Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 08 :: Twilight

08 • Twilight

Heru had been wondering for a very long time. Whenever he wasn’t otherwise occupied, his tenure in the past tended to fill his thoughts. It wasn’t that he was necessarily unhappy; his life had been rewarding, despite those things that made him uncomfortable. He had four children, and two nephews who were practically his own. Still, he could not help speculate as to whether the time that passed here would translate to the years in the future. Would he return—if he did at all—to the moment of his departure, or would he find himself years ahead? He felt helpless and frustrated, and at times strangely apathetic.

Finally, he went to Rowena. She took him to a recently revealed tower, one that had appeared complete with a rooftop garden which sported a variety of flowering plants in neat little stone planters. Heru didn’t take in much of his surroundings, however, or wonder at how the castle had managed such a feat. Heru was in the middle of listening to her voice.

“I want you to accept where you are, take the time to recognize each thing around you, then put them aside as unimportant pieces of the physical world,” she said in a low, even voice. “Each thought, each memory, must be placed aside as well, because they come from inside you and are an integral part of you. When the only thing left is the sound of my voice, I want you to nod.”

She continued in the same vein for some time, until Heru eventually nodded. “Good. Very good, Heru. Now I want you to purposefully recall each time you have sent your mind to the past to see what was. I want you to recall how that made you feel, and understand by what process you achieved those visions. When you have that, please nod again.”

Had Heru been thinking independently he might have questioned Rowena’s way of handling things in comparison to Professor Trelawney. He might have even questioned how he had instinctively known how to see the death of Ethelinda by scrying in water, or to know the minds of the attackers, or even what any of this had to do with his initial question of her. But he wasn’t. And she was speaking again after his nod.

“Now, with that firmly in mind, I want you to imagine yourself as a flat stone, and there before you is a lake. See as I hold you in readiness to throw, to skip across the surface of the water, each touch like an immersion in the life of one of your line through the centuries. A vision of what will come to pass, and a family like no other. . . .”

When Heru came back to himself, one sense at a time, and guided by the sound of her voice, he realized that even if he did not consciously understand how he did what he did, he could induce visions of the past or future with little to no effort. Something in his mind knew what to do. It was, he thought, true that all the methods he’d learned of were nothing more than tools to focus talent. It could be done without those crutches, it was just more intensive and difficult to do so.

But that didn’t answer his question. He understood there was a purpose, but had no information as to how long he would remain. He did, however, have a very good idea of how far forward and back he could see because of her instructions. After she left, pleading other obligations, he tried again, using the remembrance of her voice to return to that place that didn’t exactly exist.

He was very frustrated to realize, some time later, that he could not directly see his own future. Or, if he could, was not allowed to remember what he’d learned. He had seen one thing of interest, though, so he located some notes in his office, then hunted down his children—all six of them. When he had them comfortably situated, he began.

“There was an accident, years ago, that brought about a most fortuitous result. And I have seen something which makes me believe that some of you may likewise be affected.” The children, and Caedryn, looked understandably confused. “I refer to, of course, this,” Heru said with a smile, then morphed his appearance.

He didn’t change drastically, just his hair colour and skin tone. His audience was gratifyingly impressed. As they did not seem in any way scared, Heru changed completely and stayed in that form for a full minute, then reverted back to his normal appearance.

“Now, I want you to try. Just imagine something easy, like the colour of your hair, and concentrate on it changing,” he explained. “It’s easier than it sounds. And, use the mirrors.” Dismissing the boys from his attention briefly, Heru gestured to Caedryn to come closer.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure you can manage this, son. I don’t think the blood bond would have. . . .”

“I understand, father.” Caedryn looked disappointed, but not envious.

“But,” continued Heru, “I want you to try regardless. If you cannot accomplish this, there is a way.” Caedryn perked up considerably while still managing to look largely unaffected. “The drawback is that we won’t know if it’s working until your features begin to change on their own, and it can take a while before anyone realizes it’s happening.”

“Why would they change from my normal appearance? The bond is only supposed to affect my issue.”

“Simple, son. That’s what happened to me. As I said, this ability came about by way of an accident. We realized nothing of the implications, your uncle and I, until he noticed that my face no longer matched the portrait that had been made of me to guard my rooms. Shortly after that we understood. When the changes ceased, I looked like this.”

Caedryn looked slightly awed. “And you would do this for me?”

“Of course. Perhaps we should consider it a family secret.” Heru raised his brows and smirked lightly. “You are my son.”

“Yes,” Caedryn agreed with a thoughtful expression. “I shall try, then, and we will see.”

Heru clapped him on the back and checked on the children. He was greeted by an array of wild hair colours and much laughter. “Keep at it and see what you can do,” he told them, then turned back to Caedryn. “Had it been necessary to do for them what I suspect you will need, they would not have changed.”

Caedryn nodded and closed his eyes. Several minutes later he opened them in failure. His expression remained hopeful, though.

Heru clapped his hands loudly to get the children’s attention. “Listen to me. This is a very powerful ability, so you will all understand that if I find out you’ve used it to cause trouble in any way, I will not hesitate to find suitable punishment.” Each young face presented him with a look of wide-eyed innocence. “Mmm. Go on, then, get out,” he said sternly, then pointed at the door and waited until they left.

“Right, then. Let’s you and I get down to business.” Heru checked his pocket for his notes, then led Caedryn off to one of the private labs. Before they started, Heru remembered to say one thing more. “Son, you know that your own children will not be likewise blessed. Children you father after this have a very good chance, but—well, let us simply make enough for all of you, all right?”

“And the effect on someone so young?” was Caedryn’s reasonable question.

“I do not know. I was, I think, fifteen or sixteen at the time. It is . . . up to you. I have no idea how long the potion will last.”

“Father, it sounds like there’s something you aren’t telling me,” Caedryn said shrewdly.

Heru sighed and dropped his eyes, massaging the back of his neck with one hand. “Yes.” Running his hand up through his hair he said, “And they’re too young. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to figure out the correct dosage. You’ll learn now how to do this, so you can do it later if I cannot.”

“But—”

“No. No arguments, Caedryn. And I want you to swear on your honor that this secret will never pass your lips, nor be written down. When the time comes you will decide to give your children this gift or not, but you will never share the making of it with anyone, even them.”

“Yes, father. I so swear. You have my word of honor that I will not betray our secret.”

“Very well. Let us begin.”

Hours later they parted, Caedryn having been both taught and dosed. Time would tell if the potion would work as it had originally.

*

During that year, the Watcher’s Council had delivered to the village a total of five children. Each of them was placed with a wizarding family and provided for out of the pockets of the remaining Founders, much like they had done for the orphans years ago. Their parents and neighbors, or in some cases their owners, had been obliviated. What they could not remember, they could not protest, nor go in search of.

The children were understandably upset and confused. They had been ripped from their homes and thrust into an entirely new life. It took time and a great deal of patience to make them comfortable and to relieve their fears. Once they realized they would no longer be punished for the oddities they were responsible for, they settled down. That some occasionally could be found crying over the loss of their family was not to be denied.

All in all, the year was not much different than those previous, and the children stolen from their lives did not react much differently than those before them.

Of more interest was the day that the primary office disappeared. This caused some consternation on the part of the founders considering that the Book of Souls and Sorting Hat were likewise missing. Several days following that, an exceptionally ugly stone gargoyle appeared in a hallway on the second floor.

Even if no one else understood, Heru did. He spent the better part of an hour investigating the sculpture and the wall behind it. Though once or twice he got the distinct feeling that someone was watching him, he found nothing to make him believe the changes were complete.

When he passed by a week later he found reason to smile. A distinct arch had formed behind the gargoyle, centered within the spread of its wings. “And do we have a password yet?” Heru asked. The answer he received was phoenix song. Praecino arrived in a burst of flame and came to rest on the gargoyle’s head, singing.

Rowena came, led by the song, then Godric and Helga. When they were all assembled Praecino took flight, his song modulating from a call to an entreaty. And as Heru expected, the statue leapt aside to reveal a now open entrance and a spiral stair beyond.

Leading the way, he stepped in and moved several steps up to make room, and waited until each of them joined him. The staircase moved of its own accord, twisting upward to end in a small foyer. Heru stepped aside and let his friends take the lead down the small hallway and through the door at the end, into the missing office.

“I’m not sure why this was necessary,” Helga said, “but I admit I find it rather interesting.”

“I, too,” admitted Godric.

“Perhaps,” offered Rowena, “we should consider this a gentle hint on the part of our dear castle.”

“You believe she thinks—can a castle think?—that more security is necessary for these objects?” asked Godric.

“Who can say?” Rowena shrugged. “If she could talk, I’m sure we’d know.”

“This is all very well,” said Helga, “but we can hardly expect Praecino to appear every time we need to get in here. There must be a way for the gargoyle to respond to a password.”

Godric gave her an arch look and suggested, “Why don’t you go down and whisper in its ear?”

“Maybe I just will,” she retorted with her hands on her hips. “And maybe if it works I just won’t tell you what the password is.” She turned smartly and marched off through the door, not sticking around to hear Godric’s badly muffled laughter.

And while Heru noticed more than once that Rowena would look at him thoughtfully, he offered no information and no speculation. In truth, he had no idea how the password was set, though he certainly hoped to find out, through them.

*

Anselm turned eleven the year Heru turned thirty-three, heralding another call for a magical portrait artist. Much as had been done for his brothers, Anselm was immortalized and the resulting picture given a place in Heru’s study. The same could not be said for Caedryn’s offspring—or at least, their painted selves did not find a home within Heru’s underlake rooms.

The following year is when things began to change.

*

Heru found himself in a place he had only visited once, if one could call it a visit. It was a place lacking boundaries. All he could see, in any direction, was unrelieved white. Then he woke up.

These odd snatches of dreams—or memories—began to occur on a semi-regular basis. They never lasted for more than a few subjective minutes. But as time went by Heru started to notice off-white streaks forming in the landscape, then grey, and black.

Heru wasn’t a stupid man. A tad forgetful at times, perhaps, but far from stupid. It took only a few repetitions for him to have a good idea what was going on; his time was ending. The first thing he did was call his eldest son to him, to the privacy of his rooms.

“Please, have a seat. This will be difficult to explain. And”—Heru gave his son a sad look—“you may not be very happy knowing. Nevertheless, I must tell you.”

Caedryn took a deep breath and nodded. “This is what you refused to explain before.”

“Yes, it is. Hard as it may be to believe, I am not from this time. I was born almost a thousand years in the future.” As he expected, Caedryn’s face betrayed his surprise and incredulity. “You can ask the others, later. I appeared here when I was fifteen, when I was in grave danger of either being killed or turned into a heartless, cold imitation of the man who had captured me. Not long after I arrived, I received a new name, and a brother, Salazar.”

Heru took a seat across from his son and resumed. “Since then I have lived here and been a part of the founding of this school, watching it change and grow, and watching as what little I knew of this time come to pass, often in ways I never expected. It was through the insistence of Salazar that I came to be married and have children. But, none of that is terribly important.”

“And what is?”

“The fact of the matter is . . . it is getting close to the time when I must leave you. I always assumed the day would come when I would return to my own time, and I confess, I have been here so long that the idea holds some measure of fear for me. The signs are unmistakable, Caedryn, and I cannot change it, even if I wanted to.”

“What is it you require of me, father?”

Heru was a little surprised that his son wasn’t protesting this news. “You are an adult. Your brothers and cousins are not quite there. I would ask that you watch over them, but I believe you would do so unasked.”

“Yes, I would,” agreed Caedryn.

“What may be more difficult is that I would ask you to not reveal what you know. Much like our family secret, in fact.”

Now Caedryn protested. “But, father—”

“Please. I ask you, man to man, please do not argue with me on this.” When Caedryn settled back in his chair, Heru said, “As I have provided for you, I will provide for them. I will need to speak with my friends about this as well, and they will no doubt assist you. Caedryn, I don’t know how much time I have left, but I believe it will be soon. And, when that time comes, these rooms will be sealed.”

“All right, but I will not pretend I like this.”

“I don’t expect you to. I would be saddened if you did. Do you recall how to make the potion?” he asked in an abrupt change. At Caedryn’s nod he said, “I have one other thing to say, something you should pass down to your brothers, your cousins, and your own children. There may come a day when it may conceivably be dangerous to bear the name of Slytherin. If this unhappy event should ever occur, I urge you most strongly to adopt a new name, one that is safe from immediate association with our great house.” He paused for that to sink in then said, “And, if you will wait here for a few minutes, I need to collect something.”

He turned and left the room, heading directly for his personal vault. Outside where he had left them in readiness were chests, one for each of the boys. Inside he stopped cold, astonished at how his fortune had apparently multiplied when he wasn’t looking. It came to him then that Salazar must have visited one last time before he disappeared for good, and left another gift. The amount he had planned to use as the boys’ inheritance would be only a tiny portion of the current whole.

Shaking his surprise away, he stooped to begin filling each of the chests, levitating them back out the door after each was closed. Minutes later, his vault was sealed and the chests floated along behind him and his son as they went to speak with the founders.

They were not as surprised as Caedryn to hear what Heru had to say, but then, they had been the ones to welcome him in the first place. They agreed with every one of his requests, and with a great deal less difficulty.

“Did you want to house the children in the castle, or construct a residence in the village?” Helga asked as soon as Heru finished. At the slightly wild-eyed look he gave her, she said, “In the castle, then. The house-elves already in your service will be retained in their current capacity. The only question is . . . well, no. The children are old enough to be trusted to behave without an adult living right there with them. It is not much different from the dorms, after all.”

Heru nodded. “I see no reason to object. They’re good boys. And, as I mentioned to Caedryn, nothing will be said to them of what happened to me. Make something up.”

“That may be harder on them, Heru, if your disappearance is left in doubt. They may feel you’ve abandoned them for some wrong they’ve committed.”

Heru winced and turned away. “Then tell them I died. Open the mausoleum long enough to inter an empty casket.”

“As you wish.”

*

Heru was enjoying—if you could call it that—his annual ritual. The timepiece next to his bed ticked away the minutes to midnight like a doomsday clock counting off the seconds until the end of the world, of his world.

When the moment finally arrived Heru was suffused with a sense of purpose. Like an automaton he rose from his bed and crossed to the small desk he used for times when his office didn’t seem quite right. He scratched out a note on a small piece of parchment, blew the ink dry, and rolled it into a tube after placing his seal at the bottom. A length of green ribbon served to hold it closed, and Praecino was called to deliver it to a spot on the desk in the primary office.

When that mission was complete Heru left his room and spent a few minutes talking to his entrance portraits. His first action was to remove the English password entirely. His second was to change the Parseltongue password so that only he would know of it. And, his third was to require a blood offering—his blood—in order for it to be opened again. Even if some clever soul could speak the password, they would still be denied entrance.

While he still stood in the dungeon hallway, Heru let his eyes sweep over the walls and ceiling, then came to rest on the well-worn floor. Speaking softly, barely above a whisper, he asked, “Will you remember me through all these years, fine lady, and welcome me home once again?”

Without waiting for an answer he reentered his rooms. His original wand was safe within the vault, his new wand tucked in his robes. Despite being laid out on his bed, he remained fully dressed. Praecino returned to him and perched on his ankle. Not even an hour had passed when he returned to the abyss of streaked white, and this time, he would not wake up in minutes.