Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 32 :: Out of Sorts

32 • Out of Sorts

It took several minutes to reassure Mark. Eventually, though, he stopped fussing and ran off to firecall the kitchens so Heru could have breakfast. Heru wisely made a run for the bathroom so he could take a shower. As the warm water cascaded over him, he tried to think back over what he had seen and sensed, trying to find the knot that would unravel the puzzle named Voldemort if pulled.

He thought about it while he ate, listening to Severus with only half his attention. He continued to think about it all the way up to the headmaster’s office, only really becoming aware of his surroundings at the sound of the door being kicked shut by his mate. He shook his head to clear it, then dropped into a chair.

“I am pleased that you could come,” said Albus. “Heru, your performance last night was masterful.”

Heru waved his hand vaguely in acknowledgement, already back to thinking about Voldemort.

Severus let out an exasperated snort. “His head is off in the clouds, Albus. You won’t get much sense out of him for a while.”

Heru snapped back to attention. “That is so not true. But you’d be a little distracted, too, if you had to touch that foul creature for so long.”

“I’m sorry—dear boys, what is it that I’m missing here?” asked Albus.

“I take it you didn’t realize that Chaldren was Voldemort?” asked Heru, and was not surprised to see Albus’s eyes widen. “Well, then, I assume you can understand that dinner was not quite as aboveboard as it may have looked.”

“Please, go on.”

“You’ve probably already drawn the obvious conclusions. They were once again trying to ascertain my preferences or inclinations, and I was not particularly willing to be cooperative. However, what you would not have been able to see, aside from being unable to penetrate through Voldemort’s disguise, was that several of the meal’s courses were tainted. They tried to ensure both that we would be speaking the truth, and that we would be very open to suggestion.”

“When I—” Albus stopped and furrowed his brow, darting a look at Severus. After a moment he came to a decision and said, “The one time I attempted something similar, you simply pointed it out. How is it that you avoided the issue this time?”

Heru gave a deprecative shrug. “At the time you refer to, it was more to the point to make you aware I saw through your ploy. However, last evening it was far more important to handle the issue quietly. As you well know, I was able to remove Severus’s Mark. That is possible because I can see magic, just as I can see the wards here at Hogwarts. I simply unwove the magic, rendering the food harmless, normal.”

Albus appeared to be mildly speechless for a moment. “You’re saying—all right. If I were to present you with any magical object, could you disable it?”

“Most likely, sure.”

“What of the prediction you made last night?”

“I assume you do not mean the palmistry. The prediction was genuine enough, though I wasn’t trying very hard, I admit. He does have several goals at this time. I suspect one must be the prophecy sphere, and he will eventually get it, Albus. As for the other, I am not sure what it was, but he will also achieve it.”

“Do you have any sense of what order?”

Heru shook his head. “Sorry, no. But given that I placed a six month time period on them, that gives us some breathing room. He will be far more likely to proceed carefully with what I’ve told him. And, as the sphere was replaced, that should confound him for a time further.”

“I confess to being curious as to why you bothered at all.”

Heru favored the headmaster with a piercing look and a snort. “I should think that would be obvious.”

“Heru,” said Severus warningly.

Heru narrowed his eyes at his mate, then said, “Then I shall explain. Again, I can see magic. I thought it would be wise to take the opportunity handed to us to study the man—if you can even call him one.” He snorted again, this time in disgust. Being awake had its disadvantages; he felt rather unclean despite his shower. “I was looking for weaknesses. There’s something very much not right about that man, and I’m not talking about his head.”

Albus cast a look at Severus, clearly disturbed by Heru’s sudden shift in mood.

Severus gave a slight sigh, then said, “The ritual Voldemort used is suspect. It is possible that he was unable to correctly follow the actual directions and had to improvise. That it worked is one thing, but there may be repercussions that would prove to be his undoing. Heru would need more time to study him, and that in itself is problematic.”

“Yes, of course. Well, I continued to keep an eye on Lucius after the two of you left, but I’m afraid his guest left shortly after you did, which is probably why I did not realize who he was.”

Heru noted that Severus nodded out of the corner of his eye. “Then I expect I should get back to working on that mirror. It would be far easier for all of us if we could watch Voldemort directly,” he said.

“Yes, how is that going?” asked Albus.

“I find it rather odd that my conjured mirrors have stayed around as long as they have, actually. But that is beside the point, I suppose, or not. I did not wish to waste what little blood I had on a mirror that would disintegrate, but was curious as to the differences between conjured, transfigured, and normally created mirrors. Anyway, I am just about ready to try my experiment, though having spent that much time sitting so near the man, I may be able to try something else.”

“What,” said Albus, “do you mean?”

Heru shrugged again. “I leeched a few power strands from him.” That was not exactly true, but the headmaster did not need to know that. In fact, he had been thinking that the time the founders had spent working on his scar might be of use to him in a peculiar sort of way.

Apparently that was the wrong thing to say, as Albus actually frowned. “This disturbs me,” he stated. “I am already disturbed by your reaction to last evening. I worry about the consequences to you personally.”

“Albus, I have no doubt that you would be disturbed on a far more personal level than I already am if you had had to touch that man, or spend time delving into his magical nature looking for points to exploit. But to answer your unspoken question—or should I say, concern—I am in no danger of being corrupted by him, so get that out of your head right now.”

The headmaster did not seem entirely reassured, but Severus spoke up to reinforce the idea. “I myself am confident that Heru is able to handle himself quite well.”

And, while that endorsement seemed to ease Albus’s worry slightly, it did not completely go away, which only served to worsen Heru’s already deteriorating mood. “You know, Albus,” he said in a deceptively casual tone of voice, “I’m beginning to think you no longer trust me, or trust in the things I say. And, if that is the case, I could simply pack up and leave so that you would not need to worry any longer about the state of my mental health.”

“Heru,” said Severus again in a warning tone.

“What?” Heru snapped.

“You’re sparking again,” Severus pointed out sternly, though his eyes were amused.

Heru took a deep breath and dropped his gaze, then slid his eyes over to fix on the headmaster intently. “I understand that you have concerns, Albus,” he said tersely, “but if you think for one moment that I will sit here and let you call into question my abilities, my talent, my sense of self, or my loyalty, then you’d better think again, old man. Perhaps it would be wiser if I were to gather up my household and leave the British Isles before I become angry enough to—” He had slowly risen to his feet as he spoke and let an ugly sneer disfigure his face. Almost as soon as he cut off the flow of words he apparated out to his underlake bedroom, then shed his clothes and slipped into bed, falling asleep in mere seconds through sheer force of will.

When he woke up again it was late afternoon. He stared at the watery ceiling for a long time, trying to understand why he felt so wretched. With a sigh he ran it all through his mind again, what he had seen, and eventually gave it up. He simply had not been able to see enough, and perhaps it was his frustration that was making him so edgy and quick to anger. He spared a moment to check and see where his family was; they were reading, though Mark was in his room rather than sitting with Severus.

He seriously considered going back to sleep. He had no doubt that Severus had checked to see where he had gotten off to and decided to leave him be once he was satisfied that Heru remained on the grounds. He thought about returning to their quarters, but decided he didn’t really want to do that, either. Now that his anger had cooled, he felt apathetic and listless. It was at that point that the castle decided to meddle in things.

Severus appeared a few seconds later and took a seat on the edge of the bed, causing Heru to suffer a moment of déjà vu. Severus did not speak, though. Instead, after looking at Heru for some few seconds he rose and stripped, then slid into bed himself and wrapped himself around his mate. It wasn’t until after Severus had expressed his feelings in a very physical manner that he opened his mouth for speech. “Consider yourself taken advantage of.”

Heru smiled faintly. “I consider myself lucky to be taken advantage of by you.”

“Then maybe I should do that more often.”

Heru rolled over and pressed his back against Severus, then sighed. “I won’t complain. Thank you for giving me some time to myself, though.”

Severus draped an arm over his form and kissed his neck. “I thought it was wise considering your mood. I know you’re frustrated, and probably even feel a bit ill.”

“I am. I do. Why, Severus? I’ve never felt that way when I’ve reached into his mind. Why now?

“You said the founders severed the link into your mind, correct?”

“Yes.”

“But you still experience moments when something nebulous alerts you. While I know that could be prophetic powers, it may be that they were a little off in their manipulations through no fault of their own. It could be that being so close physically does something to you that neither of us comprehends. He does have some of your blood, my dear Heru. I admit, I can only speculate, but it is possible there is a very valid cause for your exceptionally bad reaction.”

Heru sighed again. “Was Albus very upset?”

Severus gave a low chuckle. “He was beside himself after you walked out. He is worried that he has offended you so badly that you will, in fact, pack up and leave. I told him he ought to be grateful for your self-control.”

“I should probably apologize.”

“No.” Severus placed another kiss on Heru’s neck, then said, “I do not think that would be wise. Albus needs to learn that while he may be the leader of the Order, he by no means controls you, regardless of how amiable you generally are. You are more powerful than he, and you are the only one who truly understands what you are capable of. He must respect that. You are not his damn pawn, Heru. You refused that role once already. Do not willingly place yourself into a position where he knows he can push you around. Don’t you dare be weak in front of him.”

“Can I at least apologize to you for being such a bear?”

“Of course. Though, I can think of much sweeter things that could come from your lips. In fact, I heard some of them not so long ago.”

Heru grinned and twisted around so he could kiss his mate properly, reaching back to tangle his fingers in Severus’s hair. Things had just become very interesting again when Severus stiffened for a moment, then cursed under his breath. “What?” Heru asked, alarmed.

“She didn’t alert you? The castle passed along a message from Mark. Lupin is looking for you.”

“Well, Remus will just have to wait a little while,” Heru purred, then asked the castle to relay back a message through Mark.

*

They apparated into their bedroom and emerged seconds later to find Mark and Remus sitting in the lounge discussing the virtues of quidditch. Remus stood immediately and nodded a greeting, then smiled as Mark bounced over to Heru and hugged him tightly. After dropping a kiss on Mark’s head, Heru looked at Remus and said, “You wished to see me?”

“Yes, if that’s all right. There were a few things I was hoping I could talk to you about.”

Severus disentangled Mark from his father and said, “Come along, then. We’ll give your father some privacy.” Mark seemed a bit reluctant, but allowed himself to be led away.

Heru crossed to a chair and sat down, gesturing for Remus to sit again. “What can I do for you?”

Remus looked nervous for some reason. “I realize you know I overheard you and Severus that night.”

“Yes. What of it?”

“It made me curious about a few things. Naturally, I spoke to Sirius to find out what happened. You have to understand that he’s—”

Heru cut him off. “Don’t attempt to apologize on his behalf—”

“I wasn’t—”

“—and don’t attempt to explain him, either. I know quite a lot about our Mr Black, and no, not all of it is from Severus. I am a fairly patient man, Remus. If Sirius has a change of heart at some point, I’m quite sure he can find the courage to tell me himself. Until then, I would hope that all of us can at least coexist.”

Remus looked to be at a loss for a moment, then said, “You see, after listening to what Sirius had to say and thinking about what I overheard I—well, I’m rather glad you said what you did.”

Heru arched a brow and waited.

“I’ve cut Sirius a lot of slack. Part of that is because of what he’s gone through. Part of that is because even I found it hard to believe in his innocence then, and I—he’s very important to me. But I can’t say that I pretend to completely ignore his faults, regardless of the cause. I’m not entirely sure what’s keeping him going at this point—some of the time, at least. Your talk with him—it was like a sharp slap in the face from someone he couldn’t afford to ignore. I think . . . it may have done him some good.”

Heru tilted his head to the side and declined to comment.

“He’s been . . . very thoughtful lately. Maybe coming from you, a relative outsider, those words actually penetrated for once. I’ve also noticed that Severus has backed off. I get the feeling that has something to do with you as well.”

“Mark, actually,” said Heru.

“Oh?”

“Mark has developed a bit of fondness for you and Sirius. Severus knows that.”

“I see.” He paused a moment, then said, “You’ve certainly never shared Severus’s enmity, nor have you discriminated against either myself or Sirius, though you obviously aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you.”

Heru’s brows rose and he leaned forward. “I mean no offense when I say this, but I have long considered you the more reasonable person out of yourself and Sirius, so I am not entirely surprised to hear you say that. You’re welcome, by the way. I had not intended to be so cruel, but Sirius set me off and I’m afraid I lost my temper a bit.”

Remus nodded. “Were you the anonymous gift giver?”

“I’m sure I have no earthly idea of what you mean,” Heru said with a smirk.

“Of course,” Remus said with a smile, then, “Arthur should be out of St Mungo’s in a couple of days. I know the Weasleys are very glad you were able to prevent his death, as am I.”

Heru inclined his head. “I was pleased to be of service. I try not to ignore when I sense things.”

“If it isn’t rude to ask, what did happen? No one really explained.”

Heru shrugged. “A prophetic dream that woke me. The only thing I was sure of was that it involved the prophecy sphere, so a watch was set up on Mr Weasley just in case, as he was on duty. As it was, his death was prevented by quick action once his peril became clear.”

“It’s a shame, then, that a watch of that same type couldn’t be set up on the corridor itself.”

Heru shook his head. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, and while I agree it would be nice, part of the point of having watchers physically in place is so that Voldemort is aware of the Order’s suspicions.”

“Yes,” Remus agreed with a sigh. “Well, I suppose I should be going. Thank you for sparing me some of your time.”

Heru smiled. “Any time, though there may be the occasional delay.”

The moment Remus was out the door Heru cast the spell to spy on him. There was something the man had not brought up and Heru was hoping to find out what it was. It wasn’t long before Remus was with Sirius.

“Well, I was right,” said Remus with a slight smile.

Sirius looked a little shocked at the bland statement. “You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, but I am. I could smell it. It was some time before I actually got to see Heru, and I’m quite sure of why.” Remus didn’t seem smug, just satisfied.

“Is that why he was defending him?”

“No, I think he was being honest with me when I brought it up. You really pissed him off, Padfoot. He was being nice about it, though, I think. He’s quite willing to hear you out, by the way—that is, if you wanted to talk to him.”

“What about Snape?”

“Heru says he’s backed off because of Mark. Seems the kid has taken a shine to us.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Well, Padfoot, the logical conclusion is that Severus is a bit fond of the boy and doesn’t want to upset him. It stands to reason, don’t you think? If Heru and Severus are shagging each other, I imagine that he at least likes the child, and I didn’t see any evidence that they didn’t get along. In fact. . . .”

Sirius gave him a plainly curious look.

“I noticed something odd, I guess, about Severus. I’m not quite sure what it was, though. Maybe the next time I see him I’ll be able to figure it out. Either way, I’m positive those two are together.”

“But, Severus?”

“What—because he’s not Witch Weekly material? Because he can cut you to pieces with words alone and his nature is often abrasive?”

“Moony,” whined Sirius, then he sat up straight and said, “Do you think it’s a power thing?”

“Strangely enough, no. I don’t. I went to see Albus first and heard a few interesting things. Apparently Severus has absolutely no fear of Heru or his temper, though it is clear Albus does.”

“Huh? Why on earth would Albus be afraid of Slytherin?”

“I’m not sure, but whatever happened, he was almost frantic—at least as far as I could tell. I think he did something to piss off Heru as well. In any case, I believe that Heru takes the stain on his family name very seriously. If you had stopped at saying thank you, you probably would have avoided what he said. Though”—he gave Sirius a frank look—“it’s probably as well you didn’t.”

Sirius flushed.

“You know I love you, Padfoot, but you can be awfully rash and pigheaded at times, and you don’t always listen to me.”

“I know,” Sirius mumbled. “I’m sorry, Moony. I’ll try to think before I open my mouth.”

“That’s all I can ask for. Now, why don’t we go see those two lovely elves and ask about something to eat. I’m famished.”

Heru broke the connection, feeling a bit like a fool himself. It wasn’t like he could send a note to Remus asking him to keep quiet about his knowledge, and he’d already told Sirius. On the other hand, Sirius seemed to be paying a lot more attention to what Remus was saying, so perhaps his little outburst had done some good. That didn’t stop him from feeling a sense of dread over the idea of telling Severus that their secret was out, at least among certain people.

When his mate did come out—probably at some signal from the castle—Heru was slouched in his chair with one hand behind his head. “Am I going to have to take advantage of you again?”

Heru gave him a weak smile. “As much as I would love to have another go at that, there’s something I need to tell you.”

Severus narrowed his eyes and sat down across from him.

“Is Mark safely occupied for the moment?” At Severus’s nod he said, “Well, you aren’t going to like this, I expect. Seems we were a little indiscreet, popping in here as we did so quickly. I suppose it didn’t occur to you, either, at the time that Remus is a werewolf?”

Severus’s eyes widened. “You’re saying he knows.”

“Yup. And he’s told Sirius. It seems that they were quite curious about us, but I will point out that Remus thinks, and I quote, ‘Apparently Severus has absolutely no fear of Heru or his temper, though it is clear Albus does.’”

Severus couldn’t seem to decide between anger or smugness. As a result, his expression was somewhat peculiar.

“Remus also thinks there’s something odd about you. You might want to avoid him for a while. On a brighter note, my little chat with Sirius seems to have done some good. Black was a great deal more thoughtful and willing to listen to his friend about things in general. Perhaps he will not be as antagonistic in the future.”

“You don’t think it’s the blood bond, do you?”

“I honestly don’t know. It could be. Maybe you smell different.” Heru shrugged helplessly. “He’s barely spent any time around Mark, so I guess I’m not surprised he wasn’t mentioned in that same sentence. He wouldn’t know any better, unless he made some connection about you and looked at Mark next.”

“Wonderful,” said Severus sarcastically.

“Severus, I wouldn’t exactly mind if people were to find out. I think it’s entirely the wrong time for it to come out, but I do love you, and I’m honored that you chose to be with me. Hopefully, those two will stay quiet for now. Remus seemed more interested in confirming what he suspected than in rushing out to tell the world.”

“I’m sorry, Heru. I didn’t mean to imply I was in any way ashamed of us. Though, I’m not sure I could stand the reaction I’d expect from Albus—all that damned twinkling. You may have to hide my wand.”

Heru laughed and leapt to his feet. “We should see about dinner. There’s no point in worrying about this right now. It’s happened, we can’t change that.”

“I don’t have to like it,” Severus said with a growl, then stood. “Mark!” he bellowed.

Heru grinned as he went to firecall for a meal.