Summary: Harry ends up being thrown out of the Dursleys household. Because of a Death Eater he gets sent back in time. How does his relationship with his parents and the people around him progress with the war around them? Necromancer!Harry. Slash
Pairings: Harry/multi, but the main pairings are HPLV and HPLM. Others are still undecided.
Disclaimer: don't own Harry Potter or any canon characters. The characters you don't recognize are probably mine as well as the plot.
A/n: Hello everyone! Thank you all for your wonderful reviews, they mean a lot to me! In November, the chapters will be long but twice a week, and after November, they will be still long and once a week. Yes, strange, I know. For my exact writing schedule and the reason why the hell I haven't updated up to this time, please see my profile :)
Chapter 9. Secret Meetings
"When will you stop watching the boy like a hawk and talk to him?"
Albus Dumbledore rubbed the nape of his neck and diverted his attention from a certain long-haired boy sitting at the Slytherin table. His heavy gaze fell on the Deputy Headmistress.
"Minerva, you know that I can't," he said and shook his head remorsefully. The woman's lips thinned and she took a cup of tea in her hands to take a sip, closing her eyes in pleasure as she inhaled.
"You will never find out what happened until you talk to him," Minerva reasoned after setting her cup back on the table again. "Or talk to Aberforth. And, oh dear Merlin, I don't think this is an option after what transpired between you."
"No, it isn't," Albus breathed out and stared at Hadrian Dumbledore, trying to find traces of Aberforth's boyish looks. The boy's petit stature and high cheekbones didn't tell of the Dumbledore's trademark features – he looked more like a Potter, if anything – yet some of his features struck Albus as familiar, the ones he would see every day he stared at the childhood photograph of his happy family.
"So, will you talk to him?" Minerva demanded once more. This time Albus had to suppress a sigh. He knew that a show of aggravation would be pointless, so he settled on smiling at her patiently instead.
The smile worked and the Transfiguration Professor blushed and turned away. Her crush on him hadn't dimmed throughout the years they had spent living in the same castle. The woman remained her teenaged counterpart when matters concerned Albus, and the man was glad that neither his wrinkled skin nor his greying hair put her off.
"Someday," Albus replied to her question.
"I hope this day happens before I am old and in a rocking chair."
"My, I think you'll never be in a rocking chair, Minerva." Albus chuckled and watched the Slytherin group including Hadrian Dumbledore and the Rosier and Malfoy heirs leave the Hall. "Why are you so intent on mending our supposed relationship? You usually prefer to put some distance between yourself and your students."
Minerva's gaze softened and a tiny smile smoothed out the stern lines of her face.
"I like seeing families reunite. I'm just asking you to consider it, Albus. I am the only one on the stuff who knows your relationship with Aberforth and the misfortunes that befell on your family-"
"Only because you eavesdropped." Albus couldn't keep the accusation out of his voice.
"I was a child," she said in amusement. "I didn't understand half of it at the time. Besides, you never told me the whole truth. How did your mother and sister die? And why is Aberforth blaming you? He also told something about the Dark Lord. Who was he-"
"Minerva," Albus chided gently, and the woman's mouth snapped shut. Awkwardly, she placed her hand on his forearm.
"I apologise," Minerva said, her eyes shifting to the Gryffindor table. "I would be so happy if only my parents and brother weren't killed in that fateful Grindelwald's attack..."
"I don't hold it against you, Minerva. I was going to talk to young Hadrian. I just don't know how to set this up. Knowing Aberforth, he is bound to have said some things about me that would make you shiver."
"What a liar!" Minerva exclaimed indignantly and her lips pressed together. Albus hid a smile. A sad one. "I'm certain you are too noble to do any heinous crime he must be accusing you of."
"You flatter me, Minerva."Albus shook his head and gazed at the intricate goblet filled with spring water. Spring water was said to have some rejuvenating effects and he was going to need all the time he had to make up for his mistakes. "Believe me when I say that my brother has more insight and more sagacity than he is given credit for. Being the owner of a dodgy pub doesn't take away his intelligence, I fear."
A comfortable silence fell on them. Students were stumbling into the Great Hall with owlish eyes and mussed hair. The lessons started in half an hour, so most of them rushed to get a bite before they were whirled into the everyday routine.
"I will meet with young Hadrian by the end of the year," Albus said quietly, his eyes showing the accumulated burden of his many years. At the sound of his voice, Minerva fleeted him a glance.
"Are you sure you want to wait this long, Albus? Aberforth might be setting him agai-"
"Give the old man this luxury of choice," Albus cut her off. His fingers fiddled with his beard and Minerva's eyes followed the motion. "I have to decide what exactly to tell him and how to tell it. What questions to ask and what questions to be ready to answer. All of this needs time. Meanwhile, I'll be watching him."
Minerva stared at him for a long minute before nodding sharply and standing up. Slughorn yelped when her hand accidentally collided with his shoulder. The imperious woman ignored the disgruntled mutterings.
"I want to see you happy, Albus. You deserve it, more than anyone. If this boy is what you need to move on and dim the old pain, I will do everything to bring you two together."
Minerva flashed him a determined smile and smirked at Albus's widened eyes. With a few greetings to Pomona Sprout and Professor Sinistra, she marched out of the Great Hall, leaving Albus to stare after her.
What a strong woman.
"Want some turkey?" Slughorn asked helpfully, pushing the plate to Albus and successfully pulling the man out of his reverie.
"Thank you, Horace," Albus said and pushed the plate a bit away from him, choosing to eat some bacon and eggs. A smile without a trace of sadness or weariness was playing on his face and, suddenly, the world shone brightly, making Albus throw out of his consciousness the overwhelming weight of guilty memories, the disturbing news from one of his Ministry spies, the deaths of muggleborns a few days before...
This mystery of a boy was a gift bestowed upon him.
A chance to repair his broken family. Albus wouldn't let it go, no matter what.
He dug into his breakfast with much gusto and his humming was happier than it had ever been.
This evening was going to be special, Hadrian reflected.
He had been waiting till midnight for his housemates to fall asleep, and his patience had finally born its fruit. The tip of his wand shining with a Lumos, Hadrian carefully slipped out of his bed. He strained his ears for any noise that wasn't Rowle's sound snoring, or Meliflua's constant sneezing, but there wasn't any. Hadrian sighed in relief. Path clear.
His bottom lip nibbled on by his teeth, the boy put effort into walking as silently as he could, carefully sidestepping the clothes and small objects strewn across the floor. He almost cursed when his feet tripped on a trickily-lying book, and wondered if someone had placed it on purpose, to discover any restless students like Hadrian himself. He had a hunch Rosier could think of something of the kind.
He held his breath.
A few semi-mumbles stopped him in his tracks, and a particularly loud sneeze rivalled only Snape's sudden violent coughs that cut through the darkness of the room with razor blade sharpness. Harry flinched, but kept walking. Never once had the way from his bed to the door seemed so long yet exciting, almost like an adventure.
Adventure... The boy threw a glance at the curtains, behind which Rosier slept. They hadn't had the chance to talk over this spying madness the pureblood had proposed, and Hadrian had – in a bout of insanity, most likely – accepted.
Finally getting to the door, Hadrian breathed freely.
He couldn't suppress the urge to look back at his fellow Slytherins.
Greengrass's curtains were open, and Hadrian could see the boy's scrawny figure sprawled out on the bed, belly down and a leg escaping the confines of the bed. The blanket was lying on the floor, long forgotten in the wake of the wet hotness reigning in the dorms. Hadrian mentally made a note to mention it to the prefects, so that the older students could fix the temperature.
Rowle was lying on the very edge of his bed, his snores grating and loud. Hadrian squelched the sudden whim to walk to the boy and throw him off the bed.
'No need to bother. He might be doing just that himself soon,' Hadrian thought to himself, which didn't stop him from a vindictive light Tickling Charm in the boy's direction.
The platinum blond snorted in his sleep and edged closer to the bed's border. He would fall in a few minutes, Hadrian knew.
And he didn't want to be there when that happened. The noise might wake the others up, which Hadrian truly didn't need at the moment.
Sighing, he pushed the door and stepped out.
If Hogwarts was beautiful in the light of the day, it couldn't compare with the marvellous allure it radiated at night.
Hadrian strolled through the shadowed corridors, his admiring gaze roving over the intricate ornaments on the walls and the ceilings, impressed by the powerful beauty of them. The moon shone brightly through the vintage windows and shed light on the patterned floor. The only thing piercing the stillness of the castle was the quiet snoring of the painting, or the rare sophisticated talks of passing ghosts.
He closed his eyes in marvel.
A small smile playing on his lips, Hadrian stalked through the castle with a clear purpose in mind. To get to the Room of Requirement.
As much as the loss of sleep disgruntled him, the longing to see Aberforth, the man Hadrian willed himself not to trust too much yet went back on this promise again and again, burned in his soul too powerfully to ignore. Determination forcing his step, Hadrian accelerated his pace. The wonders of the castle could wait. The time... not so much.
So hurried the boy was, that he didn't notice a long mewl until it was too late.
Whirling around, his eyes caught the nasty Mrs. Norris, the pet cat of their equally horrendous Hogwarts caretaker Filch, a man whose character was as dark as his teeth (the ones that he still had, of course).
"Bloody-!" Not wasting another minute, Hadrian took off. Student robes billowing around him, he ran as fast as he could, as if wild hippogriffs were chasing him. He didn't stop to check if Filch had arrived and was now following him, or if he had lucked out and Mrs. Norris had lost his track.
Out of breath, he halted before one of Hogwart's many moving staircases, and violently prayed for it to float his way, his eyes begging and hands folded in a prayer.
As if mocking him, the stairs moved away from him, to the other side of the huge gap between himself and the next set of chequered floor tiles. Hadrian cursed. Then repeated it. When he felt perspiration break out on his forehead, he wiped at it with his hand, but it did nothing to get him away from his dilemma. Panicked green eyes were drifting from the taunting flight of stairs on the other side of the corridor, and to the yet empty hallway. Hadrian knew it wouldn't rest empty for long.
A mewl. Then, the familiar shuffling and wheezing.
"Aye, my dear," muttered the school caretaker, his tone of voice bearing a malicious hint. The dim light of a lantern the man was holding cast its bobbing light onto the walls. "Ain't we going to catch those filthy little beasts this time? The first week into school, and there are already dung bombs everywhere! Just you wait, I will catch you all, I will."
Panic gripping his chest, Hadrian muttered a Wingardium Leviosa and flung an armour's head off its shoulders. It fell onto the floor with a crash reverberating throughout the hallway. As quickly as he could, Hadrian ran to the head and sent it flying hard in Filch's direction.
"A-ha!" The old man's triumph didn't last long. Only up to the moment the head met the fragile kneecaps.
Hearing annoyed cussing in an unmistakeable voice, Hadrian made his decision.
He screwed his eyes shut and hoped to any deity existing that something would break the fall, or that the falling sensation wouldn't last for too long. His arm met sharp pain, and he felt as a person skinned alive. He couldn't hold back a scream, though it didn't matter anymore, considering Filch was now a couple of floors above Hadrian.
Through the haze of pain, Hadrian quickly deduced that the red hot graze running down his arm came from a doorstep. He grappled for a piece of solidness. His fingers snatched the border of a floor, halting the bizarre fall.
For a second, Hadrian feared opening his eyes to see where this plunge had brought him to. His only wish was to remain hanging there, in a semblance of peace and quiet. He stayed where he was for a few more moments, wary of moving just in case. His hearing searched for any resemblance of a human or cat sound, and more than anything he was afraid that this entire quandary was for nothing and that Filch would find him anyway.
'But I can't spend here all the night,' Hadrian reasoned with himself and willed his body to stop being a hanging lump and shift.
A journey starts with a step, so the boy first took a deep breath and proceeded to grip the floor border with his other hand, the injured one.
A wrong move, it seemed.
His arm moaned with piercing pain, making Hadrian groan with it. He hissed loudly. Ignoring the tears gathered at the corners of the tightly clenched eyes, the boy forced himself to go on and push himself up. He ignored the drops of blood falling onto his cheeks as he struggled to climb up the border. He disregarded the tiredness that weighted down on his body all of a sudden. He couldn't bear look at the horrific image of his left hand. He knew it could scar if not treated in the nearest future.
His own hot, shuddering breaths was all Hadrian heard and concentrated on.
Gasping out, he thrust his body upwards and scrambled to his feet. He stood in the dead silence of yet another corridor, back hunched and shoulders shaking, and couldn't stop trembling. His eyes couldn't focus on anything, no matter how much Hadrian was aware of how pitifully lost he looked. Slowly raising his right hand to his racing heart, the boy blinked off the pain and listened to the irregular, drums-loud beats.
Could he hope this evening's misfortunes would end?
Once again, his ears caught a vague sound. Hadrian dashed to an alcove, eyes wide and hair in disarray, the green ribbon tying it lost sometime during the getaway from Filch. The boy made himself as small as physically possible, drawing in his shoulders and hugging his knobbly knees tightly to his narrow chest. He held his breath. Now, to wait.
The strolling steps were getting louder. There were two sets of feet, Hadrian figured out.
"You were right in going to me with this problem," a calm voice praised. Hadrian held back a gasp, realising who the man was. "As the headmaster, I have all the means to help you deal with this."
"Really?" the boy – and judging by his speech, the other person talking had to be a boy – asked timidly, hopefully.
Hadrian could hear a smile in Albus Dumbledore's reply.
"Of course! Magic is a wonderful thing, isn't it? So potent, so varied... Although I have to disappoint you that no cure has been found-"
"-we can minimise the damage dealt to other people if you follow my advice every time the beast within you rears its ugly head." Dumbledore's voice flowed from gentle into demanding.
Hadrian wanted to see the faces of the people talking especially of this unknown boy, who sounded vaguely familiar but not nearly enough for him to recognise. The curiosity shone in the green eyes, and Hadrian's head was leaning as close to the edge as he could make it without the motion being too obvious or the tuft of black visible.
"Every month," the Headmaster agreed benignly. "Lemon drop?" The unknown boy didn't reply. The next sound Hadrian heard was loud crunching and a happy sigh.
"This tree..." the boy began hesitantly after a short pause. "Where we are going to... Was it planted especially for me?"
"Yes, my boy. You, after all, are the first werewolf to ever attend Hogwarts. In all the years of my working here, of course."
Hadrian clutched his mouth to keep a gasp from escaping.
A werewolf! Was Dumbledore bloody insane? To let a creature known for its violent and volatile nature be brought to the castle full of children – rare magical children, how his Slytherin classmates would add – and have the nerve to walk around as if it was all normal...
Now, Hadrian couldn't contain his curiosity any longer.
'It is for a reason,' he convinced himself, ready to clutch the angle with his fingers and sneak a few looks at the mysterious boy. 'I should know what's there to protect myself from in this castle. Besides, I might use this information to my advantage someday.'
Covertly, he pushed himself forward and stuck out his head. Hadrian snitched a glance at the boy's face first, but it was covered by the oppressive shadows cast by the metal armours. As expected, the colours on the boy's robes were not green but red and golden, clearly betraying a Gryffindor in him.
Hadrian supposed the Gryffindor was lucky he didn't give a damn about Houses, otherwise the Slytherin would have immediately run to his housemates to share this piece of furry gossip.
Shaking his head, Hadrian scrunched his eyes to look deeper into the dark.
Dumbledore had donned on a most extraordinary set of spotted vibrant red and purple robes that would have made Meliflua kill himself, along with golden pointed boots and a brightly shining medallion hung on his neck. His face wrinkled in an amused smile when the boy tripped and mumbled an apology for grabbing the Headmaster's robes.
"No damage done," the man said kindly, bright blue eyes – so familiar that Hadrian's chest tightened - twinkling. He placed his lined hand on the Gryffindor's shoulder to keep him from tripping again.
Having made sure that the boy wasn't hurt, the Headmaster resumed his pace. The Gryffindor did not.
"Is something the matter?" Dumbledore asked in puzzlement, stopping and turning his head around. Hadrian could see the man's forehead crease, and the Gryffindor nibbling on his lips, but it was too dark for him to see the two figures in all clarity.
"Is it truly all right for me to be here, at Hogwarts?" the Gryffindor boy asked, timidly revealing the cause of his worry. His voice was soft and still high-pitched, as it hadn't begun breaking yet. "You know that I might hurt others in the full moon-rage. I might tear their limbs apart. Even devour them, if that's what the monster inside me wishes to do. I might damage them in another way, milder but hurtful no less. You don't know what you are getting into when you let me in. I can do all the things I've listed. I have already done them, sir."
An intense shudder run down Hadrian's spine. A fear, unlike anything he had ever experienced, clutched his fluttering heart.
Was it really what monsters did? What beasts like werewolves were born to do, craved for?
In this very moment, Hadrian resolved to train himself as hard as he could, not for Aberforth's cause of killing Grindelwald, not for resurrecting Ariana for good, not for his and Milly's good life with all the luxuries in it, but simply to survive. He simply couldn't believe that someone would be insane enough to let a creature this Dark roam the halls of Hogwarts, disguised as a normal student but ready to stab its claws into the first innocuous victim it met.
'If even Hogwarts, the place deemed the safest of all, has become so unsafe, then I must grow stronger and be my own safe heaven. If no one dares to challenge me any longer, only then can I truly relax and simply live, without any worries, with Aberforth, and Milly, and Ariana, and Kamaria by my side.'
He might be overreacting. After all, with all the creatures in the Forbidden Forest; with all the fabled Dark wizards, deranged enough to conduct horrific experiments on their victims, and kill, and maim, and torture; with Grindelwald waiting for the end of times in his former citadel of glory but now a simple prison; with the dodgy contingent of Aberforth's pub, Hadrian should have seen already the dangers of the Wizarding kind...
But in reality, all of these had been nothing more than faraway possibilities that didn't touch upon his personal life in any way. The tales told by a tired mother to a child refusing to sleep without some story time.
Now that the hazard was so near and so frighteningly tangible, Hadrian couldn't rest until he was secure in his magical prowess.
Decision made, Hadrian concentrated on Dumbledore's reply to the werewolf.
"I understand that the grief of murder cannot be easily forgotten, especially in your age," the man murmured, his voice almost a whisper and eyes no longer twinkling, having lost their playfulness and amusement. Hadrian realised that the old man was reviving the memories of old times in his head, losing the touch with reality in this absorption with the memories. "This guilt that plagues you might very well never be forgotten or stomped on. But you are not a monster until you let yourself become so."
"How can you tell for sure?" the Gryffindor blurted out. Then, he sniffled and hunched his shoulders. Hadrian could see them shaking, but no emotion could seep through his resolution not to trust a werewolf. "I have already killed once." The voice quivered and broke on the last note. "And you said yourself that I am the first werewolf to ever attend Hogwarts."
"The first werewolf," the man agreed calmly, walking over to the crying boy and resting his hands on both shoulders, which were still trembling with each sob. "I never called you monster. And of those, there have been in Hogwarts plenty. I knew a boy once. He was born a hundred-percent human, yet let himself turn into a fiend over the course of time. You see? It is not what a person is born as that defines him, but what choices a person makes in his life."
Heavy silence fell. Hadrian mulled over the words, just as the werewolf boy probably did. Now, the Slytherin felt a little guilty for the hatred that had sprouted in him after discovering the other boy's condition, but the fact didn't diminish his determination to make the best of him and to keep himself safe by acquiring as vast knowledge as he could.
Knowledge of Necromancy, of potions, rituals, spells, duelling, Transfiguration, charms... Knowledge of magic, Hadrian supposed. He couldn't pick a single brunch; all of the areas fascinated and attracted him, each in its own way.
"So, I can be as normal as anyone else?" In his words, Hadrian could read a desperate desire to believe, almost a silent plea for the old man to agree.
Dumbledore's face bloomed and he nodded a few times in encouragement. "This, and more." After one last smile, the Headmaster released the shoulders and stepped back, as if admiring his handiwork.
"Thank you, sir," the Gryffindor whispered, so quietly that Hadrian had difficulties catching the sound. He wouldn't even strain his ears for it if he hadn't seen pale lips moving.
"What for? I haven't done anything outside of my duty."
"For making me believe I can still be human."
"Of course you are!" Dumbledore showed surprise on his face. "As blessed with intelligence as I am, I still haven't learned to talk to animals."
A fragile smile broke out on the Gryffindor's face and he stepped out of the armours' shadows, closer to the candlelight and the Headmaster. Hadrian stretched his neck to see the boy's identity, the risk of getting caught long forgotten in his fascination with the conversation.
The Slytherin's jaw almost dropped to the floor when he saw who the werewolf was. For there, just a few feet away, stood the boy Hadrian had often seen with Potter and Black, the same sickly looking and amber-eyed boy who gave gentle impression and didn't look like he could hurt a fly.
'I have always heard that appearances are deceptive. But to this point...'
Hadrian blinked a few times, trying to dispel what he thought was a feat of imagination, but certainly not the real thing.
No luck here. No matter how much he blinked, or shook his head, the boy was still walking to the old Headmaster with the same shy, gentle smile and crinkled eyes.
'Doesn't it prove Dumbledore's words, then?' his mind whispered to him as Hadrian followed the pair with his green, thoughtful, if still a little astounded, gaze. 'That exterior appearance doesn't matter. Only what you truly are does.'
Hadrian shrugged lightly. It didn't matter now. He would go to Aberforth and demand for books on battle magic, not the silly booklets with tickling charms he had had to read out of desperation. He wanted... to learn something unusual. Something no one else could do. Necromancy didn't count because it was a native talent, one that didn't require hours of intensive training just to have it. Besides, even training didn't help Hadrian much.
The more he used this talent, the more he grew convinced that he didn't do it right.
At first, on this faithful day at the long-forgotten graveyard a year ago, it all started with headaches. He could remember the black spots dancing in his eyes and the weighting dizziness, and those hadn't gone away. With time though, Hadrian found the pains in his head changing in intensity and quality.
If initially his magic supported both Kamaria and Ariana without much effort and for quite long periods of time – Hadrian sighed wistfully at the good times – now it had become a chore to hold one of them up for more time, and the headaches always ended in losses of consciousness and magic exhausted for some time afterwards. Sometimes, he had difficulty breathing. And he shuddered every time he remembered the choking sounds his throat had made, and the oppressive feeling of helplessness, when he couldn't draw in a breath after a particularly long session of his secret Necromancy training.
He hadn't told Aberforth any of this.
Or Milly, or Ariana, or Kamaria, for that matter. The snake had only hummed and offered him to eat a mouse and stop bothering her with "annoying human whining". Hadrian had complied and hadn't disclosed to anyone what was happening to him.
'Maybe I should. Someday. Certainly not today. This night I am too tired to tolerate Aberforth's angry preaching.'
Hadrian's eyesight caught a dead fly lying all forgotten on the cold floor. An idea lit up his mind and he spread out his arm to scoop the insect up to experiment on it, when the pain he hadn't focused on awakened with renewed force.
"Argh!" Hadrian's face scrunched up in pain and he bent down, even closer to the floor than he had been. He clutched his wounded arm, biting back a howl of pain, the one that would have been as wild as the Gryffindor wolf's must be during full moons.
When his fingers released the hand, the smudges of blood didn't surprise him.
Angrily, he swiped away the beginnings of the tears in his eyes, and willed himself to stand up and walk. The danger had passed. Filch must have returned to do his rounds on the first floor already, and Hadrian, from what he had figured out, must be on the fifth.
The question was, what Hadrian wanted to do more.
He had to get his arm injury treated, not only because it continued to send the prickles of pain, but also because he could get an infection in at any given time. Normally, Madame Pomphry would have been the best choice... But not in the middle of the night. As kind as she allegedly was, the woman would be reporting this to the Headmaster, and Hadrian didn't want to risk seeing the man. Especially considering that Dumbledore could easily deduce that Hadrian had spied in on what should have been a secret – probably even life-changing, for the werewolf – conversation.
Hadrian wavered between one unpleasant set of circumstances and another. He stalked out of the alcove. To the left was a normal staircase, not moving, not exploding, not vanishing, not changing in any way, and leading to the seventh corridor and the Room of Requirement. To the right, was the shortest way to the mediwitch who would patch him up.
The wish to see Aberforth battled away all the selfish thoughts Hadrian had.
The injury, while unpleasantly looking and bloody, was mostly shallow, as he had grazed off the skin, but the damage hadn't gone deeper than that. Add to that his belief in Ariana's healing abilities she had slowly been developing for a year...
He made his choice.
Struggling to regain his bearings, Hadrian staggered in the direction of the seventh floor once more.
'I want to get to the Hog's Head,' Hadrian chanted in his head, pacing three times in front of the blank wall opposite Barnabas the Barmy's tapestry. 'I want to get to the Hog's Head. I want to get to the Hog's Head.'
When the last word fell from his lips, Hadrian opened his startlingly green eyes, and was met with the door slowly constructing itself out of thin air.
Lips stretched in a victorious smirk, Hadrian walked to the entrance to the Room of Requirement. He swung the doors open, forgetting all about the pain in his arm as excitement built up inside him.
His eyes met the picture of a large, almost abnormally so, room with plenty of uncluttered space, clean, and dark, and silent. Everything according to his wishes. As soon as he entered, he searched for a familiar portrait framed with gold. Finding it fast, Hadrian walked up to it and raised his hand to gently trace Ariana's painted cheek. She smiled at him in response.
"Take me to Aberforth," Hadrian murmured. He knew that this imitation wasn't aware of who he was in the least. This was only a portrait, fated to rest unchanged throughout many years, as long as Hogwarts herself proudly stood over the Great Lake.
The portrait nodded at him and complied. In fascination, Hadrian stepped right into the painting, a feat not believed to be possible by any witch or wizard. And shouldn't have been possible, unless the painter's talent was exceptional and reached far enough into the realms of the dead and of the inanimate objects to make that happen. For a brief second, Hadrian marvelled at the possibilities that magic gave its users, possibilities dangerous and often horror-striking, but great.
Hadrian walked through the tunnel.
His feet clanked against the ground, the sound echoing through the entire passageway. The road promised to be a long one, but at least it was straight and he didn't need to worry about taking a wrong turn or missing it. Moreover, Ariana silently led him to where her brother was. Her presence, not that Hadrian would admit it to the real deal, soothed his worries about getting lost or things going wrong.
The pain in his hand had reduced to occasional dull reminders, and wasn't nearly as piercing as in the beginning, when he had unwittingly induced it on himself. The dried specks of blood on his right hand, the one he had used to clutch the injury, bothered him a bit because the boy could neither wipe at his forehead nor do anything else without cleaning it first.
Hadrian threw a glare at the wand in the holster. If only he knew how to use this stick, he would have magically cleansed or vanished the dried blood that covered his fingers like dirt rather than life liquid. Alas, no such luck.
Hadrian was thrown out of his musings when his head collided with a hard object.
"Ouch," he muttered and rubbed his forehead. Realising he had arrived, Hadrian felt anticipation fill him to the brim. How was Aberforth going to react to this unexpected visit? Was he going to be happy? Disgruntled? Surprised?
Not willing to wait anymore, Hadrian pushed the door open and squeaked when his foot met only air and he fell down, the humiliation only accentuated by the loud crash that followed. A glass fell off the drawer and shattered.
Hadrian scrambled to his feet. He tilted his head to observe the damage done to the room by his sudden presence, ignoring the portrait's delighted giggle behind him. When he realised that nothing could be done by a boy his age and his magical proficiency (or lack thereof), Hadrian breathed out and dropped onto the nearest sofa.
He knew that Aberforth would be here in a minute. It couldn't be any other way if one considered the wards attached to this room, which was special because of the picture adorning one of its walls.
Here, as if on cue, the door swung open.
"Who's there?" the unmistakeable gruff voice shouted.
"Glad to see you too, Aberforth," Hadrian greeted casually, trying to look as natural as possible given the circumstances.
Aberforth stopped in his tracks, the wand frozen in his wrinkly fingers. In a moment, the surprised reaction changed to the usual grumpiness and chronic frown. The old man put the wand away, then crossing his arms over the chest. Hadrian could make out dirty spots on the dark blue robes, guiltily looking away when he realised that Aberforth had probably run here from his usual bartender's place, convinced it was a thief.
"Boy," Aberforth greeted. "Finally decided to come visit me?"
"I couldn't do it earlier," Hadrian mumbled in reply. His long black hair, all ruffled and disorderly after the unexpected adventures of the evening, cast shadows on his eyes. He was glad. Guilt was eating him up from the inside, no matter how much he tried to squelch it.
"Want to drink?"
"Have you really just forgotten your principles and offered me a firewhiskey?"
"I meant tea, kid. Or water. Whatever you like more." Aberforth snorted and walked to the sofa Hadrian was sitting on. They didn't hug each other, even as the man took a seat near his charge. Neither of them believed in physical touches, and both felt this awkwardness enfold them whenever they tried.
Hadrian shrugged uncomfortably. "Water sounds good now."
Aberforth flicked his wand. After a mutter of a spell that Hadrian hadn't yet heard, unbroken glass filled with water. Another flick of wand later, and Hadrian was stretching his hand to grasp the glass.
Hadrian blinked a couple of times and glanced at his hands. The fingers on one were coated in dried blood, while his other arm had small patches of skin grazed off it. The wound reminded Hadrian the ones other children in the orphanage had got from falling off a bicycle. He himself had never been allowed to ride one, but he had watched and remembered.
"A wound. It doesn't really hurt, so you shouldn't worry."
"Not worry? Boy, if I had any healing potions, I would've forced them all down yer throat right now!" Aberforth groused out, swinging his fist into the air for emphasis. Hadrian bit back a smile. It felt nice, having someone to care so much for him.
"Don't worry," Hadrian repeated slowly, and shook his head. "Ariana knows a bit of healing magic, right? I will resurrect her for a bit, and she will patch me up in no time."
Hadrian let out a grin.
"You sure?" Aberforth demanded sharply. Hadrian couldn't help but once again notice the difference between his eyes and Albus's. While the latter's twinkled, the former's hypnotised and demanded. "I don't want you to strain yourself."
"And I won't," Hadrian said calmly. His chin rose high as the boy put up a facade of confidence that didn't exist in reality. He didn't know his limits. He didn't know the repercussions of using his extraordinary magic. In the year of living here, in the Wizarding World, Hadrian still hadn't come to know many things, which scared him and made him grind his teeth in frustration at the same time. He wished to be useful and grow up already, skip all the pubescent stage of life and get immediately to the part where he commanded respect in others.
Aberforth observed him, looking for any sign of lying. Hadrian met his piercing, light blue gaze head on, nothing in expression wavering or betraying his real thoughts.
Finally, the old man nodded.
"I'll transport her 'ere." The owner of the Hog's Head rose and headed out of the room, not before throwing a quick spell to repair the broken glass. Hadrian watched, entranced, as the shards floated together, arranged themselves into the right form, and attached themselves to one another.
When the small miracle finished, Hadrian sipped his water. He let out a long breath of enjoyment when the cool liquid licked at his stomach, melting away the hotness of the night. He let his eyes wander.
'Tomorrow no one will be able to wake me up,' a thought passed his mind when Hadrian saw the time displayed on the nearest clock. Wizards didn't really need clocks, having convenient Tempus Charms, as he had found out, but they came in handy in decoration. Thus, most wizards had them.
"'Ere she is," Aberforth exhaled, storming into the room with the beautiful charmed coffin in his hands. Carefully, the old man lay the object down onto the thick carpet and stared expectantly up at Hadrian.
The boy finished his glass of water, and only then deigned to sit down near the coffin.
"One hour," Hadrian resurrected, feeling the longing in Aberforth's touches as the man traced the delicate wood up and down with his finger. "I'm afraid that even this will make me incoherent tomorrow, so you can't dream of a greater amount of time to spare." He looked at his fingers, refusing to look anywhere else.
"It's all right. I understand."
Hadrian took off the lid and gently lay it aside. It revealed the frail frame and delicate face of one of Hadrian's closest people. A small smile playing on his lips, Hadrian got to work.
The nostalgic mindscape opened to his mind's eye.
"You should have gone immediately to the mediwitch instead of here," Ariana Dumbledore chided lightly. Her angelic curls fell on her shoulder and azure eyes were glued to Hadrian's wound, from which they had extracted all pieces of clothing.
The boy himself was lying on the sofa, hair fanning out around his head and eyes half-lidded. Aberforth had gone off to serve the customers – there was going to be some important meeting in his pub this day, the one which suspiciously many heads of Dark families attended, and Aberforth couldn't miss it – thus leaving them alone.
Ariana herself was tending to Hadrian from her position on her knees near the sofa. Her gentle fingers traced the injury, but the touch healed instead of hurting.
"It tickles," Hadrian chuckled and threw his head back in laughter. Turning his head, he could see her eyes twinkling in merriment and a smile on her face mirroring his own.
"I cannot stop. Unless you want me to let it rest like this and get an infection in." Before Hadrian could say anything, she cut him off. "And even if you wanted the wound to stay, I still would have healed you. You should be more careful with your health."
"I try," Hadrian muttered and vaguely motioned his healthy hand. His sweet Ariana. If only she knew what damage her wakefulness inflicted on him...
"It's a pity I am not a professional healer," she lamented, her eyes downcast. She carefully worked on covering each inch of showing muscle with smooth skin. "The way I heal you now, it takes a lot of time you would have better spent sleeping and preparing for tomorrow."
"Tomorrow we don't have much," Hadrian admitted. He raised his right hand and observed the ceiling through the spread out fingers. "Just some Potions and Transfiguration."
"Tell me more about it," Ariana asked, looking up from his arm and into his eyes. Her teeth were nibbling on her bottom lip as she looked sideways. "I have never gone to Hogwarts. What is the castle like? Is it grand? Are there any ghosts? I have never seen a ghost. And subjects? What are your favourites? And which ones do you hate?"
"Please, stop swarming me with questions," Hadrian begged, throwing her a reproachful glance. "We haven't had all the subjects on my timetable yet, so I'll tell you all that the next time I come."
She bowed her head. Hadrian could make out her eyes beneath the blonde fringe, so he concentrated his attention on her lips and hands and other parts of body language.
"You rarely ever come anymore," she remarked quietly. Hadrian opened his mouth to retort but closed it again. She was telling the truth. "I know that now you will have your studies, and I am perfectly aware of how much you value training, and knowledge, and power. I don't want to take those things away from you."
She looked up, blue clashing with green. Her countenance earnest and pure, she said, "Don't make me into the bane of your existence. You shouldn't force yourself to come here every other day and babysit me. Please. I will be happier if we meet seldom but for a long while, like earlier."
Hadrian looked at his hands, lost.
"My brother cares about you as much as I do," Ariana admitted, a bright smile blooming on her face. "Maybe, even more so. Despite what you might think, he understands that priority should be given to a living person, not to a rotting corpse."
"Thank you," Hadrian whispered. When he felt a prickle of tears in his eyes, he turned away from the girl.
This acceptance of his weakness, of the fact that he didn't have yet the power to keep up school, his private training, research, and resurrection sessions all at once, meant more for him than she could ever imagine.
"Done!" she exclaimed brightly and clapped once. Her bright, bell-like giggle filled the room.
"Already?" Hadrian's eyes widened in surprise. He sat up and took a good look at his hand, noticing that no scar was left on the smooth surface of his skin. He continued rubbing his fingers against it, but no pain sprang at him, and no tissue tore apart. It was a good job. Clean and efficient.
"Thank you," he repeated, not minding when she hugged him in response.
"And now," she began, parting from him, her eyes as innocently bright as ever, "where is the comb? I want to smooth out all this atrocity you call hair!"
They spent the rest of the evening in bright chatter, trading childhood stories, and carefree laughter, while Ariana nimbly raked through his hair.
When Hadrian got to his bed, hair combed and wound closed, a Tempus showed almost four a.m.
He resigned to a mere two-hours sleep, crawling into the bed like a snail. As his head hit the cushion, his mind drifted back to all the things told and overheard this evening. Especially, he returned again and again to the timid werewolf and Dumbledore's saying about choices making people.
'Isn't it true?' Hadrian reflected, staring at the ceiling. 'Many would call me a monster, just for my ability. And I would have turned out so, if not for Milly and the friendship she showed me. And that werewolf didn't look like a raging beast at all...'
But more than anything, Hadrian's thoughts were plagued by Dumbledore's recounts of that other boy, the one who had been born a human yet had the heart of a beast.
'What has become of that boy, I wonder,' was the last thought crossing his mind, before sleep welcomed him into under its dreamless wings.