Before I start, I'd like to acknowledge that this story, though I don't think it bears too much similarity, was originally inspired by Dark Cyan Star's story His Slytherin Descendants. So, props. Also, the title is subject to change. I'll leave it at that.
Disclaimer: I own lots of Coca-Cola, a bag of Ghirardelli chocolates, and my laptop. I don't own Harry Potter.
The young boy walked quietly along the corridor, knowing better than to be loud or playful in this particular wing of the manor. In fact, any activities that might tentatively be described as 'playful' were confined to the nursery at the other end of the house.
Of course, Hadrian liked to think that he'd gotten past most of his 'playful' stage. He was nearly eight now, and his mother had told him that he was getting too old for playing, and that he should focus entirely on his studies. Hadrian was only too happy to read, unlike his twin, Domitian.
Domitian was older than Hadrian by only a few minutes, but he was definitely the less mature of the two of them. He whined constantly, always wanting to have his way, and was generally arrogant about everything, even when he was obviously the inferior.
Still, Father seemed to like Domitian better, which always angered Hadrian. They didn't see their father often; he was always very busy, they were told, but he came to the manor once every week or two so that the twins could show him what they had learned from their tutors. And even though Hadrian always performed at least as well as Domitian, it was always the older twin who got the coveted approval from Father.
Hadrian suddenly realized where he was, and stopped outside his mother's door. He buried his feelings about Domitian; he knew his mother didn't like it when they fought or got jealous of each other. The little boy took a deep breath and knocked quietly. He was surprised that Mother had asked for him this late; normally he'd been put to bed already, and even now he was dressed in his pajamas. Hadrian wiggled his toes, trying to warm them. The cold stone floor seemed colder when one was standing still.
Not hearing a reply, Hadrian reached for the silver handle and peeked slightly into the room. There was his mother, seated gracefully on the green-velour chaise, staring at the fireplace.
She turned to him, startled out of her thoughts. "Hadrian, darling, come here."
The boy gladly stepped out of the chilly hallway and closed the door behind him. His feet were much warmer on the thick Persian rug than on the stones. He padded over to where his mother sat.
Now that he could see her up close, Hadrian could tell something was wrong with his mother. Her skin was paler than usual, and her eyes seemed tired.
"What is it, Mother?"
She managed to smile for her son, a faint smile. "I just wanted to see you, love. There are some things I need to tell you."
Hadrian frowned. "What sort of things?"
The woman took the boy's face between her hands. "Important things, things you'll need to know once I'm gone."
She nodded. "Now, listen. You know how important you and your brother are, don't you?"
Hadrian nodded. He'd been hearing it all his life.
"One day, one of us is going to be the Heir."
"And what about the other one? What will happen to the one who isn't the Heir?"
The boy could say nothing. Honestly, he had never really thought about what would happen to whomever wasn't chosen as Heir.
His mother sighed. "No doubt you'll find out soon enough. Listen to me, Hadrian. No matter what happens to me, I want you safe. If you aren't chosen as Heir, I want you to get out of this place. It will be better for you."
"You're a smart boy, Hadrian—you'll manage."
"But why are you telling me now? Why do you..." the boy's eyes suddenly widened.
His mother smiled another sad smile and drew him up into her arms. She rocked him for a moment as he cried quietly into her shoulder. "Remember that I'll always love you, darling," she whispered softly.
Too soon, there was another knock at the door. The mother shifted her slowly calming son to the floor.
"Get under my bed, and make sure you count to fifty after the footsteps are gone before you go back to your room."
"I love you," he whispered, and she quickly kissed his cheek before sending him to crawl under the bed.
He heard the door open, heard a voice, a man, address his mother. He heard her skirts rustle as she crossed the room, and he heard the door shut again with a quiet 'click'. He heard the footsteps echo on the stone in the hall.
Even after he reached fifty, the boy couldn't get up. He felt like the bed, the ceiling, and maybe the whole world had collapsed around him.
9 Years Later
Hadrian stepped cautiously out into the hallway, looking down the corridor for any signs of movement. No one.
He turned around and quietly shut the door, locking it and carefully resetting the wards before magically erasing the fingerprints he'd left on the polished silver handle. He was anxious, and anxiety could lead to mistakes.
"What are you doing down here?"
Mistakes like that.
Hadrian turned around and acknowledged his twin. Domitian had grown a lot over the years, in physical size if not in intellect. It was difficult to be sure which part of the family he'd gotten that gene from—probably the severely-inbred branch of the Black line. "I could ask you the same question," Hadrian retorted.
"I wasn't snooping in Father's private study though, was I?" Domitian crossed his arms, smiling as though he knew he'd caught something important. "Well then, let's have it. Or should I just go and let someone—say, Aunt Bella—know that you were sticking your nose in places it doesn't belong?"
"Telling tales about me to Auntie Bellatrix? Very mature, Domitian; I'm sure you're proud of your pitiable blackmailing skills. It's not as if I don't have secrets about you to tell people."
"Not that they'd believe you. You're not good for much, are you? Black sheep of the family, always going against Father's ideals..."
Hadrian rolled his eyes; he'd had enough of this confrontation.
Before Domitian could blink, his brother had him at wandpoint.
"Tell anyone I was here, and I'll tell every one of your low-level toadies the reason you and I are no longer allowed to duel. Or maybe I should just Obliviate you and be done with it? You know I'm strong enough to do it."
Domitian fixed his twin with a glare, "You'd never. Father wouldn't –"
"Oh, just piss off and keep Draco company someplace far away. I don't want to listen to his whining tonight."
"I heard that, Sable!"
The twins turned to watch their cousin, Draco Malfoy advance down the hall, trademark gloating sneer on his face. The last name had sounded like a slur rather than an address.
Hadrian rolled his eyes. "Good. You were meant to. I figure that if you hear it enough, it'll get through your inflated head that no one wants to listen to you."
Before either of them could reply, Hadrian strode off outside, leaving the two other boys by themselves in the hall.
Hadrian sat down on the ground and propped himself up against an old tree, his favorite spot on the manor grounds. He still wondered why Malfoy was dense enough to think that calling him by his mother's surname—his surname—was insulting. The name Sable could only hurt Domitian, who had denied their mother in an effort to please their father. He thought she was weak. She had been killed, after all.
That was what happened to those who displeased the Dark Lord. It didn't matter that she had been one of his most favored at one time. The Dark Lord showed no mercy or compassion, not even for the mother of his sons.
Of course, Hadrian was used to the ribbing, comments, and threats from Draco and Domitian. He disliked the spoilt, obnoxious Draco on principle, and he could barely remember a time when he had been civil with Domitian. Their relationship had been terrible when they were children, and they had only grown worse as they got older, their mother's death making their division more pronounced. Hadrian hated Domitian for gaining favor by denying his heritage, and Domitian maintained that Hadrian was stupid for staunchly clinging to a half-blooded, weakling mother.
Also, the fact that they were competing for their very lives hadn't exactly fostered a healthy relationship.
Hadrian's mother had been right to think that her sons would soon learn the fate of the 'disfavored' twin. On the day they turned eight, Lucius Malfoy had been the one to inform Hadrian and Domitian that, when they came of age, the Dark Lord would select one of them—and only one—as his true heir, the True Magical Heir of Salazar Slytherin. The other twin would be killed.
That was going to be a happy seventeenth birthday, Hadrian thought. And it was growing ever closer. The end of July was just five weeks away. The clock was ticking.
Of course, Hadrian hadn't always seen it that way. For a long time, he had harbored the foolish dream that his father would one day open his eyes and see that he, Hadrian, was more valuable than his brother by tenfold. It had never happened. For whatever reason, the Dark Lord was falling for Domitian's "perfect son" act and ignoring Hadrian. After years of the same old story, Hadrian no longer allowed himself be affected by this treatment. He wasn't a child anymore. He didn't need his father's approval.
As far as all of the Death Eaters were concerned, the Dark Lord had named his Heir already, and it was Domitian. Hadrian, who had always been seen as second-best no matter what he did, would be murdered, just like his mother. However, Hadrian had no intention of sitting idly by and letting it happen. He remembered his mother's last conversation with him, that night in her rooms. I want to you get out of this place, she had said, and he would.
Of course, he had hoped to have a better plan in place by now. It had taken him long enough to wake up and realize that he would end up useless and dead if he didn't do something, and he had been further hindered by a lack of resources and a need to avoid any sort of attention from anyone, especially his father.
That was the most difficult part of the situation: making sure that his father didn't know what he was up to. If the Dark Lord found out that Hadrian was trying to sidestep him, life could quickly become very, very unpleasant.
That was the source of Hadrian's current frustration. He had hoped there would be something in his father's library to help him hide himself, but in six hours he'd gotten practically no useful information and had almost gotten caught. If the Dark Lord managed to discover that Hadrian had been sneaking around his private study, there would be hell to pay. Hadrian winced at the thought of his close call with Domitian. Fortunately, his brother was stupid enough (or smart enough, perhaps) not to try to blackmail him with the incident, so unless there were more nuances within the wards than Hadrian had detected, and there shouldn't be, he was safe. But the incident was a good reminder to him to be more cautious in the future. Carelessness could, quite literally, kill him, and Hadrian was certainly not ready to die.