Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 18 :: Ordered Actions

18 • Ordered Actions

Harry’s body was removed almost as soon as it had been found and placed in a room provided by the castle after Albus had asked Heru to see what he could do. It went almost without saying that the wards on that section of the castle were more stringent than most; the hordes of reporters crowding the main doors were continually being turned away, but one never knew just how enterprising some of them might be.

The journal was cause for much fighting, breast beating, and recrimination—and not all of it spared the victim, Harry. Each person had a chance to read it in full, and often passed it on with an expression that said very little of what they were feeling. It eventually was passed to Heru, who affected a look of surprise at the offer.

“I’m not sure I understand,” he said. “I’ll read it, but other than helping out on a few things I’m not sure what value there is in me reading it.”

“That will become more clear, I think, a bit later on,” said Albus. “You have indeed been very generous with your time and ability, something I believe we ought to discuss further once we have all had a chance to assimilate this material.”

Heru shrugged and set to reading, even though he could still remember most of what he’d written. Part way through he suddenly looked up and said, “The castle says Remus Lupin is here,” then went back to the journal. He absently noticed that one of their number left immediately, and by the time he had finished and handed it back to Albus they had returned with Remus in tow.

“Before we go any further,” said Albus, “would you be so kind as to take care of Remus, Heru?”

It took him a moment to understand what the headmaster meant, but when he did recall, he asked the castle for her assistance, and she made the necessary changes. Albus pulled Remus off to the side, presumably to explain what had just happened, and to hand him the journal.

Albus was the worst hit by what Harry had written, but that was on a personal level, Heru noticed. He was apt at defending himself during the ensuing discussion, often stating that a child, however precocious, could not possibly understand the entirety of the decisions Albus had been forced to make. Heru found it both amusing and sad, but he could afford to; it had been his life, and time and distance had a way of softening even the roughest of edges.

Remus had a tendency to bemoan the fact that he hadn’t spent more time with Harry that one year, and that he had, until the very end, withheld so much more than he had given. Sirius was beside himself, often cursing that he’d had so little time with Harry, and even envious of Remus for having had that year. He felt he had totally failed in his desire to keep Harry safe, despite knowing he could not have done much more than he had.

Severus displayed a curious mixture of reactions, though Heru doubted that anyone would notice them through his habitual stony expression, which tended to vary only in how intense his glare or scowl was—assuming he showed an expression at all. He seemed profoundly disturbed that Harry had almost been sorted into Slytherin house, and Heru considered asking him about it later, in private. Severus also seemed quite angry over some of the things Harry had written, especially as much of what he had done was designed to protect him. Heru noticed more than one faintly quizzical look directed at him by Severus.

Minerva simply seemed bewildered. She had not been so close to Harry. Albus had always been the parental figure in Harry’s life. Arthur was in a similar state. It was Molly who would often begin wailing over the loss of her “son” and generally acting as though she’d birthed him herself. She was eventually hauled off to the infirmary and sedated for hysteria.

It was then that Albus came to a decision. “We have proof enough that Voldemort has returned. Therefore, I am reconvening the Order of the Phoenix. All of you here, with the exception of Heru, know what that means. Now, aside from the obvious task of informing all the original members, we must look to recruitment of new people. Heru would possibly be the first of those.”

Sirius sat up immediately with a fierce scowl, then subsided. Remus, who had no real idea who Heru was, or why Sirius would be so opposed to the idea, glanced at both of them, then back to Albus.

“Does anyone here object if I explain to Heru what the Order is about?” Sirius retained his mulish expression, but said nothing, and neither did Arthur. Nobody did. “Splendid. Heru, to put it simply, the Order of the Phoenix was created at the time of Voldemort’s first rise as a dedicated group of individuals intent on his defeat. Unfortunately, there was a traitor among our number—you recall to whom I refer—that led to the deaths of Harry’s parents and ultimately to Voldemort’s first defeat. Now that he is back, we will begin again.”

“And you would like me to join?”

“That is the idea.”

“Just so that we’re all clear on the obvious—don’t you think just being who I am will cause problems?”

“Ah, Albus?” interrupted Remus, casting a quick, apologetic look at Heru. “Could someone tell me what they haven’t been telling me? I’m a little lost here.”

“My apologies, Remus. The problem Heru is referring to is that he is Heru Slytherin, and as such, subject to a tide of ingrained distrust and suspicion.”

Remus’s brows shot up and he cast another look at Heru, who smiled pleasantly in return.

“In any case, there are always problems with integrating various people, Heru, as I’m sure you understand. The obvious in your case may be a bit more to get past, but I don’t see why it should be an issue in light of the larger picture.”

“Then I reckon it would depend on what this all entailed. I had every intention of living a simple life, but I suppose that was a foolish hope.” Heru shrugged and pulled his hair into a tail to twist around his fingers.

“I try to match people with tasks which suit their abilities. As it stands, you are our only link with the castle itself, and are admirably suited for spying from a distance, it seems. Different people serve in different ways.”

“That sounds fine so far, but I would have to say I’d strongly object to anything that put me directly in harm’s way. While I am not the only one, I do have a son who expects me to be around for a while longer. I think you’re already well aware that I will not be dealt with lightly, based on . . . truth.” Heru arched a brow at the headmaster on the last word for even more emphasis.

Albus broke into a briefly amused smile and nodded. “Yes, indeed. I think we understand each other then.” Both of them ignored the confused looks they were getting. “Very well. Minerva, I would ask you to send out word after we are done here.”

“Yes, Albus.”

Albus sighed heavily at that point and said, “We must decide where poor Harry is to be laid to rest. I confess, I am greatly worried that if his location becomes known, his remains will be disinterred almost before we have a chance to take care of things.”

After a number of unworkable suggestions, Heru hesitantly spoke up. “Er, there is . . . as I’ve learned . . . a place at Hogwarts itself.”

“Pardon?”

“On the grounds, along the east side of the lake, is a graveyard of sorts. If I recall correctly, Salazar’s brother and sister-in-law were laid to rest there, in a mausoleum. I would assume it still exists.”

“I have never come across such a thing,” said Albus, frowning. “I suppose one of us could go look.”

“I might have a faster way of being sure,” said Heru. “It cannot hurt for me to try.” Albus nodded, so Heru closed his eyes and silently asked the castle if it still existed.

<Yes.>

When he asked why no one seemed to know about it, she flashed him several images. He understood after several moments of thought that the castle had purposely hidden it from prying eyes sometime after his departure from the past. As it was technically on the grounds, she had that much control over it, but she was willing to relax the protection she had assigned to it enough to allow for this new proposed addition.

Heru smiled and opened his eyes. “It’s there. It was hidden purposely. I get the feeling that at some point after Salazar’s brother died and was placed there that attempts were made to break into it. Apparently the castle has a soft spot for some people.”

“Perhaps, then, you would be willing to go down and see what might be done for Harry?”

Heru nodded, privately wondering if it was wrong to feel amused that he was preparing for his own grave in the same spot he was supposedly already buried at.

“Then I believe we are done for the moment. Minerva, I think Saturday morning at ten would be suitable.”

*

Severus joined Heru on the walk down to the site, remaining silent until well after they had exited the castle. “As I recall, you said you felt something bad was going to happen to Potter. How right you were.”

“Things aren’t usually so vague. Nobody deserves to die like that, though.”

“As much as I detested the little brat, I must agree.”

“You seemed really upset, Severus, at some of the things he wrote.”

“He said I gave him special treatment! I treated him no worse than I did any other non-Slytherin student. And I saved his precious little hide on more than one occasion.”

“Do you even have to do that now? You are not a Death Eater, Severus.”

Severus kicked at a flower as they passed it and said, “I allow I am mortally tired of the façade. And now, I have no doubt that the Dark Lord is sure of my betrayal and will seek to revenge himself on me. No, I do not need to any longer.”

“Will you continue it anyway?” Heru touched Severus’s arm briefly, smiled, and continued, “I’d hate to think of Mark getting into a house other than Slytherin and facing you in class if you did.”

“Oh, well, for his sake I shall consider being the sweetest person alive and none shall fault my manners or treatment of the bright young things that come here to learn with eager attention and hearts full to bursting with the desire to better themselves.”

Heru snickered. “As you say.”

“He is a likable little brat. He does you credit.”

“Thank you, Severus. And you do have an entire year to practice, should you choose to.”

Severus glared at him halfheartedly, then smiled. “For practical reasons, I must be stern in the classroom. Some students are far more concerned with attempting pranks than they are in learning.”

“True enough,” Heru said, and stopped. “There. Within those trees.” The ground was dappled with sunlight and the air was sweet with the scent of flowers. Heru was glad in some ways that Regan had been entombed in stone, for she had not become food for nature’s whimsy, but also sad, because she could not return to the earth from which she had ultimately sprung.

The individual trees may have changed, but the mausoleum was still surrounded by alders, and Heru breathed a silent sigh at the sight. It had become an idyllic little glade if you could ignore what it actually contained. It was clear, though, that Harry’s body could be placed within its confines after a new structure had been created and enjoy the same privacy. Heru was quite sure the castle would see to it.

They discussed positioning for a few minutes, finally, though tentatively, deciding on a mausoleum that would stand a short distance from the original and at a slight angle. It depended a great deal on whether or not Albus was of a mind to transfer the remains of Harry’s parents there or leave them wherever they currently rested. After several minutes of silence, Heru turned to Severus, feeling a bit hesitant to speak his mind, and at the other’s look of inquiry, he plunged ahead.

“Severus, this is probably so wildly inappropriate that I would not blame you for being disgusted with me, but—this place of death, the depression it makes me feel, it makes me all that much more keen to live life and experience the things I’ve yearned for and not dared to go after. I want—I would like to be a great deal closer to you, if you would let me.”

“Closer,” Severus repeated. “I recall once telling you that I wasn’t sure I knew how to be a friend.”

“Yes, you did,” Heru agreed softly.

“I would li—I will deny ever saying this should you repeat it to others, you understand. I would like to think I’ve learned differently since then.” Severus took a step forward. “I would like to think I have as much courage as you show at this moment to be honest.” He took another step closer. “I would like to think you are not referring merely to friendship.”

Heru closed the remaining gap and said, “I would like to think that if I were to kiss you at this moment, that you would return it.” He leaned in slowly, so that Severus could still step away if he wanted, and touched his lips to Severus’s. A heartbeat later he pulled back slightly and saw the brightness of Severus’s eyes, then leaned in again, snaking one hand around the nape of Severus’s neck.

When their lips touched this time, it was not in innocence, but with full intent of exploration. Moments later they were tangled together, completely oblivious to their surroundings, and totally forgetful of why they had come in the first place. It was, perhaps, ten minutes later when reality intruded on the pleasurable haze in Heru’s mind and he gently disengaged, slightly out of breath.

“I don’t want to stop, but I think. . . .”

“We must not do this here,” Severus agreed.

As one they turned and left the glade, walking back to the castle rather a little more closer to each other than normal. They reported to Albus that the site would be quite suitable for their needs, then retired to Severus’s quarters for lunch. That night they shared Severus’s bed, though they did no more than they already had. It was enough for the moment to simply be close. And they continued to share the same bed, much to Mark’s quiet amusement.

*

Saturday dawned fair and sunny, which some took as a kind of insult given the prevailing mood. There were two issues for the day: Harry’s funeral and the Order meeting.

Those few who had been invited, mostly those who had been close to Harry, gathered on the front steps and were led down to the glade as a group. During the intervening days Heru had constructed a mausoleum for himself, unable to prevent that same sense of morbid amusement from rearing its head as he did so. He had, in fact, volunteered for the job, having explained that it was a member of his own family responsible for the tragedy, and that he would feel obscurely better for having been the one to accomplish this particular task, especially as the only people buried there were, again, among his family.

Molly was quite patently under the influence of a calming potion as she did no more than let silent tears slip down her face, clutching tightly to her husband’s arm. Ginny had been left at home, though Ron had been allowed to come. Hermione was also present, having been fetched by several Order members, and her face was deathly white and drawn. She stood very close to her remaining best friend, who watched the entire proceeding with a bemused look of denial, occasionally shaking his head.

When the door to the structure closed, it capped the sense of finality, and Hermione finally burst into loud, racking sobs. Molly, whose motherly tendencies kicked into gear, immediately pulled her into a sideways hug and led her away, back to the castle. After a brief moment of silence they all returned, gathering in the Great Hall for a very quiet, very somber lunch. When it came time for the Order to meet, Mark was introduced to the two students, who eyed him with as much suspicion as they could manage under the circumstances. Albus made it a point to be very firm on the subject of manners, then swept away with the adults in tow.

Heru, of course, immediately set up a watch on his son, ignoring the knowing look Albus shot him.

The first order of business was to make introductions. Most of the members were as clueless as Remus and the Weasleys had been over Heru’s identity. Suspicion and distrust softened slightly when Albus explained much of what Heru had done for them, though it did not completely disappear. Moody—the real Moody—was especially paranoid about having him included.

After that, Albus dropped a bombshell. “There is,” he said, “something I have not fully told anyone, not in all these years. I felt that it was of paramount importance that the exact details should not be revealed, lest they somehow be betrayed, whether by guile, force, or an inadvertent slip of the tongue. As it turns out, my decision was probably wise given that we were betrayed, but at this point in time, it may no longer matter. Therefore, I will reveal now what I would not in the past.”

He took a pensieve out of a nearby cabinet and moved it to his desk, tapping it before taking a seat. Everyone watched as Trelawney appeared, slowly rotating above the silvery substance within, and intoned her prophecy. Albus played it a second time before saying, “Now you will understand why James and Lily Potter were placed under the fidelius charm. Even, possibly, why Voldemort was defeated the first time.”

“The Longbottoms were also placed under protection at that time. Are you saying it could have been their boy?” asked someone in the back.

“Yes. Both boys were born near the end of July. As it stands, it was Harry who was attacked, and Harry who was marked. That he is dead bodes very badly for us. If this prophecy is true in its entirety, we may be lost, unless the interpretation is wrong.”

“There is some room for argument, Albus,” said Moody. “I have a hard time believing any child is capable of defeating Voldemort. I don’t care how talented he is. And for all we know, this is telling us that both die. Come on now, ‘Neither can live while the other survives’? They were both alive at the same time if what I’ve heard is accurate, and it isn’t even clear that it was Voldemort who killed Harry. This other could be referring to a third party.”

“Those are very good points, Alastor. For the benefit of everyone, I will show my memory of that moment.” He tapped the pensieve again, this time to display the morning they had seen Harry’s mutilated body, and Voldemort’s subsequent entry, speech, and exit. “I agree. It is not clear whether or not it was Voldemort who personally killed Harry. I cannot speculate as to his state of mind at the time, or guess with any accuracy if he was experiencing a type of denial or amnesia. Of course, it could well be that a third party is responsible.”

“Harry is dead and all you two can do is quibble over semantics?” Molly shrieked in disbelief.

“Molly, please.” Albus peered at her over the rims of his spectacles. “Regardless, I cannot stress strongly enough that I believe the contents of the prophecy should go no further than this room. To let Voldemort know of the actual wording, even if it is useless to us now, would give him an advantage I do not want him to have. I show it to you to drive home the utter seriousness of our situation. Am I understood?”

Murmurs of agreement sounded all over the room, so Albus continued. “There is one more thing I must show you. It arrived early this morning along with a note, which I will share with you now.” Opening one of the drawers of his desk, Albus produced a second pensieve and a piece of paper. After clearing his throat he read:

I thought this might pique your interest even though I’ve already sent you one present this week. What can I say—I’m feeling exceptionally generous, so enjoy it while you can. I hope you liked the first one. I certainly did. Now, enjoy this, and watch your mistakes in action, come to fruition like weeds in a neglected garden. Too bad most of it will be beyond your understanding, old man.

“As you might guess, it was signed ‘Lord Voldemort’.” Albus dropped the note back in the drawer and set the pensieve down, pushing his to the side. Then he tapped it, letting the memory of the night in the graveyard appear, starting just before the duel that wasn’t.

The only people who understood all of it, predictably, were Heru and Severus, though Severus pretended not to. At length, Albus turned to Heru and said, “You were able to follow that?”

“Yes, of course,” he responded. “He was ranting, all right, but it wasn’t much different from what was contained in the journal. He dared Voldemort to kill him and get it over with so he could rejoin his parents. I think that’s why Voldemort didn’t. As he said, it was too easy, and if the boy was that disaffected, he probably had hopes of turning him at that point. It makes sense, especially given what we saw in that room. If you want, I can work on an exact transcript, but I’m not sure what use it would be.”

Numerous people had turned in Heru’s direction, looks of fear and loathing on their faces. He could only presume it was because he was a parselmouth, though why that should bother them more than his name was beyond his reasoning. He flipped his hair back in a nonchalant manner and kept his eyes on Albus.

“If you think there’s no point, perhaps not. Let me think on it. There are a few other, somewhat mundane, things to be brought up. Harry’s trunk was brought to my office as soon as possible after we realized he had been taken. There is a rather peculiar, rather large piece of parchment I’ve been wondering about. . . .” He paused to peer over his rims again. “And also Harry’s invisibility cloak, which will go into the common Order possessions for use on missions. I think Ron and Hermione might have an idea how to apportion his remaining items of any value, though I fear there are precious few.” Albus sighed and added, “I do not think . . . Harry would have minded.”

Albus took a moment to return Voldemort’s pensieve to his desk, and his own to its normal location. After sitting down again he said, “The next thing we need to discuss is where we shall be holding meetings in the future. I do not think it particularly wise to use Hogwarts in this capacity. Cornelius Fudge has been obstructionary in the past, and I have no doubt that he will continue to be so. I very much doubt he will listen to reason, even with evidence of Voldemort’s return. I have been removed as Headmaster once already, though that was due to Lucius Malfoy’s efforts, but it is common knowledge that Cornelius greatly respects Mr Malfoy’s opinion and guidance where he will no longer listen to mine. Does anyone have any suggestions?”

Nobody said anything for a moment. People craned their necks to look around at each other or half rose from their seats so as to better see, but no one volunteered anything until Sirius stood, catching everyone’s attention.

“The family townhouse,” he said flatly, with a sneer curling his lip. “It is mine by right. I don’t particularly want to ever see the place again, but it is in London, and already fairly well warded. As private property, Fudge couldn’t do a thing.”

“Are you sure, Sirius?”

Sirius gave a sharp nod and sat down.

“Very well. Unless there are any objections, or other suggestions, that is what we will do.” After a pause he said, “No? Then it is settled. Sirius, please see me after the meeting to discuss that further. Next, let us discuss the possibility of new members. . . .”