Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 29 :: Sins of the Father

29 :• Sins of the Father

Two days later Lucius arrived promptly at five and was let into the workroom by Severus. Heru had not timed it quite that exactly, so there was still a bit to go at the bottom. He kept one ear open as he worked, just in case.

“So good to see you again, Severus.”

“Lucius. I believe you and I ought to speak about Draco.”

“Whatever for?”

“You may already know of it. I happened upon him being rather indiscreet and had words with him. Apparently he wanted to know more about Heru’s son, but chose to do so by way of provoking a fight over the boy’s choice of companions at the time. In short, I have no doubt he was insulting. In fact, if I recall the conversation correctly, he made a distinct comparison between the health of Heru’s son and that of the Potter brat’s on the basis of neither having appeared to be willing to listen to his advice. And, while we may be grateful that the latter is dead. . . .”

“I see.” Heru absently noted a hint of nervousness in Lucius’s voice.

Several minutes later Heru stepped back from the table and placed his hands on his hips. Then he nodded, shoved his wand behind his ear, and opened one of the cabinets under the table to pull out already prepared edging pieces. After he positioned them properly and recovered his wand, he took a minute to spell them into place.

He was just about to look around for the pole when Severus stepped up and eased it through the pocket at the upper end. Heru smiled as Severus rolled and secured the tapestry, then slipped it into a waiting case. Just to drive the point home, when Heru turned to Lucius he arched a brow and said, “I hate to be a bore, but I heard a rather odd story, Lucius, involving—”

Lucius held up a hand and nodded. “Severus has informed me. You may be sure I will be speaking with my son regarding the matter.”

“Ah, splendid. Then I expect I need not concern myself further, will I?” He bared his teeth in a quasi-smile and tapped the table with his wand in an absentminded manner. “I should so hate to become annoyed. Things have an odd way of getting broken when that happens.”

“Indeed you will not, you have my assurances and my apology.”

Heru tucked his wand away—looking for all the world as though he had forgotten he was holding it—and took the case from Severus, then smiled normally and stepped forward to offer it. “I trust your friend will find this enlightening. If a reversal is needed after the usual amount of time, just let me know. I’d be happy to do so.”

“I will be sure to inform him,” Lucius replied smoothly.

As Heru couldn’t imagine for a moment that Voldemort had ever had issue—at least not without having found a woman who thought power was so intoxicating as to disregard his appearance—he wasn’t particularly concerned about having to come through on that aspect. But, one never knew.

“Well, then, I allow that I am a bit tired, so I shall bid you good-bye knowing that you will take care of pending matters from here,” Heru said pleasantly.

“Of course.”

Severus ushered Lucius out, then he and Heru returned to their quarters. “You know,” Heru said, “it’s almost fun toying with him. I’m beginning to see why Voldemort finds him so amusing.”

“Don’t get too enthusiastic,” said Severus warningly.

“I’m just commenting. You know I’m not like that. But it was still fun to see him get nervous, and I bet he has harsh words with Draco about what he’s done. It’s his own fault—he’s the one who told Draco to learn more without bothering to remember what kind of trouble that boy gets into almost as easily as breathing.”

Severus gave him a sharp look, then said, “I have every expectation that were Draco to become a Death Eater, Voldemort would keep him around just so he could slap him down when his ego grew too large.”

Heru beamed—Severus had said ‘Voldemort’.

“What are you smiling about?” Severus asked suspiciously.

“Nothing important,” Heru said breezily, then kissed his mate in a serious kind of way. Things were just starting to get really interesting when someone pounded on the door.

Severus pulled away, cursing, and stalked over to the door to open it. “What!?”

“Professor Snape, the seventh years have gone crazy! They’re cursing anyone who dares to speak! They’re—”

“Desist! Let us go see.” Severus pushed the student forward and left.

Heru, standing in the middle of the lounge, sighed.

*

Because he was bored, and because Severus hadn’t returned yet, Heru decided to spy on Lucius. As it turned out, it was a wise choice, even if only for the amusement factor. He set up two mirrors so he could tinker with one while the other was left alone.

“So Lucius,” said Voldemort silkily. “How thrilling to see you. I have heard a very interesting report just now. And strangely enough, it involves you.”

“My lord?”

“Yes, indeed. You. Tell me, Lucius, does your son always screw things up so abysmally?”

Lucius’s face went carefully blank.

“Perhaps you should be more careful when speaking to him. Then again, if you had allowed reason to rule you this time, you would not have been overheard, and I might not have been informed of what occurred. As I understand it, our dear Draco treated the Slytherin boy as he would have treated the Potter brat. Don’t you think that’s a tad unwise, Lucius?”

“Yes, my lord. I was very harsh with him.”

“Of course you were, Lucius. After all, you are his father, and the one primarily responsible for his behavior, isn’t that right? So if your son is acting like a complete fool—tell me, whose fault is that?”

“Mine, my lord,” Lucius said slowly.

“Very good, Lucius! And do you know what that means?”

Lucius nodded.

“Of course you do,” Voldemort said in a kindly tone. Then, “Crucio!”

Severus arrived and sat down next to Heru. “Dare I ask?”

“Someone clued Voldemort in about Lucius’s chat with Draco,” Heru explained, then went back to tinkering with the extra mirror.

Voldemort lifted the curse and clucked his tongue. “Lucius, really. Now if the Potter boy’s journal held any truth in it I know that you alone tried to restore me to my body. That is why you are currently my favorite. But I cannot allow that to sway my judgment forever, not when you have a son you cannot seem to control. Now why don’t you tell me what caused you to have this little chat with Draco.”

“My lord, when I arrived to pick up your tapestry, Severus made mention of finding Draco with the Slytherin boy. He told me that Draco all but threatened the child with the same fate as Potter. Slytherin started to mention it when the tapestry was complete, but stopped when he knew Severus had already spoken. He threatened me with his displeasure over the incident. When I extended an apology and said I would be speaking with Draco, he backed off the subject.”

“How very interesting. And did Slytherin scare you, Lucius?”

“Yes, my lord,” came a response so low it was almost a whisper.

“And why is that?”

“Something about his manner, my lord, and his eyes.”

“Ha!” exclaimed Heru triumphantly.

“What?”

“Look here.” Heru nudged the frame of the second mirror a few times, showing Severus that the viewpoint was no longer fixed.

Severus whistled appreciatively and watched that one instead.

“You know, Lucius, perhaps it would be best if our dear Draco were to have a special visit once he was home for the holiday. Now, why don’t you be a good man and hang up that tapestry for me. Then you may go.”

Lucius hastened to comply, ducking down to retrieve the case where he had dropped it earlier. After he finished and was ready to depart, Voldemort stopped him by saying, “Oh, Lucius. This is but a taste of what your son will soon feel. Crucio!”

*

Something had woken him. Heru looked over and saw that Severus was sleeping peacefully, so he slipped out of bed and checked on Mark, who was also sleeping peacefully. Heru stumped out to the lounge and flopped on the couch, puzzled, and irritated that his rest had been disturbed for no apparent reason.

The only thing that ever tended to cause that was Voldemort. Whatever the founders had done, it had not completely severed that side of the link. Heru heaved a sigh and reached out only to find that Voldemort was nowhere interesting, though he was excited about something—something to do with the prophecy.

Heru got up and asked Praecino—the phoenix was fairly mild in his reaction to being woken in the middle of the night—to please wake Albus as he would be going up as soon as he was dressed. Praecino flashed out, so Heru returned to his bedroom and started rummaging up clothing. He half considered leaving Severus to his own rest, but the decision was made for him when his mate propped himself up.

“What are you doing?”

“Something is wrong. I’m about to head up to Albus’s office. I couldn’t decide whether to wake you or not.”

“You have no idea what it is?”

“Just something about the prophecy.”

“Fine. I’m coming with. And next time don’t be so damn nice.”

Heru had a brief chat with the castle while Severus pulled his clothes on, asking her to let Mark know where they had gone should he wake up and find them missing. Then they apparated directly into the short entry leading to Albus’s office, not wanting to be seen out and about by anyone wandering the halls.

Severus pushed the door open without bothering to knock, waiting until Heru had passed through before kicking it shut with his heel and taking a seat.

“What brings you here at this hour, dear boys?” asked a tired and rumpled Albus.

“Something is wrong,” Heru repeated. “I sometimes get prophetic dreams, but I don’t usually remember them. Something is definitely wrong, though. Who is on duty tonight at the Ministry?”

“I see,” said Albus, though it was clear he did not. “Arthur is scheduled.”

“Fine.” Heru conjured up a standing mirror and set it to Arthur Weasley, then levitated it over so that all three of them could view.

Though the mirror was tuned, all they could see was an empty hallway. Arthur must have been using one of the Order’s invisibility cloaks. They watched for a time, yawning occasionally, and were almost ready to give it up as being a false alarm when an odd sound reached their ears. It was like something inching across the floor in measured movements with an oddly metallic flavor to it.

Heru adjusted the image outward to reveal a huge snake slithering down the hallway a foot or so at a time.

“Nagini,” said Albus and Severus together.

As she slithered closer they heard something that sounded suspiciously like a snore crossed with a snort, and the cloak was verified as it drifted down a ways to reveal a man sitting against the wall. He stretched and yawned, then took a look down the hallway and started. The cloak dropped away completely as he leapt to his feet and brandished his wand.

“Oh dear,” said Albus absently as Nagini struck, then again, and a third time. “Everard!” he called sharply.

“What?” said one of the portraits, that of a sallow-faced wizard with a short black fringe, who then yawned insolently.

“Go immediately to the Ministry and sound the alarm. The man has red hair and glasses. Make sure the right sort of people find him. Hurry!”

Everard disappeared sideways out of his frame. By now most of the portraits were listening in, though many of them pretended to still be sleeping, taking peeks every so often when they thought no one was looking. “Oh dear,” repeated Albus with a shake of his head. “I had not thought it would come to this. It will be a few minutes before—what news on the tapestry?”

“It’s complete,” said Heru. “I just need to wait for it to finish updating so I can find the connection.”

“You finessed the one you gave to Lucius?”

Heru nodded. “For what good it will do. Which reminds me—I was able to save enough of the blood to attempt to use it to tune a mirror to its owner.” Albus’s brows shot up and Heru could see Severus shift in his peripheral vision. “Assuming it is Voldemort’s, I may be able to get around whatever prevented me before.”

“That is exception—” He switched focus when several people rushed down the hallway to collect Arthur. One of them paused long enough to vanish the pool of blood and grab the cloak, then dashed off after the others. “They seem to have things well in hand. That is exceptional news,” he said, eyes still on the mirror. “It would be a priceless feat if you can manage it. Ah, there he goes. It is as well that the students are released tomorrow—today, actually.”

Albus scratched out a short note and rose, giving it to Fawkes and asking him to deliver it to Minerva. Fawkes flashed out and Albus resumed his seat. “I shall send the Weasley children to Grimmauld Place now, rather than waiting.”

They watched as Arthur was rushed through St Mungo’s and into a bed, several healers fussing over him to stem the flow of blood and repair his cracked ribs where Nagini’s fangs had struck. As soon as footsteps were heard in the outer room Heru banished the mirror up to the second level. Minerva arrived a moment later with the four Weasley children in tow; all of them looked frightened and confused.

“Ah, Minerva, thank you for being so prompt. Arthur Weasley has been attacked and taken to St Mungo’s. You four will be going to Sirius’s home as it is closer to your father than the Burrow. Your mother will no doubt be joining you shortly.”

They stared at him blankly.

“Minerva, you can arrange for their things to be packed up for transfer tomorrow morning. Heru, I would ask that you go now to warn Sirius of their arrival and to help keep an eye on things.”

Heru started to protest, then subsided. Instead he leaned over to Severus and whispered, “Get Mark and bring him over?” Severus nodded and rose, leaving without another word. “All right,” Heru said, then rose as well, getting far enough past the door before apparating directly to headquarters.

Flick appeared a second later, wondering who was visiting at that hour, and smiling toothily when he saw Heru.

“Flick, could you please wake Sirius for me and ask him to come to the kitchen?”

“Flick is being happy to, master.” He popped out, so Heru trotted down the stairs to the kitchen and took a seat. Guin arrived and immediately set about making tea, having time enough to serve him a cup before Sirius pushed through the door and gave him an irritated look.

“Arthur Weasley was attacked,” Heru stated calmly. “He’s badly hurt and has been taken to St Mungo’s. His children are coming here shortly.”

Sirius’s expression changed to worry. Heru called Praecino to him and handed him a note he had prepared while waiting, and the phoenix flashed out obligingly.

“I was asked to come warn you and to help keep an eye on things.”

“Yes, of course.” Sirius sat down and blindly took the cup Guin plunked down in front of him.

Seconds later four children appeared in a tangle of sleepy limbs, then sorted themselves out. Guin picked up the blackened tea kettle Albus had used as a portkey with her fingertips and carried it off cautiously, only to appear a few seconds later and pour out more tea.

The children were no sooner settled when Severus pushed through the door and came to a stop at Heru’s side. “Mark is already upstairs, having shown me the room he used previously.”

“Thank you, Severus. Are you able to stay?”

Guin paused in the act of getting another cup. “No, I must be on hand for when the Slytherin students leave tomorrow. Albus has sent for Molly.” He turned and left as abruptly as he had come.

“Why are we sitting here?” cried Ginny, now shaking a bit. “We should be at St Mungo’s!”

“Yeah!” chorused the twins.

“No,” said Heru. “You will remain here. There is nothing you can do at St Mungo’s that you cannot do here for the moment.”

“What?”

“He’s right,” said Sirius unexpectedly, ignoring—or perhaps not seeing—the incredulous looks on the faces of the children. “Your mother will be on her way by now to see what’s happening. There is no point in going when you’ll likely be shoved into a waiting room and told nothing.”

“But, Sirius—”

“No. Have some tea and try to calm down. Unless you’re hungry, that is.”

Nobody spoke up. A short time later a flash of light startled everyone. Praecino dropped down to perch on Heru’s shoulder and offer a roll of parchment. When he looked at it he saw it was for the children and handed it to the closest of them.

“Mum says she’s on her way to St Mungo’s now and for us to stay put. We’re supposed to sleep if we can.” The twin laughed mirthlessly and dropped the parchment, burying his face in his hands.

Things were quiet again after that. Guin noiselessly provided more tea as necessary, casting worried little looks at everyone, until eventually Molly Weasley arrived looking very tired, but relieved. The only one of her children who had managed to stay awake was Ron, who stood up and was swept into a hug by his mother.

“He’s fine,” she assured him. “We can go see him later today.” She released him and pushed him back down into a chair, then gave each of the others a hug, waking them from where they were sprawled over the table and repeating the news.

Then she turned to Heru and managed a grateful smile. “He might be dead if it wasn’t for your intervention. Albus explained,” she said cryptically.

“What’re you on about, mum?” demanded Ron.

“Never you mind the details. Your father is fine and that’s what matters. You lot should go get some sleep.”

“Can’t,” yawned one of the twins. “Hungry now.”

Heru nodded at Guin and rose. “I’ll just go check in on Mark, then, and see all of you later on today. I’m a bit short on sleep myself.”

Heru did not go to St Mungo’s. He spent the time after he woke up playing chess with Mark and explaining what had happened. The Weasleys had not yet returned when Severus arrived, trailed by an anxious looking Hermione Granger. Mark’s face lit up with a welcoming smile, but it was perhaps just as well that one couldn’t be sure for whom it was intended.

Cooper wound out from behind a chair to sniff at the carrier Hermione held, meowing curiously. She hastily set it down and released her cat, Crookshanks. They immediately set off to get to know one another and investigate the house, and Hermione sat down.

“I thought you were going skiing,” said Mark as Severus took a seat as well.

“I was, but then—Professor Snape was kind enough to escort me here. Mum and dad will be disappointed, but. . . .”

“I know where Ginny’s room is,” offered Mark. “Want me to show you?”

“Sure,” she said a bit listlessly.

Mark bounced to his feet, paused long enough to make a move on the board, then left with Hermione.

“Just what I always wanted,” Heru said facetiously. “A holiday in someone else’s home.”

“Some things must be endured,” said Severus. “But, as Molly is now here—I assume Lupin will also be arriving—perhaps we can return to Hogwarts. There are other Order members who would suit as well, or better.”

“Hm.” Heru got up and grabbed some supplies, then scratched out a short letter. A moment later Praecino appeared and was sent off with it. “Though if it comes down to a choice as to where to spend Christmas day, I’m not sure which I’d choose.”

“It isn’t as though you’d have to eat in the Great Hall,” Severus said.

“Oh? In that case. . . .”

Praecino flashed back in and Heru took the note he was holding. “Albus says we can return as soon as Remus arrives.” He crumpled the parchment and shoved it in his pocket. “I don’t know where Moody got off to, but he should be here as well.”

“He’s probably off investigating dustbins for subversive activity,” was the snide response.

The Weasleys returned a short time later and Molly passed on another round of thanks to Heru on Arthur’s behalf. Tonks had a sly wink for him and confided that she had found a very strange name on her tapestry. Heru told her vaguely that he was looking into that and would get back to her, hopefully within the next week or so. Moody arrived with Remus, his magical eye swiveling all around as children moved back and forth, though his normal one stared fixedly at Heru with undiluted suspicion.

Heru captured his son when he appeared and pulled him off to the side. “We can go back to Hogwarts now,” he said. “If you want to stay here for the holiday that’s fine. Otherwise you and I and Severus will return to the castle after dinner.”

Mark gave him a wary look, no doubt remembering his father’s pronouncements about his safety. “Hogwarts,” he said firmly.

Heru nodded. “Have fun while we’re here, then, and be ready to go after we eat.” Mark scampered off quickly, so Heru went to go join Severus, stopping part way there when Sirius intercepted him.

“I . . . should have said this earlier, but I didn’t. Thank you for capturing Peter.”

Heru smiled faintly. “It was the least I could do. You’re quite welcome.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you aren’t completely untrustworthy.”

Heru’s smile broadened. “Perhaps. We will be leaving after dinner, by the way.”

“Huh. Good, then Snivellus won’t be around to sour the atmosphere.”

Heru’s smile vanished and was replaced by a sneer. “You would do well to guard your tongue, Mr Black.”

“Why do you even defend him? He’s nothing but a loathsome, turncoat Death Eater.”

“Let me ask you a question or two, Mr Black. Did you think you could live with yourself if your little prank had been successful that night? When you used the nature of one of your best friends against himself, and Severus? And would you have been able to live with yourself when Remus was put down like a dog with rabies after killing someone you despised, or was sent to Azkaban as a murderer? Did it make you feel good to play God with people’s lives, deciding who should live and who should die? Some sick, twisted pleasure we would have expected to come from Voldemort or one of his people—dare I say it, your mother? Has it ever occurred to you that your actions, along with those of your friends over the years, helped push Severus into the decision to become a Death Eater?”

Heru snorted derisively. “There was a time when you defended Peter, I assume because you couldn’t trust your friend Remus any more than he could find it within himself to trust you under the circumstances—there were only so many people to point the finger at, after all. And look how that turned out.” He didn’t bother to mask his sarcasm. “Severus, on the other hand, spent that time betraying Voldemort to you and yours so that you’d all have a fighting chance, working on your behalf despite not being able to stand the sight of you. Who do you think is the better bet, hm? I’ll thank you to be civil in my presence, especially when you think to disparage my house and by proxy my name and reputation.”

Your house?”

“Is it not? It was begun by Salazar and I am a Slytherin of the blood. If you want to quibble over semantics and ignore the real issues here, be my guest.”

“No one forced him to become a Death Eater,” Sirius protested faintly.

“And no one forced you to be a complete jackass during your school years. If you’d left each other alone, I expect we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But you know, I will continue to do what I can to assist the Order, as will Severus, but you can be damn sure it won’t be for your sake if you persist in this foolishness. It will be for those of everyone involved, and certainly for a very dead young boy who cannot do much of anything now but rot.” Heru turned on his heel and stalked off to Severus, muttering under his breath.

“You do realize you’re emitting sparks—” murmured his mate.

“What?”

“—and judging by the shell-shocked look on Black’s face, your little show has given him something to think about. What did he want, anyway?”

Heru ran a hand through his hair in agitation and sighed. “To thank me, sort of, for capturing Peter.”

Severus arched a brow.

“Then he called you a rude name—I refuse to repeat it—and I got a bit annoyed.”

“My gallant hero,” Severus said breathily, raising a hand to his chest.

“Oh, shut up. I called him on a few points, is all. Maybe he’ll feel guilty enough to consider what I’ve said.”

“I hope you aren’t entertaining some fantasy of Black and I becoming friends, Heru.”

“Bite your tongue. I’m not completely deluded. I’d settle for insincere civility and a cessation of overt hostility.”

A snicker not far off made them both turn their heads; Remus had evidently been listening in, and hastily took off as soon as they noticed him.

Dinner was announced a few minutes later, and when that was finally over Mark ran upstairs to grab the overnight bag Severus had packed for him while Heru tracked down Cooper. Molly appeared to see them out, and when Mark came back downstairs the three of them left headquarters.