Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 09 :: Revisiting a Troubled Past

09 • Revisiting a Troubled Past

Heru woke to the sound of phoenix song. It lifted him out of the abyss and gently held him as his other senses awoke. His sight was last, but that was generally so when a person moved from sleep to awareness. When he did open his eyes, he was gratified to realize he was lying on his own bed. If he had bothered to give it any thought prior to his departure, he would have wondered where he would end up. Here? Back in the bedroom Voldemort had placed him in?

Heru assumed since he was in his underlake abode, that his age remained the same as well. A quick look in the mirror after he got out of bed confirmed the theory. Praecino trilled happily at him and flashed out of the room. As Heru looked around he laughed; the blood protection for his home had been a good idea, but he would have to exit through to the castle in order to remove it.

Perhaps it was just as well. Heru was well aware that in the past, at least, apparation had never been an issue for the founders, or for himself. People of modern times might not be aware of the exceptions built into the castle protections, but he was. He would never need to remove that extra layer of protection if he didn’t want to. And, as he could also exit via the tunnel, it was a point safely rendered moot.

One of the first things Heru did was to start a fire in the lounge and flop into an armchair to think about things. He had no idea what year it was, never mind what day. And it was pressing that he further his education to include all the intervening years between the past and present, and all those things he had not had a chance to learn in later years in present-day Hogwarts. And, he was hungry.

Satisfied that he had definite things to accomplish, he extinguished the fire and headed to his vault on the lower level to gather up a fair amount of coin. He briefly considered opening a vault at Gringotts, but could not see how his money would be any safer there, and dismissed the idea almost as soon as he thought of it. Though he couldn’t be sure without asking, he somehow doubted that Gringotts paid out interest or made loans like a muggle bank might.

It was when he had already apparated to Diagon Alley that he realized one important thing. There was no way he could have the paper delivered to his underlake flat. He sighed and scanned the alley, then ducked into the closest shop and approached an employee.

“Excuse me, dear fellow. Would there happen to be an estate agent in the area?”

The young man nodded and said, “Yes, sir. If you go up toward Gringotts, you’ll see where it splits off to either side? The left is Knockturn Alley, but the right has an estate agent a little way up on the left. You can’t miss it.”

“Very good. I appreciate your assistance.” Heru exited and followed the given directions, easily locating the establishment the clerk had mentioned. Inside the cool interior, Heru commanded immediate attention, and had a young lady going over listings with him within seconds of him expressing his need.

Even though location was not exactly an issue—he could have lived anywhere and been able to apparate to his real home—Heru felt a certain fondness for Hogsmeade. After flipping through a number of pages in a leather-bound tome, he decided on a modest little dwelling on a side street with plenty of room to expand. It did, however, require him to return to his vault to withdraw the asking price, which barely made a dent in his fortune.

The problem came when he was signing the paperwork. Maybe his mind was a little muzzy from being transported in time, but it had not occurred to him that his name would come into the deal. But, since it was a magical contract, he was forced to sign his actual name. If the clerk had simply given him his copy and filed the original, he would have been satisfied. Unfortunately, she looked, and saw his surname.

“Sir!” she squealed.

“Is there a problem?” he asked.

“You’re—no, sir, no problem.” Her eyes had taken on a gleam he didn’t much care for. “Sir, you’ll want to keep one copy for yourself, but this other one you’ll need to drop off at the Ministry.” The smile she gave him nauseated him with what it conveyed. “While you’re there, you might want to arrange for floo service and house-elves,” she suggested.

That, at least, was helpful, he thought. It would make more sense to delay his shopping and take care of those tasks, then return and have any elves he managed to hire assist him in transporting whatever he purchased. “Yes, that would be wise,” he said, then added, “I trust you’ll be discreet, my dear girl?”

“Of course, sir,” she promised fervently. He didn’t believe her for a second and gave serious thought to obliviating her right at that moment. When word of his name got out, and he knew it would, he could come under close scrutiny by Voldemort’s forces, not to mention those connected to Dumbledore. Slytherin was not the safest of names to claim.

He arched a brow at her in blatant incredulity, then turned and left. Outside he realized he had no idea where the Ministry was located and cursed under his breath. His education was lacking in more than just the number of spells he could cast. He walked back down the length of the alley and into the Leaky Cauldron and used the public fireplace.

After he briefly surrendered his wand to be registered—which occasioned a very odd look from the official—and had been given a visitor’s badge, Heru checked the directory to learn where he needed to go, then boarded the lift.

When he dropped off his deed he found no cause to worry, for the clerk on duty was so bored he could barely keep himself awake. He yawned repeatedly as he took the paper and tossed it into a box to be sorted and filed later on, so Heru sauntered out and headed toward the Floo Regulation office. There he was told it could take up to two weeks for the connection to be established. He was also handed a pamphlet of regulations and information on things such as how to assign a password to his fireplace. The clerk there was more interested in his address than his name, so Heru was similarly dismissed as unimportant.

His final stop was at the Office of House-Elf Relocation to see if he could hire on at least two of the creatures. His luck at the Ministry held; there was a selection of elves to choose from who were immediately available for service. Heru walked out with two in tow after a fairly simple ceremony of binding. Their names were Flick and Guin, a mated couple, and after telling them to meet him in Diagon Alley, he apparated out.

Their first stop was for clothes. He suffered through fittings, selections of fabrics and styles, and all the things necessary to purchase a complete wardrobe, especially one that would peg him as a man of substance. After gaining an agreement for them to be delivered, the group moved on to Flourish & Blotts. There Heru needed the help of his elves as he pulled book after book off the shelves and out of stacks. After he had managed to collect a healthy amount—though by no means enough—he took them to the counter for payment and complimentary shrinking. Before he left he also took a catalogue.

He still needed things like food and wood, but decided to hold off briefly. Back at his newly-purchased home, the books were dumped into a likely room, the catalogue placed on top of one of the piles, and Heru handed Flick a pouch full of money and requested supplies from the village, then directed Guin to begin cleaning, starting with the kitchen. When they were safely occupied, he returned underlake long enough to collect Praecino, then began cleaning his new library and arranging books in the built-in bookcases.

Furniture was another matter; he had none. However, it turned out to be an easily solved problem. He went back underlake and posed a question to the castle, then waited patiently for a response of some kind. Without warning his sight clouded, then cleared to reveal a room somewhere, filled with furnishings. Heru took that as a positive sign and held that image in his head as he apparated. When he returned to his house, he carried with him enough furniture to start with, and most importantly, a bed.

When Flick had completed his shopping in Hogsmeade and put everything away, Heru sent him off to arrange for delivery of The Daily Prophet and several other publications while Guin helped him arrange furniture. That evening, after having made a list of things he still needed, and a delicious dinner, Heru asked his new little friends what room they would like for their own and what they would require to make themselves comfortable.

After a not unexpected period of wailing and weeping—Heru remembered Dobby quite well—things were settled, and he promised to take care of that the next day. For the time being he transfigured some odds and ends into what they needed for the night. Heru went to bed tired, but fairly happy.

The next day was more of the same, though the house-elves did the bulk of the shopping. Heru simply handed them bulging pouches of coin and the list, and reminded them to pick out uniforms for themselves that they’d enjoy. Flapping his hands at a second bout of happy wailing, he retreated underlake to check on the family tapestry and refresh his memory on warding.

The tapestry was vastly illuminating in more ways than one. The first thing he noticed was that his brother’s name was blurry. While that might not have been so odd considering its age, other names were as crisp as the day they’d appeared. Also of note was that no date of death was listed for Salazar. Heru noticed his own name was slightly blurry, and that no dates whatsoever showed.

He shrugged and began tracing the lines, which took a considerable amount of time. Several things became apparent when he was done. None of the lines terminated in Tom Marvolo Riddle. Heru speculated that it could only be connected to whatever blurred his brother’s name. Somehow Salazar had changed his identity, either by blood-bonding to someone else, or by some method Heru was not aware of, and had most likely had additional children. There was, frankly, no way to tell.

The next thing that caught his attention was that there were several present-day descendants from his own line, though only one of them was young enough to be below school age. He could tell, however, that this Mark Evans was a fully magical child, despite his parents being shown as muggle and squib. This child he resolved to keep an eye on.

There was no evidence that the Potter line or even the line that produced Lily Evans was connected to the Slytherin family. That made him feel unexpectedly better. Were he his own ancestor, he wasn’t sure his mind could have handled the knowledge.

An hour or so spent in his library gave his memory a chance to recall exactly how to set up warding that would rival that of Hogwarts itself, and it was with that that Heru returned to his home in the village. Working alone it would take him longer to accomplish, but it was well within his capabilities.

Before he began on those, he liberated a mirror from Hogwarts and set it up in the Hogsmeade house’s library, using an ancient spell to tune it so that instead of reflecting its surroundings, it showed a constant image of Mark.

*

Heru threw down the book in disgust. After wading through several texts he was convinced that they could indeed teach him what he needed to know, but also that they were very badly written. He would not have realized this as a boy; he would not have known enough to question how the material was presented. And half of them didn’t include things he knew of that would still be quite useful.

Scowling, he stalked into the kitchen to ask for lunch, then stayed to eat at the table. The Daily Prophet had an article about the Quidditch World Cup, but he didn’t find that very interesting. His younger self would be seeing it soon enough. Witch Weekly was filled with gossip, none of which was about him. Rolling his eyes, Heru finished his sandwich, drank the last of his cider, and set to work on his daily afternoon session of warding.

A week later he was convinced that modern texts were the next thing to worthless and had begun to seriously consider turning author. But that thought was interrupted before it had a chance to blossom fully. A chance look in the mirror showed young Mark in the company of several officials, being led to an institutional-looking building. Heru was hampered by both the lack of sound and by the view being focused on Mark’s face. While he could adjust the depth, he could not rotate the image.

Slightly frustrated, he took careful note of the boy’s surroundings and committed them to memory. Much later that evening he apparated to the place he remembered to have a look around. It didn’t take long for him to realize it was an orphanage. That was unacceptable.

Over the next few days Heru could be found in muggle institutions tracking down information on the boy and his family. Several days after that found him ushering the child away from the orphanage after bulldozing his way through a multitude of red tape with the judicious use of magic and a faked paper trail. Getting Mark home, however, would be a bit of a trick, and after thinking of and discarding half a dozen ideas in the time it took to move partway down the walk, Heru finally said the hell with it and waited until they were out of sight before stunning him and apparating them to just outside his house in Hogsmeade.

He carried the boy inside after adjusting the wards and sat him in a chair in the kitchen, then woke him up after telling the house-elves to stay out of the way for a bit. While Mark was getting his bearings, Heru said, “Hello again, Mark.”

“What happened? Where am I?” The boy’s eyes took in the kitchen, which looked remarkably muggle in nature at first glance.

“In my house, your new home. But I must say that the name I gave those wretched people is not real. I found it easier to grease a few wheels than wait months to make sure of this. I know what could happen to a child in a place like that, and you are a relative of mine, however distant the relationship may be.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No, I don’t expect you do. It may be easier for you to consider me your uncle. I certainly wouldn’t dream of trying to replace your father. Are you hungry?”

“Er, a little. But what is your name?”

“Heru. Any objections to a ham and cheese sandwich? No? Did you want butter or mustard, then?” Mark gave a tentative shrug. “Right, butter.” He pulled open the cooling box—he’d long since transfigured the exterior to more closely resemble the muggle appliance—and rooted around until he found what he needed, then pulled a loaf of bread out of the breadbox on the counter. He slapped together two sandwiches with more speed than expertise, then put the ingredients away.

He slid two plates on the table, filled two glasses with pumpkin juice and placed those as well, then sat down. “If you don’t like the juice, I have a few other things you might prefer, but give it a try.” He took a healthy sip himself to show the boy it was safe, then started on his sandwich. After Mark had been fed and watered—he wrinkled his nose at the first sip, but must have decided he liked it—Heru decided to start breaking him in as gently as possible.

“Mark, this isn’t a normal house, and the village we’re in isn’t a normal village. This is something you’d have found out about eventually, but circumstances forced me to take an active interest in your welfare. And you, Mark, are not a normal person, any more than I am.” He slipped his wand out of its holster and held it up. “Ever seen one of these?”

“Sure. Plenty of kids have something like that, for magic tricks. But it’s just a stick.”

Heru smiled indulgently. “So they say. But what if I were to do this?” He pointed his wand at one of the empty glasses and whispered, “Wingardium Leviosa.” Mark’s eyes widened to alarming proportions as the glass slowly rose into the air and hovered. “As I said, we are not normal people.” He directed the glass to rest again on the table and gave Mark a frank look. “I would let you have a go at it, but there are rules about underage children and magic.”

“Magic!?”

“Yeah. Magic. Real, honest magic. Not party tricks, not stage magicians, and not elaborate fakery. Come on, there are some people I’d like you to meet. They’ll be a bit strange, but there’s no reason to be afraid.” He stood up, tucking his wand away, and gestured for Mark to precede him out the door.

When they reached the library he indicated a chair and closed the door behind him, quietly locking it, then sat in his usual spot and propped his legs on the convenient coffee table. Then he reached out with his mind and called Praecino to him.

The phoenix arrived in a burst of flame, almost startling Mark out of his chair, and came to rest on Heru’s ankle. “This is my friend, Praecino. He’s a phoenix. Praecino, this is Mark Evans. He’s come to live with us. Something soothing might be nice,” he suggested in an offhand manner, and was rewarded by a trill of welcome, then a gentle song that sent a wave of relaxation over the room.

Looking at Mark—who calmed down almost immediately—he said, “You might have thought phoenixes were a myth, but as you can see that is incorrect. I have two others for you to meet. They are house-elves in my service, and I warn you ahead of time that they are not to be abused in any way. They are generally very gentle creatures, willing to please, and loyal to a fault. Do not be alarmed at their appearance.”

Mark gave a vague nod so Heru snapped his fingers. Flick and Guin popped in—the noise didn’t phase Mark in his relaxed state—and gave the boy a curious glance before looking to Heru. “Mark, this is Flick”—Flick bobbed a greeting—“and Guin”—she too gave a quick bow—“our house-elves. Flick, Guin, this is the young man I told you about. He’s a little unsettled at the moment, so I hope you’ll do everything you can to make sure he’s properly taken care of.”

“Of course, master,” they chorused. “Whatever the young master needs.” They turned to Mark, and Flick said, “We is pleased to be welcoming the young master. We is hoping you will be happy here,” while Guin nodded several times in agreement.

“P-pleased to meet you,” Mark said.

“Oh!” exclaimed Guin, wringing her hands together and bouncing slightly. “Young master is being very kind!”

“Very kind!” affirmed Flick, twisting one of his ears happily as he hopped from foot to foot.

“We’ve already had a light lunch, so you’ll only need to worry about dinner,” Heru said in a gentle dismissal.

“Yes, master,” they said in unison, then popped out.

“Let me show you to your room.” Heru reached out to stroke Praecino’s feathers before the bird flapped over to a new perch, then stood up and made for the door to unlock it as surreptitiously as he had locked it. A glance behind him showed that Mark was just a foot away, so he opened the door and walked out.

The bedroom was on the second floor, across the hall from Heru’s. Two more bedrooms rounded out that level, unfurnished and unused. After ushering Mark in he said, “If you want to choose different colours or if there’s anything else you’d like to have, all you need to do is tell me or one of the elves. I know it’s a bit plain right now.”

Mark—outside of the influence of Praecino’s song—pinned him with a suspicious look. “This is a lot, you know. I don’t know who you are, I don’t know anything about you. For all I know that was a bunch of tricks. You’ve even said the name you used wasn’t real. How do I know you aren’t some sick person who. . . .”

“I understand perfectly. So let’s start right in here.” Heru waved a hand at the room. “What colour walls would you like?”

“Blue. Dark blue.” Mark crossed his arms over his chest, looking a bit like a nine year old commander.

“Sure.” A few waves of his wand later, Heru had transformed the walls, much to Mark’s renewed astonishment. “How about the floor? A darker finish perhaps? Or linens in a lighter blue to go with the walls?” Mark nodded soundlessly so Heru turned the bare wood floor to a rich, dark shade, then made the sheets and blankets shades of sky blue and the duvet a mid-tone that harmonized.

“Care to take a walk around the village with me? You’ll see an entirely wizarding town. You won’t see any muggles—that is to say, no non-magic folk—anywhere. It should help to set your mind further at ease, and then we can return here for dinner.”

“All right,” Mark said softly.

“Splendid. On our way out we can stop in and tell the elves what we’d like for dinner, unless it doesn’t matter to you. They’re incapable of making a bad meal.”

“No, that’s fine.”

“Let us be off, then.” Heru holstered his wand and ushered the boy out and back down to the ground floor and out the front door. They spent several hours wandering around, stopping in at each shop so Mark could pick out a few things he’d like, and letting the boy see a multitude of wizarding folk going about their daily lives, using magic as naturally as breathing. By the time they returned to the house, the boy was convinced his new uncle was being entirely honest.

Over dinner Heru made some further explanations. “You see, while you’ve been living as a muggle up until now, that would have changed when you turned eleven. You would have been sent a letter telling you you’ve been accepted at Hogwarts. That was the castle you saw off in the distance. Magical folk begin school then, and it lasts seven years. Hogwarts isn’t the only wizarding school, but it is the only one in Britain. But, now that you’re here with me, you won’t be returning to a muggle school. Instead I’ll give you a number of books to read so you can familiarize yourself with this new world. When you do start at Hogwarts, you won’t feel lost or ignorant like many who come from the muggle world.”

Mark nodded so Heru continued. “The first thing you need to remember is that wizards hold themselves apart from muggles. While most of us live among them, our world is kept a secret. The only exceptions are those who marry into our world, or those who learn of us because they have a child, or children, who are magical. So, never show your nature to a muggle, and never talk about it. If in doubt, say and do nothing. Here in Hogsmeade you’re safe enough. As I said, there aren’t any muggles here—muggles can’t even see this village, or the castle. Not like we can, anyway.”

“But what am I to do until then?”

“Various things. Learn history, for one. It will help you, in part, to understand why we maintain secrecy. You can also read up on wizarding customs and learn more about this world. I won’t lie and tell you there’s no such thing as prejudice or strife, because there is. Just as there are good wizards and witches, there are also bad. In that sense, we are no different from muggles, just on a smaller scale. You can also begin learning about first year spells and potions, even if you can’t actually practice.”

“Why not?”

“You aren’t allowed to have a wand until you’re eleven and ready to attend Hogwarts. And then, you aren’t allowed to use magic during the holidays. When you turn seventeen you’ll be considered an adult, and the restrictions will be removed. That’s custom and law. But there’s nothing to stop you from learning as much as you’d like, and practicing things like wand movements with a stick or a pencil, or proper pronunciation. I’ll have to check, but you might be all right working on potions since those don’t generally require any spells.”

“All right.”

“You can even help me. I’ve been going over textbooks lately and I’ve come to realize that they’re very badly written. I was thinking of writing my own versions to see if I can get published. Maybe they could replace the current texts up at the school. I think your point of view would be very helpful in making sure I remain clear and concise.”

“That sounds like it might be fun,” admitted Mark with a small smile.

“Hopefully it will be. Tomorrow we can go shopping for new clothes for you. Either here in Hogsmeade, or at Diagon Alley. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt if I were to set up a vault for you at the bank.”

“Wizards have banks?”

“Of course,” said Heru with a smile. “Practically anything a muggle can do, a wizard can do. Some things we can’t, but we can do many things they cannot. Gringotts is at Diagon Alley, a bank run by goblins. They’re somewhat nasty creatures, but if you treat them honorably, you’ll be fine. You don’t need a vault, but I don’t see any reason not to set one up for you.”

Apparently unwilling to say either way, Mark simply nodded.

“Right, then. Let’s get you a few books for this evening, and tomorrow we’ll head out to do some shopping.”

*

Heru woke abruptly and completely, sitting up in bed even before he was aware he had done so. He cocked his head to the side, trying to figure out what had awakened him. Hearing nothing, he slid out of bed and padded to his door, slowly opening it and peering out into the hall. He wasn’t worried about intruders—he’d learned ward creation with the best.

A whisper of noise from across the hall caught his attention. Pressing his ear against Mark’s door he strained to hear beyond the wood. The boy was crying. Heru took a deep breath and pulled away; he should have expected this. He eased the door open and ghosted across the bare floor, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. Gently he pulled Mark up into the shelter of his arms, smoothing the hair from the boy’s forehead and crooning softly words of reassurance and comfort.

They stayed like that for what seemed like hours, until Mark slipped back into normal sleep. Heru watched over him for a few minutes longer, then went back to his own bed. The next morning neither of them mentioned the incident, though Mark’s eyes were slightly puffy and red.