Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 36 :: Complication

36 • Complication

Heru awoke slowly, quite comfortable with the fact that a warm body was curled up around him. He didn’t know if it was early enough that Severus would not normally have awakened, or if his mate was being nice by staying in bed past his usual hour. He stayed like that for a few minutes, pondering the evening before, then shifted experimentally.

“Good morning, Heru,” was the immediate response. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine, I guess.”

“Then we shall get up and bathe, then have breakfast. I have already asked Praecino to be on hand in case you need soothing. Then we can talk about last night.” Severus tightened his hold on Heru in a kind of hug, then pulled away and slid out of bed.

After a rather sedate shower, they pulled on robes and moved into the lounge, where Severus firecalled for a meal. Mark was still sleeping according to the castle, but Severus ordered enough for three. It wasn’t until they were mostly finished eating that Severus spoke again, and by then Praecino was softly trilling from a makeshift perch in the corner.

He pointed at a box resting on the table and said, “The mirrors from last night. They appear to be working correctly.”

Heru nodded and reached for another slice of bacon. “We’re keeping one,” he said, “until I can see about transferring my link.”

“Albus can decide who will keep the other,” agreed Severus. “Were either of us ones that Voldemort asked after?”

“Yes. Both of us, actually. I made sure we came up dead center—those two. The rest were people I either didn’t recognize or didn’t care about. I thought it would be wise to assure certain things.”

“Are you up to seeing Albus today, or would you prefer I report for us?”

Heru wrinkled his nose and had a bite of toast. After crunching through it he said, “The latter. I have no idea how steady my temper is and I really don’t want a repeat of the last time. Tell him what you think is necessary.” He spent the next fifteen minutes describing what he had seen and sensed in between lazy bites of the remaining food on his plate.

“And the leaf reading?”

“I’m not sure. Who it is, I mean. I just get the feeling that it’s someone fairly high up and valuable to him.” Heru let out a mirthless laugh. “Definitely not Peter.”

“Given Peter’s overall constitution, he is probably mad by now, or close.”

“Maybe. Weak people have odd ways of protecting themselves. If possible, he might yet betray Voldemort, if only because of the life debt he owes Harry. But he wasn’t the subject, I’m sure of it.”

Severus nodded and looked thoughtful for a moment. “Stay here, then. I’ll take one of the mirrors and report. If things get bad while I’m gone, even with Praecino here, go back to bed.”

“All right.” Heru watched as Severus opened the box and removed a mirror, then turned and left. He sat back and closed his eyes, casting his thoughts back to the tangle of magic in Voldemort. He wasn’t sure how long he had been musing when the sound of someone moving about reached his ears, causing him to open his eyes.

“Morning, father.” Mark gave him a sleepy smile and sat down, reaching for a plate. After picking over the still warm selection he said, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Just worn out.”

Mark’s answering look was slightly incredulous. “Where’s dad?”

“He’s up talking with the headmaster, reporting about last night’s activities.”

“Why is Praecino singing?”

Heru felt a spurt of annoyance and clamped down on his reaction. “My temper is a bit uncertain at the moment, Mark. Praecino is here to help keep me calm.”

“How come—” Mark cut off as Severus walked in. “Hi, dad!” he chirped, then asked Heru, “How come you’re in a bad mood?”

Heru’s expression twisted. Severus stepped over and grabbed his hand, hauling him to his feet. “I suggest you go back to bed. I will explain.” He placed his hands on Heru’s shoulders and turned him, then gave him a gentle push. “Praecino, go with him, please?”

Heru gave up and ducked into the bedroom, shucking off his clothes to the soothing sounds of phoenix song, and went back to sleep. He was woken by Severus some time later.

“Mark understands,” was the first thing he said, followed by, “I strongly suggest you remove that link as quickly as possible.”

“I’m sorry, Severus,” Heru said sleepily.

“Don’t be. It is beyond your control at this point, but I will not allow it to infringe upon this family any further if I can help it. Voldemort has already asked after us indirectly, so I doubt he will do so again. We already have two mirrors to watch him with and discover any plans he speaks aloud. You should no longer have any need of that connection.”

“But I almost got angry with Mark, and he was just being curious.”

“Then it is just as well I arrived when I did, though I’m certain you would have put him off as gently as possible and retreated so as not to hurt him. Do you feel well enough to begin tonight?”

“I guess so.” He chuckled slightly. “I feel worlds apart now from how I did when we first met after my return.”

“What do you mean?”

“I didn’t necessarily have any more clue then than I do now, but I felt a lot more in control of things.”

“Don’t be absurd. The only difference is that you have someone you can lean on when necessary, and I am happy to be there for you. I have no doubt you would do the same for me.”

“You never seem to need that, though,” Heru pointed out quietly.

Severus snorted. “Neither do you, much. I told you, you don’t always have to be strong. I can tell, however, that you are not fully recovered. Tomorrow will be soon enough for you to begin the transfer. For now, you will have to settle for being coddled.”

Heru gave his mate a sweet smile.

“Do you want your lunch in here or on the couch?”

Heru rolled his eyes in distress. “The couch! Staying in here would be too much like being confined to the infirmary.”

Severus snorted again, this time in amusement. “Fine. I will go and get things ready.” He leaned in to plant a kiss on his mate’s lips, then rose and exited to the lounge.

When Heru did leave the bedroom, he was immediately tackled by Mark in a hug, then dragged over to the couch and pushed down and a blanket thrown over him. Heru had been expecting either to not see his son, or to see him looking rather uncertain. Whatever Severus had said must have been good if Mark was treating him in this fashion. A tray was deposited across his lap a moment later.

When he was done eating he was handed a book that held absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever and told to amuse himself by reading it. Praecino had taken up his perch in the corner again and was trilling softly, encouraging Heru to stop thinking, stop worrying, and to simply waste time in idle pursuits. He read right through until dinner, ate, then again until Severus chivvied him off to bed for the night.

Two days later the first interesting bit of news surfaced from the mirror Severus had taken to Albus. One of the escaped Death Eaters, Rookwood, was witnessed informing Voldemort that his original information on the prophecy sphere was incorrect. Avery, the originator of the erroneous report, was punished severely for his transgression, but not killed. After being crucio’d for some time he was sent off to join Peter with the dementors to rethink the consequences of his actions.

Avery was hauled away, gibbering in fear, by a cadre of dementors. A slight smirk graced Voldemort’s face as he watched, which remained when he turned his attention back to Rookwood and said, “Now that I’m done amusing myself for the moment, you will repeat what you said.”

“As you know, my lord, I worked in the Department of Mysteries. What Avery told you is monumentally incorrect. Prophecy spheres are protected by myriad enchantments, causing anyone who touches one to go mad unless they are named by it.”

“Mm. And what of those who work in that room? Surely they must be able to remove them or manipulate them.”

“To my knowledge it has never been done, my lord. I was never able to corrupt one of them in order to learn fully what their duties were.”

“You know I do not like answers of that sort.”

“Yes, my lord. My life is yours.”

Voldemort gave what appeared to be a slight sigh of disappointment. “Then it is only I who can retrieve the sphere,” he stated. Rookwood nodded sharply.

Voldemort looked thoughtful for a minute, then smiled to himself. “Well, then, I can see why that prediction said there would be nothing to bar my way toward that goal. Obviously, as I must be the one to go, rather than a proxy. No wonder why you people kept failing me.” A short pause ensued, then Voldemort said briskly, “Very well. You may go. Send Lucius in.”

“Yes, my lord.” Rookwood bowed deeply then backed away, turning only at the last moment to slip through the door.

When Lucius arrived moments later, Voldemort greeted him with a coldly amused smile. “It seems that our friendship with Slytherin is paying off, regardless of how slippery he is. However, something that happened has me quite curious, Lucius. Did you know that Slytherin is very much aware of that house-elf’s original master?”

“My lord?”

“Now don’t be coy, Lucius. You know exactly what I refer to. I wouldn’t want to have to jog your memory—you might not like how I do it.”

“The Potter boy tricked me into freeing the elf at the end of his second year, my lord.”

“I see. So, of course, Slytherin knows quite a bit about you, I expect, which makes his games with me all that much more curious. What is it that he wants, Lucius? What will it take to sway him to my side, to stand with his family? He is not adverse to assisting me, that much is obvious. I do not think our little ploys fool him for a moment, not now. So, Lucius, why have you not found out what I need to know? Why do I even still keep you around if you cannot do such a simple thing?”

“Slytherin is a wise man to seek information from unlikely sources, my lord,” said Lucius.

“Struck by the blinding light of the obvious are we, Lucius? It is a wonder you can see straight. And what of our dear Severus? He is obviously Slytherin’s right hand man, daring to order us out in that fashion. Slytherin must be powerful indeed if Severus shows a complete lack of fear when faced with us. You already bungled the dinner—what is it that you will screw up next, hm? I am fast losing my patience, but I think, rather than simply killing you, I will give you some time to reassess your priorities. You are, after all, one of my most faithful, are you not?”

“My life is yours, my lord.”

“Listening in at the keyhole, Lucius? How utterly plebeian of you. Yes, I see I am right. You need some time to think.” Voldemort looked beyond the blond’s shoulder and nodded sharply. Several dark masses detached themselves from the enveloping shadows at the far end of the room and floated forward. “I’m sure you and Peter will get along splendidly for a few days, my good man.”

*

Heru had been torn between making several smaller mirrors, or making one large one. After some discussion with Severus he decided on a large one. It might come to pass that they would meet with Voldemort again in a fairly innocuous setting, such as at his house in Hogsmeade a second time, and he could always make more of the smaller variety.

He had nine days to work, nine days in which to complete the transference, nine days before the next full moon, when he would need to be on hand to contain and watch Remus as he transformed without benefit of wolfsbane.

It was a delicate thing, transferring those last few threads of magic. Rather than a rat they had located a tortoise, setting up a home for it in one of the spare rooms at underlake. Neither Heru or Severus wanted Mark to know of it, or have a chance to become in any way attached to the creature. It was those last threads that saw Heru packed into bed again for a day, getting up only to attend the one class he had and give a written test so that his level of interaction was kept to the bare minimum.

He was ready in time, though he felt strange. Why exactly, he wasn’t sure. It was obvious to him that after repeated experiments that his power and ability remained undiminished, so that was not it. Perhaps it was simply the lifting of a burden he had held for nearly forty years. On a whim he reverted, and was astonished to see that the scar he had bore for most of his life was gone.

That afternoon he was ready. When classes ended he apparated to his home in Hogsmeade and prepared, allowing for the entry of both Remus and Sirius, who arrived after Praecino had gone to alert them, and for them to use magic. Severus remained at the castle with Mark.

Downstairs, in a corner of the basement well away from where Mark had been working on potions, Heru constructed a cage not unlike the one in which he had put Peter. Remus recognized it immediately. His wand, and Sirius’s, were placed on the desk Heru had used all those months ago to write at while watching his son.

He opened the door and ushered both men in, then closed and sealed it behind them. It was not, perhaps, a massive cage, but it was at least as big as the room Harry had first met Sirius in, if not larger. Heru moved his desk closer and pulled out a notebook and pen, then sat to wait.

The moment Remus began to transform, Sirius changed. Heru’s focus was very intent, watching the threads inside Remus come to life and glow with their own light. It did not take long, but Heru noted that those same threads stayed active even after Remus was in the form of a wolf, which suited him just fine. And, true to expectations, Remus did not attack his mate despite the loss of his sense of self. Animals were not something a werewolf cared enough about to attack; they saved their efforts for human prey.

Remus spent some time prowling the edge of the cage, snarling and snapping at Heru, so tantalizingly close and yet out of reach. That, too, was something Heru was happy enough to see, for it demonstrated within the man’s savage form the links which held him bound. Eventually, Remus felt he had made his point about the human intruder and turned instead to Sirius, sniffing and pushing his body against that of the dog’s, showing his dominance over a lesser creature.

From Heru’s viewpoint, it explained a great deal about the two of them as a couple. The hours passed by, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, with Heru taking the occasional potion and even dozing. He was awake when the time drew near for the moon to set and release Remus from its treacherous grip. As before, Heru watched with careful concentration, and when the transformation was finally complete, rose to his feet to unlock the cage and open the door. Sirius stumbled out, Remus in his arms, and looked around wearily.

Heru did not bother to voice his thoughts. He scooped up both wands from the desk and pocketed them, pointed a finger at Remus and levitated him, then turned smartly and headed upstairs. He could hear Sirius following, murmuring at his mate, all the way up to Heru’s bedroom. It took mere moments to slide Remus into the bed.

“You will stay here,” he stated, ignoring the look of tired surprise on Sirius’s face. “I have every expectation that you know how to care for him in his condition. So long as neither of you leaves the house, nothing will be able to get at you aside from the inhabitants of this residence.”

Heru crossed to the bedside table and opened the drawer, then slipped their wands from his pocket and placed them inside. Turning back to Sirius he said, “Dobby will be here for that time period, ready to help in any way. Also, I’m leaving you with a mirror tuned to myself just in case. As I have prepared one tuned to you, we will be able to communicate should the need arise. Failing that, Dobby can find me.” He would actually be using his spell, but that was beside the point.

He tapped the drawer. “Your wands and the mirror.” Heru turned and pointed at a door. “The bathroom, which also contains an extensive collection of potions for your use if necessary. You have the run of the house, though I do ask that if something is locked, respect that and leave it alone, and please return any books to where you found them. Is there anything you can think of that I’ve forgotten?”

Sirius shook his head.

“Excellent. I’ll call in Dobby on my way out and be getting back to the school, then.” Heru inclined his head briefly and headed for the door. He paused at the sound of another footstep and looked back over his shoulder.

“Can you . . . free him?” asked Sirius.

Heru smiled without reserve. “Yes,” he said, then continued on downstairs to call Dobby and set him up with coin for supplies.

*

Heru was relaxing with a book, leaning against the arm of the couch with his legs curled up beside him. Severus and Mark played each other at chess, though it was clear that Mark had not yet progressed to his dad’s level of expertise. Heru smiled and went back to his own pursuit; truth be told, he was more of an Exploding Snap person.

Classes were over, as was dinner, and Heru had all weekend to waste time if he wanted. A knock at the door brought him out of his bookish focus, so he marked his place and rose, seeing as he walked toward the door an image of Draco Malfoy. Heru sighed, but opened the door and gestured the young man in.

He followed Draco into the lounge; neither Severus or Mark had looked up, so Heru cleared his throat. Two sets of eyes, black and dark green, snapped in their direction, then widened. Heru resumed his seat without a word. Draco was still quite subdued, and very anxious.

“Draco,” said Severus.

“Sir,” Draco began quietly. Heru was marginally surprised himself; he would have expected the boy to be more familiar given where he stood. “I wanted to talk to you and . . . Professor Slytherin.”

Severus flicked his gaze over to their son. “I think I should find something interesting to do in my room,” hissed Mark, rising to his feet. Heru nodded, so Mark slipped off down the hallway and through the door to his bedroom.

“Have a seat, Draco,” Severus said, tilting his head at the place Mark had vacated. Draco sat, folding his hands carefully in his lap. “What is it, then?”

“Sir, I—” Draco darted a look at Heru. “I’m scared.” Severus arched a brow and sat back, placing his arms on those of his chair. “I—over the holiday, sir, my father—he—” Draco dropped his gaze and took a breath. “And then, he came.”

“Voldemort?” said Severus.

“Yes, sir. He was very angry with me, with father. He—”

“Tortured you,” said Heru evenly. Draco nodded without looking up. “As expected. Why is this of concern to us?”

Draco lifted his head part way. “I was only trying to do what father asked. He never explained anything, just expected results.”

“So far as anyone knows, Draco, your life’s ambition is to join Voldemort. I should think you would have expected such treatment at his hands for failure. So I’ll repeat: Why is this of concern to us?”

Draco raised his eyes to meet Heru’s. “I try so hard to do what father asks. I always get it wrong. I don’t understand, I really don’t. The Dark Lord was furious—I think he must be mad. I can’t—I don’t want to follow him.”

“Then don’t,” Severus said somewhat coldly. “You have a brain, a spine, use them.”

Draco’s incredulous gaze fell on Severus. “But, sir—”

“Are you saying you do not? You would sit there and tell me with a straight face that you could not resist Voldemort’s call?”

“Sir, you went to him,” said Draco, then flinched at the freezing coldness which suffused Severus’s face at his words.

“Am I supposed to take that to mean you believe I am strong? Stronger than you, and by extension, that if I did not resist, you could not hope to? Is that it?”

“Sir, please—”

Severus affected surprise. “Did I hear you aright? Draco Malfoy saying please? I am sure I must be dreaming, for that boy doesn’t know the meaning of the word courtesy, or discretion,” he said snidely.

“You can protect me!” Draco blurted, then dropped his gaze.

“Protect you? Why on earth would I want to do that beyond what I already have? It is far more likely this is some kind of ill-conceived ploy. In fact—”

Heru cleared his throat. “Severus, veritaserum,” he murmured.

His mate rose and stalked off gracefully, returning a minute later with a vial of clear liquid. Standing in front of Draco he said, “Wand.” After he had that, he administered the potion, then resumed his seat.

Heru waited until the potion had taken effect, then said, “State your full name.”

“Draco Lucius Pavonis Malfoy.”

Heru looked over at Severus and said, “Pavonis, huh? How appropriate.” To Draco he said, “Why did you come here?”

“To seek your protection, yours and Uncle Sev’s.”

That was interesting; Draco really did think of Severus as an uncle. “Who sent you here?”

“I came of my own accord.”

“Did you tell anyone, living, dead, or portrait of your intention to come here for the purpose of asking for protection?”

“No.”

“Have you spoken of it or written of it at any time?”

“No.”

“Why do you think we can protect you?”

“Father is scared of you.”

Heru chuckled; sound enough reasoning, he supposed. “Dumbledore would have been happy to protect you—why didn’t you go to him?”

“I don’t trust him.”

“And you trust us?”

“I trust Uncle Sev. Uncle Sev seems to trust you.”

“How exactly do you think we can protect you?”

“You can prevent the Dark Lord from taking me as one of his followers.”

Heru rolled his eyes in frustration. “We have no legal right to keep you from your parents, Draco. Why do you not want to follow Voldemort?”

“I don’t think I’d live. I can’t even do what father wants correctly. The Dark Lord would surely kill me.”

“Do you agree with Voldemort’s beliefs and aims?”

“I don’t know.”

Heru stifled a sigh and looked at Severus, who said, “Voldemort does not usually take followers as young as you, Draco. So why now? Why do you seek our protection at this time?”

“Father has passed on new instructions. I know I’ll fail, which means I’ll be tortured again, possibly killed.”

“What instructions?”

“I’m supposed to secrete a listening device in your quarters. Failing that, I’m supposed to find a way to befriend your son. Preferably both.”

“Do you know why?”

“The Dark Lord thinks you know more than you let on. There is something he wishes to know that he has been unable to obtain from you directly.”

Heru waved his hand and Draco went curiously blank, more so than could be accounted for by the potion. “What do you think?”

“I think his first real encounter with Voldemort scared him nearly to death, and certainly into some semblance of reality. He’s obviously been thinking about this for some time, but has told no one of his deliberations. He may yet be redeemable.”

“We cannot afford to let him plant the device here, Severus.”

“I realize that. And if he fails in both of those two goals, I would not doubt he’d be called home over the Easter hols.”

“You don’t honestly think Voldemort would kill him, do you?”

“Do you want to gamble with his life?”

“They’d have to be idiots to believe the child could plant something in here,” Heru said heatedly.

“I agree, which means the real goal is to subvert Mark. Of course, considering his last encounter, that goal, too, is somewhat unlikely. Is he under the imperius curse?”

Heru shook his head.

“A trap?” Severus shifted in his seat, angling his body so he could prop his head against one hand.

“What do you mean?”

“If we assist Draco in any obvious way. . . .”

“All right. But that means we need to play along to some extent, and that means Mark gets dragged into this.”

“I understand. Yet, you have at least twice now asked Mark for his own thoughts on matters. All he would need do is appear friendly outside these walls. If Draco needed anything to pass on, one of us could tell him.”

“That’s like turning a fifteen year old boy into a spy, Severus.”

“And he wasn’t already? Heru, you cannot change what has already happened. If you are considering, even for the tiniest of moments, helping Draco, then you need to remain realistic. If he makes it past the Easter hols, chances are that this will not come up again until school lets out. And by then, Draco can simply disappear for a time.”

“And if that happens, Lucius will storm the castle demanding to know what’s happened to his child.”

“Then we either lie, or use him to our own advantage. For now, I suggest you release the boy so I can administer the antidote. Draco can return in a week, after we have been able to discuss this in far more detail.”

Heru gestured.