Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Snapshots: Crumbling Pedestal :: 01 :: A39-Slytherin Solution

01 • A39-Slytherin Solution

Notes: How things might have gone if Heru had been a bit more forthcoming during his defeat of Voldemort. Some of the wording/speech has changed, as well as the ending to the original chapter.

The changes and additions are extemporaneous, so don’t expect anything magnificent!


“Severus, are you sure?” Heru gave his mate a piercing look.

“Yes, actually, I am. You know damn well Albus is going to get ideas from this. He will pester us near to death to satisfy his curiosity.”

Heru adopted a calculating expression. “Perhaps, but I could always just forget to take your wand when he starts in and you could hex him senseless.”

“You could. It is up to you, my dear Heru. If you want to be more forthcoming, do so. If not, that is your choice.”

“I allow that it would be nice to see the look on the old snake’s face,” Heru said.

“All I am saying is that I am in no way ashamed, Heru.”

“We’d better get going. I have to shift the wards and I’d like a nap before they arrive.”

*

Everything was ready. Everything was set. Lucius and Voldemort (he was wearing his Xavier disguise) arrived on time and were ushered into Heru’s lounge in much the same manner as they had been on previous visits. And, as before, a number of people were watching them, holed up in Albus’s office in front of several mirrors, and absently noshing from a tray of edibles.

Heru was sporting a dazzling smile comprised partly of genuine pleasure and partly of a decided smirk that quirked the corner of his mouth. Truth was a funny thing, and any good liar knew that truth was what lent a good lie verisimilitude. Heru had very rarely been caught in falsehoods, if ever. It was much easier to be honest in word but not in meaning, or to shade the truth, or conceal aspects of it. Of course, Heru was strongly considering using truth as a weapon this evening, and a very sharp weapon at that.

So it was that Lucius and Xavier took seats in the lounge, and Voldemort’s reaction to Heru’s welcome spoke promises of sadistic pleasures yet to come from a glorious union of family. Severus was once again silent and forbidding, taking care to sit only after Heru had, but letting his lips twist in a mockery of a smile. His eyes on Lucius were distant, and on Voldemort revealed simply respect, but for Heru they shone with unwavering loyalty and devotion.

When everyone was settled, Heru spoke. “Absolutely delightful to see you again, my dear fellow,” he said warmly, then added as an afterthought, “and you, Lucius.”

“I trust after this evening that we will become much better friends.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that,” replied Heru enigmatically. “Do you remember,” he said casually, “when I told you that you had health problems?” Without looking or gesturing, he cast a wandless spell of binding on Lucius. He would be able to talk and move a bit, but not rise from his chair.

“Vaguely. Why?”

“Something isn’t quite right about you, my dear fellow.” Heru had something a little different in mind for Voldemort.

“Really. And why do you say that?”

“Because it’s the truth.” Heru gave him a look of mingled disbelief and confusion. “Why would I lie? You aren’t healthy. Whatever it is you’ve done wasn’t done properly, or was a mistake, and you’re suffering because of it.”

Voldemort gave him a penetrating stare, then said, “Let me rephrase. How are you able to tell? Surely this isn’t some aspect of divination.”

Heru arched a brow and cocked his head to the side, feigning concern. “At first, yes. But you’re right, this isn’t about divination. There’s something about you that makes me ill.” He didn’t bother to hide his distaste.

Voldemort appeared startled by that, showing it plainly.

“Very ill. Something foreign, something that fights within your body, something that makes me want to heave. Quite frankly, I can’t stand to be around you for long periods of time.” Heru glanced at Severus and held out his hand. His mate flipped aside his robes to get a vial from his thigh case and pass it over. Heru opened it and knocked it back without a second thought, then stared at Voldemort again. “What did you do? How can you stand this?”

Voldemort appeared to consider his words, his brow furrowing in thought. “It is true that I have not quite felt like myself since I was reborn.”

“This is connected to whatever you did to regain your corporeal form?”

“Perhaps,” Voldemort said vaguely.

“Will you tell me? Because, my dear fellow, I can hardly make a decision of this magnitude when all I can think about when I’m near you is how sick I feel. I’d rather not be forced into a decision against you because of it. I’d like to be able to choose freely.”

Voldemort’s face tightened, his eyes narrowing slightly. “And how do I know what you say is true?”

Heru smiled faintly and flipped the empty vial at him. “Look for yourself. Smell it.” Voldemort caught it handily and checked the label, then held it to his nose. “You know very well that if I were to take that without symptoms that I would be hunched over right now emptying my stomach the hard way. I would not be able to help myself.”

Voldemort turned his gaze back to Heru and nodded. “True enough.” He placed the vial on the table beside him and said slowly, “The ritual I used required three things: the bones of my father; the flesh of a servant; and the blood of my enemy. I chose to use Wormtail’s flesh and the Potter boy’s blood. And it worked.”

Heru sighed heavily and slumped a bit in his chair. “Did you not know that the Potter brat was a descendant of Gryffindor?”

“What!?”

“You’ve poisoned yourself, Voldemort. You live, obviously, but you are tainted with that bloodline now. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this.”

“You’re mad.”

“Am I?” Heru stood and wandered back to the cabinets where he stored his divination tools. He knelt and flipped up a wide, low door and pulled out a case, then stood and returned to where they were all seated. He had worked on this for some time, ever since Severus had explained his plan and he had gone to Godric’s portrait for help. It had not been easy to duplicate the original Gryffindor tapestry and force it to cut off at Harry Potter with a date of death. Wordlessly Heru stripped away the case and revealed a tapestry, then conjured up a stand near Voldemort’s chair and hung it. “See for yourself. Trace down Godric’s line,” he said, then took his seat.

A half hour later Voldemort was seething in anger.

“I’d appreciate if you didn’t rip my furniture to shreds, dear fellow,” Heru said with a pointed glance at Voldemort’s hands where they gripped the arms of his chair. “As I said, you’ve poisoned yourself.”

“Where did you get that abomination?”

Heru gave him an amused look. “The castle of Hogwarts holds many secrets if one has the knowledge of where to seek. It was to my benefit that the family passed down many things for me to learn from. But, it was unfortunate that the family was not aware of you, dear fellow, or you would have been brought properly into the fold.”

“And what do you propose?”

“What I propose is not something you may agree with. I may be family, but that doesn’t mean you trust me.”

“Why don’t you tell me and I will decide that,” Voldemort grated.

Heru gave a slight shrug and smiled. “Fair enough. I propose to leech the tainted blood from you on the theory that its removal will allow you to recover from the ordeal of your rebirth and allow you to regain your former strength and prominence.” Heru held out his hand to Severus again without looking, and knocked back the vial placed in it moments later.

Voldemort gave him an incredulous look.

“You didn’t really think that the creation of tapestries was the only blood magic I was proficient in, did you? At least now I understand why your presence affects me so.” After a pause he said, “If you wish to think about it, that’s fine. We can always meet again at some other time, or not, as you decide. I offer my help on this out of familial obligation, not as a sign of my personal affiliation. As I said, I would prefer to choose freely, and right now I would be unable to choose anything but against you.”

“Removal of the taint poses no complications?” Voldemort asked finally.

“That depends. Why Potter’s blood specifically?”

“I chose him so that I would enjoy the same protections he did.”

“He’s dead. Do those protections matter any longer?” Heru countered.

“I suppose not,” Voldemort admitted.

“Then I see no complication. Besides, you have already proven that you cannot be killed.” Heru smirked, ostensibly in admiration for the feat.

“True enough.” Voldemort considered again, then nodded sharply. “Proceed.”

“Splendid. But first. . . .” Heru shook out his wand and knocked Lucius out with a swift spell. “I don’t think he needs to see this. In fact, you might want to consider obliviating him later.”

Voldemort gave Heru a faintly suspicious look. “And Severus?”

“I need him to keep me upright, remember? I can obliviate him later. Now, if you would be so kind, please do not move, though you should try and relax if that’s possible. This may end up feeling quite odd. Severus, fetch me a basin.”

Heru waited until Severus had returned and placed the basin—it was pure silver—on the table. “Lovely.” Without being asked, Severus also handed over strengthening and replenishing potions, which Heru knocked back quickly. “Please turn your hands palm up, if you would, and I shall begin.”

Heru pointed his wand at Voldemort and focused, mouthing a string of Latin words. Nothing happened at first, but that was to be expected. As he continued to chant soundlessly, a droplet of blood formed in the center of Voldemort’s left hand, and a cut slashed open in his right. The droplet grew larger, filling the depression of the left palm, and they watched as a pure white light appeared in the air just above it.

Heru focused, his brows drawn together in concentration, and made a odd little movement with his wand. The pool of blood arced up into the light, then split, the majority of it continuing over to Voldemort’s right palm and sinking into the open wound, while a hair-thin stream went to the basin.

Partway into the process Heru spoke absently. “You were raised in the muggle world weren’t you? Think of this as dialysis, though it’s much, much faster.” His eyes never left the arcing streams of blood, and a smile of satisfaction slowly curved his mouth at the sight. By the time the process ended—the arc to the basin disappeared—Heru was sweating heavily. Severus rose and came to kneel at his side, offering up several vials.

Heru made another peculiar gesture with his wand and chanted under his breath, then slumped back. He noticed that Voldemort did not look much better as he took the vials and drank them. After eyeing the basin curiously, and while Voldemort was still recovering from having his blood filtered, that Heru slapped him with a very subtle binding spell and smiled. “Well, I’m very glad that part is over. I should not like to do that again any time soon.”

“Why,” Voldemort asked, “do I feel like utter hell?”

Heru tucked his wand behind his ear and smiled lazily. “Recovery isn’t an immediate thing, dear fellow. You’ve had that poison in you for quite some time I expect, and even I can’t work miracles. Those silly muggles feel like hell, too, after having their blood purified.”

“We are not muggles.”

“No, and thank goodness for that. I’ve done some research,” Heru said casually. “I learned some very interesting things about you, my dear fellow. For instance, I know why you did not die when you attempted to kill the Potter brat the first time.”

“Is that so?”

“Oh, indeed. I had always been curious about that, you see. But in time, the answer came. It was when I learned of the diary you made as a boy that I understood. You poured a part of your soul into that—quite a lot of it, actually. It was a part of you that was safe, and with it safe, the killing curse was unable to properly finish you off when it reflected. It would be like trying to use it on a vampire, you see? You cannot use conventional methods to kill what isn’t exactly alive in the first place.”

Voldemort looked vaguely interested, so Heru continued.

“So you were able to stick around until the right time and regain your physical body. The thing is, that diary was destroyed, and with it, that part of your soul. The Weasley girl regained what you had taken from her, but what you left behind was lost. She was too pure, despite what you had done to her, to absorb it, and the Potter boy’s actions made sure it could not return to you. You are, in effect, a half-souled creature.”

“Not something easily proved,” commented Voldemort.

“Indeed not. But, I have a few special talents, my dear fellow. The only thing that’s been keeping you alive after that ritual is magic.” Heru reached out silently with his power and began his manipulations. “The Potter blood, poisonous as it was, was also helping, though it hurt you just as much. I am well aware that you’ve been near to helpless, relying on your former glory to keep your people in line. You’ve been relying on the Dark Mark and what it can do to maintain your people’s fear of you.”

“But that will change now.”

“Oh, yes.” Heru gave Voldemort a dazzling smile. “It will indeed. You see, a half soul isn’t such a terrible thing, but it does have some disadvantages.” He paused to smirk. “Without your magic, you would die, unlike others.”

A faint cast of suspicion crossed Voldemort’s face as the glamour that had been masking his features collapsed. Anger appeared as he attempted to move and realized he could not.

“Problems, dear fellow?” Heru reached out a hand and curled it around the vials Severus placed there a heartbeat later. “Perhaps you begin to understand what I’m getting at.” Without taking his eyes off Voldemort he drank the potions and tossed the vials on the floor. “You see, I do have a number of interesting talents, as I said. One of those happens to be spell weaving, though I should probably clarify and say that I can weave and unweave at my discretion. It’s how I removed Severus’s Dark Mark, Tom. It’s how I released a man from the curse of being a werewolf. It’s how I’m releasing you from the burden of being a wizard right at this moment.”

Heru smirked again and said, “Don’t bother trying to speak. It’s not like I care what you have to say. You’re a disgrace to the name of Slytherin. The Gods know you allowed yourself to be outmaneuvered, but then, I am a pure-blooded Slytherin, unlike you. Did you know that Salazar was a very kind, loving person, Tom? Very set in his ways, though. He feared and despised muggles because they hate us and would do anything to be rid of us. But, he would have been happy enough to live apart from them and let them destroy the muggle-borns with their own hands. He thought it would help keep them away from us. But really, I doubt a history lesson at this point will benefit you much.”

Heru gave a mock sigh of regret. “You might be interested to know that you never could do magic here. I’m surprised you never bothered to test that, but it’s just as well, because here you are now, under my control. Honestly, I must be a better actor than I imagined to have fooled you.” Again without turning his head away, he said, “Severus, love, are you enjoying this?”

“Exceedingly,” came the rich voice, then a chuckle.

“That’s good. It was a very good plan you came up with and I’m glad you’re here personally to see it in action.” Heru smiled gently as the fire in Voldemort’s eyes reached new heights of anger and panic. “I did tell you that Severus is blindingly intelligent. For someone like him, figuring out why you were a pathetic shadow of yourself was easy once I told him what I could see and sense. He also explained to me why you made me sick. I can’t imagine why I didn’t figure it out on my own, but then, as Severus has pointed out, I think much better under pressure. I always have.”

Heru chuckled. “I may as well tell you. After all, my victory would hardly be complete if I were less than honest. Do you remember, Tom, that night in the graveyard? How the Potter boy stood up to you with a complete lack of fear? I enjoyed it quite a bit, watching it. Because, you see, I could empathize completely.”

Heru reached out and picked up the basin, setting it on his lap, then let both his hands hover over the top, the tips of his forefingers just brushing each other. He looked up and said, “It’s time to take back what you stole from me, Tom,” then closed his eyes and concentrated. With agonizing slowness the blood in the basin rose, reaching up to wrap around his hands and back down into the basin.

At length Heru opened his eyes and flexed his fingers, smiling broadly. “That’s much better.” He picked up the basin and placed it on the table again. A glance inside showed only a dry red powder. “I bet you’re wondering what that was all about, aren’t you, Tom? I suppose I should thank you for doing nothing more than drugging me for a month. Did you enjoy my diary? Did you have fun demolishing the room when you found my dead, mutilated body?” Heru laughed softly and aimed an insolent grin at Voldemort.

“I can see you don’t believe me, or don’t want to. After all, I am Heru Slytherin, and nothing will prove otherwise to the magical community. Let me think. I’d show you my scar, but I already got rid of that once I removed the connection to you. After you tried to get a reading on Severus and me that night, we decided I didn’t need it any longer. Ah, I know. How silly of me. Did you never wonder what happened to Harry’s wand? You let him keep it, we both know that.”

Heru reached into a pocket and produced a wand with a flourish. “You never found it, Tom, because I never lost it.” Heru smiled slightly and aimed off to the side, intoning, “Expecto Patronum!” A great silvery stag erupted from the wand and galloped around the room. Heru fancied he could almost hear at least one man passing out from shock up at the castle.

“Well, it doesn’t matter. All you need to know, Tom, is that Harry Potter defeated you, just as he was prophesied to do, not that Albus ever let you hear that prophecy.” Heru tucked the wand away and smirked. “I sincerely hope Salazar tortures you for making our name so black. You look a bit drawn, my dear fellow. Not feeling well? We’ve only got a handful more strands to go, so I think if you feel any remorse for what you’ve done with your life, you better start praying now.”

Long moments passed before Heru spoke seemingly to no one. “The wards are adjusted. You can come in now.”

Seconds later the crack of multiple apparitions could be heard. Albus, Minerva, Remus, Sirius, and Tonks appeared behind Voldemort and slowly walked around to face him, flanking the two chairs that Heru and Severus sat in. Tom’s eyes blazed again, but with less force; he probably could barely keep them open.

“And now, for the last,” Heru said as he reached out his right hand and made a strange hooking gesture, then moved it as though he was dashing something to the ground. The light in Voldemort’s eyes died and Heru let loose a heavy sigh.

“Heru?” Severus asked softly.

“It’s over.”

Remus dropped with a thump in front of Heru, eyes wide and pleading. “Harry?”

“What is it, Moony?”

Remus placed a hand on Heru’s knee and repeated, “Harry?”

A choking sound made them both turn to look; Voldemort’s body was decaying in front of their eyes. “Bloody hell!” said Heru in disgust. “I am not cleaning that up, damn it. Severus, please tell me you have more replenishers?”

“Of course.” Thirty seconds later Severus pressed several vials into his mate’s hand.

Heru knocked them back quickly, tossing the empties to the side carelessly. The hand on his leg brought his attention back to Remus, who was looking at him with something akin to awe.

“Perhaps Dobby can take care of Mr Malfoy for the time being?” suggested Albus. “And perhaps we can talk up at the castle.”

“Fine.” A moment’s thought brought Dobby into the room. “Dobby, would you be so kind as to secure Malfoy in the cell I created downstairs and stay to keep an eye on him? Someone will come to collect him later, all right? I want to make sure he isn’t harmed and cannot get away.”

“Dobby is being happy to help, sir.”

“And don’t worry about the mess. Someone else will take care of it.”

Dobby simply nodded and finished releasing a still unconscious Lucius from Heru’s bindings and floated him off.

“Right, back to the castle then. Apparate to, er, the entrance hall. I’ll show you all something that will make things much easier to understand.” Heru slipped his wand out from behind his ear and secured it up his sleeve, nodded at Severus, then apparated.

Once they were all gathered, Heru asked the castle to have Mark meet them at his portrait, then stalked off toward the dungeons hissing, “Severus, make sure no one gets trigger happy.

When they arrived at the portrait, Mark was already waiting. “Is it over, father?” he asked with bright eyes. After a moment he stepped back at the look on Heru’s face and switched his gaze to Severus. “Dad?”

“It’s all right, Mark. You know how he gets after being around Voldemort.”

Heru shook his head, then got out his wand and slashed his palm. After securing it again he pressed his hand against the portrait and hissed the password. As soon as it was open, he stalked through, knowing that Severus would make any stragglers follow. As soon as they hit the entrance hall he hissed, “I’ll be in the study,” then apparated again.

Ten minutes later everyone trooped into the study and found chairs. Heru looked up and said, “I’ll never understand why I let Salazar convince me to put the study off my bedroom.”

“You have a lovely home, Heru,” said Albus.

Heru smirked. “And now you know where I kept disappearing to.” He stood up and turned, tapping each of the portraits to wake them, then sat down again.

“Heru!” said Salazar. “You didn’t. . . .”

Heru didn’t bother to turn around. “Sorry, brother, but I did. I couldn’t resist letting Tom know who was killing him.”

“Hello, Severus. You are keeping an eye on my brother, aren’t you?”

“Of course, Salazar.”

“Harry?” asked Remus.

Heru sighed and rubbed his forehead. “I love you, Moony, but if you keep calling me Harry I am going to hex you senseless. I haven’t been Harry for over twenty years.” Heru swept his eyes over the assemblage, coming to a stop on his son. “Mark, please come here?”

Mark stood up and walked over slowly, casting a look over his shoulder at Severus. When he was standing in front of his father he clasped his hands behind his back and toed the floor.

You can revert if you wish, Mark,” Heru hissed. “The time for most secrets is over.

Mark looked up sharply, then nodded. As his features shifted he hissed, “Are you okay?

Heru reached out and pulled Mark onto his lap. “Yes, I am. This will be a bit of a shock, but I’m confident you can handle it. So, first, any questions on what happened at my house?”

“What was that final gesture?” asked Tonks.

“The destruction of his magical core. What was left of it, anyway.”

“And the blood?” asked Remus, somehow managing to look relaxed and nervous at the same time.

Heru smiled. “You were watching, Moony. I reclaimed what was mine. Tom stole it from me during that ceremony in the graveyard.”

“I still don’t understand why it made you sick,” Minerva said.

Heru looked at Severus, who said, “Simple enough. I originally assumed that Heru was badly affected by Voldemort’s presence because of the connection, but it continued to happen even after he completely removed it. Some say that blood carries a bit of a person’s soul, and certainly a bit of their magic. The only explanation left was that. In a sense, it was poison, but not in the way Heru implied. I deemed it best that Heru filter the blood from Voldemort before he killed him. It was Heru’s idea to reclaim the pertinent portions of it.”

“I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone believes this is Harry,” complained Sirius.

Heru chuckled. “Would you like me to describe what happened in the Shrieking Shack the night I first met you for real, Padfoot? Or how Hermione and I rescued you using Buckbeak? How I knew it was you the night Albus brought you down to be keyed into the wards? How I know which cave you used in Hogsmeade during Harry’s fourth year?”

“He doesn’t understand about your patronus, Heru,” Remus offered.

“Mm, is that so? Perhaps you didn’t see it well enough. But really, I can’t imagine that anyone else would have Prongs. You can also ask the sorting hat, by the way. In fact, I suggest you all do. And Albus, if you don’t stop twinkling like that I am going to lose my rather tenuous hold on my temper.” He was rewarded by seeing the headmaster pale. “I will make this a very short story, all right?”

Everyone aside from Severus nodded. “Fine. As you know, I refused to duel Voldemort in the graveyard. I was, at the time, very, very angry about everything. I didn’t give a damn any longer and was quite happy with the idea of dying. Voldemort didn’t seem to think that was such a good idea, and I’m sure if he had any idea what his actions would lead to, he’d have killed me on the spot. But let’s fast forward.”

Heru extended a hand, snatching up a pensieve as it hurtled into the room toward him and placing it on his desk. A slight shake had his wand in his hand, and moments later he placed the first of several memories into it. “Mark, you’ll want to stand for this. Just do what they do, all right?”

Everyone but Severus rose, and one by one they touched the silvery surface. While they were immersed, Severus stood and moved his chair to the spot next to Heru’s and sat down again. Eventually they came back, but remained standing.

“So, that was Fate, or Opportunity, or whatever you want to call it. I was angry, yes, but not completely lost to reason.” Heru reached out with his wand and reclaimed the memory, then replaced it with a new one. “Mark, you’ll need to translate for parts of this, please.”

Mark nodded and they all entered the memory. When they emerged he repeated the process a third time. He didn’t think he would need to show any more after that. This time when they emerged he waved them back to their seats, pulling Mark back onto his lap after he retrieved the memory.

“So, there you have it.”

“My father is Harry Potter?” Mark asked in a whisper.

Heru snorted. “Sort of, but don’t you go repeating that. I didn’t lie to you when I said we were related, Mark.” He flipped his wand back to tap the tapestry and said, “Later on you can all look this over, but probably not this evening. I am feeling more than a little tired, not to mention irritable. So, questions?”

“How is it that you’re so sure Voldemort’s soul is gone?” asked Sirius.

“I told you. A half soul cannot survive physical death. You heard what I said to him—the only thing that kept him around the first time was that diary. Tom only had half a soul, but the other half was still around. This time it wasn’t.”

“Then why didn’t you just use the killing curse and be done with it?” Albus asked.

“Do you honestly think I like using that? That I wanted to taint my home with it? My own soul? I’ve used it a grand total of once and you witnessed it. Look at it this way—yes, I killed him, but I did it indirectly. If I did to you what I did to him, you’d end up a squib, not dead. I killed every Death Eater but two indirectly as well. I’m quite sure there are a number of people out there having hysterics right now. Yes, I could have used the killing curse and had it over with almost instantaneously, but frankly, that isn’t a very Slytherin thing to do.”

Severus started laughing softly and shaking his head.

“Oh, shut up,” said Heru with fond annoyance.

“Care to introduce us?” Tonks asked, gesturing at the portraits.

“Mm. Starting from the left, that’s Godric, Rowena, Salazar, Helga, Caedryn, Regan, Servius, Tychon, and Anselm.”

“Regan?” Albus asked.

“My wife. And, of course, the guardian to my home is myself. I trust”—Heru looked around sternly—“that none of this will become public knowledge.”

“Why didn’t you just tell us from the beginning?” Sirius asked, looking a bit hurt.

“Several reasons. First, I wanted to be who I was, not the lingering shadow of the Boy Who Lived. I wanted to deal with you all on my terms, as the man I’d become. Second, I couldn’t very well imagine myself waltzing up to Hogwarts to request audience with Albus so I could chirp out that I was Harry Potter. Even if I had and convinced him, I would not have been treated the same. As it was, you were all forced to deal with me, Heru Slytherin, not the boy you knew. The knowledge would have coloured your perceptions and caused you all to act quite differently. So I did it the Slytherin way.”

“Are you going to stay?” asked Albus.

“I don’t know. Do you really want someone here who can do what I can? Am I going to be faced with suspicion down the road? Are people going to start thinking I’ll turn on them, betray them? Am I going to be reviled for my power? People have a history of turning on their saviors, Albus. People have a history of being afraid of another’s power and trying to take them down so they cannot be enslaved to it or have to feel jealous or envious. People would rather honor a martyr than a living person, though, frankly, I’d just as soon my participation in this remain as under wraps as possible. I can and will disappear if I need to, and take my family with me.”

Albus held up his hands. “There is no need. If you wish to remain, I think you’ll find you are welcome. I’m also certain that the castle will make my life a living hell if you were to go.”

Heru smirked faintly. “I suppose she would. She’s quite fond of me, you know. Severus, I leave the decision in your hands.”

“I would prefer to stay.”

“Actually . . . are you all right with that, Mark?”

“Of course, father!”

“So be it. But, if I hear one word whispered about what I’ve revealed this evening. . . .” Heru pulled Mark into a hug, then said, “I know you’re all in shock to some extent, and I know you’ll all have a lot of questions soon enough, but for now, I think it’s time I got some sleep before I pass out. And maybe you all can come up with a reasonable explanation for what happened to Voldemort that doesn’t involve me too much.”

Murmurs of agreement sounded and people started to rise. “Severus, I’m staying here tonight,” Heru hissed. “Make sure they know about the wards.

*

Two days later they gathered in Heru’s underlake lounge. Mark had found a room for himself and had his parents decorate it to his tastes, then moved in his belongings. Heru had kept to himself as Severus had transferred most of their things underlake; they had every intention of at least appearing to use Severus’s original quarters during the school year.

The Malfoys’ had been dealt with, with Heru appearing long enough to help Severus collect Draco and spend a few minutes threatening Lucius before retreating underlake. Heru was feeling much more like himself and lounged indolently on a couch with a bottle of butterbeer dangling from one hand.

“So, any news?”

“Fudge believes I killed Voldemort,” Albus answered with a slight twinkle.

“He actually bought that?” Heru blinked, then laughed. “All right. Who am I to argue.”