Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 07 :: More and Less

07 • More and Less

Arrival +6: Caedryn was nowhere to be found. Heru suspected the boy was down in the village enjoying the hospitality of Regan’s parents and pestering the father about his work. The moment the year had finished he had begun talking about moving down to be closer to his friends. Not, of course, he had assured Heru, that he wouldn’t miss him. Heru had taken it with fairly good grace. After all, he knew it would happen at some point. He would miss their morning walks, though.

More important was the announcement that Ethelinda had delivered up another son, which Salazar had proudly named Solonis. Heru wondered just how many Salazar was after, and if either of the boys had inherited his ability as a parselmouth. The summer rolled along sweetly with the addition of a permanent healer to the staff, though when it came time for Regan to deliver, she was attended by Rowena and Helga.

And she delivered up twin boys. As they had already discussed this beforehand, Heru was able to name both immediately as Servius and Tychon, using the names the founders had given him. After that he was swept off by the founders, leaving his wife to recover, and subjected to a great deal of tinkering.

They had decided—behind his back—that a little something more ought to be done about his scar. While Regan attended to the twins during the day, Heru sat quietly in a chair while the founders poked and prodded, going over his scar a second time. They were of the opinion that it might be used as a line back to the mind of the originator, one that Heru could access and manipulate with ease. And since it could no longer be used as a pathway into his mind, it couldn’t be used to identify him either. Unfortunately, when they were done fiddling there was no way to test their efforts, so Heru went back to spending his days with Regan and the twins, and with Caedryn when the boy was around.

The sweetness of summer turned abruptly sour near the end of August. Ethelinda, back on her feet and back to her customary visits to the village, encountered something she might not have had she left just a few minutes earlier. Or so the messenger said.

Salazar pulled himself up to his full height, an imposingly grave look on his face, and started for the door. When the others made haste as though to accompany him, he cut them off with a sharp gesture and left with the messenger in tow.

The others looked to Heru, and he in turn stood and filled a bowl with water. After a minute he flatly stated, “She’s dead.”

“What in—”

“Muggles,” Heru said as he turned to face them, a severe look on his face. “I daresay, when they realized they could not storm the castle grounds, they did the next best thing and attacked the village we hold.”

The faces he looked at were a mixture of consternation, embarrassment, regret, and culpability. Heru didn’t feel much better. It had never occurred to him when the wards were placed around the castle and grounds that Hogsmeade should have been similarly protected, even knowing that it was to become the only wizarding village in the country.

“Oh my stars,” Helga breathed.

“I hate to say it, but Salazar will likely blame us,” said Godric.

“How much did you see, Heru?” asked Rowena.

“They came to the village openly, asking questions about the castle. When the villagers were less than helpful they left and came back later from the cover of trees to attack. From what I could glean of their minds in the vision, they were running on rumors again about how us wicked people were corrupting the minds of children better left on the lands of their parents or lords. Ethelinda happened to linger a little too long and was caught off guard. We all know that while she was powerful, she was hopeless in battle situations. It was her death that alerted the villagers so they could deal with them.”

Honoring Salazar’s wish to go alone, they immediately set about discussing the best way to protect the village from further incursions. Repellant charms, without question, were to be used, though they would need to be slightly different, as not all wizarding folk married other wizarding folk.

Heru suggested that, in addition, the protections have the subtle effect of repressing violent tendencies in any muggles that had married into the community, or something to that effect. He did not go on to suggest that the villagers be subtly directed not to marry muggles—even he thought that might be going a bit too far.

They also discussed the area to be covered, making the logical assumption that the village would grow in time. They were in the process of sketching on a piece of parchment when a house-elf appeared and announced it was time for dinner.

Of Salazar they saw nothing for several days, and his offspring were moved into Heru’s rooms to stay with Regan and his own children, and several house-elves detailed to provide additional help. He was eventually located by Godric and Heru in the room that had been set up as the primary office, hunched over the desk with his wand in one hand.

As they drew closer Heru could see that his main focus was the book laying open before him. Salazar heard them and looked up, gave them a blank stare, then back down. A few more steps allowed Heru to identify it as the Book of Souls, but with a difference. Whereas before all names had always appeared in black, they were now written in either green, red, or black. Heru glanced in confusion over at Godric, who gave him a slight shake of the head.

“Salazar,” Godric said quietly, “we had hoped you would assist us in our efforts to provide protection to the village. It is to our eternal regret and shame that none of us had the foresight to do so earlier.”

Salazar looked up and sneered. “Fine.” He slammed the book shut and stood, holstered his wand, and stalked out.

After a quick glance at the book, they followed Salazar to the kitchens, where Rowena and Helga already sat at the table containing their map. Heru and Godric took seats as Helga cried, “Where have you been, Salazar? We were quite concerned about you.”

“Were you,” Salazar drawled. “And were you ever concerned when I told you repeatedly that the muggles must not be trusted?”

“Salazar, please,” said Rowena. “We cannot undo what has happened, regardless of how much responsibility each of us holds.”

He tossed his hair back and snorted. Stalking over to Heru’s side he gazed at the map for mere seconds before scoffing rudely. “Those borders are ridiculous!” he practically shouted. “You don’t actually have the temerity to believe the village will never grow beyond that point do you?”

“That is a part of what we were still discussing,” Rowena replied calmly, “and part of why we wished you to assist us.”

“Double it! Triple even,” he shot back, resting a hand on Heru’s shoulder. “By the stars, woman, the farther the muggles are kept away the better.”

“We can do that,” said Godric quickly. Nobody was willing to point out that Salazar was just as guilty of not thinking ahead as they were. He had his own hand in the death of his wife.

“Then there’s no problem. The protections should go up immediately. And now that I’m here. . . .”

Heru looked back over his shoulder and spotted an odd gleam in his brother’s eyes. Salazar’s face softened for a split second as his eyes met Heru’s, then reformed into a cold mask. Heru had to know, so he asked quietly, “What did you do to the book, brother?”

Salazar smirked and squeezed Heru’s shoulder. “Nothing special, I assure you, but sure to be quite beneficial.”

“What do you mean?” Heru asked in the same quiet tone.

“Yes, what do you mean?” echoed Helga, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“I wished to be sure that I could identify any potentials properly,” he replied, taking a moment to examine his nails and buff them against his tunic.

“By what criteria?” asked an equally suspicious Rowena.

Salazar heaved a sigh and gave her a direct look. “I should think by now that you know I’m right and be willing to finally listen to me. I have been patient, I allow, but things have gone too far now for you to continue to hide behind the bulwark of blind optimism.”

“So, parentage,” said Godric, heaving his own sigh.

“Naturally. Surely you must agree with me now about the dangers of having muggle-borns in this school. Even half-bloods are suspect to some degree.” Salazar spoke in even, reasonable tones. Heru wondered if his brother even remembered that he was a half-blood, with a muggle-born mother.

“Salazar,” said Rowena slowly, “while I can understand what you say, do you honestly believe it is wise to let muggle-born children fend for themselves? You know as well as any that children have spontaneous occurrences of magic. They’ll end up dead at the hands of their own parents, or their neighbors.”

“What of it?” Salazar replied carelessly. “Perhaps then they’ll be too busy worrying about that to spend time persecuting us. And perhaps muggle-borns will stop being born to begin with.”

Godric groaned and dropped his head into his hands. While he was a great man for a speech or a lecture, he was hopeless at arguments, preferring to simply hex a person and be done with it. Obviously, it would not do to fling a stunning spell at Salazar, so he apparently had no idea what to do.

Helga was not much better at it, and Heru would have preferred to be anywhere but in the kitchens at that moment. It was normally Rowena and her cool use of logic that prevailed, but at the moment she seemed a little stunned at Salazar’s casual cruelty.

“No,” she said finally, “I cannot allow that. We four began this school, and we four must agree on what is to be done.” She paused a moment to shoot an apologetic look at Heru. “We must discuss this calmly and rationally before a decision of that magnitude is made.”

“So we should sit here for days on end and discuss something I have no intention of changing my mind on? Am I to browbeat the lot of you into waking up and realizing that I am right, and have always been right on this matter? When will you cease your foolish insistence and do what must be done!?”

“Perhaps we should turn our attention back to protecting the village and discuss this other matter at a later time,” suggested Helga.

“Do as you please,” Salazar snapped. “I have a wife to bury.” He pulled his hand away from Heru and pivoted, then stalked off stiffly.

The long silence that followed was broken by Rowena. “I am sorry, Heru, if that exclusion caused you any pain.”

He gave her a faint smile and shook his head.

*

Salazar went missing again for several more days. During that time attempts were made to restore the Book of Souls to its original state, but it resisted further alterations. Instead, they trooped down to the village and began the process of setting the new wards.

They were still at it when Salazar showed up and lent a hand. The only person for whom he had a smile was Heru, but even those were fleeting. He said nothing of his aims and no one brought them up. Each day they worked in near silence, until they had managed to enchant the entire region’s expanded borders.

Heru knew the final task was to make the modifications he’d suggested, and that it would be just as well if Salazar were absent for that. Assuming they were done, Salazar disappeared again the next day, so they made one last trip around the lake to Hogsmeade to finish up and were back at the castle for dinner.

They were having lunch when Salazar turned up next.

“Do join us,” said Godric.

“I’ve already eaten and that isn’t why I came. I want to know where we stand on this muggle-born issue.”

“I assume you have not changed your mind?” inquired Rowena.

“Correct,” Salazar said curtly.

“Then we must endeavor to do so,” she muttered, so softly that only Heru could hear. “We have not discussed it since that day,” she said more loudly.

“And why not?” he demanded. “Am I to understand that you do not see the urgency of this decision?”

“I assure you we do.”

“Then all you need do is agree. Agree to bar the muggle-borns from this school and all will be well,” he said with forced patience.

“And I think that you need to realize that barring them, and letting their own parents kill them off as abominations, will only fuel the hatred of the muggles for our kind and cause them to look harder and further than they have before.”

Heru stood and walked over to the window, keeping his back to the group.

“What are you doing?” asked his brother.

Heru glanced over his shoulder long enough to say, “I’m sorry, but I have no place in this particular discussion.” He could feel his brother’s eyes on his back, and then the sensation vanished.

“If they’re busy killing off each other they’ll have no time to persecute us,” insisted Salazar. “They are inferior beings and it doesn’t matter if they die off in droves!”

“I suggest we stop for now and meet tomorrow to continue this,” said Rowena.

“Then I suggest you do so without me, and may you have joy of it,” growled Salazar in disgust and stormed off.

“Heru?” Godric’s voice was tentative.

He turned and said, “I’m not hungry anymore,” then slowly walked back to his rooms.

No one took any special notice when Salazar did not appear again for several days. His children remained in Heru’s rooms and were cared for with the same attention that Servius and Tychon received. When a week had passed they began to get concerned.

The days continued to roll by and still Salazar was not seen. They were worried for his well-being and his state of mind. Heru wished he had the Marauder’s Map so he could see if Salazar was hiding on the grounds, but of course that was impossible. Heru also briefly considered checking the Chamber of Secrets but dismissed the idea almost immediately for two reasons.

The first was that the castle had developed an odd habit of shifting rooms around from floor to floor, or causing new ones to appear without warning. Heru couldn’t even begin to guess where the entrance was located in this time. The second was that he could in no way be certain that Salazar’s pet basilisk would not try to kill him.

When the children began arriving in Hogsmeade for the start of a new year they were resigned to his absence, and to the lack of a Potions teacher, which was in some ways a far more difficult issue. The only person left with any real talent for it was Heru—thanks to Salazar.

With no time left to acquire a replacement, Heru took on the role of professor for both Defense and Potions. Considering there were only about thirty students per year, he simply had two classes per day to deal with, rather than one. Caedryn had offered to take over one of the positions, but having only just left the school, it was considered a good idea to decline so that he would have time to actually think about what he was offering.

The school year itself began in some confusion. No one had thought to separate the new students from those returning, so it took some time to get everyone settled and the incoming year to line up to be sorted. With that dealt with and the announcements made, another year’s opening feast commenced.

With his new schedule, Heru was more often tired from the additional responsibilities—not to mention twice as many babies wailing at all hours of the night—so when Regan began to make noises about having another child he tried to put her off by reminding her they already had four under their care. She had nodded and smiled sweetly, reminded him that two of the boys were not her own issue and that she made very few demands—on his time or otherwise—then restated her request. Heru gave in and by November she was expecting again. He breathed a quiet sigh of relief on hearing her announcement, and hoped that this would be the last.

*

In no time at all it was August again, and with it came the birth of Heru’s third child, Anselm. He had lived in the past for seven years with nothing to indicate that he would be leaving anytime soon. Regan came out of the birth pale but happy, though two days later Heru awoke to find her as cold and silent as a tomb.

Magic had not yet advanced far enough to determine the cause of death, so they were all left wondering. Caedryn immediately abandoned the village and moved back into his father’s quarters, unwilling to pursue his own amusements in the face of this further tragedy for the family, and to take on the Potions position.

A small cemetery was designed and created between the castle and Hogsmeade, positioned alongside the east side of the lake in a stand of trees, somewhat closer to the village. A mausoleum was tucked between two elderly specimens of Alder, crafted of snowy white marble.

No one ever did figure out where Salazar had entombed his Ethelinda.

Out of morbid curiosity, Heru checked the tapestry the next time he was in his study. He was altogether out of sorts; he had been very fond of Regan and had enjoyed her company, but there wasn’t much more there in his heart. He had been sitting at his desk wondering if he shouldn’t be a great deal more torn up over the loss of his wife when the tapestry caught his attention.

Ethelinda’s name was in red and the dates of her birth and death were recorded in tiny numbers beneath her name. The same was true of Regan’s. But a look at Salazar’s name showed that he must be alive, somewhere. Heru shrugged and turned away. The next day he worked on enchanting the first of the small boats intended to bring the new students across the lake.

*

Due to Rowena’s concerns, a concept was devised for a new group of wizarding folk. Its duty would be to keep watch on the muggle-born children, and even the half-bloods, to assure that they remained hearty and hale. Or, at the least, to assure that any deaths were not the result of scared or enraged muggles.

They selected as the core group the young people who had originally been orphaned by muggles: Melfice, Morag, Carsis, Clanar and Jolin. Those five were invited up to the castle for a meal and an explanation of their intentions, then left to consider the offer after being bidden to return with their decision.

The five came back to the castle several days later and requested an audience, then accepted the job, promptly giving themselves the rather unimaginative name of the Watcher’s Council. They were provided with a complete list of the non-pure-blood names from the Book of Souls, separated into muggle-born and half-blood, and told that they would be updated directly each new name became available. With each was the location where they could be found.

The council was enjoined to report any and all instances of potential problems, and most especially the abuse of one of the children, and remove any that was in imminent danger by any non-fatal means necessary. It went without saying that they were to clean up after themselves, but Rowena mentioned it anyway.

She finished off by telling them that any of the named children who were in danger of being maimed or killed for their magical eruptions were to be brought first to the castle, where homes would be found for them in the village once they were sure it was safe and wise to do so.

Heru though the entire plan was both enlightened and misguided. He agreed that magical children should not be punished for that innate talent and ability, but he wasn’t so sure about the kidnapping part. A firm moral stand could be made for both sides of that debate, so he remained silent. His own childhood was not a proper setting to argue from.

Heru didn’t smile a great deal over the next few years.