Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 38 :: Personal Playgrounds

38 • Personal Playgrounds

Heru raised his brows in gentle astonishment. Turning to Severus he said, “Veritaserum.” Several minutes later, Lucius was ready to be questioned, having put up little resistance once Heru intimidated him thoroughly. “Is it true that you love your son, Lucius?”

“Yes.”

“Why have you been so ineffective in communicating your instructions to your son?”

“I hoped if he continued to fail that my master would not insist on taking him into his service.”

“Is that because you wanted Draco to decide for himself?”

“Yes.”

“How did you feel when Voldemort tortured your son?”

“Desperate.”

“Have you ever personally harmed your son?”

“No.”

“Has Narcissa?”

“Not that I am aware of.”

“Does Draco have any idea of how you feel about him?”

“I don’t know.”

Heru repressed the urge to roll his eyes. “Why did you join Voldemort?”

“I believed in him.”

“How do you currently feel about being his servant?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Do you wish to leave his service?”

“I don’t know.”

“How does Narcissa feel about Voldemort?”

“She does not like him, but bows to necessity.”

“Does it bother you that she does not like Voldemort?”

“So long as she does not seek to interfere, I do not care.”

“Do you love your wife?”

“Yes.”

“Out of curiosity, Lucius, which is preferable—death or Azkaban?”

“Azkaban.”

“Would you betray Voldemort?”

“I’m not sure.”

Then, in a moment of unalloyed wickedness, Heru slyly asked, “Are there only pure-bloods in your line?”

“No.”

Heru smirked, gestured, then looked at Severus. “I suppose we should let him see Draco. Briefly, at least.”

“It is up to you.”

Heru nodded and gestured again. Severus rose and administered the antidote, then resumed his seat. As soon as Lucius recovered he blanched, which, given his already fair skin tone, was rather a difficult thing to accomplish.

Heru slipped back into his role, smirking nastily. “I do so love having people at a disadvantage, Lucius. You might want to remember all that you’ve revealed if the idea of crossing me ever occurs to you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I am not without pity, though. So, after you hand over your wand to Severus, I will bring your son in here for a short time.”

Lucius nodded slowly and handed Severus his wand after dropping it out of his sleeve. After a close look Heru could see no others on him, or suspicious items. “Very well. You will keep an eye on him, Severus, until I return. Feel free to get creative if does anything foolish.”

He left and fetched Draco from his hiding place and guided him back to their quarters, then pushed him down onto the couch before taking his seat. “If you have anything in particular to say to your son, Lucius, I suggest you do so now. You may not have another chance.”

Lucius turned to Draco and attempted a small smile. “I cannot be angry with you for what you have done. I have always striven to protect you from my master in my own way so that you might decide on your own if you wished to enter his service. If anyone should ask after you I will tell them that you have stayed with Mr Slytherin to further your education. The conclusions they would no doubt come to should be enough to dispel any suspicions. I will tell your mother that you are quite safe.”

He looked away for a moment, then said, “You should know that you have always fulfilled my expectations of you, even though to you it has seemed as though you’ve failed. I know you may not understand just yet, but I think that Mr Slytherin or Severus would be willing to explain that to you later on if you ask. You’re my only son, and my heir. I understand that it may be hard for you to believe, but I do care about you, Draco.”

Heru cleared his throat, causing Lucius to startle, then place his hands on Draco’s shoulders and grip them gently. “What I’m trying to say is that I do love you, my son, as does your mother. Do not forget that.” When Draco opened his mouth to speak, Lucius moved a hand to cover it. “Just think on it. Talk to the professors later. That is all I can ask of you.” With seeming reluctance, Lucius released his son and nodded at Heru.

Heru rose and said, “Draco, follow me.” After he had delivered the boy back to his temporary room, he returned to finish things with Lucius. “I’ll give you one last warning, Lucius. I lied about how many vials of blood it takes to make a tapestry.”

Lucius blanched again. Heru smiled and said, “Voldemort is one thing—I used those extras to make a second tapestry to satisfy my own curiosity—but you, my dear man, are a different matter entirely. So you should know that I have seven vials of your blood just waiting for me to find an excuse to use them against you. I strongly recommend that you behave yourself.”

Heru gestured and approached Lucius, kneeling next to him on the floor. He pushed back the layers of fabric covering the man’s arm and touched his fingers to the Dark Mark, closing his eyes to focus better. Having already spent so much time with Severus’s—though it had been some time ago—Heru was able to refresh his memory on its structure easily. Several minutes later he opened his eyes, fixed Lucius’s clothing, then returned to where he had been previously and gestured.

Heru turned to Severus and nodded. As the blond’s wand was being returned he said, “Dare I hope that you already have the information I need about the next meeting?”

“Yes, sir. The twenty-third at seven in the evening. As you are to attend, it will take place at Malfoy Manor.”

“Splendid. You run along now and expect to see me then.”

“Yes, sir.” Lucius rose to his feet and began to step away.

Heru stopped him with, “Oh, one more thing, Lucius. You will remember to call me Heru at that time, of course. I don’t think you’d want to explain to Voldemort why you’re suddenly calling me sir.”

Lucius bowed slightly, then backed away, turning only when he reached the door and could leave.

Heru waited a minute, the corner of his mouth twitching suspiciously, then burst out laughing. A glance at Severus showed that he was also highly amused. A moment later Fawkes flashed into the room and dropped a rolled piece of parchment on Heru’s lap, trilled, and flashed out.

Heru,

You’ve uncovered some very interesting information, not that I noticed the illegal use of veritaserum, of course. The mirror has already been removed from headquarters on my order. The watch on Lucius and Voldemort will continue unabated, but from here only instead.

Because of the prevailing attitude displayed by Alastor, he has been released from that particular duty. While I have no doubts as to your loyalty, I do believe it is best to avoid the confrontation that Alastor would surely begin over what is to come.

I would like to know if you plan to take Severus with you or if he shall remain at Hogwarts to guard your son. And, by the way, let me extend my congratulations to you and Severus on your bonding. In deference to your privacy, I have not mentioned my discovery to anyone.

Albus

Heru clutched at his hair with one hand and muttered, “Damn the man. He just had to go and spoil my fun.” He handed the note to Severus and edged away, managing to place the couch between them before his mate finished reading.

Severus pinned him with a cold look and said, “That map?”

“I assume so. And I’m going to assume he means bonding in the modern sense.”

“So help me, Heru, if he twinkles at me I shall hex him.”

“Now, Severus, I don’t think that would be a good idea. And, since I think we should probably go talk to Albus about Lucius, maybe I should just have you hand over your wand now and save us all a lot of grief?”

Severus scowled and shook his head. “No. First we speak to Draco. Then we can go talk to that meddling old coot.”

Heru folded his arms across his chest and stared. “All right. But if you lose your temper with Albus badly enough to start hissing in Parseltongue, you’re going to pay dearly for making me obliviate the man.”

Severus arched a brow and smirked. “Shall we, then?”

Draco appeared to be both happy and nervous on seeing them stalk into his little room. Heru and Severus sat down on the bed as though they had rehearsed synchronous movement and fixed steady gazes on him.

“We would like to know what your reaction is to having seen your father,” Severus said.

“Is he going to die, sir?” sighed Draco.

“That depends,” Heru replied. “How would you feel if he did?”

“I don’t want him to. He’s my father.”

Heru tilted his head. “Your father has participated in a great deal of evil, Draco. You may even make the decision some day to join him in it. By wizarding law, your father’s life is forfeit.”

“I don’t care, sir.”

“All right. How about Azkaban, then?”

“The dementors are gone. He would be alive.”

“And very likely imprisoned for the rest of his natural life.”

Draco shook his head. “Whose side are you on, anyway?”

“I think we’ve established what we needed to know for the moment,” Heru said, preparing to rise.

“Wait. Please?”

“What is it?” Severus asked.

“Father said you could explain.”

“Lucius already explained part of it, but I shall elaborate,” Severus said. “He purposely left you at loose ends when giving you instructions, knowing that without proper training and details you would not be able to accomplish those goals. In his eyes, your failures would translate into enough time for you to decide for yourself which path you wished to take. He willingly took your punishments in order to shield you from his master.”

“Oh,” Draco said quietly, not quite looking at either of them.

“Then we shall leave you to your thoughts, or your work, whichever you prefer.”

Heru and Severus rose and left to go see Albus.

*

Albus was twinkling, but not at full force. Heru thought that was a good thing, certainly, and hoped that the headmaster had enough sense to leave well enough alone. He did not fancy the idea of having to restrain his mate.

“I assume you wish to talk about Lucius?” Albus asked.

“Yes. We have just come up from talking to Draco,” Severus said. “The boy does not want his father to die. Are you going to object if he ends up in Azkaban?”

Albus shook his head. “He is already halfway to the point of betraying Voldemort, not that I am saying he will, and not that I am saying that such an action at this late date would necessarily save him from facing the consequences of his actions.”

“Fine. Because I will tell you now that the majority of the Death Eaters are going to die when their master does,” Heru stated. “Do you think the Ministry would be foolish enough to place the dementors back at Azkaban once Voldemort is gone?”

“I do not know, but I would recommend against it. As my credit is currently high, I hold some hope that I would be listened to.”

Heru nodded, then shrugged a shoulder.

“Who will be watching the meeting Heru is to attend aside from myself?” asked Severus.

“Not Alastor, obviously.” Albus peered over the rims of his spectacles at Severus, then Heru. “Is there something you’d like to tell me?”

“Well, Albus, I’d like to know if any of the watchers are going to try to arrest me the moment I return to the castle,” Heru drawled. “If you were to call them here now, then Severus and I could explain what you might reasonably expect to witness.”

“I see. In that case perhaps you have suggestions of your own?”

Heru had the castle flash several images to Severus and got back an affirmative in return. “Remus, Sirius, and Tonks. They are the ones I know the best, and the ones I feel will actually hear me out.”

Albus raised his brows fractionally, then reached for a quill and paper. He delivered several notes to Fawkes, who flashed out seconds later. When the three designated watchers finally arrived—Albus, Severus and Heru had continued a mild discussion about Lucius and his son—Heru got down to business.

“In two days I will be attending a Death Eater meeting at Malfoy Mansion, so I need to make something crystal clear to those of you who’ll be watching. This isn’t a game, just as nothing else up until now has been one. You may witness me acting as something akin to Voldemort himself, because I must convince him I am willing to be swayed to his side. I do not want to return to this castle only to have to contain people out for my blood because I cast Unforgivables at need.”

Sirius was already nodding. “I can understand that,” he said. “You . . . surprised me earlier, when you were talking to Lucius. You already were acting like Voldemort to some degree.”

Tonks cast a curious look at Sirius, then turned to Heru and shrugged. “I won’t see anything I don’t need to,” she said with a faint suggestion of a wink.

“Given that I’m unaware of the actual plans for after this,” Remus said slowly, “can I ask why it’s so important?”

“I need him to trust me more than he does now. I need him to not notice what I’m actually up to when I’m simply standing there, or so it appears. I have every intention of manipulating the Dark Marks of as many Death Eaters as I can while I’m there in order to make sure that they die when their master does.”

“Manipulate?” asked Tonks, her face sweetly confused.

Heru glanced at Severus, who nodded and bared his forearm to the girl.

“Oh!”

“I managed to make mirrors linked to Lucius without him being aware of it, and mirrors to Voldemort, all while in the middle of a conversation. I believe I can handle the manipulations. The worst case scenario is that I cannot, but for every Death Eater I actually meet, that is one more I can tune a mirror to, allowing us to know their locations at all times and to hunt them down for trial and incarceration.”

“And after the meeting?” Remus asked.

“I will tell him I would like to consider things for a day or so and invite him back to my house in Hogsmeade for two days hence. In order to make sure that he’ll agree, I’ll be going to that meeting displaying the same mixture of amiability and imperiousness, and prove, if necessary, that I have absolutely no qualms about being as sadistic and twisted as he is. In fact, I expect to have to say things that would cause others, mainly Severus, to want to strangle me when I return. At any rate, by the time that meeting is over, if Voldemort isn’t already salivating over the idea of having me join his cause, he should be. And he’ll be perfectly happy to come back to my home in Hogsmeade for a more private meeting to discuss things several days later.”

“All right. But what does that mean?” Remus persisted.

“The wards of my home are rather similar to the ones of Hogwarts. You see, Albus, I was less than candid with you.” Heru shot a look at the headmaster and smirked slightly. “I wasn’t so sure I should trust you. So while I did admit I could see the wards here, I did not tell the whole truth at that time.”

Strangely, or not, Albus’s eyes were twinkling.

“My ultimate ancestor, if you start with the founding of Hogwarts, was no fool. I know exactly how the wards here are constructed and I know how to create ones like them thanks to his foresight and preservationist tendencies. Inside my home, I hold control over who can perform magic, just like I can control who is allowed to apparate here.”

“One of these days you simply must tell us where you have all these family treasures hidden,” murmured Albus.

Heru favored the headmaster with an innocent smile and said, “Now that I’ve had enough time to study Voldemort, I believe I can bring him down. In my home, he will be unable to oppose me with magic. And with any luck, he won’t even realize what I’m doing until it’s too late.”

“Which is?”

“I’m sure you can figure that out. The point is, I need to know that none of you are going to start screaming for my head if I prove to Voldemort that I can cast unforgivables.”

“It will not be an issue,” said Albus. “I think we are all in agreement here.”

“Then I’m sure you will all also understand that you probably won’t see me for at least a day after that meeting. However, as I plan on inviting Voldemort over for the evening of the next, we will have time to meet and discuss things again if necessary.”

Albus nodded, as did Remus and Sirius. Tonks looked a little confused, but nodded as well.

*

Heru spent some time in his vault, looking for ancient wedding gifts. Eventually he found what he was after and brought them to the lounge and set them on the table. “You know, I still find it odd that no one ever seemed to wonder where Harry’s wand went.”

Severus shrugged. “No one ever saw Voldemort’s reaction when he realized it was not with the body, and our people assume he must have it.”

“Mm. I suppose so. Do you think there’s any point in me consuming this?” Heru indicated the vial he had brought in.

Severus leaned forward to take it, then examined it closely. “Exactly when did you get this, and how?”

“It was a wedding gift.”

Severus gave him an odd look, then opened the vial and sniffed carefully. “It’s still good,” he said after sealing it, “but is strength really something that will help you?”

“I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking. I’m not sure if it would shore me up through the work I’ll be doing or if I’d be better off having a pocket stuffed with replenishers. Is it even permanent?”

Severus shook his head. “It would last for several weeks, gradually fading out. I will be honest—unless there is some reason for you to need superhuman strength for that evening, I would not bother. Secrete a good supply of replenishers and take them as needed. You’ll still come home to me exhausted, but I know that you can hold your mask in place until it’s safe to drop it.”

“All right. Then that goes back into the vault, unless you have some use for it.” Heru shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I’ve made sure you can enter the vault so you can get it if you need it, right?”

Severus nodded, then said, “And that?”

“Manticore skin. I figured I might as well get some use out of it since I’ve never worn it. I can wear it under my robes.”

“Well enough. Were you planning on something subtle, or. . . ?”

Heru exhaled softly. “I’d like your advice on that. You know I told Voldemort I’d lurk in the shadows, but . . . I was thinking that might not work, and I wasn’t sure if I should just wear something of excellent quality but fairly understated, or something with a bit of flash to it.”

“I need not point out that if Lucius is the only one left alive, he is the only one who could possibly testify against you.”

“That doesn’t help, Severus.”

“Understated, my dear Heru. There’s no sense in drawing further attention to yourself.”

Heru smiled. The vial went back into the vault, the set of clothing went into their normal bedroom, and Heru and Severus sat down shortly after for a family dinner with Mark.

*

When Heru arrived at Malfoy Manor it was 6.30 in the evening. The house-elf that answered the door looked somewhat startled at his appearance, but allowed him entry and asked him in a soft voice to please wait. It did not pop back into view. Instead, Lucius appeared in the entrance hall and swept up to him gracefully, inclining his head as he drew closer.

“Heru, how lovely to see you.”

Heru took a moment to get a good look at the blond, then said, “I allow I am a bit early, but as the meeting was scheduled for seven, I thought it would be wise.”

“Of course,” Lucius said agreeably. “If you will permit, I will show you the ballroom.” He stepped back in a half turn and gestured, waiting for Heru to move forward before he completed his turn and began to walk. As Malfoy Manor was quite large, the walk itself took a number of minutes, all of which were spent in silence. Eventually they reached a set of grandiose double doors and stepped through.

The first thing Heru noticed was the utter lack of furnishings—that is, aside from a chair set up at one end which closely resembled a throne fashioned from snakes. The back of it rose up from the seat and widened, then arched over, perfectly mimicking a cobra with its hood flared. Someone—Heru thought whoever it had been obviously had too much time on their hands—had made it as realistic and lifelike as possible.

The second thing he noticed was that Voldemort was already seated in the embrace of the throne and had a peculiar smile on his changed face. Heru smirked slightly and strode forward confidently, ignoring the fact that Lucius, with his shorter legs, was having to move at an almost undignified pace in order to keep up with him. Heru pulled up short about a foot away from Voldemort and tilted his head to the side curiously.

“Well,” Heru said, then furrowed his brow and shot a quick look at Lucius. “I cannot fault you for your tastes, dear fellow, though it’s a bit ostentatious for me,” he hissed, then lifted his chin and smiled pleasantly.

Perhaps,” hissed Voldemort. “You have come early—why?

Heru grinned. “To investigate any dark corners in which to lurk, of course. But I see that it would be a difficult proposition here, so I shall have to stand around looking imposing, or something equally thrilling.

Or perhaps even participate.

Heru arched a brow. “Indeed. One naturally wonders what that would entail.

Voldemort turned his gaze on Lucius for a moment, then hissed, “Perhaps you might be persuaded to amuse yourself with some of my less gifted followers. I myself would be interested to see how you handled one of them if they had disappointed me.

Heru clapped his hands and smiled brilliantly. “We shall see. Far be it from me to turn down the opportunity to play with someone else’s toys.” Then he smirked and hissed, “With permission, that is. Severus was an exception. But, I see no reason for me to remain standing.” He dropped his wand into his hand and conjured up an imposing, yet squashy chair, and flopped into it sideways, letting his booted feet dangle over one arm.

He hummed for a moment, then hissed, “Speaking of toys, were you planning on summoning your followers this evening, or were they instructed to arrive without such prompting?

I will summon them.

Heru arched a brow, then smiled. “It’s more painful that way. I understand. May I try? I’ve wanted to, you see, but somehow I did not think you would have appreciated it had I used Severus as my test case. Very bad form and all that.” Heru let out a peal of high pitched laughter.

Voldemort smiled slightly. “I see you feel no constraint this evening to appear neutral.

I felt like having a night off, dear fellow. Don’t misunderstand me, of course. I have yet to make my decision. But as I’m here, I may as well enjoy myself, right?

Voldemort’s smile widened fractionally. “Indeed. In that case, I will allow it. You can summon them whenever you like.”

Heru flicked his wand back into its holster and turned to look at Lucius. After narrowing his eyes he crooked his finger at the blond and was rewarded with immediate compliance. Lucius knelt before him and bared his arm, so Heru reached out and touched the Dark Mark with his finger and called.