated strongly from the fire, soaking into him in the close proximity. It'd taken three showers to get it off his skin, and the robes he'd been wearing he'd had to throw away.
"Evanesco", he said, waving the and lazily towards the body, which disappeared immediately along with the blood stains. He cast a Scourgify at the area, just in case, before looking at his arm.
There was a large, bloody gash, running from his shoulder to his elbow and staining the black robes, causing them to stick to the skin. He knew he was lucky not to have his arm torn to ribbons; since he'd decided it was a good idea to practice his skills on animals, the lion had become his foe of choice. It was fast, powerful, and lasted for quite a few spells. He'd never before gotten this seriously injured while training, but he wasn't particularly worried. He'd often healed smaller wounds, acquired through countless skirmishes in the darker streets of the Wizarding World, which he often found himself frequenting.
He wasn't rich. In fact, he had almost no money; he was attending Hogwarts on a trust fund which the Ministry provided to those with no money and no parents only. Hadrian fit both criteria, and so had received his Hogwarts letter on time, along with an envelope which explained his situation and the arrangement.
He'd soon found out that the trust fund covered only the actual school tuition; he was still expected to somehow pay for the books and robes. Hadrian marveled at this slightly ridiculous aspect of the contract, but had soon realized that the school's tuition alone – somewhere around 120 galleons a year, for seven years – was already a rather large amount, especially for the ministry to invest in someone like him, who might as well have no future as far as they were concerned.
Therefore, in need of money and with no time to actually gain some, he'd gone where many other had before him when in desperate need of money in a ridiculously short amount of time; Jaggerwalk Street. It was a smaller section of Knockturn alley which specialized in jobs which no one wanted to do, and which sometimes skipped over onto the other side of the law.
Hadrian had been extremely hesitant over this at first. He'd found out about Jaggerwalk from the shop-keeper at Burgin & Burkes, when he'd gone in asking for a job. The manager had taken one look at him, and turned him onto the other street, telling him that if he wanted money he'd better be prepared to do some nasty things.
Hadrian had never been very squeamish.
And so, within the month and a half that he'd had since he'd found Jaggerwalk until Hogwarts began, he'd become a consistent worker for Kyle, the manager of a small but well-known illegal magical items shop.
What made Hadrian a good shop assistant was that he was good at convincing people. He could within moments detect what the person was really looking for within the shop, despite what they might be saying, and showed it to them. If they didn't have something which fit the requirements, he'd tell Kyle, and Kyle would find it for the client. Most people who came to Kyle wanted a very specific item for a very specific aim, and Hadrian was rather talented at detecting exactly what that item was.
Kyle was a strange man. Hadrian liked him, personally, although he knew that the man was respected throughout Jaggerwalk. This, of course, meant he was feared, since there was no respect in these parts but what fear brought. Kyle had never physically harmed Hadrian, but the boy was not under any illusions that Kyle would refrain from it if he was given a reason. So far he'd worked hard not to give him one, and so they got along well.
The month he'd worked with Kyle had earned him enough money for the books and for the robes; it wouldn't have, normally, but Kyle valued Hadrian's ease with the customers, and so within a week of Hadrian's initial employment, he was given a raise. Despite being 11 at the time he started working, he wasn't easily intimidated by their customers, which was saying something when it was taken into account just what sort of people Kyle dealt with everyday.
Hadrian flicked his wand towards his shoulder, murmuring, "Episkey", watching the outer layer of skin bind itself slowly together over the smaller parts of the gash. The healing spell couldn't cure the larger wound which had rent his bicep, but it stopped the blood-flow as it helped to cure the smaller breaks inside the actual skin.
He flicked his wand again; "Accio Bandages." A roll of hospital white bandages emerged from a pack of utensils which he'd brought along. He bound it on his arm, pressing firmly so that the wound would not reopen as he walked. He tested the arm, and felt a rush of pain flay through him even as he clenched his jaws; it was a good sign that his arm was working, and healing.
He'd become good with patching himself up. Kyle had taught him many spells, and even a few Muggle techniques, such as how to use bandages when more advanced spells were not available. He'd learned a lot of things from Kyle, including the value of having a mask.
By now, Hadrian had known Kyle for 3 years; after his first employment, Kyle had offered him the option of returning to his shop each year during Hogwarts' vacation time. Hadrian had accepted, knowing that as far as summer jobs went, this was one of the best. Compared to any others, the pay was high and the customers were too afraid of Kyle to do anything but entertain Hadrian. He was also good at it, and by now he'd accumulated enough money to actually attend Hogwarts without returning to Kyle, by saving most of his pay and only using the least possible to buy his equipment.
He wouldn't though. He liked Kyle, and Kyle seemed to like him in turn. He'd given him the room upstairs the shop for when he worked there, after he'd found out that Hadrian had no place to stay at. It had become Hadrian's home, even after the short while which he'd stayed. Kyle was like the older brother he never had and, despite the fact that he'd never admit it out-loud, he almost loved the man.
They'd met on strange terms. Hadrian had been working at a bar for the past week, a place which he'd found easily and which had accepted him without asking too many questions; the pay was mediocre, but the tips were good. It was the people who went to the bar which made the entire experience rather unpleasant. Within the second day, Hadrian's strange beauty and youth had drawn in the pedophiles, and he'd found himself harassed at every turn. He withstood it in silence, determined to gain enough money to enter Hogwarts well equipped. He never planned to have to resort to such low measures again, and that was the main reason why he never complained – not that it would do much good in a place like this – even when one man literally snatched him from the floor and sat him on his lap. It was clearly breaking the barriers which even this bar, in Jaggerwalk Street, held; even so, it was not entirely unusual. The man looked very drunk, and at this time of night no one looked ready to help a boy in trouble anyways.
That had been the night when he'd met Kyle. The stranger had entered and sat at one of the tables alone, ordering something to drink. Hadrian had brought it over without much interest, flashing the young and unusually attractive man at the table a flirtatious smile; he'd soon figured that if the customers liked him, he'd get higher tips. It made him gag inside every time though, and he felt a little like throwing up when he curled up in the small couch which the manager of the bar let him sleep in every morning.
It's all for the money. It's just a month.
The stranger had looked at him strangely. It wasn't unheard of to see an 11 year old working at a bar in Jaggerwalk, but Hadrian was a little unusual looking. He wasn't the beat-up street-brat which these bars usually attracted; even in the Magical world, the lower side of the street was an ugly place to be and Hadrian, with his pale skin and sharp features stood out like a sore thumb.
The man, drunken and evidently aroused, had leaned in to give Hadrian a kiss. The boy had wrenched away from the man's grasp, trying to get away even as the man pulled him close. The other men also sitting at the same table laughed at the spectacle; they were also completely drunk, but this didn't hide the fact that they also enjoyed seen Hadrian suffer at the hands of their friend.
Hadrian tried to get away, but he was thin and weak and young, and the man had no trouble pressing him close and drawing his face to his. His breath reeked of alcohol, and Hadrian gagged slightly as the man murmured sloppily in his ear; "You are…so sexy…how much?"
Hadrian, being 11 at the time, wasn't sure what the man meant by that statement. He did know, however, that whatever the man was planning, it would not end well for him. He twisted forcefully, but this only made the man moan in his ear. Hadrian shivered in disgust, feeling panic rise in his chest as the man's hand, which had settled in his back, began to go lower. He tensed, not knowing what to do. He didn't have a wand yet, and so magic was out of the question. He didn't know any spell, anyways.
"What do you think you're doing?"
A deep voice rang out beside them, and Hadrian twisted his head awkwardly to look up to the same man which he'd served earlier. His eyes widened, pleading wordlessly for help to this stranger in this moment of utter powerlessness. He did not have much hope; it was extremely rare that anyone would help someone in trouble while in Knockturn alley. People left each other alone; no one cared enough to interfere when they saw another in trouble.
The drunken man also turned to look at the stranger, his eyes narrowing in drunken anger.
"What…do you want?" He stumbled over his words. "I saw…him first! Get…another…one!"
The stranger's eyes blinked disinterestedly as they looked at Hadrian, ignoring the drunken man's outburst. Hadrian looked back, feeling decidedly uncomfortable even as the other man's hand had stopped lowering on his shirt. He did notice, however, that the drunk's friends had stopped laughing. One of them, the one which appeared at least a little more sober than the rest, suddenly gasped and pulled at the others.
"That's Kyle, guys!"
The man holding Hadrian had tensed at the name. Hadrian looked between the men, confused, which is why he was unprepared for when the man holding him suddenly pushed him off his lap and he fell onto the floor harshly, letting out a small gasp of pain. The man stood hurriedly, his eyes wide and unfocused through the intoxication, even as he backed away from Kyle.
"Oh man…Kyle, yeah? He's yours…'course…" he suddenly stumbled, and his friends, who had also stood up, went over and hurriedly supported him. Hadrian stood quickly, taking a step away from this man who, without taking any offensive measures, was able to inspire such fear into even drunken men. He noticed amusedly that none of the people in the bar were looking in their direction, apart from one of the other waiters, who looked more worried over the prospect of a brawl than anything else.
The group of men looked at Kyle worriedly; as if afraid that he would suddenly attack them. Kyle's expression did not change as he suddenly turned to Hadrian, who tensed as the man reached over a hand and placed it on his shoulder. The grip was light but steady.
"Come with me."
Hadrian felt scared. He wasn't one to be intimidated by people, but as the man's hand had touched his shoulder, he'd felt a rush of dark power emanating from the man, a wave of Dark Magic which caused a shiver down his back.
He allowed the other man to lead him back to his table, where he'd first brought him the drink. The man sat down, and gestured to Hadrian to do the same. Usually, he would have told him that he had work to do and could not afford to slack off, but the man's hard gaze compelled him and he sat down.
"What is your name, child?"
Hadrian pressed his hands together to keep them from shaking. "Hadrian Dawson, sir."
Kyle nodded. "Where are your parents, Hadrian?"
Hadrian shook his head. "I don't know. I think they're dead."
Kyle leaned back slightly as he looked at Hadrian. Hadrian suddenly felt a spark of magic around him; he tensed, then suddenly realized that they were privacy wards, so they would not be overheard.
"How old are you, Hadrian?"
Hadrian hesitated. "11."
"You are rather young to be working here. Are you going to Hogwarts?"
"Yes, sir. I start this year."
"So you are working here to get enough money to buy the school robes and books?"
Hadrian met the man's gaze, feeling distinctly uncomfortable in this questioning but not daring to question Kyle in turn.
Kyle gave him a searching look, as if he thought Hadrian was not telling him the truth. Hadrian kneaded his hands as the silence stretched.
"Would you like to work for me, then?"
Hadrian tensed. "Work for you?" he said, his voice low and unassuming.
Kyle nodded. "I run a small shop further down Jaggerwalk. I sell magical items in it, and lately I have come to be in need of an assistance who could help me with my customers. Would you be interested?"
Hadrian tried to detect a lie in the man, but found none. He was aware of the troubles which a young child like him could get into. Within three hours of stumbling into Jaggerwalk he'd been attacked by two pedophiles, which he'd only managed to evade by hiding inside a shop. He'd soon found out that while the streets were incredibly unsafe, the shops themselves were actually decent places, as far as Jaggerwalk went.
Kyle seemed to be sincere in his question, but this did not stop Hadrian from doubting.
"Why would you want an 11 year old helping you in your shop?"
"Because you have nowhere else to go, know no magic, and are basically defenseless, so you would not try to steal from me at all. You need only the money required by Hogwarts, and I have that for you. I need an assistant, and you appear to do well with people." He gestured to the bar. "I will pay you 5 galleons a week, plus one for food, which I am certain is more than they pay you here. Furthermore, I will allow you to stay at the empty room above the shop. I live nearby, but I need someone closer in case of emergencies." He took a sip of his drink. "What will it be?"
Hadrian considered, but he knew that there really wasn't much to consider. If the man was lying, he'd simply leave. Besides, even with tips, the pay at the bar came up around 2 galleons per week, and this did not include food, as Kyle was so generously offering. Hadrian nodded.
"Well then, let's go now."
Hadrian arrived back in his dorm room a little before dinner, noting that most people were still studying or finishing homework during these few hours of free-time. He assumed that the other Houses would be perhaps playing or gossiping, but in the House of Ravenclaw, most were pouring over their notes and projects and there was barely any talking.
He shuffled up the stairs to his room, feeling his left arm throb in pain over the wound. He hoped that it wouldn't scar; he had a few potions in his trunk to heal over the wound which Kyle had gifted him, but he'd already left it untreated for a little while; he hoped they would still work well.
He reached his room without meeting any other students, and went over to his trunk hurriedly. He saw a note had been left on it, and placed it on his bed. He'd read it as soon as he was finished with the potions.
He grimaced as the trunk's heavy lid jarred his arm. He really should be more careful with what he played with, but he refused to choose something less dangerous than the large feline. True, he'd never before gotten this hurt, but it was only a matter of time before the beast got another lucky shot in. Even so, Hadrian did not want to battle anything which he did not feel actually threatened his life. If he could not learn to control his nerves in life-threatening situations, then there was no point to this training.
He drank a blood-replenishing potion first, before opening a smaller vial which contained a white, sticky fluid and spreading a bit on his arm. The liquid quickly absorbed into the skin, leaving the area numb as the muscle began to visibly reattach. It was a rare, extremely potent healing potion which Hadrian had received as his 13th birthday gift from Kyle a few months ago. He almost never had reason to use it, and now as he watched it sow through the tear in moments, he marveled at the power of magic.
The salve stitched up the actual wound, but he could still feel a stubborn throb and so he re-bandaged his arm. Then he turned to the note which he'd placed on his bed, climbing inside after closing and locking his trunk and placing a few privacy wards around him.
The letter read simply;
Meet me at my quarters directly after dinner. We have a few things to discuss.
There was no signature, but Hadrian immediately knew it was from Snape. He felt a vague excitement curl in his stomach at the words; today after dinner he'd finally get a chance to ask Snape a few things.
He was under no delusions that he would be given all the information which he asked for, even while being a member of the Militia. He wanted to know, however, what his role would play out and how it might affect his school and private life. He also wanted to know if he was allowed to tell Kyle of his inclusion. He hoped that he would not have to hide anything from the man, more out of knowing that the man would find out anyways.
And what if Kyle himself found out? Then it was not by Hadrian's will. In any case, none of the conditions stated anything against telling Kyle of the organization, as long as he did it without any ill will for it.
He looked at the short note again, then flicked his wand and said, "Tempus". It was already dinner, and with his arm no longer posing a problem, he burned the note with a light Arduo and then hurried downstairs.
He reached the Main Hall and shuffled over to the Ravenclaw table, sitting down at his customary seat at the edge of the table closest to the door. He helped himself to some of the potatoes, slowly eating as he hunched over the table, his movements uncoordinated and clumsy. He raised his gaze to the teacher's table, spotting Snape, who was looking in his direction. He nodded slightly and Snape turned away, knowing it meant that Hadrian had received the note.
At the sudden and rather loud voice, Hadrian jumped a little, even as he mentally cataloged that the other boy could be rather sneaky when he wanted to be. He turned and looked beside him, towards the larger Hufflepuff who had suddenly appeared. The boy had tawny blonde hair and dark eyes, and he was a good 5 inches taller than Hadrian; he placed an arm around the smaller boy, who tensed slightly even as he forced his muscles to unclench under the unexpected touch.
"Hi, Claude," he said, his voice low and nervous, even as inside he sighed in annoyance as he resisted the urge to push the other boy's arm off him. What terrible timing.
"Hey. Are you doing anything later?"
Hadrian bit back his frown as he looked downward and away from Claude's gaze. Yes. "Um…I need to finish a project for Potions…"
Claude frowned. "A project? We don't have a project…or, do you mean the one due in a week?"
"It's due in a week, Hadrian. You could finish it in a day." He looked at the smaller boy with amusement. "Anyways, we're having a party over at Hufflepuff. I know you don't really like those but I've been meaning to introduce you to…"
Hadrian let out a soft sigh of annoyance. If it were not for Claude Danvers and his strange and unexpected fixation with him, he'd be completely invisible. The 3rd year Hufflepuff had become acquainted with him through rather surprising means; the library. Hadrian still couldn't understand why the boy hadn't been placed in Ravenclaw, when he loved books about as much as Hadrian did, but he supposed that it had to do with his loyalty to his family. The boy was part of one of the riches pureblood families in Europe, but due to his position in the Hufflepuff House, he was often underestimated and left out of the other Pureblood circles which were mostly either in Slytherin or Gryffindor. Hadrian himself could not understand why the boy let it remain so; excepting Malfoy, Hadrian did not doubt that Claude was more capable of being a family head than any of the other young Purebloods. He was clever, cunning and entirely loyal to his family; most of the older Purebloods respected him somewhat, despite what the situation was like at Hogwarts.
He was also the only person in Hogwarts which Hadrian might have considered a friend; since their second year, when Claude had initiated a conversation with the more than reluctant Hadrian in the library, they'd developed a strange sort of acquaintance; they weren't exactly friends, but they helped each other with school-work and every one in a while Claude would try to intrude into Hadrian's self-imposed isolation and bring the boy into his own circle of friends. Hadrian put up with it because the boy was actually rather smart and quite entertaining company, and because once they left Hogwarts would be a powerful ally. He didn't appreciate it, though, when Claude attempted to bring him out to the public.
This was one of those times, and while usually Hadrian might have agreed to appear at the party for a little while, if only to test his mask around more people and to please the boy, he now had his little meeting with Snape.
"I'm sorry, Claude. I really have to work on the project. I'm doing a bit of extra work to make up from a potion I botched last week."
Claude looked at him carefully. Hadrian knew that Claude did not believe him, but would not question what he would actually be doing. The reason their friendship had lasted as long as it did was because Claude did not question Hadrian and did not dig where it was clear that Hadrian did not want him to.
Hadrian's mask was not made up to hold under close scrutiny. The amount of time he spent with Claude had made it crack a few times, but the other boy had never pushed and so Hadrian and he had stayed as friends. Eventually, Claude nodded.
"Oh well. Good luck with that, then. I'll see you tomorrow." He stood up then and walked over to the Hufflepuff table, sitting in the middle of his group of friends. Hadrian did not watch him go, but he felt Snape's eyes focus on him. He did not look up.
Dinner would end in a few minutes, and then he knew he and Snape would have plenty of time to talk.