Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 17 :: End Juxtaposition

17 • End Juxtaposition

Albus returned a few minutes later accompanied by a large black dog. The headmaster had not even sat down properly when Heru said calmly, “Good evening, Mr Black. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

It bared its teeth and growled at him.

Heru chuckled and began forming the request in his mind. The castle was more than happy to comply, managing to startle a yelp out of the dog.

Albus gave the dog a curious look and said, “Dear boy, whatever was that for? Sirius, please meet Heru Slytherin. If I’m not mistaken”—Albus glanced over at Heru, who nodded—“Heru has just shifted the wards to allow you to apparate in and out of the castle.”

The dog let out a skeptical bark, cast a beady-eyed look at Heru, then changed back into human form. “Are you out of your mind, Albus?” he grated.

Heru gazed up at the ceiling and remarked, “Something tells me you didn’t bother to let Mr Black know who was down here.”

Albus twinkled at him and confided, “I didn’t think he’d come with me if I had.”

“Now I know you’ve lost it! An actual Slytherin? Aren’t all you people dead yet?”

“Now, Sirius—”

“Don’t worry, Albus. I don’t mind. You were suspicious yourself, not so long ago. It comes with the territory.”

“Hm, yes. Quite true. Sirius, as I already said, you are now able to apparate in and out of Hogwarts.”

Sirius folded his arms across his chest in blatant rejection of the idea, his expression quite clearly saying that Albus had finally gone round the bend.

“Give it a try. If I am being delusional, nothing will happen. And if it is true, you can go, and be back here in less than a minute.”

“Fine, I’ll humor you in your dotage.” Sirius snarled and disappeared. Moments later he was back with a slightly dazed look on his face. “I don’t believe it,” he breathed, then hooked a chair over with his foot and sat down.

“But you just did it,” pointed out Albus cheerfully. “Isn’t it marvelous?”

Sirius gave Heru a suspicious look. “How do you know he didn’t just break the damn wards?”

“That is a very good question. Heru, would you object if I called in Minerva for a test?”

“Of course not. But I would counsel caution on one point.”

“Oh?”

“I cannot control the castle, only request. She may not feel . . . comfortable, I suppose, would be a good word . . . doing this for certain people. So I would not warn anyone ahead of time of what we’re trying to do. For that matter, considering rats have been at the grain in the past, you might do well to explain things only to those who . . . pass. You see?”

“Ah, yes. I do see your point.” Albus scratched out a quick note and rose to give it to Fawkes, then returned to his seat.

“You,” said Sirius slowly, “are a Slytherin? A real one?”

“I am.”

“I don’t believe this. Albus, how can you trust this man?”

Albus heaved a patient sigh. Before he could summon up a response, Heru said, “One would do as well to ask how anyone could trust a man who springs from the noble and most ancient house of Black. Your family has quite a reputation, too, if I’m not mistaken.”

Sirius rounded on him with a snarl, but did not rise.

“Now, boys,” said Albus.

“Just pointing out the hypocrisy, Albus. I shall say no more on it, rest assured.”

The tension level had risen sharply, so it was perhaps fortunate that Minerva chose that moment to enter the office, blink at what she saw, and close the door behind her. “Albus. Sirius. Mr Slytherin.”

Heru felt Sirius relax marginally when Minerva seemed to take the situation in stride. Apparently he thought she was a bit less batty than the headmaster. Albus smiled and said, “I was hoping you would help us with a little experiment, Minerva.”

“Of course, Albus. What do you need?”

“Now, we all know I’m a tad”—he made a circling motion with one finger at his temple—“but I would like you to try apparating down to Hogsmeade from here. There is some question about the integrity of the wards.”

“Oh dear. All right, Albus.” She adjusted her spectacles, paused, and went nowhere. “Nothing,” she said. “They appear to be fine to me.”

“Very good. If you will wait for one moment. . . .” Albus flicked his eyes toward Heru, who made the request. A moment later Minerva acted as though she’d been goosed if her suddenly severe expression was anything to judge by. “Could you try again, please, Minerva? And, of course, return if it should be necessary.”

She disappeared with a crack, returning with the same dazed expression Sirius had worn. Heru took the time to ask the castle if only the people she approved of would feel anything, or if they all would. The castle relayed back that only those approved would, so Heru was satisfied.

“Albus, what just happened?”

“Do have a seat, Minerva. It is time I let you in on a little secret, much as I just have to Sirius. Thanks to Heru’s efforts and particular talents, we are able to modify the apparation wards selectively, with an eye toward letting key people, such as yourselves, bypass the restriction.”

Heru let Albus blather on while he looked over the list again. Lupin was on it, and Moody, Arthur and Molly Weasley along with several of their children, and a host of other names he did not recognize offhand. As his eyes wandered over each name, he got faint feelings of approval or rejection from the castle.

“—Slytherin. Heru?”

Heru looked up quickly and said, “I’m sorry, what? My mind was elsewhere for a moment.”

“I said, I believe I have adequately explained the situation to Minerva. You looked distressed, however. Is something the matter?”

“Sort of.” He glanced down at the list again for a moment. “Some of these names—it won’t work, but I have no idea why. Reading them over, I could sense which was which.”

Albus looked mildly surprised. “If I may ask, who?”

Heru shrugged and said, “Professor Moody and Percy Weasley to start. Isn’t the Weasley boy rather young?”

“Some of the names are of a potential nature. I should not have included those, perhaps. But Professor Moody is a surprise. You are unable to tell why, you said?”

Heru asked about the man again, and got back a confused set of images. The best he could translate it was to say, “No, not really. All I get is a sense of duplicity. I strongly suggest you not mention any of this to him until there is more information.”

“Yes, well, I think then that with one or two exceptions, you should hold off with any of the other names until I have arranged for a secure location within the castle for use as an apparation point. I will have to send Remus a note.”

“And the other?” Heru asked, raising his brow.

“Severus, of course.”

“Severus!” screeched Sirius. “You can’t mean that. He’s nothing but a lousy, back-stabbing, sniveling little Death Eater just waiting to kill the lot of us in our sleep!”

“It is not up for discussion, Sirius.”

“Albus—”

“No. Please desist, Sirius.” To Heru he said, “When Remus does arrive, I will send word to you, but for now I believe we’re done.”

“You can have this back for the time being, then.” Heru rose and placed the list on the desk. After a perfectly polite, “Good evening, everyone,” Heru left the office and returned to the dungeons. He wasn’t even curious enough to spy on the trio at that point. One thing was clear: Sirius would have reacted badly to him either way, as a Slytherin or as a friend to Severus, but it was really nothing personal.

He walked through the door into Severus’s quarters. He and Mark were playing another game of chess and conversing in Parseltongue, but both paused and looked up when he took a seat. “Severus, brace yourself for a moment, all right?”

Seconds later he showed no more of an obvious reaction than Albus had. “What, dare I ask, was that?”

“You being keyed into the apparation wards.”

*

The next morning Heru and Mark returned to Hogsmeade, and that evening as he tried to get to sleep Heru realized he missed the scent of patchouli. He dropped off almost as soon as he decided to track down some of the oil for himself. The next few weeks went by quietly and Severus was a frequent visitor, which pleased Heru to no end, and apparently Mark as well. During that time, Severus could occasionally be caught laughing openly, though the sound was rare if he happened to be on the ground floor of Heru’s house. He had also developed a tendency to sit on the couches after Heru had displayed a marked preference for them over his usual chairs.

Remus Lupin had still not arrived, so Heru spent most of his time roughing out ideas, annoying the house-elves by cooking for himself, and generally being lazy. He did receive a letter from Mr Lovegood letting him know that not only had the order come in, but that the entire shipment had gone out the same day. That was reason enough in Heru’s eyes to pay out bonuses to the people hired on before letting them go until the next time they were needed.

The days grew warmer as spring tried its best to cozy up to summer, and Heru knew that very soon things would become rather nasty, not to mention vastly confusing. With that unhappy event looming on the horizon, Heru seriously considered asking the castle to squirrel away Harry’s belongings once he went to begin the third task, but eventually decided that he could well come under suspicion if he did. Albus and a handful of others knew he had some way to communicate with the castle, and might look to him first if Harry’s things were to disappear.

He became increasingly nervy as the twenty-fourth of June approached and tried very hard not to let it show. Knowing that one Harry Potter was going to vanish into the mists of time was not the whole story, and Heru knew it. Along with his anxiety came the question of whether or not that was the case. Would Harry simply disappear, never to be seen again, or did Fate have something else in store—something more final.

After a great deal of thought—Mark and the house-elves would no longer even step in the room with him if he was pacing—he told everyone he was going out, then apparated underlake. While he could not see his own future, what he wanted to know technically lay in his past, or his original self’s future, so it was both and neither at the same time. And when he did get an answer—it had worked—he was not sure if it could be construed as good or bad for all parties involved. Either way, he had every intention of being in the stands when the third task started.

And so he was, sitting with Severus to one side and Mark to the other, in full view of Albus Dumbledore and his deputy. He waited through it—it was devilishly hard to see anything clearly with the hedge walls so high—experiencing things with a kind of double vision as he recalled his passage through all those years ago. When it finally became clear that something was horribly wrong Heru remained seated, keeping Mark with him. Chaos erupted as Cedric Diggory’s corpse was discovered holding the cup, his wand at his side. Albus was the first to reach the body, unsurprisingly.

It wasn’t until the body was being levitated away that Dumbledore turned and stared up into the stands. At that moment Heru rose, nudged his companions, and said, “We should probably go inside.” Though they had to be careful—other people in the stands were practically trying to stampede their way out—they eventually gained the main entrance to the castle and stepped through the huge doors.

Albus appeared almost instantly, looking extremely agitated. “All of you, come with me.”

Up in his office he made a quick show of social form, then got right down to business, pulling Heru off to the side. “That day, when you revealed to me you could watch a person from a distance—can you manage that with Harry Potter?”

Heru had half been expecting the question, but furrowed his brow and said, “I can but try.” He stepped back a pace, ignoring the odd looks coming from Severus and Mark, and chanted several phrases under his breath, finishing off with a peculiar gesture. A heartbeat later he could see, off to the side, Harry sound asleep in a very familiar room. He exhaled and looked over at Albus. “He is alive.”

“Is there anyway I could see what you do?”

Heru blinked slowly and appeared to consider. “I don’t suppose you have a large mirror handy so I could try something?” Albus produced one quickly, shoving it into position against one of the walls. Heru stepped over and tuned it to display Harry Potter. Then he turned, stepped away, and gestured at the image, releasing his other spell at the same time. “I wasn’t sure it would work,” he confessed.

Severus stepped up, rubbing his chin, with a calculating expression on his face. “This is a pretty picture indeed. That is not a natural sleep, Albus. The boy is either drugged into somnolence, or stunned out of his wits, assuming he had any to begin with.”

“I tend to agree,” Albus said vaguely, absently pushing Mark back when he tried to look. “Heru, is there any way to adjust this image?”

“Only to a certain extent. It’s designed to follow the target. So, I can only zoom in and out. As the boy moves, so will the image, but I can’t, say, adjust it out past the room itself, as the focus range is finite.”

Albus’s face fell, and after looking at Heru’s own expression, did not ask if there was any other spell that could be used. Eventually, they all became quite bored; there was nothing exciting about watching a child sleep, after all. Mark curled up in a chair to sleep himself while the adults, joined by Minerva and a furious Sirius, began a discussion on ways to find Harry and get him back.

Sirius was in the midst of another raging hissy fit when Heru went still and said, “Shut up. Look.” He pointed at the mirror. Harry was just waking up and reaching for his glasses. After a great deal of looking around and shrugging, Harry sat down at a desk, sighed as a meal appeared, and started to eat. They continued to watch as he entered the bathroom (averting their eyes politely most of the time, though it was noted that Harry was unharmed), then again as he found a book in the desk and started to write.

Everyone but Heru cursed as they tried to read upside down. Severus, apparently, was better at it than some, for Heru noticed a decided smirk when Harry scratched out a sentence beginning with his name. Though he kept his own face carefully blank, he was privately amused at the rapid changes of emotion that flitted across his friend’s face as Harry continued to write, and Severus continued to decipher. He seemed particularly aghast when Harry wrote about the sorting hat. On and on Harry wrote, until there was nothing more he wanted to say.

Things became boring again at that point, especially since Harry persisted in lying in bed half awake, half asleep, eventually drifting off. All of them but Heru had drawn, white faces with identical expressions of disbelief. In her distress, Minerva made the particularly inane comment of, “Well, Harry certainly is well spoken.” They talked, and discussed, and argued, until one of them finally noticed that Heru had been silent the entire time. He hadn’t said a word since “look.”

When asked about it, Heru said, “I never knew him, so I don’t understand your reactions. I’m sorry. This is really none of my business, and my son is sleeping in a chair at the moment instead of a bed as he should be. The mirror image won’t fade, trust me. Would it be all right if I took Mark someplace nicer to rest?”

Albus quickly assured him that would be fine, and Severus leaned over to whisper the most current password to his quarters into Heru’s ear. After he stood Heru said, “I would attempt to set up some kind of alarm so one of you was alerted when the boy moved, but it would go off every time he shifted in his sleep, making it useless.”

Albus assured him that was all right as well, and that they’d discuss things in the morning. Heru nodded to everyone, gathered Mark up in his arms, and exited the office, getting far enough past the door that they wouldn’t hear the sound of him apparating directly into Severus’s quarters. Mark was placed in the spare room, and Heru went to sleep on the couch.

It was several days before anything of particular interest happened, unless you counted an apathetic Harry writing in a book. And by then it was well known that Moody hadn’t been Moody at all. The real Moody had been found locked in his own trunk, his hair hacked to bits for the impostor’s alleged use in polyjuice potion. As Heru had pointed out, “Now we know why the castle didn’t like him.”

When Voldemort appeared they were all present, but unable to see much. Heru adjusted the focus out as far as it would go to reveal the Dark Lord sitting at the desk flipping through what Harry had written. It was just barely possible to see the edges of Voldemort’s varying expression as he read. Heru found it interesting to see his reactions, though they didn’t especially surprise him.

The routine continued and Albus was often seen with a lost, and sometimes hurt look on his face when he wasn’t trying various methods in an attempt to locate Harry. Not having seen any of what happened after the two boys had disappeared, nobody had any clue where Harry could be, and none of the locating spells were useful. Everything they tried either fizzled out or hared off on a wild tangent.

Heru and Mark spent quite a bit of time up at the castle during July, often sleeping over in Severus’s rooms and taking their meals there as well. Mark had been placed under the watchful eye of a house-elf and left to tinker with potions while everyone else huddled in the headmaster’s office, watching or experimenting further. Heru made sure he was present on his birthday. He had only vaguely seen what was to happen; he wanted to see it more clearly.

And so it was that Harry Potter fell asleep the night of 30 July, just as he had every night for the past month. One watcher was left at the mirror while the rest went to their own beds. They all converged before the boy’s usual waking time, prepared to see if the new day brought anything of interest, or any clues. What they did see—and were totally unprepared for—was Harry Potter laying in bed when the lights came up, or at least, pieces of him. Streams of blood splattered the walls and oozed downward, still glistening as though it had only just happened. His glasses were shattered beyond repair, shards sticking out of his unrecognizable eyes, and the rest of Harry wasn’t too well connected anymore, either; his limbs had been hacked off and stacked like kindling at the foot of the bed.

They were all still staring in mute horror when the door opened and Voldemort stepped in, took one look, and proceeded to blast the room half apart in anger. Heru took a moment to reflect on things. He couldn’t decide if he should be impressed at the sheer destruction that had been done to his body—well, a body—or disgusted by the lengths Fate had gone to. Either way, it was quite plain that Harry could not have done these things to himself.

Voldemort eventually calmed down into a seething tower of quiet rage and stormed over to the desk he hadn’t yet destroyed. Yanking the drawer completely out of its tracks, he then stooped down to retrieve the journal and stare at it.

“So,” he said. “Do I deliver you along with the pitiful wreck of your master’s corpse to the wizarding world, or do I just keep you? Do I let those fools like Dumbledore see just how much damage they did to you before you ended up dead anyway? Perhaps if I were able to see the looks on their faces when they read through your pages it might be worth it.”

Voldemort lowered the journal and turned to look at Harry. “And you, you pathetic little brat. How dare you die on me!? That was my right! My decision! You would have made a lovely pet for me, Harry. A lovely little minion, obeying only me, begging and pleading to do my bidding. Can’t you imagine the faces of your adoring public when that came to light? I even came here today to try and talk some sense into you. But no, you had to go and get yourself killed under my very nose. How dare you!?”

Voldemort flung the journal at the bed, smirking slightly as it lodged somewhere in Harry’s chest cavity. “Oh well, you shan’t be missed. I’ll decide where to deliver you once I’ve had a chance to get creative with my followers. And by the way, thanks for reminding me about my dear, traitorous Severus. I’ll have to think of something special for him. He was one of my favorites, you know. But he’s already been replaced. Did you realize that your dear Professor Moody was an impostor all year? I’ll bet you never had a clue. Barty Crouch is back safe and sound, and I don’t have to worry about him betraying me. And then there’s that other fellow. We shall see about him.”

Voldemort turned away and moved to the door, then paused. “Before I go, Harry, did you have any last requests? No? Hm. Tirrah, luv.” He stepped out and pulled the door closed quietly behind him, and they could hear his high-pitched laughter trailing away.

Minerva, always one to remain calm in a crisis, promptly averted her face from the image still displayed in the mirror and sicked up all over Albus’s carpet.

Two days later a corpse was discovered on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, its limbs sewn back on with what looked oddly like fishing line, carefully cradling a book in what was left of its chest.