A lifetime later, a silver light blazed through Hadrian’s memories, the blurry shape chasing the Dementor away.
“Hadry,” he heard Luna say. Her voice was so, so familiar. His vision slowly cleared, and his friends came into focus.
“Luna…” he murmured, his voice hoarse, then sat up straight. “Is it gone?” he asked, looking around frantically.
Luna fell forward, squeezing him into a hug. “Thank Merlin,” she said. “You’ve seemed unconscious for an hour, except for the screaming.”
“Is it gone?” he repeated, his voice low and urgent.
“Don’t worry, I chased it off,” a familiar voice said from the door of the compartment; when Hadrian turned to look, Remus was standing there. “Did your patronus not work?”
Hadrian shook his head, the motion jerky and scared. Every single one of his masks – already weakened by the presence of his friends – had been smashed to pieces. He felt like a child again; the scared child he had once been. “I-I felt it and then I couldn’t-”
“Hadrian has a past with Dementors,” Felix said.
“I’m aware,” Remus replied. “I dated his godfather.”
Flora sprang up from her place beside Hadrian. “Oh, you’re Remus Lupin. Are you our new DADA teacher?”
“Carrow. Do you know why the Dementors were on the train?”
“They were here for Sirius Black,” Hestia cut in, a grim expression on her face. “Weren’t they?”
“Yes, I’m afraid they were,” Remus said. His face did something complicated.
“Surely if Sirius evaded them once, they realise he can do it again,” Barnaby said. He was frowning.
“Unfortunately, whoever has made the decision did not think of that. The Dementors will be here until Sirius Black is found,” Remus said.
“No,” Hadrian muttered. “They can’t, not here. Not at Hogwarts.”
They said I’d be safe here.
“I’m sorry, Hadrian,” Remus said, looking down at him sadly. “There’s nothing we can do.”
The train arrived at Hogwarts a few hours later, with the students much quieter than normal. Luna had wrapped her arms around Hadrian for the rest of the journey, refusing to let go as he pressed his face into her shoulder.
They had to separate a bit to walk to the carriages, but Hadrian gripped Luna’s hand tightly for the entire trip from the station to the school.
When Luna left for the Ravenclaw table, Hadrian clenched his hands onto the table, forcing himself to focus on the conversation around him instead of his memories.
“I swear the firsties get smaller and smaller every year,” Felix commented, staring at the terrified first years.
“You’re just ridiculously tall now,” Flora told him, glaring. “What are you, six foot?”
“Actually, I’m six foot three,” Felix said, grinning. “A foot taller than you.”
Flora punched him in the arm.
“Ow!” he exclaimed. “It’s not my fault I’m tall.”
“I have to agree with Lora,” Lucian said. “You are too tall.”
“Just because you’re all short,” Felix began, his lavender eyes sparkling with laughter.
“I am not short,” Lucian said. “I am average height!”
“Hadrian’s only a few inches shorter than you, Felix,” Barnaby pointed out. “If he hadn’t been underfed, he might have been taller.”
“But he wasn’t, so he isn’t,” Felix said primly. “And I remain the tallest.”
“Why do we have to be so short, Hestia?” Flora groaned.
Hestia raised an eyebrow. “Twins are often shorter than they would otherwise be.”
“So it’s your fault, Lora,” Hadrian said quietly, a small smile on his face.
“I disagree, I was born first. If anything, it’s Hestia’s fault,” Flora said, just as the food appeared.
“They’ve got Yorkshire puddings again this year, thank Salazar,” Felix said, heaping his plate with the food in question.
“Did they not have them last year?” Lucian asked, confused.
“You didn’t realise that they forgot Yorkshire puddings?” Felix asked, horrified. “How am I attracted to you?” he exclaimed dramatically.
Flora rolled her eyes.
“If you’re not attracted to me, you won’t mind if I don’t kiss you for a week,” Lucian said, the threat audible in his voice.
“I didn’t mean it,” Felix said quickly. “I love you. Even if you didn’t notice there weren’t any Yorkshire puddings.” He pulled his boyfriend in for a kiss.
Flora rolled her eyes again. “Do you two have to be so relationship-y at the dinner table?” she asked, exasperation in her voice.
Felix laughed. “I didn’t complain when you used to kiss Angelina.”
“And I wouldn’t be complaining if you only kissed for a second or two,” Flora replied, pulling a face. “It’d be fine if you didn’t kiss on the lips.”
Felix raised his eyebrows. “What are you suggesting, Lora?” he asked, amusement in his voice.
“Not whatever you’re thinking of!” she exclaimed, punching him in the arm again, harder this time. “I meant on the cheeks or forehead, like what Hadrian and Luna do.”
Felix shrugged, unconcerned.
Lucian was flushed red. “Sorry, Lora.”
The group left a few minutes before the feast ended, as usual, to be seated in the common room for the arrival of the rest of the house.
“Hadrian, are you sure you’ll be okay to do this?” Felix asked softly, as the King of Slytherin seated himself in his normal seat by the fire, Flora on his left.
“Yes, Felix,” Hadrian said, his back straightening instinctively as the common room door opened for the majority of the house. His usual mask – one of cool boredom – was harder to slip on than normal, his earlier encounter making it feel a few sizes too small, but he simply tightened his grip on his emotions and forced himself to impassivity.
Slytherins were normally wary around the King and his Inner Circle, but there were more curious glances this year. More people eyeing him up as if he could be challenged.
“The rumours are already going around about you screaming on the train,” Felix murmured to him, leaning over again.
“Do you think I’ll get any challenges?” Hadrian asked, eyeing a few of the more likely candidates. Those around the Slytherins in question shuffled away from the subjects of his disapproval.
Felix considered this question for a moment. “It’s likely, but not guaranteed,” he decided. “You’ve been king for more than two years now; people find it difficult to see anyone else in the role. Also, you’re wearing your trophy from the E.D.U.W, which shows that your strength.” Felix gestured to the small silver sphere strung around Hadrian’s neck.
“I bet you’ll be challenged by McGruder next week,” Flora cut in, eyeing the seventh-year in question.
“Hmm, I reckon it’ll happen by Friday,” Felix said. “What’ll you give me if I win?”
“I’ll do all your Potions homework for a week.”
Felix shook his head. “I don’t do Potions anymore, remember?”
“Ugh, you gave it up for Ancient Studies, like a weirdo.” Flora pulled a disgusted face. “Fine, I’ll brew you a bottle of Truth Serum.”
Felix’s gaze cut to her, full of new interest. “What do I have to give you if you win?”
The Prefects entered at that moment with the new first-years, explaining some of the basics of the school rules.
“I’ll teach you the fire rope charm if you win the bed,” Felix offered Flora. “Deal?”
Flora reached across Hadrian to shake Felix’s hand. “Deal.”
Felix realised that the first-years were quiet at that moment, and sprang to his feet, whirling to face them.
“Welcome, ickle firsties,” he said, his tone mocking. “As your Prefects told you already, I am the Third of the King of this house, and this is his Inner Circle.”
He gestured to the five other students seated in the circle of armchairs.
“If you have a problem with us, don’t go bothering the King about it. Just come have a little chat with me. Ask for Felix Rosier.”
Felix somehow managed to give the slightest edge to a grin, an edge that transformed it from friendly to fierce.
“I’ll pass you over to the King, now.”
He nodded at Hadrian before collapsing back into his chair. Everything in his posture spoke of nonchalance – except for the slight wrinkle of his sleeve, a wrinkle that told of a concealed wand holster. Of a wand, always ready to hand.
Hadrian stood. His deep black hair seemed to absorb all the light, his green eyes glowing just a little too much to be natural. Just the work of a simple charm, of course, but it did its job.
“As my Third told you, I am the King of Slytherin. My name is Hadrian Potter-Black,” he said.
His words barely audible to the whole room, so they had to strain to hear. He could see the ones who weren’t – the ones who were more likely to disrespect his authority and try to take his place as King.
“Some of you may want to challenge me,” he continued, his gaze flicking around the room. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Classes began the next day, and Hadrian quickly fell back into the rhythm of school. Except for the Dementors.
In fact, he didn’t go on the grounds at all. He barely even set foot in the entrance hall, or other locations too close to the walls. Instead, he stayed mostly central, for fear of the memories that surfaced because of the Dementors.
He knew his friends were worried about him, and had complained to Snape about the presence of the Dementors, but there was nothing they could do; it was the Ministry of Magic who had ordered them there, and even Dumbledore would have a hard time getting them to change to their minds.
It was a Wednesday, a week later, that they had their second DADA lesson with Professor Lupin.
All of Hadrian’s friends were some of the few taking Defence, having achieved the appropriate marks in their OWLs from his teaching the year before. Most other people had seen the subject’s terrible track record for teachers and quit.
Lupin had already shown himself to be an excellent teacher in the previous lesson, when he explained the course that they would be following over the year and had then taught the class how to perform non-verbal spells.
This lesson seemed like it would go slightly differently.
“Hello, sixth-years,” Lupin greeted as they entered. “Ah, don’t get too comfortable in your seats. We’ll be somewhere else for most of the lesson today once everyone’s arrived.”
Lupin then led the class to an abandoned classroom a floor down, where he gestured for them to make themselves comfortable on the old, wooden desks. There was a chest at the front of the room, rust covering its hinges.
“Who can tell me what a Boggart is?” Lupin asked, leaning back against an old desk at the front of the room.
Most of the classes’ hands went up, remembering the topic from their OWLs. Lupin picked Felix.
“It’s a thing that turns into someone’s worst fear,” Felix said, leaning back in his chair.
“I think ‘creature’ would be a more appropriate term than ‘thing’, but yes, that is essentially what a Boggart is,” Lupin said, a little dryly. “Five points to Slytherin. What is the incantation used to vanquish a Boggart? Hestia Carrow?”
“‘Riddikulus’ can be used to change the form of a Boggart to something amusing, but only laughter will actually defeat it,” Hestia answered.
“Exactly, Miss Carrow. Another five points to Slytherin,” Professor Lupin said. “Now, today we’re going to learn how cast this spell non-verbally. After our practice with expelliarmus last lesson, you should all understand the basic concept of casting non-verbally. To practice, we’re going to use a Boggart.”
“Now, you should all imagine your worst fears. Then, I want you to think of an amusing take on it,” Lupin instructed them. “This, as you may know, is what riddikulus will do. Now, if you can line up, we’ll take it in turns to face the Boggart. If anyone does not wish to do so, for whatever reason, or would rather do this privately, please speak to me during the activity.”
What’s my worst fear? Azkaban, obviously, but the boggart couldn’t show all of that. It could be the Death Eaters, or a Dementor. Or fire.
But what’s an amusing take on any of those?
Hadrian positioned three-quarters of the way down the line, so he could have time to ponder his problem but not be at the very end and have his worst fear stick in everyone’s minds.
Lupin released the Boggart, which swirled into shape, taking the form of a swarm of insects. The Gryffindor at the front of the line shrieked, backing up as he moved his wand in the correct motion. It took him a few tries, but the insects eventually turned into cotton wool.
The line went much slower than it probably would have done if the spell didn’t have to be non-verbal; it took most people a few tries to cast successfully.
Most of the fears were things, like the insects or clowns, or something like that. There were a few exceptions, such as Barnaby’s forming as a cloud of darkness.
And then it got to Hadrian.
He watched the Boggart shift, taking the form of one of the people who terrified him most.
Bella looked identical to the last time Hadrian had seen her, five years earlier. Her thick black hair was piled on her head, her filthy prison robes hanging loosely on her gaunt frame.
“Look at little Harry Potter, all grown-up,” she sang, her face twisted into a gruesome smile.
Bella, trying to scratch through his skin.
“I think I’ll collect on that gift for my master now,” she shouted, leaping forward, and then-
Bella turned into Rodolphus.
Riddikulus, riddikulus, riddikulus!
Barty, then Antoin, then-
Hadrian burst out laughing at the Dementor in front of him.
That is so obviously fake, how could anyone take it seriously?
I can barely feel the effects, it’s doing virtually nothing to me – and I’m weak around Dementors, as shown on the train.
“Mister Potter-Black?” Lupin asked carefully. “Are you okay?”
The other members of his class were staring at him, utter confusion in their expressions.
They’ve all heard about my reaction to the Dementor on the train at this point.
Some even looked affected by the Boggart, backing up slightly.
“Sorry, sir,” Hadrian said as he got control of himself again. “It’s just… this is so obviously not a real Dementor. I don’t know what this Boggart thinks it’s doing.”
“Do you mean to say that your riddikulus worked?” Lupin asked, his mouth turning down into a frown.
Hadrian nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said, before moving away so the next person could have their turn.
The class finished soon after that, but the people around him were staring at him, whispering about him seeing Death Eaters and then laughing at a Dementor.
“There’ll be rumours abounding by lunch,” Felix told Hadrian, falling into step with him as they left the classroom. “People might realise the truth.”
Hadrian shook his head. “It’s too far-fetched for most to think of.”
“Just… be careful, Hadrian.” Felix sighed. “I don’t want to see you hurt.”
Luna sat with the Slytherins that lunchtime, hugging Hadrian when he sat down next to her.
“I heard what happened,” she told him quietly. “Are you alright?”
Hadrian shrugged. “I’ve seen them before, I’ll be fine. It wasn’t nearly as bad as reliving my memories because of a Dementor.”
Luna nodded, then turned to the rest of the group. “Are all of you alright? Seeing your worst fears isn’t good for anyone.”
“Boggarts aren’t good at expressing intangible fears,” Hestia told her, “so they don’t always show your worst fear, just bad fears.”
“Like how Hadrian’s worst fear is returning to Azkaban, but the Boggart couldn’t show that, so it instead showed him some of the reasons he’s afraid of returning to Azkaban,” Barnaby explained. “My Boggart was darkness, but my worst fear isn’t darkness.”
“The same goes for me,” Flora said. “My worst fear isn’t a wedding ring, but rather what that represents to me.”
Felix nodded, a grin spreading across his face. “You might have had some explaining to do if it became dearest Malfoy.”
The rumours died down quickly enough, just lingering at the edges like they always did, and before long it was October, with which came Hallowe’en.
Hadrian had received a letter from Nell the week before, asking if he would be able to show her around the Chamber of Secrets on Hallowe’en, having already confirmed with Dumbledore that it would be fine. She was only worried that Hadrian would miss the feast.
Hadrian had assured her that he wouldn’t be attending the Hallowe’en feast anyway, and agreed to show Nell around the Chamber. He had decided that he would prefer to do something, instead of hole up in his dorm like he normally did.
On Hallowe’en, Hadrian slowly walked to the entrance of the Headmaster’s Office, where he found Nell waiting for him.
“Hadrian!” she exclaimed, pulling him into a hug. “How have you been?”
“I’ve been alright, thanks. The Dementors around the school have caused one or two problems, but apart from that, I’ve been good. How about you?” Hadrian replied. His Parseltongue was much improved from when he first Nell.
“If you show me to the Chamber, I’ll tell you about a new spell I invented as we walk,” Nell told him, gesturing for them to start moving.
Hadrian nodded, leading the way to the second-floor girls’ bathroom.
“I’m very pleased with this new spell,” Nell said, her face lit up in delight. “Basically, it allows the caster to control Fiendfyre on a tiny scale. Instead of a roaring, difficult-to-control inferno, you could have a tiny sliver of deadly fire.”
Hadrian winced at the thought of the fire. “How did you do that? Did you change the runic pattern of Fiendfyre, or the incantation?”
“It uses the incanation ‘parvus Diaboli ignis’,” Nell told him. “I’ve found it to be far better than regular Fiendfyre. The motion for it is a diagonal slash upwards, if you want to try it.”
“Perhaps,” Hadrian said. “I’m not a fan of fire.”
The pair arrived at the bathroom, Hadrian pushing the door open and moving over to the sink.
“Hadrian!” Myrtle shrieked, appearing in front of him. “You came back. I knew you would.”
“Hello Myrtle,” Hadrian said evenly. “This is Perenelle Flamel.”
Nell waved at Myrtle. “Were you killed by the basilisk?”
“Oh, yes, I was,” Myrtle exclaimed, clutching her chest dramatically. “In this very bathroom.”
“Open,” Hadrian hissed at the tiny snake on the sink before the conversation with Myrtle could really get going. The sinks slowly slid down and out of sight, leaving the tunnel open.
“Do we slide down there?” Nell asked, gazing down the pit.
Hadrian nodded, then leapt out, falling down. A few metres before he hit the ground, he stopped himself with arresto momentum, then dropped the last stretch, landing on his feet.
A few moments later, Nell flew out of the tube to land beside him. She wrinkled her nose at the bones on the floor.
“Was it like this last time you came?” she asked, waving her hand and vanishing the bones in one go.
Hadrian nodded, still impressed by the ancient woman’s casual displays of wandless magic even after spending a month studying under her. “I think those bones have been here for a while.”
“Gross,” Nell said, then pointed down the corridor. “I assume we go down there?”
“Yes,” Hadrian confirmed, moving down to the snake door. “Open,” he hissed, causing the snakes to move around so the door slowly swung open.
The second he stepped over the threshold, his Parselmouth tattoos began to glow with a green light, tingling faintly. A second later, when Nell followed him, hers did the same.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked, studying his fingers.
Nell frowned, thinking. “I vaguely remember reading a book by another Parselmouth that described being ‘recognised by the Chamber’. Perhaps the magic sees the markings.”
“It didn’t do that last time I was here,” Hadrian said.
“You didn’t have the markings last time you were here,” Nell pointed out. “Remember, Salazar Slytherin invented them; he probably created a spell to reveal any Parselmouths. Show their companions they were worthy of respect, or some other nonsense like that.”
Nell walked further in the Chamber, admiring the green flames and high ceiling.
“Do you know where the books on Parseltongue are?” she asked, looking around at the shelves of books.
Hadrian shook his head. “I don’t think they’re in any of these archways,” he answered, scanning the room.
Nell nodded, striding down the room to the statue of Salazar Slytherin. She brushed her fingers against the stone, her tattoos glowing even brighter.
There was a whirring noise, and then the statue moved down to reveal a wooden door. Nell waved her hand, and magic flooded around her for a second before fading away again.
“There doesn’t appear to be any harmful wards on it,” she said at last, turning to Hadrian. “Do you want to go first or should I?”
“I’ll go first,” Hadrian said, moving to pull open the door. Behind it was a shelf with only a few books sitting on it. Nell picked up a piece of parchment, her eyes scanning the page.
“This says that only Parselmouths can access this room,” Nell said, showing him the writing, but it was written in a language Hadrian didn’t know. “These books are his handwritten notes on Parseltongue and its uses.”
She was looking at them in awe. Hadrian opened one carefully, but it was written in the same language as before.
“I don’t understand it,” Hadrian said, slightly disappointed.
Nell peered at another one of the books. “I can read them and mail you any information I think is useful.”
“Thanks Nell,” Hadrian murmured, before gently shutting the book and placing it back on the shelf.