Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 20 :: Blood and Bone

20 • Blood and Bone

Mark was thrilled to see his father again even though it had been only a few days. Heru supposed it was possible that the boy held some lingering anxiety from the death of his natural parents and, as he had more or less not been apart from Heru for any length of time since he had been brought to Hogsmeade, any absence was troubling. He was happy to show his affection and keep Mark close by his side for the remainder of the day, even though it meant he could not discuss certain things he had on his mind with Severus, or anyone else.

By the next morning, however, Mark seemed quite himself again, and was happy to wander off on his own rather than being clingy. So it was that Heru was able to share his idea with Severus and get his opinion.

“I believe it’s worth a try. The question is if you would like to come and help me, and if you think the memory we saw is enough for you to be able to apparate there.”

Severus clearly had his doubts about the idea as shown by his expression, but he agreed to assist. Heru asked the castle to keep an eye on Mark while they were gone, then they apparated straight to the graveyard while it was still daylight. A careful examination of the area revealed nothing and no one to worry about, so they began checking the headstones.

Eventually they found the right one and cast a few spells to disguise what they were about to do. Shortly thereafter, they apparated back to Hogwarts with the remains of Tom Riddle’s father. Heru had been honest with Severus—he wasn’t sure if his idea would work, but he intended to find out and now he could.

The first thing he declared after examining the remains—there wasn’t much to examine—was that Tom’s father had definitely been a muggle, or so far down a line of squibs that it made no difference. When Severus asked how he could tell, Heru explained that magic warped the body in characteristic ways and left signs behind. “If he had died recently I wouldn’t even have to examine him. I could tell just by looking, and gauge his respective power level by the amount of residual magic remaining.”

At that point Heru pulled what he could from the remains and set about spell-weaving a new tapestry.

The next day the Order met at headquarters. As Heru had heard that Molly was unwilling to let her children out of her sight and was bringing them along, he took Mark with him after getting Albus to clue the boy in, so to speak. It was, perhaps, unfortunate that Hermione would not be present to provide a buffer against half a tribe of Weasley children.

They arrived a bit early and were sitting in the kitchen hearing all about what Flick and Guin had been up to the previous day when the Weasley clan walked in. Molly immediately bustled over to Mark, saying how much he looked like his father, and asking him if he’d been eating properly. She was either heavily in denial, or managing to recover her more normal personality.

“You’re too thin,” she said, hands on her hips.

“But I eat plenty, Mrs Weasley,” Mark protested, shooting a rather desperate look at his father and getting no sympathy.

“Just like Ron and the twins, I swear. Eating people out of house and home and you’d never be able to tell it by the look of you. Now, why don’t you introduce me to these two fine elves and I’ll see what they have to say about it,” she said, and gently but resolutely prodded Mark off ahead of her.

Heru noted that her own children had varying expressions of disbelief and resignation on their faces, and even a little relief that she was off mothering someone else for a change. Heru chuckled softly and averted his face.

Several minutes later she dragged Mark back over to the others and addressed her children. “Now you listen here. Mark is a very nice young boy and I don’t want to hear even a whisper that you’ve been giving him any trouble.” She eyed the twins significantly. “And he could probably give you quite a run at chess, Ron, so you might want to play a game or two while the meeting is going on.”

Heru almost laughed out loud at the amount of information she’d got from his son in so little time. Sounds from above alerted everyone that more people were arriving, so Heru stood and pulled Mark off to the side for a moment. “While I don’t expect any trouble, I’d like to remind you that you can call Flick or Guin if you need them, all right?” he whispered.

Mark’s eyes widened slightly, then he nodded. “Right.”

“Good. The same goes for you, by the way. Behave yourself, but I expect you’d do that anyway.” He ruffled Mark’s hair, causing him to duck away in embarrassment.

The meeting wasn’t actually very lengthy. It was mainly to introduce everyone to their new headquarters and the new recruits. Everyone was invited to wander around the house to familiarize themselves, barring the attic level, and meet whoever they didn’t already know. Anyone who wanted to stay for lunch was welcome to.

Heru found Mark engaged in a game of chess with Ron and carefully didn’t smile, and from the looks of the board it was a fairly even match. After placing a hand briefly on Mark’s shoulder to let him know the meeting was over, and getting a preoccupied smile in return, Heru wandered off to see if anyone dared to speak to him aside from Severus, Albus, and a few select others.

What aroused his interest most keenly was one of the new recruits he found chatting with the twins and Ginny. He watched her change her features for their amusement for several minutes before he sought out Severus, who happened to be speaking with Albus about the open Defense Against the Dark Arts position.

“No, Albus, I don’t want the damned spot for myself. I just want to know if you’re going to hire another mass murderer this year,” he said with considerable sarcasm.

Albus stroked his beard and said, “That is difficult to answer, dear boy. Apparently, the Ministry has decided to involve themselves in affairs at Hogwarts, possibly because I tried to make Cornelius accept that Voldemort has risen again.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Ministry has created a new educational decree giving itself the right to appoint someone of its own choice if I am unable to fill a position.”

“Bollocks. You know damn well they’d saddle us with someone who’d be following the Ministry’s idea of what is appropriate for young minds to learn, and not necessarily what they need to.”

“Yes, I agree. I have been trying to convince Remus to take back the position, but he is being rather difficult about the whole thing. He keeps insisting that the parents would never stand for it. He is quite wrong on that score, however.”

“There must be somebody else you can ask, Albus, or twist around your finger and persuade to take it on. Even Heru could do it for Merlin’s sake.”

Heru’s eyes widened in alarm and he stepped back, seriously considering the idea of bolting. Severus latched on to his arm and held him in place as Heru cursed softly under his breath.

“I had considered the idea,” Albus said with a touch of amusement, “but I did not wish to make things any more difficult when Heru has a son below school age. It would also make him that much more visible to the general public, and I’m not sure that’s wise.”

“Don’t be an idiot, Albus. Half the Slytherin students, or more, have already informed their parents that he’s been at the castle. They’ve also received their book lists by now, and know that he exists.”

“Could you two not talk about me like I’m not here?” Heru asked plaintively. Severus gave him an impatient look while Albus twinkled. “While I wouldn’t mind filling in while Remus was, ah, indisposed, I’m not sure that. . . .”

“I have every intention of convincing Remus, and your offer is appreciated, Heru. I’m sure we could find other things for you to do as well that would not take too much of your time away from Mark, but allow you to remain at the castle if you wished. Still, that does not mean the Ministry won’t come up with something else in an attempt to gain more control.”

“I suppose that means Black will be roaming around the castle as Lupin’s little pet,” Severus said snidely.

Albus gave him a patient look. “I do believe it is time for lunch,” he said and wandered off.

Heru turned to Severus and said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry.”

That afternoon and evening Heru worked on the new tapestry. A week later he was finished, but it had been an almost wasted effort. It showed only a handful of generations, and Heru needed it to go back centuries. Then he remembered seeing the new girl at headquarters and went to see Albus.

“I can do that, but why?”

“Call it a personal quirk of mine. She’s obviously a metamorphmagus, and that is a trait of the Slytherin bloodline. I would like to get blood samples to see if I can fit her into the family tree somewhere, or determine if the ability has sprung up in more than one family.”

“I don’t see any harm in it, though I’m not sure why you’re asking me.”

“It isn’t as though you can walk up to a stranger and ask them to let you collect blood samples, Albus. I was hoping you would send her a letter, and she could contact me if she was willing. Coming from you, she would be more likely to at least consider it.”

“All right. I will send her—” Albus cut off at a soft knock, then called out, “Come in, Remus.”

The door opened, revealing Lupin, who stepped in and closed the door, then realized Heru was present with a tiny start of surprise. “I’m sorry, Albus. Should I come back later?”

“Oh, no, not at all,” said Albus cheerfully. “In fact, it is just as well that Heru was here when you arrived. Do sit down, Remus.” When Lupin had Albus said, “Remus, I simply must insist that you return as Defense professor. I already sent you copies of the letters I received after you resigned, so you are well aware that your condition is not at issue here. Also, Heru has graciously offered to fill in for you when you are indisposed.”

Remus let out a resigned sigh, then said, “And what about Sirius? You don’t really think he’ll be happy stuck at Grimmauld Place by himself. There are too many bad memories there for him. I also doubt that Severus would be very happy having to make wolfsbane potion again for me every month.”

Albus cast a speculative look at Heru. Heru responded by saying, “I am aware of a certain enmity—well, let me just say I have no reason to share it. Wolfsbane will not be an issue, I assure you.” He shrugged.

“As far as Sirius is concerned,” continued Albus, “he is free to apparate in whenever he likes, though obviously he must not be seen, even in his animagus form. It is possible that Peter made sure Voldemort was aware of it, and some of the students would no doubt report a large black dog to their parents as a matter of curiosity even if they had not already been warned to look for one specifically.”

“All right, fine. You win, Albus, as always.” Then Remus turned to Heru and said, “You have my thanks for being willing to assist.”

Heru inclined his head in acknowledgment.

“I am sure once you have made out a lesson plan you will forward a copy to Heru, Remus, though you may still have the one from before. I am sure under these circumstances that none of the . . . misunderstandings . . . which happened the last time will occur.”

“Of course.”

“Splendid. There is one other matter I would like to raise before you leave. As you know, Hagrid is on a mission with Madame Maxime to try to sway the giants to our cause. That leaves the Care of Magical Creatures position empty until his return. I did ask to see if Professor Kettleburn would be able to return temporarily, but he was unwilling to risk any more of his limbs, even for such a short period of time. He did, however, send along a set of his old lesson plans and a fruitcake.”

Albus paused for a moment, then said, “I do believe he was trying to tell me something. Well, no matter. By now I’m sure you are wondering what this has to do with either of you. I was hoping that you, Heru, would fill in for Hagrid. I very much doubt it would be for longer than a month.”

Heru frowned in consternation, then turned to Remus. “Should I assume it is much easier to just agree and get it over with, rather than waste the time to bring up all the reasons why I ought to refuse?”

Remus flashed a wry smile at him.

Albus chimed in with, “It goes without saying that Mark would live here as well, so that is not a concern.”

Heru sighed and rubbed his forehead. “You’ll send that letter?”

“Of course.”

“All right.”

“Excellent. Oh, and, if you do not wish to sit at the head table, I will not object. I realize that you may prefer to have meals with your son privately rather than trying to place him at one of the house tables during the interim.”

*

Heru returned to Severus’s quarters feeling rather outmaneuvered, though he could have refused the request. However, the threat of the Ministry had weighed in his decision and made him feel at least a tiny bit better at having agreed to take on a class that he had never taught before. He wondered, though, what the Ministry would do in response once it became clear that Dumbledore had in fact filled the openings. He assumed that Albus had changed his mind about offering him a position after hearing Severus’s argument that not doing so would not make him any less visible.

It did not surprise him in the least that Severus was pleased with the news, despite it being a position—even if temporary—for a subject that he normally disdained. While he certainly cared about the ingredients one might be able to obtain from magical creatures, for him the creature was a means to an end for the most part. He had always been careful to treat Praecino well, though. And, as no one had mentioned anything about assigning Heru his own quarters, he planned on continuing to use Severus’s. His lover found that to be equally pleasing.

The next day Heru received a letter from Tonks. She was agreeable enough and said she would come by the castle that day. If that was not suitable, Heru should send word. She arrived shortly after lunch and was announced by a house-elf, who informed Heru that she was waiting in the potions classroom. He immediately went to meet with her, shadowed by Severus and Mark.

Once the introductions were handled, and Heru had got over the lurid pink of her hair, Tonks said, “I don’t actually understand what it is you want—Albus was rather vague—but I reckoned that if he thought it was all right, there was no reason to refuse. Could you maybe explain what you’re trying to do that calls for me?”

“Yes, of course.” Heru placed the tapestry he had brought with him on one of the student tables and unrolled it, then weighted down the corners. “I found it very interesting that you are a metamorphmagus, as previously I had understood the ability to be solely within the Slytherin blood line. This tapestry was an attempt on my part to trace back at least part of Voldemort’s blood lines, but it wasn’t very successful given that I was using, er, very old material.”

“Eh?”

“I liberated the remains of his muggle father.”

“Oh.” She looked a bit disturbed by that revelation.

“In any case, my tapestries are best created using the blood of a living person. Now, as you undeniably possess the ability, I want to trace your line back to see if this is simply a case of it randomly springing up, or if there is some obscure connection. If you do not object, I would like to collect a few blood samples from you to make another.”

Tonks looked at him curiously, then at Mark. “I did know you had to be born with it. You two have it as well, then?”

Heru nodded and concentrated for a moment, turning his hair a fiery shade of red and giving himself a healthy tan. A few moments later he reverted, being careful to not reveal the scar he had kept hidden for so many years. When she turned to look at Mark, she was greeted by a set of grotesque fangs and wickedly arched brows, along with a set of hideously long, pointed fingernails. Then Mark giggled and reverted back to his usual appearance.

She grinned broadly at him and winked, then asked Heru, “How much blood?”

“Several small vials. Seven, actually. One for each day it takes me to create the tapestry. Not even as much as one might donate in the muggle world. And, you are welcome to have the resulting tapestry once I have had a chance to study it.”

That seemed to decide her, as she nodded firmly. Severus stepped up at that point to commence the bloodletting, and shortly thereafter they were done. Tonks, thrilled to have met more people with the same ability, asked if she could steal Mark for a while, and after a brief exchange with the castle, Heru agreed. Once they were away, he and Severus returned to their quarters so Heru could start the new tapestry.

Another week had gone by when Heru finished his new effort. Tracing back the lines, however, was a process requiring extreme patience. Heru could have simply assumed that something obvious would appear at the top of the tree, but that would not tell if Voldemort was related in any way to Tonks. There were other factors at work, as well. The Riddle tapestry had been easily dealt with because so few generations had appeared. In the case of Tonks, it was an entirely different matter, as the tapestry could not immediately display the entirety of the picture.

It had not been an issue with Heru’s tapestry; it updated itself as children were born or people married into the blood line. For the Tonks tapestry, Heru had to check each day to see how much had appeared. Of course, since the tree went up, rather than in every direction, there was no guarantee of seeing Voldemort appear at all. It was much more likely that Heru would find a starting point centuries in the past, so at that, he might still need to find another way to get what he wanted. So it was that the tapestry was not even close to completion when the school year began.

It had been decided that Heru would sit at the head table for dinner on the day the students arrived. After that it would be optional, unless Mark decided he would like to sit at a house table if he was able to become friendly with anyone. For that night he would be tucked in between Severus and Heru.

Heru noticed that a number of the students were eyeing them curiously as they took their seats and after. He had no doubt that some of them remembered the day the year before when he and Mark had eaten at the head table. But their attention was pulled away, briefly at least, when Minerva led in a long line of first years and had them assemble for the sorting ceremony. It was both interesting and boring for Heru, but Mark appeared to be fascinated by how each child’s house was determined, and how the other students reacted when the hat would call out the name.

Afterward, Albus rose to make his usual start of term announcements, which included his customary warning about the dark forest.

“In addition, I am pleased to introduce two new staff members. Mr Lupin has returned as our Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. I’m sure many of you remember him and will welcome him back.” Albus paused for the student reaction. “And, as our Care of Magical Creatures professor is currently away from the castle, Mr Slytherin will be taking his place until Hagrid returns. I am sure you will all give him a warm welcome.”

Heru almost snorted at the looks on the faces of most students, and it depended a great deal which house they were in as to what they expressed. Predictably, it was the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff students who looked the most alarmed or upset. The Ravenclaws looked reflective, and the Slytherin students displayed a mixture of awe and calculation, not to mention sly hope and pride.

Still, many of the students looked equally puzzled, given that anyone taking Potions well knew that their new books were written by a man named Slytherin, published under the name of Slytherin Press. The applause for him was noticeably less than it had been for Remus, but that was only to be expected.

“I should also point out that Professor Slytherin’s son will be staying at the castle during that time, so you will most likely see him around. Now, let us welcome in the new year with a feast!”

Severus turned to Heru and smirked; he had not missed the faces of those in his house, nor those of the Gryffindors.