Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 25 :: One Clue Too Many

25 • One Clue Too Many

As a change of subject Severus asked, “Have you even gone any further with the book on the Founding?”

“No, but the material is there, sort of. Frankly, I’m finding that it’s singularly dry. I can only spend so much time recounting a list of things in chronological order, and it’s not very interesting.”

“Then why not use that information, what you have of it, as an introduction to something else?”

“Sorry?”

“Establish a timeline, assuming those people ever wrote down any dates”—Severus flicked his eyes up briefly—“as an introduction into Slytherin family history. You do have those journals of Caedryn’s. And Salazar’s letter.”

“Don’t you think that’s a bit like airing the family’s dirty laundry in public?”

“What’s there to air? They lived a very long time ago. And it might serve to show that the reputation of Slytherin house as we see it today is not what it was. What I’ve read in those journals—and I would like to see more, by the way—is a detailed account of life during that age by someone who lived it.”

“I suppose so,” said Heru doubtfully. In point of fact, he could write an account from his own perspective, detailing the slowly deteriorating relationship between the founders and the breech between brothers. For him, though, Caedryn’s journals were a bit of a sore point. To Severus, his eldest son was long since dead and dust. To Heru, he’d only just seen him a little over a year ago.

Heru brought his eyes back to rest on Severus. “Have you ever wondered? Why is it that Voldemort does so little? Was he always like that?”

“I’m not sure I follow you.”

“Always so . . . laid back. No, let me explain. It seems as though, and again, maybe it has always been this way, that he rules his people through a combination of power and fear. He doesn’t actually do much of anything personally aside from torture or kill when he’s angered. It’s his people who go out on raids.”

“Why expend his own energy when he has people who believe in his aims enough to do so for him? And with the structure of the Dark Mark as you described it, anyone marked would do well to obey lest they be killed. In any case, there has been so very little activity since his rebirth that a comparison lacks evidence to work with.”

“Yes, but what if he can’t? He couldn’t even be reborn without the help of his people.”

“Are you trying to suggest that he’s holding things together with the appearance of power—not substance?”

“Perhaps. I suppose we’ll know more as time goes on. The fact that he can kill on whim based on what he set up years ago. . . .” Heru shrugged. “All he would need is enough power to create more Marks, cast a few unforgivables here and there—and those depend a lot on emotion and will—and sit back and enjoy things as his people scurry around. Fear and intimidation are powerful allies, but that does not mean you are powerful.”

“I don’t know. But as breakfast is ending, the subject is better continued at another time.” Severus pushed back his chair and rose.

Heru snatched up the letter and folded it, tucked it back into the envelope, and got up as well. He ignored it for several days before even thinking of writing a response. Lucius had gotten back to him much too quickly as it was. The last thing he wanted was to be writing to Lucius several times a week for however long it lasted, as though they were pen pals. And as yet, Moody and Sirius had not reported anything untoward about Lucius’s activities.

Friday breakfast brought about the beginning of the close to that week, and an article in The Daily Prophet that certain people found to be of some interest. It was reported that a fellow by the name of Broderick Bode had been found wandering aimlessly around the Ministry, though the exact location within the building was not specified. He had been taken to St Mungo’s when it became apparent that not only did he seem confused, he could not speak properly, either, resorting to primitive grunts and nonsensical hand gestures.

That evening Albus called in some of the key people within the Order. Nothing much was accomplished aside from people learning that Albus was quite curious as to why Bode was in the condition he was. And, as no one had any bright ideas they were willing to share on how to find out, the meeting broke up within a half hour.

The next morning Heru went on a little trip. After he arrived at Diagon Alley—and, incidentally, changed his appearance completely—he stopped in at one of the shops for a small trinket, then floo’d to St Mungo’s and asked after the Bode man. He was directed to the fourth floor’s Janus Thickey ward. He stayed only for five minutes, dropping off the get well gift he had purchased as an excuse, then left and apparated back to Hogwarts, correcting his appearance the second he arrived.

A minute later, his son swept through to drag him off to the Gryffindor/Slytherin quidditch match; Slytherin won, though not by much. Mark babbled about the game incessantly up to and right through lunch, going over every play he could remember while it was all still fresh in his mind. Seeing the game had given Heru tip-of-the-tongue syndrome, though. There was something he ought to remember, but couldn’t.

When lunch was consumed, and Mark had run off to find some of the people he had become friendly with, Heru grabbed a scrying bowl and filled it with water. Severus found him some minutes later, staring intently into its depths. Heru eventually looked up, and noticed Severus was there. “Interesting. We should go see Albus.”

Albus was actually present, causing the idle thought in Heru’s mind of whether Albus was always present unless he was asleep, eating, or in transit. “You were curious about that Bode fellow,” Heru said.

“Yes. Have you managed to uncover something?”

“I paid him a little visit to get a better sense of who he is, then did some scrying. He was being controlled with the imperius curse.” Heru nodded when Albus sat forward. “He was sent to get at the prophecy you showed us.”

“Potter is already dead. Why go after it?”

“Voldemort only knows the beginning of the prophecy, enough to identify what month the child was born in. His spy was discovered before they could hear the entirety. Obviously, he wishes to know it all,” said Albus. “It exists, that is the only justification he needs.”

“Well, you don’t want him to know,” said Heru. “You’ve considered this possibility?”

“No,” said Albus in a tired voice, “I had not.”

“Isn’t there some way you can have it replaced?”

“There are only certain people who can touch the sphere held in the Department of Mysteries. Harry Potter, Voldemort, and one of the keepers. One is dead, one would be very unlikely to appear himself, and the keepers—I do not know if the Ministry would be willing to cooperate. And, as there are a number of leaks within, Voldemort would probably know of the switch almost as soon as it was made.”

“So it was touching it that made Bode . . . unbalanced.”

“If that is what he did, then yes. Simply a part of the protections. The spheres can only be removed from the archive by those named on it, and the keepers. I shall have to think on this. Thank you for informing me of your discovery.”

Heru took that as a dismissal and left to return with Severus to their quarters. Once inside he paced around the room restlessly. He could remove it, or thought he could. He wasn’t actually certain, having bonded into another family. He had no idea how Albus would react to the suggestion either.

He came to an abrupt halt and looked up in surprise when Severus stepped in front of him. “You’ve been very clever, you know. I admit that it took me quite a while to put the pieces together and finally see the truth.”

“Severus, what are you talking about?”

“It was all there. Tiny bits scattered all around. I’m surprised I didn’t realize it sooner. I’m not usually so dense.”

Heru was really perplexed, though whatever it was that Severus meant he didn’t seem upset, just slightly annoyed with himself.

“Shall I explain?” Severus offered.

“Please,” Heru said, spreading his hands in the air.

“Let me think of where to begin. You arrived here seemingly out of nowhere, bearing the true name of Slytherin. You never went to Hogwarts—I don’t have to check to know that—and I sincerely doubt you attended Beauxbatons or Durmstrang, either. You are undeniably a parselmouth. You had a surprisingly good grasp on many aspects of the situation we were in for having popped out from under a cabbage leaf.”

“There is such a thing as being home-schooled, Severus,” Heru pointed out.

“Indeed. However, the portrait of Salazar’s brother apparently knew you, and intimated as much to your son. Granted, the latter could be explained away by the multitude of Slytherin family treasures you seem to keep revealing.”

“Ever heard of Gringotts?”

“Of course, but you do not have a vault there. Only your son does. And, speaking of Mark, he also raises questions. You see, while I have no doubt he is of the Slytherin blood line, I do not believe he is your natural son.”

“I can’t imagine why.”

“You said once that his mother was not your wife, and that you didn’t care much for the experience. At the time I accepted the obvious meaning, but it could have referred to several things. Curious, I did a little checking. Were you aware that in the Book of Souls there is a male child’s name that is blurred out? A child named Mark? And that Marcus Slytherin appears now where he had not before. I know that must be true, as Minerva goes over the entries every year in preparation of sending out letters, and she would have mentioned seeing him listed. I think you already know that children listed in the book who die are lined out, not blurred.”

Heru was getting very uncomfortable, edging away slightly.

“How exactly he now appears as Marcus Slytherin I am not sure, but I would be willing to bet that in a likewise manner, Heru Slytherin is not your original name. You knew the way to the Chamber of Secrets as though you had been there before. You were deeply affected by the letter we found there as well.”

“You had an ancestor,” Severus continued mercilessly, “that very conveniently placed specific memories in a pensieve for the generations ahead, and whose eldest son made sure to leave behind a record to his supposedly dead father, almost as though he knew those words would be read. You know magic so ancient that no one else alive today understands it or has even heard of it, and you can talk to the castle and understand her.”

“Severus, I don’t understand the point of all this. What you’re implying is impossible.”

“Is it? I also find it interesting that your middle names, Servius Tychon Anselm, are also those of the original Heru’s sons, aside from his eldest, Caedryn. Your family must have quite a tradition for you to end up with that particular mix.”

“Severus, I really don’t want to talk about this. It’s a waste of time. We have more important things to worry about.”

“Oh, but I do want to talk about it—Harry.”

Heru sat down abruptly. “No. That’s not my name. That’s not who I am.”

“I agree. It is not who you are—now. Do not misunderstand me, Heru. I am neither angry or upset, nor do I harbor feelings of being betrayed, used, or mocked. The sorting hat was more right about you than anyone could have possibly imagined. How this is possible I don’t know, but it is obvious to me that whatever we entombed in the glade was some kind of poppet. Your scrying earlier was the last piece I needed to be convinced to confront you on this.”

Severus moved forward to stand directly in front of him and cupped Heru’s face gently with his hands. “I’m not going to tell anyone. I just want to know what happened.”

“You didn’t even like Harry,” Heru protested inanely.

“No, I did not. That is currently beside the point. I do like you a great deal.”

Heru spent what felt like minutes looking into Severus’s eyes searchingly, trying to come to a decision. Finally he sighed heavily and dropped his gaze. “All right. Come with me.” When Severus released his face and stepped back, Heru stood and led the way back to his portrait. He hesitated, then used his wand to slash his palm open. He placed his hand against the portrait, hissed the password, then gestured for Severus to enter before him.

“Dear Merlin,” Severus breathed, taking a good look around.

After a quick conversation with the portrait guardian on that side, Heru grabbed Severus’s arm and led him off to his study. He sat down behind his desk and hunched over, burying his face in his hands. “All right. It is true. I was Harry Potter, and Mark is not my son by birth.” When he looked back up he saw Severus examining the portraits hung on the walls with great interest, though they were currently sleeping. “Yes, that’s everyone,” Heru said. “Godric, Rowena, Helga, my brother Salazar, and all my children. And, my wife Regan.”

Severus looked back over his shoulder at him, then moved to sit down. “I have no doubt there is a fascinating explanation, if you wish to share it.”

Heru closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, then said, “Yes, rather. Fascinating would be the right word, I suppose. Well, as you probably already realize, it started the night of the third task and ended, or perhaps I mean began for real, when I turned fifteen.” Heru gave Severus a summary of what had happened to him, and where he had found himself awakening next. From there, he skimmed over his years during the time of the founders, and when he had finally realized he would be returning to the present.

Severus seemed particularly interested in the concept of blood bonding and that Heru still knew how to give a person the metamorphmagus ability, but overall he listened with rapt attention to every word Heru said. Part way through the portraits had woken up, and all of them were nodding through most of the recitation and throwing in comments of their own. He also explained to Severus why Mark had become his son, and gestured at the tapestry he had made years ago to illustrate.

“So that’s why you’ve been so insistent on tracing back the blood line.”

“Yeah. I wanted to know who Salazar must have become since Tom Riddle and Tonks didn’t appear on my own, and his portrait wasn’t willing to say anything about it, or couldn’t.”

“This is almost too fantastical to believe, but I understand why you’ve never told anyone these secrets.”

“Severus, it’s difficult enough being a Slytherin in this age without people finding out by some odd twist of fate that I’m their dead hero as well.” Heru managed to produce a smile finally.

“I shall enjoy being one up on Albus,” Severus said with a sly expression of pleasure.

“I considered telling you, Severus,” he said with a rather hangdog expression, “but. . . .”

“Naturally you worried that I would react poorly.”

“You might say that, yes. But you would have been my only choice. I see most things a lot differently now. I had plenty of time to think, and a lot of experiences to assimilate. Harry would never have received that chance had he lived. Er, I mean—”

Severus held up a hand to stop him. “I understand. And I’ve had my own opportunity to see things differently. That makes it possible for me to be almost delighted that you fooled me for so long, given the results.”

“So, are we still . . . us?”

“I have one question.”

Heru nodded.

“Were we to bond, to marry, would it be possible for Mark to be bonded to me as his other father, as he was to you?”

Godric answered before Heru could speak. “Of course! Heru might not know how without disturbing the existing bond, but we do.” He flashed a wide, pleased smile. “In fact, we could do a real marriage bond if you liked, not whatever tosh it is you people do then. Now. Whatever.” He flapped his hand in dismissal of a minor detail.

Heru twisted around to look at the portraits, vaguely surprised that none of them seemed unduly upset over the fact that his marriage to Regan had been more of a sham than anything, and that his heart belonged to another man. The ladies, perhaps, he could understand, but the others? They noticed his expression and simply smiled. Obviously his children had been brought up to speed well after the fact, as had Regan.

“Er, right,” he said when he turned back to face Severus.

“Even without, we would still be us, as you put it.”

“Well, then, care to see the rest of my real home?” Heru offered, feeling vastly relieved on several accounts.

“I would love to.”

Heru showed him everything, though the library of carefully preserved books from the past was what Severus found most enticing, ending up in the lounge some time later. “You realize, of course, that if we did things Godric’s way, you’d end up as Severus Slytherin.”

“Indeed.”

“You also realize that—actually, maybe I didn’t explain that part. I’m not saying this to dissuade you, either. If Mark is bonded to the both of us as his parents, we’ll have to keep a close eye on his appearance. It’d probably start changing and we’d have to remind him to stick with what he looks like now.”

Severus arched a brow and said, “Have you even spoken to him about us?”

“No, but I think he’s made it pretty clear he approves. Severus, I’m worried about you. If someone had forced you to speak the truth prior to this, they’d have only encountered a suspicion and thought you were crazy. Now you know the truth.”

“The same could be said for you.”

“Yes, I know, but I never planned on—”

“The key word being planned.”

Heru glared at him.

“My dear Heru, are you trying to tell me that you are somehow miraculously immune to veritaserum? Or that the possibility does not exist that you could be interrogated? You are displaying those distressingly Gryffindor tendencies again.”

“Oh, shut up. I thought I’d buried that part of myself years ago. And no, I’m not immune that I know of, but I can see it when my drink is spiked, as Albus found out to his chagrin. They’d have to knock me out cold to dose me properly. I can unweave spells, remember? And I don’t need a wand.”

That wiped the smirk right off Severus’s face. “You win that round. So, does any of this explain your pacing earlier?”

Heru shrugged. “I was him. Does it still count enough for me to remove or replace that sphere? Or would I have to weave something else to hold back the existing protections or remove them?”

“Considering that magically speaking you are not him any longer, I would not care to see you risk your mind in the attempt.”

“Magically speaking, his name is Tom Riddle, not Lord Voldemort. You tell me the odds that it has his real name on it.”

“Then I suggest we wait to see what Albus dreams up. In the meantime, perhaps you should answer that blasted letter from Lucius before he charges up to the school to visit his son?”

When they did leave, had they bothered to check, they would have seen no trace of blood on the portrait. It had been absorbed, exactly as designed.

*

Mr Malfoy,

I should think that would be self evident. Potions have always been one of the primary interests of the Slytherin family, though I would have to say it vies with serpents. Then again, that can hardly be a wonder considering our tendency toward being born as parselmouths. It is always much more the thing to obtain venom supplies from willing subjects, and snakes can be quite amusing creatures to speak with. I have often found myself convulsed with laughter listening to runespoors, for example. Though, it may be possible that I am overgeneralizing.

As for genealogy, I’m afraid I do not have the time nor patience to spend countless hours sifting through musty old books in search of marriage, birth, and death records. I employ a far more sophisticated method of creating a family tapestry, though I admit they go only backward or forward, and do not fill in the lateral gaps.

I have considered textbooks for divination, especially if I end up staying on at Hogwarts. The current selection, though no doubt written by gifted seers, is not to my personal tastes, much like the potions texts were not. I find them obscure and misleading, if I may be so blunt as to say so, very often leading the aspirant into the grey fog of failure if they are without a capable hand to guide them.

Only some of my knowledge comes by way of my family’s historical treasures, but there is certainly enough from ancient times for me to undertake certain projects. Indeed, they are no doubt the source of the potions you were were unfamiliar with. My thoughts on the morality of power come from a much broader range of source material, however.

As I understand, you were in Slytherin house during your years here at Hogwarts, so perhaps you will share your opinion with me on something. It was recently pointed out to me that as I hold a number of journals written by our dear Salazar’s nephew, I should consider publishing them. I remain undecided on this matter.

Regarding portraiture, my son is coming up on the age when I would consider having one done, though I have not yet begun looking for an skilled artisan. If you have a recommendation, I would be happy to hear it.

Regards,
Heru Slytherin