Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 14 :: Distant Memories

14 • Distant Memories

Heru didn’t often use the dining room. In fact, he was surprised to remember it was actually there. He decided it was much too formal and closed the door, wandering to the lounge instead with Severus in tow. A snap brought Guin to the room. “Where, pray tell, is my son?”

“The young master is being in the lab again, master.”

Heru looked over at Severus and said, “You know, that might have been a mistake. I can’t keep him out of there.” To Guin he said, “Well, make sure he washes and comes up. Please go ahead and prepare lunch for three, to be served in here.”

“Certainly, master.” Guin bobbed and popped away.

Heru ruffled his hair and sat down. “I’m telling you, ever since that last trip to the castle practically all he’s done is make potions. I’m not sure you’ll have anything to teach him when you get your hands on him. I even started giving him assignments—essays—to try to slow him down.”

Severus looked fairly interested in the turn of events. “I must wonder what house he’ll be sorted into.”

“No idea. Though, I doubt Gryffindor. He doesn’t seem to be recklessly brave so much as endlessly curious. Ravenclaw, perhaps.”

“Not Slytherin?”

Heru shrugged and spread his hands with a smile. “You tell me.”

Severus opened his mouth slightly, hesitated, then said, “Going on the idea that we are . . . friends . . . I had a few questions.”

“Sure. I can’t promise what I’ll be able to answer, though.”

“Understood. I really would like to know why you live this simply.” Severus seemed to be holding himself as though waiting for another explosion.

“You mean without the normal trappings of wealth, fancy clothes, dozens of servants, and what not. I considered buying The Daily Prophet, you know. All very quiet and hush hush. Anyhow, I live this way because it’s comfortable. To a very tiny extent it’s calculated to disarm, but when you come right down to it, I prefer muggle clothes, a small home with only what I actually need, and very little to seduce me into an inflated sense of ego.” He paused, then asked, “What about you? Has your headmaster erupted over the removal of that mark?”

“He is . . . suspicious. He is considered the most powerful wizard of our time, and you have just surpassed him, managing a task that he could not even find a starting point for in attempts to remove it.”

“Well, that comes as no surprise. But is he angry with you?”

“No. His joy at seeing the mark gone was almost as keen as my own. It was after that point that he began to think about the implications of the accomplishment.”

“Albus Dumbledore need not fear me,” Heru said deprecatingly, then ruined it by saying, “Unless of course he tries something foolish. Saying that all Slytherins are dark and/or evil is like saying all Gryffindors are paragons of virtue, and we all know that’s not the case. Even some Gryffindors are rats.”

“How very right you are,” said Severus with a touch of amusement. “I recall from that journal that the portrait of Heru only speaks Parseltongue. Do you have any idea what it guards? It seems a rather odd place for it to be hanging, after all.”

Heru temporized by saying, “I’m not sure, though I imagine there’s good reason for it being there. Have you by chance seen a wall with a subtle stone-in-stone snake inlay anywhere in the dungeons?”

“I have.”

“Hm. Perhaps some day soon you can show me.” Heru narrowed his eyes, wondering if Salazar had left anything behind there. It might well have been what a young Tom Riddle had stumbled over during his early years at Hogwarts.

“You seem very much offended by the Dark Lord,” Severus commented lightly.

Heru blinked and said, “Wouldn’t you be in my position? Though I’ll grant you, I expect he would be very much offended by me given the chance. He has used the Slytherin reputation to his advantage, no doubt ruining, or at least hurting, countless young lives in the process. That he’s sullied the name practically beyond repair is another reason to take offense.”

“Why are you curious about that inlay?” Severus backtracked.

“I saw it once. I’d like to know why it’s there.” He turned his head as Mark skipped into the room and took a seat.

“Hello, professor,” said Mark politely. To Heru he said, “I could have eaten downstairs, father.”

“Yes, and you could also have contaminated your food and nearly killed yourself.”

“I wouldn’t,” protested Mark with a scandalized expression.

“So you keep saying,” Heru replied dryly. He shot a look at Severus and said, “Can’t you get through to him?”

Severus found himself quickly in the position of having two Slytherins looking at him expectantly and coughed. “Mark, your father is entirely correct. You should not be eating in the lab.”

Mark looked down and kicked at the carpet with a sullen expression, then perked up when Flick appeared with lunch and dove right in without so much as a may I.

Because of the boy’s presence the conversation turned to a discussion of his progress, with Mark waxing enthusiastic over everything that he had accomplished and what he planned on tackling next. When Severus had caught up with his surprise he heard Mark saying in confiding tones, “Father wanted to make a companion teacher’s guide with suggested lectures, assignments and tests, but”—his expression turned sly—“he said you might be offended.”

Severus’s brow quirked up. “Indeed. And perhaps I should start coming down here at the weekends and setting you rigorous exams, or having you come up to the castle so I could do so in an actual classroom.”

Heru laughed outright when Mark nearly squirmed off his chair. “Feel free, if you like. Mark certainly seems excited about the idea.”

“Could I really?” asked Mark, his eyes shining.

Heru, knowing damn well that his son was excelling, smiled and said, “Only if the professor doesn’t mind being saddled with you.”

“I do believe something could be arranged,” affirmed Severus. “You might want to consider visiting the castle this coming Saturday. Young Mark could take some first year exams, and the both of you could stay on for the noon meal.”

“Albus wouldn’t mind?”

“I will check, though I cannot imagine why he would.”

“Sounds wonderful.” To Mark he said, “Then I suggest you hurry along back to the lab, but don’t forget to take Flick or Guin with you. And send one in here to clean up, all right?”

“Brilliant!” Mark bounced to his feet and gave Heru a quick hug, sketched a bow to Severus, then skipped back out while whistling an off-key tune. A minute later Guin appeared and swept up the trays, gave them a toothy grin, and disappeared.

“I really hope you don’t mind. He seems awfully excited about the idea. He’s also insanely curious about the school.”

“I was the one to make the offer,” Severus reminded him, then changed the subject. “About that wall—you said you saw it. Was that in some kind of vision?”

Heru wrinkled his brow and tried to decide how best to approach that. “I don’t recall exactly. But that does remind me of something. Perhaps you might be interested—we could always check it out, as I’ve said. In any case, I unearthed a bit of a treasure recently.”

“Oh?”

“A very old pensieve,” he said slowly. “Ancient, in fact.” Heru had already decided that he was willing to share certain salient parts of the historical record if it seemed harmless to do so, and if Severus had come around to seeing things more clearly. Hopeless optimism, perhaps, but it had been his main reason for considering the somewhat fictionalized autobiography.

“Then I shall assume it was not empty.”

“Far from it. It skips around a bit, but there are some fascinating scenes inside.”

“I begin to wonder if you have access to the original Heru’s vault.”

“Perhaps,” Heru said cheerfully. “Interested?”

Severus regarded him with half-lidded eyes. “How ancient?” he asked.

Heru leaned forward and said in a breathy whisper, “How would you like . . . to see the real Salazar Slytherin?”

“I would indeed be fascinated.”

*

Heru dismantled the wards on one of the cabinets in his study and removed the pensieve with a touch of dramatic reverence. Lifting it slightly for emphasis, he then placed it on his desk. “I don’t know why these particular memories were placed in here,” he lied, “but they appear to cover a number of years, culminating with when Salazar left Hogwarts. Shall we?”

The two took the plunge and emerged into the first memory, with Heru guiding the selection. Severus remained silent as the scene played out, starting with a much younger Heru arriving in the main hall to the sight and sound of a young girl screaming her head off, gasping out a warning of an attack on the grounds. Together they followed as the founders sprinted for the doors, and out toward a group of children surrounded by adults. Heru noted that Severus’s face stayed blank during the ensuing conversation and subsequent actions.

He paused things when the farmer began to drive away and said, “As I understand it, that is what prompted the founders to create the wards around the castle.” Severus nodded, so Heru guided the pensieve to play the next memory, which started with Godric crushing his hat, and ended with the beginning of the conversation on how to create the sorting hat.

Severus’s quiet comment was, “Who would have thought? What a horribly mundane way for that to have come about.”

Heru chuckled and said, “I thought so, too.”

The next memory began in the kitchens and with the arrival of a messenger from the village. Heru paid close attention to the expressions on Severus’s face as the scene unfolded, pausing it when Severus held up a hand. “Yes?”

“Heru seems to be an odd fellow considering who he was.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He advocates, not the banishment of muggles from the village, but measures to keep them docile? I also find it peculiar that he can do more than just see. He can gain far much more from divination than any person alive today can manage.”

“And yet, as I understand it,” said Heru, “muggles are deflected from Hogsmeade even as they are from the castle. Obviously the wards around the village were not constructed to suit his tastes.”

“Hm. Proceed.”

Heru released the pause and let it continue, watching as it skipped ahead under direction to the discovery of Salazar, in what was now Albus Dumbledore’s office, several days later. Severus showed particular interest in the Book of Souls, and even more in the quiet exchange between Heru and Salazar in the kitchens over it. He smirked at Salazar’s somewhat snide denunciation of the other founders, then looked thoughtful at Rowena’s form of defense. But it was Rowena’s quiet words to the young Heru that caught his attention most keenly, though he did not comment.

The final memory contained in the pensieve was the last confrontation with Salazar. When they emerged back into the normality of Heru’s study, Severus’s face was creased with thought. After several minutes of silence Heru asked, “What do you think of them?”

Without looking up Severus said, “For all that time and legend paints the founders as ten foot tall minor deities, they appear to be surprisingly normal people.” After a pause he said, “Brothers though they may have been, Salazar and Heru obviously didn’t see eye to eye on things. In fact, he purposely holds himself apart, despite being intimately involved in such things as the creation of the wards.”

Heru had no trouble following what Severus meant. “Perhaps he felt he had no right, or did not want to appear actively opposed to his brother. Something was there, some kind of subtle rift. The letter we found proves that.”

“You do look remarkably like him if you take into account the difference in age. You even sound the same.” Severus studied him carefully.

“And? Mark looks quite a bit like me, though I’ll have no idea on his voice until he gets older. He does share the other two family traits, as well. Or maybe I should say three.”

“True,” Severus agreed, then shook his head lightly. “There is no sense in dwelling on the impossible.”

Heru picked up the pensieve and returned it to the safety of the cabinet. After restoring the wards, and knowing what Severus was likely contemplating, he asked, “What do you suppose Albus’s reaction would be to seeing those?”

“He would be equally fascinated. It is a rare privilege to witness so much of the school’s origins, though I am not sure the opportunity would do much in the way of cementing happier relations, as they provide only historical value. He would, of course, be infuriatingly inquisitive as to where you find these things.”

“He can be as inquisitive as he likes. I know how to be infuriatingly reticent, so I expect we’d come out even.”

Severus unbent enough to actually grin for a moment. “Then again, I suppose it doesn’t much matter. Unless the Dark Lord were to somehow arise a second time, Albus’s opinion of you is more or less irrelevant.”

Heru frowned at what he considered to be the persistence of a bad habit on Severus’s part. “I haven’t decided if I care. Though if Voldemort did return, I expect I’d be in for a rough ride. But, no matter. Nothing short of a natural disaster could rock this place, and even then I’m not so sure.” Heru smiled cheerfully. “I’d ask, but it doesn’t seem to be aware in the same way the castle is.”

“The journals?”

“Yes. That and what I’ve sensed during my few visits.”

Severus gave him a curious look. “Now that might make a difference.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“Albus also thinks the castle holds some level of awareness, but he cannot communicate with it. He has long been frustrated by his inability to effect certain changes in the protections.”

“Such as?”

“The apparation wards. He can no more bypass them than the rest of the wizarding population.”

“I’m surprised,” Heru said honestly. “I would have expected him to be annoyed to some extent that he could not prevent Death Eaters from entering the grounds.” He already knew he could ask the castle for further exceptions any time he pleased, and was fairly sure she would be agreeable to his requests.

“Even if he could have that, it would be nothing more than a warning system. A number of the parents of children in Slytherin house are so marked, and have the same right to see them as any other parent.”

“Hm. Not my decision, I suppose.”

“Yes, well, much as I hate to appear rude, I’m afraid I really should be going. I have some work to take care of which will last most of the remainder of the day, and a student I must oversee in detention.”

Heru shook his head. “Sounds like fun,” he said insincerely.

“I will check with Albus about the visit and inform you directly.”

Heru nodded. “That would be wonderful. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”

“I’ll be fine showing myself out. Give my regards to your son,” said Severus, then left.

Heru played with the wards that evening, intent on barring the intrusion of any Death Eaters onto the property.

*

A note arrived the next day just after lunch, so Heru was able to tell Mark that they would be visiting the castle at the weekend. They spent part of the afternoon in Diagon Alley as a treat, eventually arriving home with a number of frivolous things, including a third owl for some reason that escaped Heru completely. After a round of introductions—the owl seemed rather wary of the snake—Heru sent it off with a confirmation to Severus.

So it was that several days later they made the journey up to the castle and were met at the main doors by Severus, who led them down into the dungeons to his classroom. Mark practically threw himself into one of the front desks, eliciting a laugh from Heru. It seemed that Severus was of a mind to give the boy a midyear exam, both written and practical portions included. Mark had barely begun to answer the first question when Albus appeared in the doorway, then stepped in.

“Ah, Severus. There you are. And, Mr Slytherin, how nice to see you again. This must be the son I’ve heard about?”

Heru kept his sarcastic thoughts to himself, inclining his head in greeting instead. “A pleasure.” He took a few steps away, closer to Mark, and said, “This is my son, yes. Marcus, this is Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of the school.”

Mark looked up and smiled winsomely, saying, “Good morning, professor. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“Such a charming child,” Albus murmured. “And to you, dear boy. I see you have just started, so I will let you get back to your work.” Looking at Severus he said, “I was wondering if I could borrow your guest for a little chat.”

Severus responded with a glare, which Heru could almost have predicted. “That is up to him, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Of course, dear boy. Mr Slytherin, would you care to follow? I find myself most anxious to discuss several things with you.” Albus unleashed a gently benevolent smile at Heru after patting Severus on the shoulder.

Heru considered several reactions before settling on a bland smile. “Certainly.” On his way out he glanced back over his shoulder and rolled his eyes at Severus, then let the headmaster lead him upward. When he was comfortably settled in a chair across from Albus in the headmaster’s office, he took a moment to chant a few phrases under his breath and make an obscure gesture.

Albus took his own seat and gave him another smile. “Would you care for a cup of tea before we begin?” A tap of his wand revealed a tray with a teapot and cups, ready to pour.

“That would be nice,” Heru said, “though, I think a different cup is in order.”

“I’m sorry?” Albus said, pausing with the pot hovering over the second cup.

“Unless you actually intended to dose me with veritaserum, I think a different cup is in order, don’t you?” The characteristic glow emanating from the bowl of the cup was quite visible to Heru’s eyes. He was pleased to see that Albus lost a minute portion of his composure, despite his protest of ignorance. Nevertheless, Albus banished the offending cup and summoned a new one, this time without any tricks.

Heru accepted the tea with nary a murmur and took a sip, feeling the pleasant warmth slide down his throat. A quick flick of the eyes to the side showed him that Mark was fiercely focused on the test and that Severus was sitting at his desk, apparently marking papers.

“What was it you wished to discuss?”

Albus, having been thwarted in his original plan, moved on his next. “Severus has mentioned several things in passing that I find worthy of note. And of course, I was astounded that you were able to remove the Dark Mark. I had not thought it was possible for any other than the one who placed it.”

Heru smiled in appreciation of the subtle gibe and responded with one of his own. “It all depends on what your eyes can see, Albus. And if you can see something, you can avoid it, or potentially negate it. For instance, I can tell that your spectacles allow you to see through invisibility. That must be quite useful for a man in your position.”

“I see,” said Albus vaguely, then took refuge in a sip from his cup. Heru glanced over again to see that a student he didn’t recognize had entered the classroom and was speaking to Severus too quietly for him to hear. “I must express my gratitude that you were able to free Severus. I think of him almost as a son, you see.”

Heru smiled automatically. “It was my pleasure.” The student kept shooting covert glances at Mark, and Heru wasn’t sure if he should be worried or not.

“Well, then, on to other matters,” said Albus. “I understand that you have a number of family treasures in your possession, though Severus was quite tightlipped about the exact contents. Might I inquire as to what they are that they hold his attention so dearly?”

Heru took another sip before responding. “As you know, I have a collection of books passed down through the years—those are that which provided some of the content for the texts I wrote. But that is not the extent of my holdings. To give you an example, I have a set of journals written by the eldest son of Salazar’s brother Heru, as well as a rather ancient pensieve containing some very important memories, historically speaking.”

Albus’s eyes started to twinkle, their brightness in no way disguised or distorted by his spectacles. Heru continued, “Given what I have been able to uncover, I have tentatively decided to write an entirely different kind of book. People hold such a fascination for the founders, so it might be worth my while to attempt a written account of that time.”

“I can see why you would think that. I myself would be interested to see what you could accomplish along those lines. History is a wonderful gift, if we are able to learn from it.”

Heru nodded without comment. The student had finally left the classroom, but not without a final, lingering glance at Mark.

“I don’t suppose you would be willing to share any of it with me?” asked Albus hopefully.

“As a matter of fact, I brought a few things with me just in case,” stated Heru. “It is up to you whether you would prefer to skim through the journal first or view the memories, though. Neither appears to require much explanation, but I will say the journal was written well after the point that Salazar left the school, whereas the memories deal with that exact subject.”

Albus appeared to consider that for a moment, then said, “I think the memories first, if you are agreeable. Then the journal.”

“Certainly.” Heru set down his cup and fished in his pocket, pulling out both items and leaning forward to set them on Albus’s desk.

“Please feel free to wander around the office while I experience these. Oh, and do have a sherbet lemon if you wish. I quite enjoy them.”

Heru cast a wary eye at the mentioned sweets, blinked, and said, “Cheering charms, Albus? No, I’m quite well balanced already, thank you. I believe I shall wander around.”

“As you wish,” said Albus with no trace of repentance. A moment later he was immersed in the pensieve.

Heru turned his attention back to the classroom.

Severus sat at his desk with a seemingly permanent glare disfiguring his face, liberally scratching scarlet lines across the paper he was marking. He would occasionally glance up at Mark, or push the hair out of his eyes as it threatened to blind him, as he made presumably scathing comments on the written efforts of the students.

Mark was sitting quietly, never looking up from his task, his quill automatically dipping into the inkstand every other line as he scratched out his answers with very little pause between them.

Another boy appeared in the doorway, knocking quietly to get the professor’s attention. After being scowled at, the boy advanced to the desk and handed Severus a roll of parchment, then backed up.

“It’s about time,” Severus said. “You should have turned this in yesterday. Was that it, Theo?” The boy nodded, so Severus waved him away, saying, “Tell the others to not disturb me. I have no time for your youthful curiosities today.”

“Yes, sir,” said the boy. He, too, cast a lingering look at Mark before he disappeared, though Mark never once lifted his head during the entire exchange.

Theo, Theo . . . Theodore Nott? thought Heru. As he couldn’t very well ask Severus on the spot, he grabbed his cup of tea and stood, sipping as he examined the multitude of portraits that graced the walls. Many of them were sleeping, or pretending to be asleep, and Heru amused himself by checking each name he could see before moving on to the next. He was not exactly surprised to realize that there were no portraits of the founders within the office.

He quickly became bored of that and stopped at Fawkes’s perch to admire him, then ask if he would like the company of a fellow phoenix. When the bird trilled an affirmative, Heru was happy to summon Praecino and conjure up a temporary perch for him so the two birds could converse comfortably.

Heru didn’t think it wise to go so far as to open any cupboards or cabinets, regardless of his curiosity, and eventually ended up back in the chair he’d started in with a fresh cup of tea. Shortly after that, Albus emerged from the pensieve with a thoughtful look on his face. After giving Heru a vague nod, he picked up the journal. He, too, was a quick reader, and it wasn’t long before he replaced the book on his desk. Heru reached over and retrieved his belongings and stowed them in his pocket.