Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 26 :: Finessing Situations

26 • Finessing Situations

When Heru and Severus apparated back to their quarters, Mark was nowhere to be found and it was just about time for dinner. A quick check with the castle revealed the boy to be headed for the Great Hall, so Heru joined Severus at the head table, finally spotting his son sitting at the Ravenclaw table with a bunch of first years. And, when the meal was over, Heru made sure to collect his son and bring him back to their quarters, and into Mark’s room.

“There’s something I wanted to talk to you about,” Heru said.

“Okay.”

“What do you think of Severus?”

“I think he’s great,” said Mark, taking a seat on his bed.

Heru rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes, but—all right, how do you feel about him?”

“Oh!” Mark grinned. “How do you feel about him, father?”

“If your behavior is anything to go by, I think you already know the answer to that question,” Heru temporized.

“Isn’t the same true for you?” Mark countered.

Heru narrowed his eyes and frowned. “Are you happy living here with him? Would you miss him if we were to move elsewhere?”

Mark’s eyes widened. “You aren’t thinking of leaving, are you? I don’t want to go! I won’t!”

“So your answers to the questions would be. . . ?”

Mark scowled and banged his heel against the bed frame.

“I’m waiting.”

“Yes and yes.”

“And how you feel about him. . . ?”

“You never let me have any fun,” Mark whined. “He’s like another father to me, all right?”

“Would you like him to be that for real?”

Mark immediately brightened back up. “Really?”

“Yes, really. I take it you think that’s a good idea, then.”

“Of course I do!”

“Even though he can be very strict?”

Mark dropped his eyes for a moment. “He hasn’t been, though.”

“He can be, Mark. Don’t ever doubt that. And he isn’t the most demonstrative of people.”

“But I know he cares. Does he want to be my other father?”

“Yes, he does. And I mean in the same sense as I am.”

“So you two really are. . . .”

Heru nodded. “Just like before, I’m giving you a choice, and I want you to make it knowing that if done, it cannot be undone. I would very much like to marry Severus, but if you’re unhappy about any of this, I would wait until you were an adult.”

“No! I want to.”

“You don’t want any time to think about it first?”

Mark shook his head vigorously. “Can we go tell him?”

“Sure.”

Mark bounced off the bed and whipped the door open, racing off. Heru followed at a slightly more sedate pace, but was in time to see his son fling himself onto a rather startled Severus, who was sitting on the couch. Heru leaned against the wall and waited.

“So what would I call you?” demanded Mark.

Severus glanced over at Heru and arched a brow, then said, “That would depend. Since he”—he pointed at Heru—“already lays claim to ‘father’, I suppose it would have to be ‘dad’. I absolutely refuse to have anyone calling me ‘pops’ or ‘pa’.”

He gave a slight shudder, and Heru could not decide if it was the thought of being called ‘dad’ as opposed to ‘father’, or just a reaction to the even less dignified terms.

Mark grinned, then twisted around to look at Heru. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to talk about that. So how come. . . ?”

“You still aren’t. It’s a family secret.”

“When?” Mark asked.

Heru inhaled with a hiss. “That’s a good question. But, Mark, for the time being, you won’t mention any of this to anyone. You remember what I told you when I bonded you in the first place. Some things just aren’t safe to talk about. Until it is, I’d rather you keep quiet on these changes.”

“All right, father. When are you getting married? You did ask already, didn’t you?”

Heru exchanged a look with Severus. “Um, sort of. . . .”

“I suggest,” said Severus, “that you double-check your source before we decide on the timing of both issues.”

“Mm. Yes, let me go do that.” Heru apparated to his study and tapped on Godric’s portrait until he woke up.

“Hello, Heru!”

“I had a question for you, about the bondings.”

“Certainly.”

“Would it be better for me to bond Severus to me first? Or Mark to Severus?”

Godric furrowed his brow, then said, “It wouldn’t matter. But if you were going for the preferred order, I’d say Severus to you first.”

“All right. How long would that take? I already know Mark to Severus is about a week.”

“The same amount of time, really. You could prepare for both and do them back to back.”

“You really . . . aren’t upset?”

“Why should I be? You did your duty, Heru. And I must say, your sons turned out to be fine men. Now you can do as your heart requires.”

“Would you refresh my memory on how the bonding ceremony works for marriage, then?”

“Well, first. . . .”

Heru returned to Severus and Mark when Godric was finished and took a seat on the couch. “Both take the same amount of time, a week. It is preferable to do the marriage first.”

Severus nodded. “Would we need to be any particular place?”

“Er, yes, actually.” He paused and frowned. “Well, no. I could get around that little detail. It’s not like I used a permanent sticking charm.” Noticing Mark’s confused look he waved a hand in dismissal. “Nothing to be concerned about. He’s just going to guide us through things,” he said vaguely.

“Then what do we need to do to get started?”

*

Albus called an Order meeting for the next afternoon, and Heru brought Mark with him so he could visit with Flick and Guin. In point of fact, he wasn’t comfortable leaving his son at the castle when both he and Severus were elsewhere. That it wasn’t entirely rational he discounted.

“It has come to my attention that Bode was sent in, controlled by the imperius curse, to obtain the prophecy sphere regarding Voldemort and Harry Potter. If Voldemort were to succeed in getting his hands on it, it is possible that he too may come to one of the conclusions we did, that being the potential for an unknown third party. On the other hand, he might well conclude that he has already won. I am opening the floor to suggestions as to how to react to this event.”

“Set guards!”

“Remove it!”

“Replace it!”

“He’d never dare go after it directly!”

The suggestions and arguments went on for some time before Albus called things to order.

“We could set guards, though it would mean most of you would need to stand duty overnight in rotation, keeping watch on the entrance to the Department of Mysteries. If Voldemort did in fact personally appear to obtain the sphere, we would only know that he had, as I would not expect any of you to risk your lives dueling him alone.”

He peered over the rims of his spectacles. “But consider that in doing so, if he were to realize our actions it would make him that much more intent on getting it. As to removal or replacement, only one of the archive keepers has the power to handle those spheres while they reside under the protection of the Ministry. So, if we cannot manage one of those, keeping watch would mean simply that, with no attempts at bravery.”

“We can get a list of Unspeakables—isn’t there any way to figure out which ones are keepers, and then which one might be open to a little side job?”

“Possibly,” Albus replied. “But it would need to be a person who would not speak of what he or she had done. If one of you is able to discreetly obtain a list, I shall see what can be done.”

When the meeting broke up, Albus held back Heru for a minute before they returned to the school. “If a list were made available, would you be able to divine anything from it, even not knowing the actual people?”

Heru shrugged. “The limitations of each type of divination are peculiar. In the case of Bode, I had to at least meet him because of the method I used. However, that shouldn’t be necessary for the information you’re after. All I can say is, get me a copy of the list and I’ll do all that I can to pinpoint a likely candidate.”

Albus nodded. “We shall see, then.”

*

Saturday brought about many things. A new letter arrived from Lucius, which Heru promptly ignored in favor of other activities. A list arrived from Albus of Unspeakables, which Heru also promptly ignored in favor of other activities. Once breakfast was over and he, Severus, and Mark had retired to the privacy of their quarters, Heru took a few minutes to fetch the portrait of Godric from his study and hang it in Severus’s lounge.

Godric was in an exceptionally good mood, despite having been reminded again not to reveal anything to Mark. Before they started Heru quipped to Severus, “Just try not to sign any magical contracts for a while, eh?”

An hour later, Severus had become Severus Rhys Marcus Snape Slytherin, bonded mate of Heru. His comment after the fact was, “This isn’t done much differently in this time period as I understand it, though the process has been puffed up a great deal with nonsense. Of course, blood is not usually a component, nor are modern ceremonies designed to be permanent in quite the same sense.”

“Blood magic isn’t normally practiced in this day,” Heru pointed out. “I expect it’s on the list of forbidden magic, or at least categorized as dark. I never bothered to check.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it unless you’ve got a twisted, perverted mind,” interjected Godric huffily.

“I know, Godric,” Heru reassured him, “and we aren’t that kind of people. Severus, the main difference is that you gain my gifts, at least in potential, and I gain yours. Assuming we were male and female, our children would have a much better chance of being born with them active.”

Severus nodded his understanding and said “Shall we move on to the next bonding?”

“Give it a half hour,” said Godric. “Have a drink or a snack, exchange gifts! You need a short rest, trust me.”

“Speaking of gifts—I have something for you, Severus.” Heru disappeared for a minute and returned with a small sealed vial.

“Is that what I think it is?”

“Yeah. But don’t take it yet. Wait until after we’re done, if you would.”

Severus nodded and took the vial, placing it carefully into a pocket and giving it a gentle pat. Though his mouth stayed straight, his eyes were bright.

“Mark, there might be a side effect of the bonding I should mention. Now, this didn’t really happen with us because we already looked so much alike, so—”

“What do you mean?”

“Be patient, I’m getting to it. Because you’re a metamorphmagus, when we add Severus to our bond as your second father, your appearance may begin to change to reflect both of us. That’s another thing we need to keep under wraps for the time being, so if you notice anything like that happening, I want you to keep focused on your current appearance, all right?” said Heru.

“Oh, okay. I can do that.”

“Good. Why don’t you scare us up a snack like Godric suggested, and after we’ve rested a little bit longer, we’ll proceed.”

Mark jumped up to go firecall the kitchens. They shortly had a selection of nibblies and some drinks, and spent the next twenty minutes talking about potions. Mark in particular wanted to be able to sit in during some of Severus’s first year classes, but that sort of decision rested with Albus.

Godric, who had been staring up at the top of his frame in boredom, eventually cleared his throat loudly and said, “Right! Let us move along.”

An hour after that suggestion, Severus had been inserted into the father-son bond that Heru and Mark shared, tying the three of them together as blood family. And as a family, they repaired to the Great Hall for lunch.

Afterward, Heru addressed his other two pressing projects for the day. As he opened the letter from Lucius, Severus knocked back the contents of the vial he had kept in his pocket. Heru pretended not to notice the absolutely hideous face Severus pulled in response to the taste.

Mr Slytherin,

Your brief account of your genealogical methods sounds quite interesting, though I expect it is, in its own way, tedious and painstaking as a process. Do you often take on commissions for such work? I might know of someone who would be greatly interested in such a prize for their own family. Indeed, I myself may be interested. I trust that your work is conducted with the utmost regard for personal privacy.

I am sometimes reminded of the maxim, “Those who can’t, teach,” but it appears in your case that you are well equipped to do both when it comes to a number of subjects. Quite the Renaissance man, I would say. Should I take your comments on divination to mean that you are in fact gifted?

On the subject of the journals, I suppose that would depend on what you would hope to accomplish by publishing them. If it is merely to expose one man’s accounting of that time period, I should think that a great many people would be interested in what they would reveal. If you had some other goal in mind, it would depend entirely on what they contained, correct?

I have enclosed a card for a reputable portrait artist, and taken the liberty of sending him a short introduction in case you should decide to engage his services.

Cordially,
Lucius Malfoy

Severus took the letter when Heru was done and scanned it, snorting once or twice as his eyes flicked over the words. “I see we’re getting down to the cauldron lining,” he commented. “I confess to being curious on whether the identity of the mysterious person he mentions is who we might expect.”

“I dare hope that it would be Voldemort, but I have to wonder if Lucius has mentioned any of this yet. Moody and Sirius either haven’t seen anything of interest, or Albus hasn’t passed reports along for being irrelevant.” Heru got a fresh sheet of parchment and laid it atop Lucius’s letter, then created a copy of the text. A second sheet of parchment served as a note asking about any results of the interaction. After he had folded both and shoved them into an envelope, he asked Praecino to deliver them to Albus’s desk.

Then he sighed.

“What is it?”

“This isn’t what I wanted to be doing today,” Heru replied.

“I am tempted to tell you that whining is best left to people who have nothing better to do. However, as today is a bit of a special occasion, perhaps we should take a breather, and return to these tasks in an hour or so, or after dinner.”

Heru arched a brow at his mate, then smiled slowly.

That evening Heru attacked the list of Unspeakables; fortunately it was not long. After doing readings for each name he reordered them on a new sheet, putting the most likely candidate at the top, and lining out those at the bottom who would either categorically refuse any kind of requests regarding their work, or were not archive keepers. He also put a rough percentage next to each candidate, indicating the chances of success as he saw things. That too was delivered up to Albus’s desk thanks to Praecino, along with the almost forgotten question as to whether Mark could attend some of Severus’s first year Potions classes.

“Lucius can wait until tomorrow,” Heru said. “I don’t feel like dancing around any subjects right now. I just want to relax.”

Severus, who had been reading a copy of Potions Monthly, laid it aside for a moment to pull Heru down onto the couch so that his mate’s head rested in his lap. Then he picked up his publication again to read as he ran his fingers through Heru’s hair rhythmically.

Heru had just reached that state of drowsy relaxation where dreams began and reality started to recede into sleep when Praecino flashed into the room in a burst of flame, then dropped a note on Heru’s chest. He cursed under his breath and lifted his head so he could read it, then cursed again and shoved it at Severus.

With a gesture he conjured a mirror to sit on the low table in front of them, then tuned it to Lucius Malfoy. “Famous last words, right?” he said in disgust, then gave his attention to the scene.

“Well, Lucius?”

“My lord, the Slytherin man should have received my latest letter this morning, so I expect to receive a reply shortly, as before. Thus far he confirmed several things about himself, but much of what he says is maddeningly vague as to direction. I have brought you his letters.” Lucius held out a thin packet.

Several minutes later Voldemort said, “I see. And this genealogy he mentions—how did you respond to it?”

“I intimated that I knew of someone who might wish for such a thing, my lord, and that I myself might be interested, under the assumption that his work was kept private. I thought that I could see exactly what it is that he requires, then commission one for my own family, so that we might see the results.”

“And divination—what is this about?”

“I suspect given the reports that come to me through Draco that he is gifted, my lord. Assuming he were to ally himself with you, it could be of great value to have such skills at your disposal. I saw no harm in trying to confirm that suspicion.”

Voldemort nodded, but remained silent for the moment.

“As you can see, nearly everything he says is fraught with double meaning, my lord. He is either unwittingly clever, or very particular in what he says in reply. One moment he sounds like a fitting person to stand at your side, and the next like someone mired in neutrality.”

“Yes, but that in itself is encouraging. Continue the correspondence. Now, what of Severus?”

“He continues to act in the same manner as always in his classes, favoring Slytherin students over all else, my lord. A seat is reserved at the head table next to him for the Slytherin man, though it is not always used. When it is, they converse steadily throughout the meal, though in far too low tones for any of the students at the Slytherin table to overhear. Aside from his interactions with that man and his son, Severus does not appear to have changed.”

“It is a shame that it is not you who holds the Defense position, Lucius.”

“And deal with dozens of brats every hour, my lord?” Lucius looked positively disgusted with the idea.

“You would do what I told you to do and be grateful for the opportunity to please me, Lucius.”

“Of course, my lord,” he said hastily.

“However, there is no way that could happen unless the werewolf were dead or incapacitated and Dumbledore was unable to find a replacement. Though, I expect that Fudge might yet be willing to back your appointment to the position were you to sweeten the pot for him.”

Lucius didn’t seem to think that required a reply.

“Fine. You have done well for the time being. If Slytherin is willing—and you had better pray he is—give him a commission and bring me the results directly you have them. If they prove out, I may consider one for myself as proof of my heritage. You may go.”

Lucius bowed deeply and departed.

Heru flipped the mirror up for the time being and laid his head back on Severus’s lap. If there is even the slightest chance, he thought, then closed his eyes and addressed the castle, asking her if she would alert him if Remus were in danger while within her confines.

<Of course. Or Severus.>

“What?” he said aloud, his eyes opening. “What do you mean Severus?”

“I beg your pardon?”

Heru shook his head at his mate and pointed up.

<Wait.> After a moment she said, <I like Severus, and you changed him today. He can hear me now.>

“So it is a family thing?” he asked, noting that Severus had a sudden, focused look on his face.

<Perhaps. I don’t know. But I can warn him, too.>

“I don’t see why not. Thank you. Also, since you can selectively modify the apparation wards, do you think it would be possible to narrow that down even further for a specific area?”

<What do you mean?>

Heru lifted his head and glanced around quickly; Mark was nowhere to be seen or heard.

<Mark is with his Ravenclaw friends.>

“I mean underlake. Is it possible to restrict that to just me and Severus for apparation rights?”

<I can do that.>

“Thank you, dear lady. As always, I appreciate your help.”

<You’re welcome.>

Heru said to Severus, “Were you able to follow all of that?”

“That has got to be the most peculiar conversation I have ever listened to,” replied Severus with a blink. “Yes, I was. What did you originally ask?”

“I wanted to see if she would keep an eye out on Remus and warn me if he were in danger.”

Severus nodded in understanding of the underlying reason. “You weren’t thinking of telling those two anything, were you?”

Heru snorted. “I’ll firecall Remus and tell him to be on his guard and why, but aside from that? I already told you I’d planned on telling nobody. If I form any kind of relationship with them, it will be as I am now. That’s all. Trust me, the temptation has not surfaced just because you were a bit too curious for your own good.”

Severus sneered and said, “Fine. So go warn the werewolf now and get back here. I was enjoying myself before that damn note arrived.”

*

Mr Malfoy,

You are correct in assuming a number of things.

Creating a family tapestry as I have been taught is indeed a tedious and painstaking process, but one well worth the effort in my opinion. And I do not feel that it is even my own business what appears on them—once I have completed one it is rolled up to await the owner’s arrival so that I may give them a briefing on its use and what to expect from it.

They are certainly superior to other tapestries I have seen, which must be updated manually and depend on an actual person to remember to do so, and even then one is more apt to use a book. In any case, discretion is both a virtue and a responsibility. So long as I am supplied with the necessary materials and am adequately compensated when finished, that is all I need or want to know.

If you wished to commission one we would need to discuss the price and the requirements. I feel that would best be done in person, preferably here at the castle.

In regard to your other question, I think I would be a poor teacher of divination if I possessed no ability at it, so I shall say my current success speaks for itself. You have my gratitude for both your opinion on the journals and for the recommendation.

Regards,
Heru Slytherin