Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 34 :: Keeping Secrets

34 • Keeping Secrets

It was a Hogsmeade weekend, the perfect time to get out of the castle and roam the village without anyone questioning the decision. And, with the amount of time Heru had been seen in the company of Severus, most of the students would not to think to question that, either. Heru, Severus, and Mark had a hearty breakfast and bundled up against the chill, then walked along the drive that skirted the lake and into Hogsmeade.

Not long after they arrived Mark went off with friends, leaving Heru and Severus alone to wander in and out of shops at their leisure, though Heru did keep a discreet watch on their son. He was not expecting trouble from Voldemort’s forces, but it would be very unwise to assume things had not changed since their last encounter.

He and Severus were having drinks at The Three Broomsticks, speaking in voices too low to be overheard, when Severus alerted him to new arrivals by tapping his foot under the table and saying, “It shows a lot of bad faith when people say one thing and do another.”

Heru didn’t need to turn his head to know that at least one Malfoy had entered the building, but judging by his mate’s wording it was more likely that both male Malfoys were present. So it was no real surprise when a shadow fell across their table and Heru looked up to see Lucius and Draco. He flashed them an easy smile and dipped his head briefly in greeting, noting as he did so that the boy looked extremely subdued. But then, he had been since he had returned from the holiday. “Lovely to see you, as always,” he said.

“Heru, Severus,” Lucius said. “I had intended to send an owl, but as I have chanced upon you here, I was wondering if I might visit tomorrow to discuss something.”

“Your timing is excellent, Lucius. I have nothing in particular planned for the day tomorrow, so I see no reason to”—he paused as he felt Severus tap his shoe three times, which confused him momentarily—“refuse your request. Perhaps three in the afternoon?”

Lucius nodded and gave him a faint smile. “That would be suitable. Good day, gentlemen. Come along, Draco.”

Severus gave a tiny shake of his head as they departed, forestalling any questions on Heru’s part as to his recommendation. Shortly thereafter they left and located Mark, who was currently in the company of Margaret, a girl named Luna who also hailed from Ravenclaw, Ron, and Hermione. “We’re heading back up,” he told the boy, then hissed, “You know what to do if anything should happen.

Mark nodded, ignoring the odd glances from his companions, then gave Heru a hug. “Yes, father.” Before he let go he hissed, “You’re sure he’ll come if I call?

“Yes. Have fun, then, and try to be back for dinner.” Heru ruffled Mark’s hair and detached himself with a smile. He nodded at his son’s friends, then turned and headed back toward the castle, Severus a shadow at his side.

In their rooms he flopped onto the couch and looked expectantly at his mate. “Why three?”

Severus laid down with his head in Heru’s lap, so Heru began amusing himself with his mate’s silky hair. “If you had specified the morning, you would have given Lucius the impression that he was more important to you than he is, or should be. Having already said you were not busy, telling him three in the afternoon will relegate him to his proper place—in his mind, at least.”

“I could wish this was all more straightforward,” Heru said with a sigh, “but I did ask for this, so I suppose it would be hypocritical to complain now.”

“Yes,” agreed Severus with a faint smile. After closing his eyes he said, “I wonder what he wants this time.”

“No idea. Sometimes I wonder if Sirius and Moody are asleep on the job. Should we invite him in here, do you think, or use your office or the workroom?”

“Draco has already told him by now that these quarters are strangely expanded, so that is likely no secret. Perhaps here would be better. In fact, perhaps you could begin stage two of your linking experiment.”

“Sorry?”

“You have already completed your own mirror. I am going to assume for the moment that it will have no discernable consequences to you personally. So, move on to another. While I am certainly not going to volunteer for it, why not use Lucius as a test subject? It isn’t as though he need be aware of your manipulations. If it works on him, then you can move forward to transferring the majority of your link with Voldemort to another mirror, or several. Frankly, the more I consider the link you share with him, the more I become convinced that you ought to sever it as quickly as possible.”

“I’m not sure I can transfer certain parts of it, Severus.”

“Then find something that will work. A lab rat,” Severus said with a touch of amused malice.

Heru chuckled. “They have enough of a mind to work with, I suppose.”

“My dear Heru, you rarely ever reach into his mind, and then only because he disturbs you. If we were able to watch him on a round-the-clock basis, do you honestly feel you would need insight as to his inner thoughts?”

“I guess not. All right. If it worries you that much, I’ll use Lucius as my next target. I’ll have to use a much smaller mirror, though, so that he cannot suspect what I’m doing, or see anything happening.”

Severus shifted his head in a faint nod. They stayed like that for a time in companionable silence, Heru idly letting his fingers roam through Severus’s hair as he rested his head on the back of the couch and let his mind wander. They both sat up straight when an image flashed through their minds of Remus and Sirius heading toward their quarters.

Severus then stood and said, “I’m going to go sit in front of your mirror.” A second later, he was gone.

Heru went to the door and opened it before either of the two had a chance to knock, startling them both. “Please come in,” he said, stepping back to allow them entry. “Make yourselves comfortable,” he added as he closed the door and turned around. “Would either of you care for refreshments?” He thought that Sirius looked distinctly uncomfortable, though Remus seemed fairly at ease.

“That would be nice, thank you,” said Remus, taking a seat on the couch and dragging Sirius down beside him.

As Heru moved to the fireplace to call the kitchens, he heard Sirius ask, “Snape isn’t here?” He looked over his shoulder long enough to shake his head, then placed the order and took a seat.

“No. He’s in the middle of some experimental work. It’s best not to disturb him when he becomes focused.”

“How did you know we were coming?” asked Sirius. “Were you keeping an eye on us or something?” Remus gave his friend a sharp look.

Heru chuckled. “No, I was not.” After pointing upward he said, “The castle informed me of your impending visit, that’s all. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Sirius still looked vaguely suspicious, but refrained from speaking on it. “I was on duty at the mirror when I saw something I thought you would want to know about. When I later saw you approached by Lucius in Hogsmeade, I was sure of it.”

A house-elf popped in with a tray, causing everyone to pause long enough to pour themselves tea. “You know, then, what he wishes to discuss?”

Sirius nodded. “Voldemort wants to see if you’d be willing to do another reading for him in his guise as Chaldren. It seems he still has no idea which side you’re on, but he’s willing to continue the association for now in the hopes that even if you are not aligned with him, he can use you.”

Heru snorted, almost upsetting his tea. “As well he should be confused, considering the delicate little dance I’ve been performing. Well, then, I shall have to be on my guard. However, as I’ve been looking for an excuse to be able to study Voldemort in more depth, this presents a good opportunity to do so.” After a pause he said, “I’ll just need to remember to seclude myself after the fact.”

Remus grinned, causing Heru to give him a look of calculated curiosity. “Sorry. It’s just something Albus said.”

“I’m surprised,” Heru replied. “I would not have expected him to reveal much of anything about that encounter.”

“He was a little out of sorts at the time, Heru. Very unusual, I assure you.” Remus gave a casual shrug and sipped his tea.

“I have a feeling you are gifted in making molehills out of mountains, Remus,” Heru parried with a faint smile.

“Perhaps, though that it is not always something to be proud of.”

“That may be so,” said Heru, “but I think we’re starting to venture into territory that is best left undisturbed and that was not my intention. I would much rather concentrate on the here and now.”

“Yes, of course. You’re quite right.”

“Has anything else of interest popped up in the mirror that may not have been passed on to me?”

“Nothing special,” said Sirius. “Just bits and pieces about the escaped Death Eaters recovering.” Then his eyes sparkled in an unmistakable display of malicious pleasure. “Peter is currently providing the dementors with a bit of fun, though.”

“How tragic,” said Heru mildly.

“Yes,” said Sirius distantly, a smile curling the edges of his mouth. Then his eyes focused on Heru directly. “Things got out of hand before. I’m sorry.”

Heru arched a brow. “If I may presume to guess your reference, I will say that that was partly my fault. I never intended to be so harsh, but I’m afraid you touched a nerve. I lost control of my temper, so it would be as well for me to apologize for my actions.”

“Yes, well,” Sirius said vaguely. “I hope we can put that behind us?”

“Of course. It never happened as far as I’m concerned.” Heru waved his hand as though swatting away a fly.

Sirius looked down for a moment. “You’re as gracious as Moony described. Are you and Snape really—” He broke off at a sharp nudge from Remus and flushed.

While Heru could not think of an adequate response for Sirius’s first statement, his unfinished question was something he could answer. “Yes, we are.” He shot a narrow look at Remus before continuing, “You two seem to be the only ones who have figured it out, so I trust that this information will go no further.”

Sirius raised his head, slightly bewildered. “People think you and Snape are simply. . . .”

“Slytherins,” said Remus, as though no further explanation were required.

Heru nodded. “And most people would come to a great number of erroneous conclusions regarding my exact relationship with Severus were it to be known. I would prefer that it not. I have faith, however, that the two of you will keep this knowledge under wraps, though I can see I need to be more careful around you, Remus.”

Then he cocked his head to the side and stared at the werewolf intently. “Speaking of which. . . .” His scrutiny was interrupted by an image in his head of a scowling Severus, arms crossed in front of him.

“What?”

“I wonder. . . . No, I’d have to study you in much more detail.” Heru shook his head.

“Heru, what are you talking about? I’m getting the shivers with you looking at me like that, like you’re seeing into me.”

“I am, actually. I was pondering the possibility of freeing you from your curse,” he said blandly.

“What!?” Sirius said, rising to his feet like a shot. “That’s impossible.”

“Is it? You’d be surprised.” And Heru was surprised, for another image formed in his head, this time of Severus baring his arm. He blinked. A moment later his mate apparated into the room and took a seat, then calmly poured himself a cup of tea.

Sirius sat back down, a stubbornly incredulous look on his face. After Severus had tasted his tea, he looked up and said, “Not so impossible, if Heru was of a mind to tackle the problem.” After setting down his cup he said, “Consider this,” then bared his forearms.

Both Remus and Sirius stared blankly at his smooth, unmarked skin.

“If Heru can free me from Voldemort. . . .” Severus pushed down his sleeves and picked up his cup again.

“How in God’s name did you manage that?” asked Remus eventually.

Heru shrugged one shoulder. “I simply took a long enough look to see how the Dark Mark was constructed, then removed it. I admit, it took me the better part of an afternoon to accomplish it, and I was exhausted afterward, but it wasn’t that difficult, just tedious.”

“Is this why Voldemort is being so cautious?” Sirius asked with uncharacteristic insight.

“Yes. Or at least, partly.”

“Why . . . did you remove it?” continued Sirius.

Heru looked at Severus. He was the one who had brought it up, after all.

“I asked him to,” Severus said evenly. “I think, Sirius, that you can understand my wish to be free. Though it was not until I explained myself in detail that Heru agreed to try. The point is, if Heru can manage that, then perhaps he is able to manage something in the way of freeing Remus from his own curse.”

“I don’t understand,” said Sirius. “It’s not like you had to reveal any of this.”

“No. But as Heru has already begun to consider the possibility, I may as well show you two that it is not outside the bounds of reason.”

“But you hate us,” Sirius protested. Remus gave him another sharp nudge and rolled his eyes.

“No, I do not. I hate what you were and what you did. I am not inclined at present to hate you specifically.” Heru barely managed to prevent himself from sending an astonished look at his mate. “I am free of the unfortunate results of that time, and have better things to do now than to waste my energy on something that no longer has any meaning.”

Severus went on to say, “Do not mistake me. I am hardly extending the hand of friendship. But I do think that putting the past where it belongs behooves us all at this point. An olive branch might be a more accurate assessment of the current situation.”

“Wait a moment,” said Remus. “How did you know what was going on in here?”

Severus allowed a faint smile to appear. “I was watching, naturally. Heru has been experimenting on ways to create a mirror that can track Voldemort. His first attempt used himself as the target, and I happened to check it at a fortuitous time.”

Remus and Sirius both narrowed their eyes. “I’m going to assume that makes some sort of obscure sense,” said Remus, “considering that Heru can tune a mirror to just about anyone already.”

“Indeed,” Heru said. “But I did not tune a mirror to myself. I linked it. I plan to use Lucius as my next target. If that works, I will see about Voldemort. It would be a great relief if we could watch him directly.”

“Linked?”

“Tuning is like using a locating spell that lingers. Rather than just a static image or sense of where a person is, it provides a constantly updating picture that can be watched in real time. Linking involves literal linking—causing threads of a person’s personal magic to connect with a mirror so as to bypass any means of non-disclosure.”

Remus paled slightly. “That sounds a great deal like what happened to Harry.”

Heru shrugged. “You could look at it that way, yes. However, I believe the Potter child was forced to deal with Voldemort’s mind as well, so this is not quite the same thing. I believe that most knowledge can be used for either good or evil. In this case, I see no reason to deny the efficacy of the original accident’s presumed design, so I’ve begin modeling a useful application of it, starting with myself, for use by the Order.”

“You can see magic?” asked Sirius.

“Yes. So perhaps you can understand why I was able to free Severus, and may be able to free Remus. Again, this is not common knowledge, so I would ask that you keep it to yourselves.”

“You knew, didn’t you,” said Remus suddenly, accusingly.

“Knew what?”

“That I knew about you and Severus.”

“Since you bring it up, yes. There was something you obviously weren’t telling me, and I wanted to know what it was.”

“You were spying on us!?” Sirius said.

“Yup,” said Heru cheerfully. “I was. That was the only time, however, so you need not fear I make a habit of it.”

Sirius subsided, either remembering the content of the conversation itself, or because he did not wish to bring Heru’s temper to the fore. Remus looked thoughtful, darting a glance at Heru, then Severus. Finally he said, “The removal of the Mark is not the reason why Severus is different.”

“Doubtful,” Heru said vaguely, then poured himself another cup of tea.

Another minute or so passed in silence. “You’re bonded, aren’t you.”

Severus let out a snort and said, “Heru, I insist you remove that curse. He’s too clever for his own good with it fouling up his system. I knew I should not have come in here.”

“Well, if you insist, Severus. Though, I think Remus ought to make that decision.”

“This isn’t an ordinary marriage,” said Remus, still looking thoughtful.

Heru smiled and shrugged.

“You know blood magic.”

“Your point?”

“There’s no other explanation for the change. What did you do?”

“I’m not sure I see why I should explain. You already know far more than you should,” Heru pointed out. “If any of this were to get out, Voldemort would very likely change his current point of view.”

“I understand that. But neither Sirius or I are sent out on missions.”

“I still see no reason for me to reveal anything further,” said Heru patiently.

“I am enough a student of history to know that current rites are a mere shadow of what was, and almost a mockery.”

“Again, your point?”

“I’ve been searching for years for the knowledge, for myself. For—” Remus stopped and looked down. It was, perhaps, unfortunate that Mark bounced in at that point and made a flying leap onto his father’s lap. Remus looked up again suddenly and his eyes widened. “Dear God,” he choked out.

Severus sighed heavily and said, “Spit it out, Remus.”

“What?” asked Mark, looking around in confusion. “Oh, hello, Remus. Sirius.”

Heru managed to massage his forehead even with Mark on his lap. After a moment he hissed, “Should we just be honest? About the blood bonds, at least. Or obliviate them?

Did I do something wrong?” hissed Mark.

Heru shook his head, keeping a careful eye on Remus. “No, it’s all right,” he hissed. “You just arrived at an awkward time. Remus is a little more perceptive than we understood or imagined.

Mark gave Remus a wide-eyed look, then hissed, “Maybe I’ll just go read. Can I . . . hug dad, too?

Heru nodded and planted a kiss on Mark’s head. “Go on.”

Mark slid to the floor and launched himself at Severus, giving him a quick hug before dashing off down the hall and disappearing into his room.

“Then it is true,” Remus whispered.

Heru glanced over at Severus and arched a brow. Severus responded with, “You have not made it plain why you care, Remus.”

Remus looked at Sirius, who gave him a slightly bewildered shrug. Obviously, Remus had never gone any further in his speculations with Sirius. “How else would I be able to have a proper mate, or even children?”

“Anyone can get married.”

“But not anyone can have a child,” Remus insisted. “That boy is as much your child as Heru’s, damn it.”

“So adopt a muggle-born orphan.”

“That isn’t the same and you know it! It wouldn’t be ours.”

“Could somebody explain to me what’s going on?” asked Sirius plaintively.

Heru tipped his head back to stare at the ceiling. He could feel Severus’s gaze on him for several moments before the sensation passed. He shrugged slightly in response; he felt it was entirely up to his mate what to reveal or confirm at that point. If Severus felt they could be trusted, so be it.

“Mark is as much my son as Heru’s,” Severus said after another pause. “The differences you sensed are valid enough, I suppose. I was blood bonded to Heru using the ancient rites, then Mark to me.”

“Then you aren’t Severus Snape any longer, are you?”

Severus shook his head.

“Somebody?” asked Sirius again.

“I shall attempt to explain,” Severus said, catching Sirius’s attention. “Heru has an extensive library of books from ancient times, passed down through the generations by his family. Included among that was the knowledge of how to perform the original rites and a great deal of information on blood bonds in general. We used those in order to formalize our relationship, and then again to insert myself as Mark’s other father. If you were to do an analysis, you would find that biologically speaking, Mark has no mother.”

Sirius turned to Remus. “We could have children?”

“In a manner of speaking,” said Heru, still appearing to stare at the ceiling. “One of you would need to either have one first, or adopt one, though. I can even speculate that, though I have no way of knowing, if the child were young enough, it might change to resemble you both as it grew older, rather than looking as it would have originally.”

“Is that why Mark does not resemble Severus?”

“No. Actually, he does.”

“I don’t understand.”

Heru summoned Mark, and a moment later he appeared. “Mark,” he hissed, “while facing me, would you be so kind as to revert to your natural appearance?” A few heartbeats later he hissed, “Please show Remus and Sirius? Then you can go back to whatever it was you were doing, or stay if you like.

Mark turned around, revealing a face that was a skillful blend of both his fathers, much to the astonishment of the two men. Then he sat down on Severus’s lap and leaned his head against his dad’s chest.

“We could have children?” repeated Sirius.

Remus gave him an absent nudge. “I don’t suppose. . . .”

“Not unless your affliction was taken care of,” said Heru.

“Of course.”

“We are extending a huge trust here, gentlemen.”

“Would it be better if we were to each swear a Wizard’s Oath?”

Heru glanced at Severus, then cast his eyes to the ceiling. “I think I would prefer it to be a . . . Secret.”

“With you as Keeper?” asked Remus.

“Naturally.”

“I see no reason to object. Sirius?”

“Yes, fine.” Sirius was still a bit distant, his eyes unfocused.