Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 28 :: Bad Faith Revisited

28 • Bad Faith Revisited

Heru received a letter from Lucius that evening and responded immediately with an affirmative, giving the impression that he couldn’t care less who it was for so long as he got paid for the work. So it was that when Lucius arrived that weekend, Heru was prepared to begin another tapestry.

Severus was not present this time; Heru escorted Lucius into his workshop and accepted first the fourteen vials the man had brought with him. They went into the same padded case used earlier, though of course the extra vials of blood had been removed and stored elsewhere in stasis. Lucius next handed him another bank draft, apparently having decided that as the first had come out as promised, there was no point in waiting to pay for this one. Heru wondered as he tucked it away who had actually provided the funds.

Heru took Lucius’s tapestry and hung it long enough to twist its function to the reverse, then re-rolled it and slipped it into its case to give back. Then he said, “To be doubly sure on this one, as I do not know the owner, if you would like I can arrange to be finishing up at a specific time. That way you could come and pick it up as soon as it is complete rather than waiting until the next day.”

“Oh?”

Heru nodded. “Given that I have no students on Friday afternoons, I could have it ready by five. Otherwise, I would say noon on Saturday, or five. Whatever is most convenient for you.”

“That is most thoughtful of you. Friday would suit nicely if you’re sure it isn’t extra trouble for you, Heru.”

“No, no trouble at all, I assure you. I can schedule a break long enough to let Severus in when his classes are done, then finish things up by the time you arrive.”

“In that focused of a state?”

“Oh, sure. I’ll just tell myself to snap out of it at a specific time, let Severus in, then continue.” Heru shrugged.

“Have you come to a decision on the journals you mentioned?”

Heru tilted his head to the side. “They’re an accounting of life, personal thoughts. Rather like letters to the man’s dead father. I’m not sure if there would be a point aside from sharing history. I have the feeling they would—people might be disinclined to believe them, considering that we’re talking about a member of the Slytherin family, Salazar’s nephew, and they are not filled with anything remotely resembling agreement with Salazar’s views on muggle-borns. People might take them to be romanticized fiction, essentially.”

Lucius narrowed his eyes slightly. “And have you anything from Salazar himself?”

“Certainly, but those are more in the way of instructional texts. I’d have to dig a lot deeper to see if there was something more personal. The only thing I do have offhand is a letter to his brother, and I’m not sure if I’d want to release that. That, too, would bring mixed reactions, I expect.”

Lucius really looked curious at that bland statement. Heru spoke again before Lucius could ask to see it.

“Basically it’s an apology to his brother for leaving due to his wife’s death at the hands of muggles. The other founders would not agree with his insistence that muggle-borns be denied the school, so Salazar opted to leave. He left his two sons in the care of his brother as well, knowing that they would be all right under his guidance. Of course, as I understand it, the brother died when Salazar’s boys were around eleven or twelve, so the eldest nephew took over—that would be the author of the journals. If I recall correctly, Salazar was all for letting the muggles kill their own children if they turned out to be magical, assuming that if they were busy enough exterminating each other, they’d have no time to go after pure-bloods.”

Lucius smirked. “I imagine he might well have been correct in that assessment.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it. The point is, the material I am aware of paints a rather mixed picture of Salazar, and Slytherins in general. So you can see why I’m hesitant to publish any of it.”

“Yes, indeed. Perhaps it would be wiser to refrain. It would not do for your family’s reputation to be tarnished.”

Heru smiled easily. “I agree,” he said, though his meaning was the opposite of what Lucius would assume. “It would be a less than desirable outcome.”

“I’m sure you’d like to get started, so I shan’t take up any more of your time at present, Heru. I will return on Friday at five. Give my regards to Severus and your son.”

Heru waited until the castle informed him that Lucius had left the grounds, then returned to his quarters. When he stepped in the door he had to pause—Mark was sitting on the couch snuggled against Severus’s side while Severus read aloud from a copy of Potions Monthly, taking the time time explain the words Mark didn’t understand. He nearly laughed at the sight, but had the good sense to choke back his initial reaction. Instead he advanced into the room and quietly sat down at the other end of the couch.

It wasn’t until several minutes later that either of them realized he was even in the room, and Severus looked vaguely embarrassed to be caught in such a compromising position. Heru responded with an amused smile and caught Mark in a hug when their son bounced across the intervening space to greet him.

Acting as though he had been doing absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, Severus said, “I assume you’re now able to get started on the next project?”

Heru gave a quick nod, then looked down to see why Mark was tugging his sleeve. “Dad says that the headmaster gave permission for me to sit in on some of his classes!”

“Oh? And have you already discussed which ones?” Heru hadn’t missed the slightly bemused look that crossed Severus’s face at being referred to as ‘dad’.

Mark nodded, his eyes bright.

“He can sit in with the Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff first years, though I have already warned him he may find it boring. He has already covered material into the second year,” said Severus.

“But not ‘til after the holiday.” Mark’s face lost some of its excitement. “Are you sure I can’t start sooner?” he asked hopefully.

“Perhaps you should consider it the headmaster’s Christmas gift to you,” Heru said, “and be properly thankful.”

Mark evidently recognized that deceptively casual tone, for he immediately said, “Of course, father!”

“I need to stop by Diagon Alley today. I thought perhaps you two might like to join me and we could have lunch while we were out.”

“He paid in advance?” Severus asked.

“Yeah. Kind of surprised me, actually. I’ll get started on the tapestry this afternoon.”

“Aww, another one?” whined Mark.

“Hush. Hopefully it’s the last time for a while, so quit pouting.”

“Go get ready, Mark,” said Severus. Once their son had disappeared into his room Severus said, “He gave you no trouble?”

Heru shook his head. “Not really. I will need you to stop in after classes are done Friday so you’ll be there to let Lucius in. He’s due at five. I told him I thought it would be better that way, as he’d be right there when I finished and I wouldn’t have the chance to really see any names forming.”

Severus smirked. “Of course. Though I wonder what will happen if the tapestry does not reveal Salazar as one of the names.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. I could force it, I suppose, but I haven’t decided if that’s wise or not. On the one hand, not seeing it could be a bit of a crushing blow. After all, he is seeking proof beyond simply being a parselmouth. It might cause enough confusion to create delays in his plans. On the other hand, it might make him assume something went wrong, or that I’d deliberately mucked it up, suspecting who it was for.”

“Perhaps a compromise?” Severus suggested, then abruptly stood up when Mark appeared. “I’ll get your cloak while you write a quick note to let Albus know we’ve left the castle.”

On arrival at The Leaky Cauldron, they exited into the alley itself and headed for Gringotts. Heru had opened an account for himself in order to cash the first draft, so it took only a moment for him to deposit the latest one. Since it was not yet noon they took the time to wander in and out of shops as they walked back along the length of the narrow street. And though they did spot Lucius at one point, the man did not stop or approach; he paused for a heartbeat, then continued on his way to wherever it was he was headed.

The three of them had a lazy lunch at one of the finer restaurants available, then returned to Hogwarts sated and a bit tired. Mark ran off to find some of his friends and Severus resumed from where he had left off earlier.

“As I was saying, perhaps a compromise. Perhaps you could force Salazar’s name to appear, but not clearly.”

“As though there were some doubt, or problem the magic couldn’t quite resolve properly?”

“Yes. I expect you already have a likely candidate from the Tonks tapestry.”

“Mm, yes. Only one of the questionable names lacked a birth date. It has to be him. I could do it that way, I suppose—tamper with it enough that the name is forced to Salazar Slytherin, but everything else remains the same. It shouldn’t even be that difficult, and our copy would be unmodified. I’ll do the one in the workroom and the other in private.”

It was shortly after lunch the next day when a knock sounded at the door. Confused—it was extremely rare that anyone visited—Heru cast a revealing charm on the door to see who it was. Draco Malfoy was standing outside. Heru quickly looked to Praecino and asked him to make himself scarce for a while, then banished the phoenix’s perch to the bedroom before answering the door.

“Mr Malfoy. What can I do for you?”

“I was hoping Professor Snape was here, sir,” the boy said politely, though the corner of his mouth was quirked up.

“Mm. Do come in and have a seat.” Heru stepped back to admit him, waited until Draco had taken a spot on the couch, then went into the room they had set aside as a small library to tell Severus he had a visitor. When he returned to the lounge, Draco was examining a picture of Mark on the mantelpiece. He cleared his throat just as Severus arrived, causing Draco to whip around to face them.

“Uncle Sev!”

Heru stopped breathing for a second, then watched as Severus advanced into the room toward the boy. “Draco. What brings you here?”

“I wanted to know if you’d be willing to give me some extra credit work for the holiday,” Draco explained as Heru scanned the room for anything odd.

“You already have the highest marks in your class,” Severus pointed out. “And why couldn’t you have asked me this af—”

“Father! Selthis says he’s going to squeeze Cooper until—” Mark tumbled into the room and came to a dead stop. “Sorry.” He sidled over to Heru and stared openly at Draco, absently batting the snake’s head out of his line of vision.

Draco stared back for a few moments, then addressed Severus. “I thought it would be better to ask you privately, Uncle Sev. Other students might consider it favoritism if they were to overhear.”

“Interesting. Especially as that would not have bothered you in the past. Fine. Stay behind next lesson. Now, is there a fire raging out of control in your common room? No? Flood? Tornado? Volcanic eruption? Then I suggest you take yourself off and put in a little work on Care of Magical Creatures. Your father would not have wanted you to take it without reason.”

Draco’s eyes narrowed slightly, but he said respectfully enough, “Yes, Uncle Sev.” He made the barest inclination of his head toward Heru and Mark, then backed up, reversed, and slipped out through the door.

Severus turned around and said, “No.”

“Then what?” asked Heru.

“Courtesy title, nothing more. Mark, come here.” After the boy approached he said, “Listen closely. Be very careful around Draco. I do not care how friendly he might seem to be, don’t let anything important slip. The second you have your back turned he’ll report everything to his father. If you have any doubts about something, avoid the subject or just don’t speak about it. Understood?”

“Yes, dad.” Then he frowned and said anxiously, “Will you please tell Selthis he isn’t allowed to crush Cooper for playing with his tail? He doesn’t want to listen to me!”

*

Heru and Severus were marking papers when a qualified warning came. Heru’s response was to conjure up a mirror and tune it to Mark to see what was happening. Severus appeared at his side as soon as he realized he would also be able to watch.

Mark was walking down one of the many corridors of the castle with Ron Weasley and a first year girl from Ravenclaw named Glendale. Draco Malfoy was approaching the trio from behind with a supercilious sneer twisting his mouth.

“Slytherin!” Draco called when he neared. “Interesting companions you have. You really ought to choose your company more carefully.”

The trio stopped and turned and Mark said, “Is there a problem?” Ron’s fists were clenched and the girl simply looked confused.

“They might be pure-bloods, Slytherin, but are you sure your father would want you to be seen with this lot? They’re blood traitors you know, hardly the sort of people someone of your family ought to be associating with.”

Severus clamped a hand on Heru’s arm. “Keep watch. I am the brat’s Head of House, so I will take care of this.” He let go and stalked off scowling.

Mark turned to Ron and said, “Is there some obscure rule about chess partners you never mentioned?”

“Like he would know,” sneered Draco. “He can barely play Keeper properly, never mind understand how real pure-bloods live and comport themselves.”

“Ron,” said Mark in a very low tone, “you know as well as I do that if you use your wand. . . .” To Draco he said, “I thank you for your concern, but I don’t think it’s necessary at the moment.”

“Not necessary?” retorted Draco. “Have you any idea what kind of foul diseases you could catch from Weasel and his disgusting little mudblood girlfriend?”

Ron pushed Mark to the side and brandished his wand.

Draco laughed. “What are you going to do, Weasel? Curse yourself again for my amusement? What’s the matter—missing Potty so much that you’ll suck up to the next big name available? Are you hoping he’ll make you rich for Christmas?”

“Ron, don’t do it,” said Mark quietly as the girl turned and ran.

“That’s right, Weasel. Listen to Slytherin. He already knows you couldn’t possibly win against me.”

Mark scowled. “I don’t see what business it is of yours who I speak with or play against. Who died and put you in charge, anyway?”

“Maybe Potty wouldn’t have died if he’d taken my advice and stayed away from this pathetic excuse for a pure-blood.”

Mark’s eyes widened, as did Ron’s. A second later the clearing of a throat could be heard, then, “What, may I ask, is going on here?”

“Weasley tried to attack me, sir!”

“Is that so,” commented Severus. “Mr Slytherin, would you care to explain?”

“Of course, professor. I was returning from a chess meeting with Ron and Margaret when Malfoy stopped us to share his poor opinion on my choice of companions.”

“Mr Slytherin, Mr Weasley, I suggest you return to your rooms immediately.”

“Yes, professor,” they chorused.

Heru re-tuned the mirror to focus on Severus as the two boys left.

“Draco, what were you thinking?” Severus demanded.

“Why is he hanging around that filthy trash? Nothing good can come of it.”

“You foolish boy! Has it ever occurred to you that Professor Slytherin must play a part of his own? You’re interfering in things you don’t understand. If you alienate that child or—”

“But father told me to learn more about him!”

“And you proposed to do that by insulting him, I presume? If you muck things up I wouldn’t be surprised if your father shipped you off to Durmstrang, and then you wouldn’t have me to straighten out or smooth over your indiscretions! Has it occurred to you that the child may have been asked to be nice to certain people so that he might learn things?”

Mark burst into the lounge saying, “Father! You’ll never guess—” He closed his mouth and went over to see what Heru was staring at, then said accusingly, “Hey! That’s—”

“Shush. We’ll talk in a moment.”

“You are not the only child here keeping his eyes and ears open, and if you continue to blunder about with all the finesse of a bull in a china shop, you might not be able to at all. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I will be speaking to your father about this. Now get back to your common room and think about how you could have handled the request differently.”

Severus whirled and stalked away.

Heru broke the connection and turned to his son. “The castle warned us you might be in danger,” he explained.

“And dad came to make sure nothing bad happened?”

“That’s right. He did warn you about Draco, though I don’t expect he thought the boy would be so antagonistic. What would you have done if Severus hadn’t appeared?”

“I was getting ready to call Dobby. I didn’t think Ron would be able to stop himself from retaliating for much longer, and I thought if we turned away to leave, Draco might attack.”

“Very good. You thought about the safety of both of you and came up with a plan that probably would have worked. I’m proud of you for keeping a clear head and urging caution, and thinking about what help you could call on.”

Mark squirmed and flushed slightly, then said, “But what did dad mean by what he said?”

“Draco’s father asked him to learn more about you.”

“Oh,” replied Mark quietly. “Then. . . .”

“Yes. So I’ll warn you again. I don’t want you caught up in any of this if possible, so avoid what you can of it. Try to make sure you aren’t ever alone with Draco for one thing.”

“And,” said an arriving Severus, “the same goes for any number of students in Slytherin house, unfortunately. While not all of them have Death Eaters for parents or are from sympathetic families, many of them are connected in some way.”

“Does that mean I should stop playing chess with some people?” asked Mark somewhat nervously.

“No, it does not. You make friends with whomever you want. I believe Severus made a few comments to Draco that will make him rethink just exactly what it is you’re up to.”

“Draco is currently laboring under the impression that you have been asked by your father to pretend to be nice to certain people so as to gather information, Mark. It will probably be enough to make him back off on any further accusations as to your fidelity to the family name.”

“I don’t like this,” said Mark. “Can’t we just go?”

Heru pulled his son closer and said, “Mark, you know that Voldemort is supposedly a member of our family, and that’s part of what I’ve been trying to prove or disprove. If it is true, don’t you think your dad and I ought to be here to help stop him?”

“But—”

“And if he isn’t, don’t you think it would be churlish to abandon your friends to him? I promised you once, Mark, that I would keep you safe, and I will, even if it means placing you at Grimmauld Place with Sirius. I wouldn’t like it anymore than you did, but you’d be safe and you’d have Flick and Guin to watch over you.”

“No! I don’t want that!” Mark pulled himself away and ran off to his room, slamming the door behind him.

Heru buried his face in his hands and mumbled, “I knew this might happen. That stupid, wretched boy. . . .” He looked up at Severus and asked, “What were you planning on saying to Lucius?”

Severus sat down next to Heru and said dryly, “I thought I’d compliment him on raising such a consistently moronic son.”

Heru chuckled and leaned his head against his lover’s shoulder. “I hate that Mark is getting dragged into this.”

“And yet, you cannot prevent it unless you place him in a gilded little cage, which I do not recommend. He’s a very sweet, honest boy, and that works against him right now. He will need to develop some measure of Slytherin cunning of his own, even as you have.”

Heru made a noncommittal noise in response. They stayed like that for some time in silence before the sound of a door being opened filtered in. A minute later Mark was standing nearby, fidgeting. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled.”

“Scared?” asked Heru softly.

“I’m not scared!” said Mark vehemently, then looked slightly ashamed of himself.

“No, of course not. If you had been scared earlier, you wouldn’t have been able to think about calling Dobby. Worried, perhaps, then?”

Mark nodded and came closer, close enough for Heru to reach out and yank the boy onto their laps and make him squeal.

“Well, that’s fine,” Heru said once he had an arm around their son’s shoulders to support him. “I’m a bit worried, too. But yelling at each other won’t help. You know that, right?”

“I know.”

“Then let’s try not to do that again. Maybe you and I will have to sit down and see if you can do any of the tricks I can. Then you’d have a little more to work with if you get in a tight spot.”

“Do you think I could?” asked Mark, looking altogether less upset.

“I have no idea, but we can check.”

“That’s great!” Mark wriggled off their laps and leaned in to give them both a hug, then ran off back to his room, this time closing the door quietly.

“Disaster averted, for the moment,” Severus commented.