Where the hell have I been this time, you ask? College. I've been at college, writing papers. Sorry, guys. All of you who have still been reviewing in my stupidly long absence deserve better. I was supposed to have something out over winter break, and it didn't happen.

The next few chapters are going to be a bit of a "blast from the past" in that they focus a lot on the events surrounding Hadrian's birth and his mother's death. Not only are they integral to the plot, but they're proving difficult to work out. Seriously, do you have any idea how hard it is to reconstruct the feelings and motives of a dead woman? It's hard. But I'm working on it.

Anyway, enjoy the chapter. Review or PM with comments and questions, please.

Chapter 14

Hadrian couldn't process all of the thoughts spinning around in his head. The man was lying, he had to be. It didn't make sense. If his mother had been a spy, a traitor...but no. No. It just didn't fit. The man was a liar, and Hadrian couldn't trust him. He knew better now than to trust anyone but himself.

"I don't believe you," he told the man.

"Just listen to me, Hadrian," Lupin said. "Let me tell you my side of the story. Our side."

"Why? So you can convert me to your precious 'light' side?"

Lupin's eyes met his, pleading and sincere. "What if I'm right? Haven't you ever wondered why your mother was killed, whether there was more to the story than what you know? Don't you want to know the truth?"

The truth. Hadrian almost laughed out loud. What was the truth, anymore? Aside from the fact that his father hated him, that is. Was there nothing in his life he could be confident about?

"How can I trust you're telling me the truth? You could very well be lying to gain my support, and I wouldn't know the difference."

"Let me explain, and if you need more proof I will see what I can do. I won't lie to you, Hadrian. I swear."

Hadrian held back a snort. "You swear. Right." If it would cause the man to leave him alone, however...

"Fine. Explain. Tell me why my mother died."

The man sighed with relief. "Thank you, Hadrian."

Hadrian glared. "I'm waiting.

"Yes, well." Lupin cleared his throat. "I knew your mother in school. I suppose there were hardly any who weren't familiar with her back then. The story of Scarlet Sable was big talk amongst the pureblood crowd of our day. Even without that notoriety, she would have been well known simply for her intelligence and her charm. She got on well with just about everyone. Always had fire in her eyes, always eager to solve the next problem or help the next person."

That certainly sounded like Hadrian's mother. Hadrian remembered quite vividly the year that his mother had ordered the house elves to box up the remains of the manor's Autumnal Equinox feast and taken them to a muggle homeless shelter in London. He remembered Bellatrix screaming to the high heavens that she was "tainting the Noble House of Black by giving of our own to filthy muggles," and he remembered his mother's fiery eyes and set jaw as she did it anyway.

Lupin continued. "Your mother walked a fine line socially in her school days. When I say she got on well with just about everyone, I mean it. Even while Cygnus Black was introducing his youngest daughter to pureblood society, Scarlet was making friends with students in all of the houses, purebloods and muggle-borns alike. She was best friends with a half-blood boy who had grown up in her muggle neighborhood. Despite her name change as a teenager, quite a few people from the other side of the blood fence continued to call her by her old name, Lily.

"She sometimes felt trapped and helpless, awash in all of the social expectations, I think. When she finally decided to change her name, her father had told her that he would not continue to fund her education if she chose to remain a part of the muggle world, where her adoptive sister had not been overly kind, and cruel schoolchildren had mocked her for her love of books and her curious friend, the boy from Spinner's End with whom she eventually fell in love."

"In love?" Hadrian's eyes narrowed. "Who could she-?" And then it hit him.

Spinner's End. A boy from her muggle neighborhood.

"Severus," he breathed.

"Yes, Severus." Lupin cleared his throat. "He'd been pining after her since he met her, I believe. I presume you know him?"

Hadrian glared, and Lupin wisely continued his tale.

"Unfortunately for Cygnus, a disgraced half-blood of the Prince line was best leverage he had over his beautiful daughter, who some believed could have been mothered by a pure-blooded Prewett girl. Many believe he'd been hoping to make a more advantageous match for her. The Dark Lord, at that time, was building up his army from the ranks of his chief followers and their children. He saw a young, whip-smart Ravenclaw girl with at least half of a good family, a talent for magic of all sorts, and a thick coating of determination, and he wanted her. Lily- Scarlet -was always skeptical about joining the Dark Lord, disapproving of many of his darker and more harmful methods of waging war. Black obviously couldn't have the daughter he'd worked so hard to make useful going against his will in this, so he gave her an ultimatum: join the Dark Lord, and he would not arrange her marriage to anyone. Otherwise, Cygnus would choose her husband and she would lose her chance to be with Severus. Of course, we know how that worked out for her."

Hadrian clenched his fists, trying to ignore the rather pointed remark about his parents' relationship. "Is this going somewhere?"

"Just background information. I'll get to what you want explained in a moment. Lily, less than a year after her graduation, showed up out of the blue at Sirius Black's doorstep saying that she needed help."

Sirius Black. The black sheep - or white sheep, as it were - of his mother's family. Technically a cousin of his as well, although even he would not acknowledge his relationship to the uncouth young man who had cut all of his family ties in an unforgivable breech of pureblood duty and subsequently thrown his lot in with Dumbledore.

"Sirius had always liked Lily more than the rest of his family, felt like she had more of a head on her shoulders. He arranged a meeting with Dumbledore, and she told him everything, including the fact that the Dark Lord intended to make her bear his heir even though her heart belonged to someone else. He took pity on her, of course, and when he promised to find her a way out, she agreed to spy on the Dark Lord for him."

Hadrian frowned. "Just like that?"

"Unless there's more to the story than I know," Lupin answered, nodding.

"But it can't be right," Hadrian insisted.

"I assure you, it is."

Hadrian wasn't assured. "Whatever else I've forgotten of my mother, I remember that she was committed. Even if she disagreed, even if she hated something, she squared her shoulders and did what was asked of her because it was her duty."

Lupin sighed. "Hadrian...it is natural for you to think the way you do about you parents. You want to imagine that they were content, that they agreed with one another, but that wasn't the way of things."

"I think you're lying."

Lupin's eyes widened. "Hadrian, please. I'm only telling you-"

"Lies. They're all lies. I knew my mother, don't you dare tell me I didn't. But I don't know you, and I don't trust you. Now get out."

"Hadrian–"

"LEAVE!"

"I can bring you proof!"

Hadrian paused skeptically, arms crossed.

"What sort of proof?"

"Memories. I assume you are familiar with Pensieves?"

Hadrian nodded. Of course he was familiar with Pensieves. He was descended from a Founder's family which hoarded a great number of magical artifacts. "Go on."

"I'll bring you a Pensieve, along with the memories of your mother in our meetings. You'll be able to tell if the memories are fabricated because they appear misty."

"And even if I believe the memories, what then?"

"I don't expect anything from you, Hadrian. I just want you to believe the truth. You deserve to know."

Hadrian was hard pressed not to snort. Dumbledore's pet messenger didn't expect anything. Right. Everyone always expected something of him, whether it was to get his homework done or to use dark curses or to bloody curl up and die when he was told to. And he 'deserved' to know the truth now? Now that it would give someone a leg up in this bloody war, he supposed.

Nonetheless, if the man truly thought he could bring proof...

"Come back tomorrow, same time, with the memories. Then we'll see if I'm satisfied."

Lupin nodded and made a quick exit. Once Hadrian had taken care of the deadbolt, he flopped down on the bed in his jeans. He waited for his thoughts to stop spinning.

They didn't.

Finally, he rolled over and downed the little bottle of blue liquid Severus had left him, falling into merciful, solitary darkness.