Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 22 :: An Unexpected Chat

22 • An Unexpected Chat

Albus announced the change at breakfast the next morning, or so Heru heard. A schedule had been delivered, and Heru was relieved to note that Divination was even less popular than Care of Magical Creatures was; he would have more time to himself or to spend with Mark. He would not have been surprised, however, if someone had confided in him that an entire generation of children had been warning their siblings, cousins, and friends about the crazy old bat who lived in one of the tallest towers of the castle, advising them to avoid the class.

Heru had spent a little time wondering why there appeared to have been no word on Voldemort’s activities, and why it seemed that the Order was perfectly content with that. Did they assume that Voldemort, only just reborn to corporeal state, was lying in wait and recuperating to regain his strength? He was slightly ashamed to admit to himself that he felt rather blasé and disconnected from events. Time had a way of making things seem so less urgent, and it was easy to get caught up in the day-to-day happenings directly around him.

Heru shook his head as though clearing cobwebs from his mind, then smiled at his son and explained the new schedule.

“That’s wicked, father. But. . . .”

“What’s wrong, Mark? Is it still too much?”

“No, it’s not that,” Mark protested. “It’s—well, I used to have the whole house and village to roam around in, and there was Flick and Guin. I do have my snake, and Cooper, and Dobby is always happy to come visit, but it’s not the same. It’s so cramped here, even with having a whole castle. I don’t have room for my things, you know? Or. . . .”

Heru wrinkled his brow. “I don’t like the idea of leaving you at the house all day alone, Mark. But if you have some suggestions on how to help make you happier here at the castle, I’m all ears.”

“Can’t we have more or bigger rooms?”

“I could ask Albus for bigger quarters, but that would mean you wouldn’t be able to see Severus as easily.”

“I meant right here. You can talk to the castle—can’t you ask her to rearrange things a little?”

“Well, yes. But don’t you think you should ask Severus first before I start making requests?”

Mark bounced in his seat. “I think he’d say yes, don’t you?”

“He would,” broke in Severus’s voice from the doorway. Mark squealed and bounced off his chair, running over to engulf Severus in a hug. Severus bore it patiently, even returning it, before looking at Heru to say, “Now what did I just agree to?”

Mark had let go and dragged Severus over to the table before Heru spoke. “Mark is feeling a bit claustrophobic and wanted to know if you’d object to me asking the castle to try to add a few extra rooms to these quarters.” He barely had the words out of his mouth when he felt a warm, misty hug envelop him. “And apparently, the castle says she can.”

“Then by all means. I suppose we are a bit cramped in here.”

“Yay!” Mark cried. “I’m going to go tell Selthis!” He dashed off to go find his snake as Severus took a seat.

“Then I assume I needn’t expect to find the two of you in quarters halfway up the castle as soon as I turn around.”

Heru shook his head. “She seems quite confident, and happy to expand yours. Both Mark and I would prefer to stay here anyway.”

Severus flashed a brief smile and asked, “Any idea how long it would take?”

After a moment Heru said, “No, she won’t answer me. She just keeps humming.” He shrugged helplessly and grinned.

The next day, Heru had his first Divination class. He did with them what he intended to do with each of his classes until they had all been introduced to the new order of things. His classroom was not up in Trelawney’s tower, but rather in the dungeons. He had arbitrarily taken over a large unused room not far from the stairs to the ground floor and had Dobby post messages as to the change in all house common rooms, and help him clean the place up and get it ready.

It in no way resembled Sibyll’s tea room atmosphere, and there were no clouds of incense fouling the air or making the inhabitants sleepy. Each station for two was set up so that under each table was storage for a selection of divination instruments along with copies of the books Trelawney had been so fond of passing around for her classes. When the students were all settled in after lunch, he began.

“I do not know firsthand what kind of teacher Professor Trelawney was, nor do I care to know. As such, comparisons are unwelcome. If you feel the need to make them, do so on your own time and do not waste mine or that of your classmates while here. With that out of the way, I would like to say there are three kinds of people. Those with true sight, those who are able to get glimpses of the future and sometimes the past, and those with no ability whatsoever. Which one of those each of you is will determine how things are done in here. Obviously, if you do not possess the ability, practice will not make you any more likely to succeed.”

Heru moved to the front of his desk and conjured up a stool, placing it a foot or so before him. “So, the very first thing we’re going to do is find that out. I will call you up one by one, check, and make the appropriate notation. Once that is out of the way, I may ask that you swap seats around into a more efficient arrangement.”

The students all looked a little shocked at his words, and a few looked worried. Others looked quite pleased, possibly thinking that it meant vindication of the talent they had always professed to hold. Heru pulled out his class list and called the first name, gesturing for the girl, Lavender Brown, to sit on the stool. After a minute of intense focus, he made a note next to her name and sent her back to her seat.

When he had checked all of them he was surprised once again to realize that Ron Weasley actually had talent. Remembering back through two years of class with him was a reliable indication that while Trelawney did have the power to spout off a prophecy every decade or two, she had no real idea how to teach.

He spent the remainder of the class rearranging their seating, trying to put a person with no ability with someone who did, without stating explicitly which person was which. Even if a person could not predict or interpret the signs, they could learn properly what methods there were, and how a seer used them to focus their talent. He let them go that time with an admonishment to remember the new seating for their next class.

When that same group arrived Wednesday morning, they did remember. Completely disdaining the syllabus for the class, he decided to use tea leaf reading as an example.

“This is redundant information, I realize, but I want all of you to understand how this really works. Each of you will go ahead and prepare a cup while thinking about a question you have, then give it to your partner. Once the cup has drained, you will each write down what you think you see the leaves forming. And by that, I mean for you to write down all interpretations of the images, in order of what you believe is most likely that it represents. Don’t worry about looking anything up in your books just yet. I’ll be coming around to talk with each of you, so after you’re done writing down your observations, just wait and talk quietly.”

The first twosome he approached was Ron and Neville, and he started with Neville. He picked up the cup the boy had been reading and interpreted the results, raising his brows slightly when he realized that Ron would eventually become the Gryffindor quidditch captain. Then he turned to Neville.

“All right, let’s go over these.” He turned the cup so that both boys could see the clumps of tea and pointed to one. “What did you see for this, Mr Longbottom?” Neville had apparently written down the first thing that came to mind for all of them, and even admitted so. That his interpretations were completely off was no surprise to Heru. Neville had no idea what any of it meant overall.

He repeated the process with Ron, taking the cup and looking inside, then nodding and asking of the boy’s interpretation. Ron had the vague idea that Neville’s question had something to do with his wand, but aside from that he wasn’t sure.

Heru smiled. “Mr Weasley, judging from the cup you prepared, you had the quidditch captaincy on your mind”—Ron blinked—“and you, Mr Longbottom, were wondering if your ability at magic has anything to do with the fact that your wand is not one that chose you.”

Neville gave him a wide-eyed look, so Heru said, “I can see by your faces that I am correct in those assessments. I am going to mark which images are which, and let you two get on with using the book to interpret. You might want to discuss why you chose as you did and what prompted you to do so. It will help you, perhaps, to get a better understanding of the process, and to know that sometimes thinking too hard about what it may be is a deterrent to seeing what’s actually there.”

After taking a moment to put checks next to the correct guesses, Heru moved on to the next twosome. When he came around for the second pass he was in time to hear Ron saying, “I don’t know. I just felt like it had to be a father figure, even though it’s really more like a blob.”

Heru smiled and said, “Exactly so, Mr Weasley. You felt, you had an unexplained urge. Interpretation is not exact. You will not see the leaves do you a favor and arrange themselves just so into picture perfect images. If you have talent, they will spark something in your magic that produces a response, even if it seems silly. That is a father. This is a club. That is . . . whatever.” He waved his hand like a magician on stage.

“Once you start to trust those feelings, and come to learn what the results mean in terms of an overall interpretation, you’ll be able to look in a cup and realize an answer almost immediately, as I do. Now, let me see what you’ve made for conclusions.”

A few moments later he said, “Mr Longbottom, you’ve done a good job with this, though I can see you would not have arrived at the correct conclusion, nor known exactly what Mr Weasley’s question was.” At Neville’s downcast look he said, “Do not worry. Not everyone has this talent. I am far more concerned with you learning why things work. These tools are just that—tools that focus a seer’s talent so they can produce an answer rather than a wild guess. The same is true for crystal balls, palmistry, and any number of methods. Ron can help you to learn, and you can help Ron to learn by getting him to voice what he’s sensing and to point out things from how you see them.”

Neville gave him a slightly more encouraged look, so Heru moved on to Ron. “You have also done a good job with this. You were more or less on in your original interpretations, and your conclusion is fairly close to the correct answer.”

He paused long enough to shoot a quelling stare at two of the girls for bursting out into loud giggles. “I think with time things will start to come together. Since this group will be taking the OWLs at the end of the year, I’ll be reviewing much of what you’ve gone over the past two years. But I will warn you—how well you do depends entirely on how much effort you put into this, Mr Weasley. You might want to consider keeping a serious dream diary, even if none of them make any sense to you.”

He paused again, this time to gather his thoughts. “I think the two of you get on well enough to be a great help to each other with this. There’s time enough left in class so that you can try again with a new question if you like.” He straightened and moved on to the next group.

When the students shuffled out at the end of class, Heru realized that none of them seemed particularly disturbed that he was a Slytherin any longer, and that made him smile. And, while Umbridge was still visiting the castle and making inspections, she had not yet bothered him in his new capacity.

That weekend was the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year, and Heru had every intention of taking advantage of it. So it was that he, Mark, and Severus went down to the village to spend the day in idle pursuits like shopping for things they didn’t need in the first place. They were walking down the main thoroughfare toward the book shop when two white-blond males rounded a corner and approached. Severus stiffened slightly at his side at the sight of them. When they were but a few steps from the shop they were hailed, or at least, Severus was.

“Ah, Severus. How lovely to see you again,” said Lucius Malfoy with smiling insincerity. “I trust things are going well.”

“Lucius,” Severus said shortly.

“You simply must introduce me to your friends, Severus,” Lucius said, placing a hand on Draco’s shoulder.

Mark looked up at his father in mild confusion, apparently not having missed the undercurrent of seriousness. Heru responded by tilting his head toward the shop and saying, “Go ahead and look. I’ll be in shortly.” Mark nodded and took off, disappearing within a second later.

“Lucius, this is Heru Slytherin. Heru, this is Lucius Malfoy.”

“And the boy?” Lucius persisted.

“My son,” Heru said in clipped tones.

“So,” Lucius said, pausing to give Heru a once-over, “you are the professor my Draco has told me about, and a Slytherin. How very interesting. You have quite a fan in Dolores Umbridge, I hear.”

“I’m flattered.”

“I also hear you’ve become the new Divination professor. Such a curious choice, I think, though rumor has it that you’ve managed to inspire new interest in your students for the subject.”

“Was there something in particular you wanted?” asked Severus.

“Severus, really, you forget your manners. I merely wished to greet an old friend and perhaps meet a new one. I have some business opportunities I might consider discussing with you at a later date.” He bared his teeth in a parody of a smile. “However, we must move along for the time being. Have a good day, gentlemen. Draco, come along.” After inclining his head, Lucius continued on past them with his son in tow.

Heru exchanged a glance with Severus, then chanted a few phrases under his breath and made a peculiar gesture. Then they entered the shop to see what Mark was up to. When they did return to the castle, Severus went in search of Albus while Heru took a seat in their quarters to pay closer attention to what Lucius was up to.

“What is it, Lucius?” asked Voldemort.

“I thought you might be interested to know that I ran into Severus today, my lord. With him was the Slytherin man and his son. They seemed quite comfortable together, those three.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“I thought it might be possible, my lord, that Severus is not so far out of your grasp as we thought. While I cannot be in any way sure, I found it interesting that Severus had taken up with someone from your family. It makes me wonder if he sensed an opportunity on your behalf, even though the previous evidence supports his betrayal of you.”

“My family,” said Voldemort, clenching the arm of his chair so tightly that the wood splintered. “How is it that this man can appear out of nowhere with such a name and have it be genuine? Severus indeed showed his betrayal by helping to keep that Potter brat alive while I was trying to regain my body.”

“It is possible, my lord, he was only doing so to keep from arousing Dumbledore’s suspicions as to his loyalty. I would not be surprised if the old man keeps a very close eye on him and his activities even now. Severus has always been steadfastly pro-Slytherin, almost to the point of obsession.”

“I hear a lot of ambiguity there, Lucius.”

“I’m sorry, my lord. I cannot be sure, and only raise the issue so that you might consider what it means.”

“And what have you learned of this man so far?”

“He nominally resides in Hogsmeade, my lord, with his son, and there is no evidence of a wife. He was originally hired at the castle to teach during the half giant’s absence, and to cover for the werewolf after full moons, but has since taken over the divination position on the dismissal of the Trelawney woman. Dolores Umbridge from the Ministry seems to be quite fond of him for some reason, which I find surprising given that she is a pawn of Fudge.”

He paused a moment and resumed, “He wrote new textbooks for all seven years of Potions, which are currently being used at Hogwarts, and spent a great deal of time at the castle over the summer months, though I have been unable to determine why. He has two house-elves in his service and is purportedly a parselmouth, as is his son. The students have apparently gotten over their shock and distrust of him as well, and have come to view him for the most part as a knowledgeable and fair-minded professor who will tolerate no fooling about in his classes. If Draco is correct, Slytherin appears to reside at the castle with Severus, and his classroom is in the dungeons.”

When Lucius finally ran out of things to say, Voldemort adopted a thoughtful mien. Several minutes later he murmured, “Then perhaps I should summon Severus. If he fails to appear, I shall know that his betrayal is complete. And if he does come to me, I shall question him most closely on his knowledge of the situation.”

Heru took the time to reach out down the link he had with Voldemort and connected with his mind a moment later, causing him to experience a dizzying sense of double-vision.

Voldemort gestured and said simply, “Lucius.” Lucius knelt and bared his arm, then extended it. Voldemort touched his finger to the Dark Mark and concentrated. A moment later he frowned.

Heru could feel the confusion in the man’s mind. His attempt to summon Severus had resulted in what felt like trying to grasp hold of fog. He watched from two viewpoints as Voldemort tried several more times, causing Lucius no small amount of pain in the process. Voldemort tried one last time, targeting someone he knew was not Marked as being in his service, Draco Malfoy. The sensation was the same.

“What is this madness?” he finally snarled in frustration, withdrawing his hand and letting Lucius stand.

“My lord?”

“Either Severus has died since you saw him earlier, or he has somehow managed to remove the Dark Mark. And if he were dead, I should have at least felt an echo. This is impossible. No one holds that power but me!”

Lucius wisely remained silent as Voldemort continued to mutter to himself.

“Dumbledore could not have, I am sure of it. Slytherin? Is this some bid to show me his strength as a courting gesture, or a signal that he has decided to show his opposition by stealing one of my servants?”

Eventually he seemed to realize that Lucius was still standing there and ceased his musing. “You will find out everything about this man. Speak to Fudge as well. If this is a bid for my attention, I want proof. And send Peter to the castle to spy in animagus form. He can at least attempt to be useful for something other than making me nauseous. Get to it!”

“As you command, my lord,” said Lucius immediately, bowing deeply before hastening off.

Heru jumped to his feet and severed the link, then grabbed a spare pensieve from a cupboard to tuck into his pocket and exited their quarters to the hallway. He had not yet reached the stairs when Severus came into view, so he grabbed his lover by the arm and turned him around, and continued walking toward Albus’s office.

Once there—the gargoyle had again jumped out of the way at the sight of him—he held his wand to his temple, drawing out a copy of what he had just witnessed and placing it in the pensieve. That object was placed on the desk before he asked Fawkes to find his master. Albus arrived a few minutes later with the phoenix on his shoulder, wondering what the fuss was about. Heru pointed to the pensieve, then entered the memory with Albus and Severus behind him. When they emerged, expressions were equally grim.

“Are you able to tune a mirror to focus on Voldemort?” Albus finally asked.

“No. Something about him prevents my attempts.”

“Can you tune more than one, so that we might keep an eye on both Lucius and Peter?”

“That I can do, easily. But who will watch them?”

“I had thought Sirius, but perhaps it is unwise to expose him to Peter. He may attempt to do something foolish. Alastor, perhaps. He is retired, and may be willing to move into Grimmauld Place for the duration to keep an eye on him while Sirius watches Lucius. Fawkes could go over daily for progress reports. . . .”

“And our little spy?” asked Heru.

“As tempting as it is to use him to pass on disinformation, I would prefer to capture him so that we would be able to prove Sirius’s innocence. Amelia Bones is the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and she is a reasonable woman, despite what Cornelius might have to say on the matter.”

“Then I will ask the castle to alert me when he arrives.”

Before Heru and Severus left, two mirrors had been tuned, though only one would be delivered for the time being. If Peter were to be caught promptly the second would be useless, and with just the one remaining, Sirius and Alastor could watch in shifts. The castle promised to report when Peter arrived, even if it meant waking Heru up, so he was able to retire that evening without undue worry.

The next morning they discovered that the short hallway in Severus’s quarters had lengthened overnight, revealing several more doors to be investigated. Part of the day was spent transporting more belongings from Heru’s Hogsmeade home to the castle, and Mark was delighted to be able to fly around outside on his broom, pretending he was in the midst of a ferocious quidditch game out at the pitch.

Heru had purchased a practice snitch some time ago with the intent of giving it to his son at Christmas, but decided that now was as good a time as any to hand it over. So it was that he and Severus were watching the boy play when an image formed in his head out of the blue. Somewhere nearby, Peter was lurking. The castle continued to provide him with images until he was able to pin down the man’s location, at which point Heru rose for the ostensible reason of giving Mark some pointers.

On his return to where Severus was seated, he casually let his wand drop down into his hand and cast a lightning quick spell. A minute later, he had himself his very own pet rat, complete with a charmed cage to hold him in. The gleam of the bars matched perfectly with the little silver paw the rodent was sporting.