Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 19 :: Grimmauld Place

19 • Grimmauld Place

Heru had been keeping one eye on Mark during the entire meeting. Now that they had begun a discussion on likely new members, he gave more of his attention to his son. For whatever reason—and Heru had not been able to follow things precisely—Hermione and Ron had chosen to stay in Mark’s company while the meeting was in progress rather than wandering off on their own. He was pleased to note that they were actually talking to each other, and that Mark was able to provide somewhat of a distraction for their grief.

“They didn’t let me see anything, so I can’t tell you. I reckon it was pretty bad, though,” he said with a sniff. “I don’t think you would have wanted to see.”

Ron grunted. He’d been staring at the ceiling for some time, and didn’t look to be done with it anytime soon.

“I suppose so,” admitted Hermione. “None of it seems real. I feel like it was just yesterday that we talked. I can’t believe—never mind. I suppose it doesn’t matter.” She averted her face for a moment, then looked back with a determined expression. “You didn’t really explain how you and your father came to be here, Mark.”

Mark shrugged and lifted his brows. “Father decided he wanted to live in a wizarding town, so he bought a house in Hogsmeade. But. . . .” He scrunched up his face, looking as though he were trying to remember something. “Yes, it was because father decided to write new Potions texts that he ever really came to Hogwarts.”

“Potions texts?”

Mark nodded vigorously. “He even had me help! He said the current ones were just awful and thought he could do better, so he did. Anyway, he sent samples up here and got invited for a meeting to discuss them.” Mark smiled proudly and said, “They’ll be used from now on, too. Professor Snape was quite impressed.”

A vaguely disgusted noise issued from Ron. Hermione cuffed him lightly and said, “Your father must be quite happy.”

“Oh, he is! He—”

Heru blinked as he felt a nudge at his side. He turned to look at Severus in confusion.

“What are you doing?” Severus whispered after leaning closer.

“Keeping an eye on Mark. He’s with those two kids and I wanted to make sure nothing got out of hand. Besides, I have no idea who these people are they’re discussing in here.”

“Fine, if anything you can help with comes up or the meeting ends, I’ll get your attention.”

Heru nodded and checked back on his son.

“—haven’t said where you lived before Hogsmeade,” Hermione was saying.

Mark scrunched his face up again, this time looking pained. “I . . . don’t really like to talk about that. My—mum died, see, and. . . .”

“I understand. I’m sorry, Mark. You’ll be coming to Hogwarts, then?”

“Yeah, but I’m not old enough yet. Well, I hope I will. Father is a bit worried about that.”

“Your . . . name?” She looked slightly apologetic.

“Yeah. He’s worried that I might get hurt because of it, I think. The other kids might, you know. . . . But, I’d really like to. Father thinks I might get into Ravenclaw.”

Ron choked in apparent disbelief; Hermione ignored him.

“He says he doesn’t care, so long as I’m happy. Getting into Slytherin might be kind of strange, though.”

Hermione didn’t wait; she cuffed Ron before he could react. “Why is that?”

“It’d be”—Mark shivered—“creepy if people were fawning over me because of my name. Like how people did with the Po—sorry. I don’t know, it just would be,” he finished lamely.

“So I take it you really like Potions?” she asked.

“Yeah! I’m already—”

Severus nudged him again, so Heru focused on what was around him instead.

“I think that covers things for the time being,” Albus said. “You will all be getting word shortly. Those of you I asked to stay behind, please do. The rest of you may go.” As people started to file out of the room, Albus appeared at Heru’s side and said, “I would like you and Severus to stay as well, if you don’t mind.”

They began vanishing the extra chairs, and when the room was cleared, sat down again to see what Albus wanted.

“I think we should confess,” said Remus after a glance at Sirius, who gave a slight nod.

“To?”

“That parchment? Could we see it, please?” Albus produced it from a drawer and laid it out. Remus activated it, drawing a pleased smile from Albus once he realized what it was. Severus, obviously recognizing it, scowled.

“I see. Yes, this could be quite useful,” said Albus, twinkling again momentarily.

Remus wiped it clean, then stepped back a pace and sat down.

“Sirius?”

“Right. I don’t care what you do to the place, Albus. Though, I think Kreacher has got to go. I don’t trust the little blighter any further than I can kick him. He was entirely mother’s servant, and babbles her nonsense every chance he gets. Technically he belongs to me now, and I can’t stand to look at him.”

Albus nodded and said, “As you know, most of the members of the Order are employed—now don’t look at me like that—but I think it would be unreasonable to ask that you and Remus take care of getting the house into shape so quickly by yourselves. Would you object to some additional assistance?”

Sirius narrowed his eyes. “Who?”

“I was thinking of Heru, I admit.” He shot a quick look at Heru, who shrugged lightly. “It isn’t the most enjoyable of tasks, but more people means less work done faster.”

Heru cleared his throat; all eyes turned to him. “Albus, I have to say that Mark and I have been spending most of our time here for the past month, so I don’t see any reason why I can’t temporarily close up my own home and bring along my house-elves to assist if Mr Black does not object to our help. As it is, they’re perishing for lack of anything productive to do, and nothing short of a natural disaster is going to get through my wards.”

Albus peered at Sirius hopefully. Sirius tried to look anywhere but back, and finally sighed. “Sure. Why not. Invite the Weird Sisters for all I care.”

“I do believe they’re already booked, Sirius. I suggest you two spend the night here. In the morning, on your way to Grimmauld Place, you can stop long enough in Hogsmeade for Heru to make arrangements and then floo to London. Heru, I don’t see any reason why you can’t take Mark with you. It is your choice. You might feel better if he stayed here at the castle with Severus. I trust you three will keep me updated.”

Heru took that as a dismissal. After nodding he turned and left; the others weren’t far behind him. Out in the hallway he paused to ask, “Do either of you mind if Mark did come along?” Sirius and Remus shook their heads, so Heru said, “I’ll talk to him about it this evening. Tomorrow, then, gentlemen.”

Severus was clearly not happy with the temporary arrangement, prompting Heru to start asking a few questions after dinner. And while he knew most of the answers already, it would be harder to explain his intimate knowledge of the subject if he slipped up. It was easier to purposely cover the material again. He also wanted to hear from Severus directly on certain matters.

After seeing that Mark was safely occupied elsewhere, he said, “There’s a few things I think I need to know more about, and I was hoping you could clue me in. I have enough of an understanding of events to get by, but. . . .”

“What things, precisely?”

“Well, a rundown from your point of view of the first rise of Voldemort, along with what actually happened here at Hogwarts over the past four years. And, I’m rather curious about why you and that Sirius fellow snarl at each other so much.”

“I was hoping for something simple,” Severus replied with a scowl. “Fine. You may as well get comfortable. This will take some time.”

Eventually they got around to discussing Mark. Heru was perfectly happy to leave him at the castle as company for Severus, or to bring him along. Severus, who had grown far more fond of the boy than he was likely to admit, favored keeping him at Hogwarts. After wrangling over it for a while, Heru suggested a compromise. If Mark wanted to go he could, but for only a few days, at which point Heru would take a break and bring him back to the castle. Severus wasn’t happy with that, either, but agreed. Heru did not point out that he found Severus’s attachment to the boy endearing, or that they were discussing him as though he were their son, not just Heru’s.

*

The next morning after breakfast Heru, Mark, Sirius, and Remus left for Hogsmeade. At Heru’s house they waited in the lounge while he explained to Flick and Guin what he wanted them to do, then took the time to further modify the wards to prevent any and all access that was not himself, Mark, Severus, or one of the two elves. Heru had already made a quick stop in at his vault for a supply of coin, so once he was finished they left and used a public floo to go to Diagon Alley, outside which they caught a taxi to № 12 Grimmauld Place.

The moment they stepped through the door the screaming and screeching started, startling Mark nearly out of his wits. Sirius showed everyone down to the kitchen with a resigned air about him that managed to surpass the blackness of the scowl etched on his face. They had barely entered the room when a house-elf crept in, mumbling to itself about blood traitors and disgraced sons. It was a strange echo of the cries from the ground floor, though with the door closed the female voice was muffled.

After listening the creature’s filthy mouthings for all of thirty seconds, and seeing the look of intense disgust on Sirius’s face, Heru turned to Remus with a pleasant smile and said, “Mr Lupin, I was wondering if I might ask you for a favor?”

“What is it?” Remus asked guardedly.

“I don’t suppose you would be willing to escort Mark above stairs and perhaps help him pick out a room for us for our stay?” His eyes flicked over to the elf, presumably Kreacher, then back to Remus.

Remus nodded and placed a hand on Mark’s shoulder. “That sounds like a good idea. Shall we?”

The moment they were out the door Sirius started in on the elf, telling it to shut up before he cut its throat, right then and there. Heru, finding himself rather agreeable, cleared his throat. Sirius stopped mid-sentence and looked at him. “What?”

“Perhaps it isn’t my place, but I happen to agree with you.”

“Sorry?”

“I think dismissal is too cruel. The creature is obviously insane. It would be kinder in the long run to simply kill it, not to mention be expedient.”

Sirius blinked.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Heru continued calmly, “if it would manage to behead itself if you asked it to, though I think it would be a poor addition to the existing décor.”

Sirius smiled for a second and said, “You really mean that, don’t you?”

“Absolutely. It would be like putting down an animal too wounded to live properly. A humane act, if you will.”

Kreacher had stopped his muttering and was instead looking back and forth between Sirius and Heru.

After a moment of consideration, Sirius turned to Kreacher and said, “You would rather be beheaded and stuck on the wall than serve me, wouldn’t you. Don’t mind me if that’s what you want. Go right ahead. Of course, if you don’t mind taking orders from a blood traitor and a disgrace to the family, so be it. Your first task will be getting that portrait off the wall so I can start a bonfire with it, though.”

Kreacher, reacting as though he’d been slapped on hearing Sirius’s plans, headed straight for one of the kitchen’s drawers and pulled out a wicked-looking knife, then offed himself in one swift movement. It took but a moment to clean up the mess, after which Sirius flashed another brief smile. It faded when the sounds from the portrait upstairs filtered back in.

“Dare I ask?”

“Don’t think I trust you or anything,” said Sirius, “or even expect someone like you to understand.”

“All right.”

“That bitch is my mother, or was. Her and her pure-blood fanaticism, always bellowing about me being such a disappointment and how I was nothing like the rest of the family. Her ways got my idiot of a brother killed in Voldemort’s service. If I could shut her up I would, but I think she used a permanent sticking charm on that portrait. I swear, she did it just to make this house uninhabitable.”

“Have you tried removing the wall?”

“Wha—no, actually.” Sirius trotted off out the door with a focused look on his face.

Heru pulled out a dusty chair and sat down, closing his eyes. While he waited he made a close examination of the wards that surrounded the property. It was fairly well protected, though he suspected most of the things included were considered standard fare for paranoid pure-bloods. When no one had bothered him for several minutes, and the noise level from the ground floor had risen to alarming proportions, he opened his eyes and stood, then headed out the door and up the stairs.

Sirius was using his wand to trace a fiery line around the portrait at a fair distance to each side. His mother’s visage was spewing forth vile obscenities at her only living son, and not doing a very good job of convincing him that he was making the wrong decision. Heru stayed well off to the side, and when Sirius managed to connect his lines, he too stepped aside, then punched his fist through the wall and yanked. The entire section toppled forward, twisting and cracking around his hand, then fell to the floor with a resounding thud. The portrait’s voice was decidedly muffled at that point, though no less vehement.

It might have been the noise that drew them, or simply that they were done choosing up rooms—Remus and Mark appeared on the top of the stairs and approached, looking curiously at the section of wall on the floor and the gaping hole left behind.

“I see you’ve started to clean house,” commented Remus mildly.

“Damn right,” replied Sirius, savagely kicking the piece on the floor. “Now I just need to find a good place to set it on fire and be done with it. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll figure something out. Whatever it takes.”

Flick and Guin chose that moment to arrive, popping into the narrow entryway very close to Heru. After a brief look around with wide eyes, both of them assumed scandalized expressions at the condition of what little they could see, and looked to Heru for instructions.

He in turn looked at Sirius, who shrugged and said, “Whatever they feel comfortable doing is fine. This place needs a lot of work. Maybe the kitchen, so we can have lunch in a bit without feeling like spiders are going to drop into our food at the slightest provocation.”

Heru nodded and gestured to his elves, then descended the stairs. He asked them to please clean the room and get it ready for safe and serviceable meals, and handed Flick a pouch of coin in case he needed it for any additional food or supplies. “I figure by the time noon rolls around you’ll be able to have one ready, and one of you can let us know.”

He went back out and up to the others in time to see Sirius and Remus attempting to hack the portrait and attached wall to bits, and getting only as far as chipping things off around the edges, much to the frustration of Sirius in particular. Not wanting to interfere further in what was obviously a family matter, Heru gave both men a nod and asked Mark to show him the room he’d chosen.

When lunch rolled around they gathered in the kitchen to eat. The space was as clean as it could get, though it persisted in looking worse for wear. Still, no one was worried that the food was contaminated.

“I wonder if I could get my hands on a really strong solvent,” Sirius said thoughtfully.

“She can’t bother us in the attic,” pointed out Remus.

“I know that,” Sirius said testily. “I want that thing destroyed.” He stabbed at his food viciously, then looked at Heru with a calculating expression. “Do you have any more bright ideas?”

“I’ll go up and see what I can do,” he said lightly. “Is it all right if Flick and Guin get a head start on cleaning once they’ve cleared away lunch? They can begin with the bedrooms and work their way out from there.”

“Yeah. Anything that they don’t know what to do with or looks suspicious they can put in the attic for now.”

Heru nodded and glanced over at the elves, giving them permission with a tilt of his head. They spent the remainder of lunch discussing the probable needs of the Order, and what could be done to the house in order to achieve those aims. Sirius was in favor of gutting the place and starting over, but Remus objected to the unnecessary waste of time and money. Heru didn’t care either way; he was there only to assist, and to try to establish some kind of tentative relationship with the two people he considered to be family in this time period aside from the obvious.

The next few days were fairly uneventful. Flick and Guin swept through the house like a hurricane, cleaning everything in sight and hauling loads of odd objects up to the attic for someone to later go over. Heru spent time up there with the portrait of Sirius’s mother, carefully unweaving the magic that made it what it was and what protected it. In the end he had a plain painted canvas that could be easily shredded and disposed of, though he left the actual destruction to Sirius feeling that he would get some sense of satisfaction out of the experience. Remus and Sirius spent most of their time deciding what rooms were to be used for which purposes and what things needed to be brought in.

On Wednesday afternoon, Heru bid the two men a temporary good-bye, saying he would return the following morning, and took Mark back to Hogwarts. He apprised Albus of the current situation, then spent the evening with Severus, cozily tucked up together on the couch in front of the fire. And, for all that Mark had wanted to go with his father to see someplace new, the novelty had worn off quickly and he was relieved to be back in a place where he had a lot more space to roam around and play with potions if he felt like it.

That night, in the privacy of the bedroom they shared, Heru took one more step toward showing Severus how he felt. When he was done and Severus had recovered, he found himself being repaid in kind, and he finally had an inkling of what it was he’d been missing those years with Regan.

The next morning he returned to № 12 Grimmauld Place and helped Sirius and Remus renovate the rooms. Flick and Guin were detailed to strip down the walls in preparation of a coat of paint—they were in such bad shape that spells would have had little effect—and remove any lingering unpleasant things at Sirius’s direction. Once the first space had been prepared, the elves moved to the next while the men moved in suitable furnishings for a meeting room. Between the five of them, the house was more or less ready by that weekend, so they summoned Albus.

After a close examination and a few questions, Albus pronounced the place imminently suitable and proceeded to place the entire structure under the protection of the fidelius charm. Already being within its confines, Heru, Remus, and Sirius did not need to be told anything, though Albus would have to inform each member of the Order of its location and that it was ready for use. Flick and Guin were left to watch over things for the time being, and everyone returned to Hogwarts. Heru had seen one thing, though, that made him remember a thought he’d had some time ago.