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His Own True Heir by Scaranda [Reviews - 1]
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Snape leafed through the ancient text once more. He wasn’t sure whether Dumbledore had been making the words fit the Horcruxes as he identified them, or if he had really picked up the clues beforehand. The Headmaster had had a habit of making things fit where he wanted them to, like making him fit into the position of Potions Master for sixteen soul-destroying years, he thought bitterly. He looked up quickly as he heard the stairs creak; Black had the air of a man who had either come down looking for cigarettes, or a fight.
‘What’s that?’ Sirius asked, stifling an unconvincing yawn.
‘A book,’ Snape said shortly, as he felt Black frown over his shoulder at the ancient spidery handwriting.
‘Does it have a name?’
‘It is called, “Hogwarts, a History”,’ Severus replied, and closed the cover. Black was too close to him; he felt something rise inside him that he refused to recognise as panic. He couldn’t even stand up to get away; Black was right behind his chair.
‘“Hogwarts a History” is a huge great thing,’ Sirius murmured.
‘How would you know? You never read anything more taxing than a Quidditch magazine or Muggle pornography.’
‘I used to stand on it to reach the top shelves of the Restricted Section,’ Sirius replied. He seemed to give up on his own cigarettes and took one from Snape’s box, reaching across his shoulder, touching him so that Severus had to stifle his gasp at the unintentional body contact Black would not even have noticed.
‘Go away, Black. I have a lot to do,’ he said, relieved that his voice sounded cool and steady.
‘And you’d prefer to do it alone, so that you can cover yourself in glory?’ Sirius snapped.
‘Yes, so I can cover myself in the same glory as killing Dumbledore has given me.’
‘You’re pathetic, you know that?’ Sirius spat the words at him, and bent down to look over his shoulder again. He raised his eyebrow at the cover of the book. It was leather; maybe it had been tan or cream at one time, but it was so cracked and faded with age that it appeared dark greyish brown. The title and the authors had been burnt onto the front of it, probably by a hot fine poker in the manner of ancient books: “Hogwarts, a History”, by Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw. ‘Is that the first edition?’
‘It would appear so.’ Snape turned the book over, so that just the dirty faded clueless back cover lay face up. He really needed Black to go away now, before he stood up and threw him over a chair. He wondered if he was taunting him deliberately, if he knew what his closeness was doing to him, if he was laughing at him again. But he didn’t have an audience; maybe he just wanted to torment him for the sake of it.
‘Why didn’t Salazar put his name to it?’
‘He had already left for warmer climes,’ Severus snarled.
‘Yeah, hell from what I can gather.’
‘I have work to do, Black. Go and play with the werewolf if you are bored.’
‘I can’t.’ Sirius pouted. ‘He’s playing with his other toys.’
‘Where’s Draco?’ Snape’s eyes swept the room suspiciously as though he’d find the boy sitting innocently in a corner he missed. He hadn’t cared for the reference to plural toys; he didn’t think there was anything that Lucius had to teach Draco, especially where the werewolf was concerned.
‘In your room,’ Sirius replied with a grin. ‘I was wondering why he was there, Snape. Is there something you’d like to get off your chest?’
Severus stood up quickly and pushed Sirius to the wall. ‘Don’t try to tar me with your brush. You’re the animal around here, not me.’
‘It was a joke.’
Sirius had grasped his wrist, before dropping it as quickly and stalking towards the stairs. Severus wished his groin hadn’t puddled in warmth at the contact; he’d tried to leave that a long way behind him. Some days he thought he’d managed, but others, like today, told him the hard cold truth; of all the doors in the empty chamber of his life, this was the one he never seemed to be able to close properly.
Harry watched Hedwig fly off; he wished he could follow her. Things weren’t adding up. Things like, if Snape had done what he’d quite clearly seen him do, why wasn’t he in Azkaban? Things like, where had Draco Malfoy gone, and why was he concerned about the horrible little shit anyway? Things like, where had Lupin disappeared to? He was worried that Lupin hadn’t come back since he’d said he was going to try to find out to whom Mundungus had sold the stuff he’d stolen from Grimmauld Place. He didn’t even hear Hermione come into the Owlery.
‘Who are you writing to?’ she asked as she sat beside him.
‘Lupin,’ he lied.
She nodded her disbelief. ‘I’m not sure she can find a safe house, Harry.’
He spun to her. ‘What do you mean? Why should Lupin be in a safe house?’ He turned away again, hoping she wouldn’t see the lie, even as he was glad when he knew she would.
‘I’ve been thinking,’ she said carefully, ‘if Snape and Draco have gone into hiding …’ She held up her hand as he began to object. ‘I know what you’re thinking, Harry. I think you’re right too. But if Snape and Draco have gone into hiding, they’ll have Lupin with them. They’ll need some contact with the outside world, if they’re not on Voldemort’s side … and I know that’s what you’re thinking. And if Lupin’s in hiding, it means there’s something big and important going on.’
‘How much more important do you get than dead?’ he flared at her.
‘I think you think the same as me,’ she went on, unperturbed. ‘I think you think Snape had to kill Dumbledore, not for Voldemort, but for us. In fact, I think it’s even more than that. I think he was already dead. He was somehow … I don’t know … letting him pass on, or something.’
Harry felt the blood in his cheeks freeze as she put into words what he’d been struggling with for ages now. For the last few months he’d known Dumbledore was dead; he’d known on some level that the man who had been at his side wasn’t really there, known that was why Dumbledore had drunk so readily in the cave … the poison couldn’t kill him, he was already dead. He knew he was nodding dumbly in relief. ‘I don’t know what to think,’ he said. ‘I need to know where to find the missing Horcruxes, and I don’t know where to start.’
‘Is that why you wrote to Draco?’ She nodded to where Hedwig had disappeared.
‘Yes.’ Harry allowed himself to hold her eyes now, as he felt the defiance coalesce into resolution. ‘And if I’m wrong about him, at least we can be sure of one thing.’
‘He’ll be as keen to find the missing Horcruxes as I am.’
Hermione smiled at last, her knowing smile. ‘That kind of lets you hedge your bets then, doesn’t it?’
He wasn’t quite sure that she didn’t mean the double-entendre.
Hedwig circled the spot for almost two hours; it was a remote headland that led down to a cove. She couldn’t see the house, even though she knew some type of shelter was here, where the windswept heath grudgingly threw up a few small trees and hardy bushes as it turned to the sandy shingle leading to the distant sea that had swept itself away on the morning tide. She knew the boy she sought was here somewhere, not too far away, and she knew he couldn’t stay where he was hidden forever; he’d have to leave the protection of the Fidelius Charm eventually. The hunting would be good here; she could wait.
Lupin looked out of the window; the bleak landscape was a welcome reprieve from the bleaker faces around the table. Even he was beginning to feel stifled. He hoped Severus would find whatever he was looking for soon. Sirius was becoming difficult, bickering with Snape for the sake of it, winding him up at any opportunity; Lucius was inclined to be difficult anyway, although Lupin knew he could handle that one; Draco was a pain, discontent and boredom hadn’t made his company any more bearable; and Severus was constantly losing what little temper he had, while he read and reread the ancient looking books he had somehow spirited out of Hogwarts.
Remus had toyed with the idea of going back to Hogwarts; he wasn’t a wanted man. There was no good reason for staying with the band of fugitives he’d landed himself with, except for keeping them all from one another’s throats, but he wasn’t ready to tell Harry about Severus; he didn’t think he’d be ready to listen yet. He frowned as he saw a white bird dip across the bay; he knew it wasn’t a gull, even before he realised just what it was.
He thought for a moment, wondering who Hedwig was looking for, then deciding it was best not to draw any attention to her. He knew she wasn’t looking for Sirius; as far as Harry was concerned Sirius was dead. She wouldn’t be looking for Lucius either. She might just possibly have been sent to locate Snape, but Lupin was pretty sure that Harry would know an owl wasn’t capable of giving him any information about the whereabouts of the recipient of any message. It wouldn’t be anyone but himself, he decided.
‘I’m going out for a walk,’ he said blandly, as he let the curtain fall back into place.
‘I’ll come with you,’ Lucius put in quickly.
‘No you won’t,’ Snape growled at Malfoy across the table.
‘It’s raining anyway, Shirley,’ Sirius added unhelpfully. ‘You wouldn’t want your hair to go frizzy.’
Lupin pulled the door open before he heard anymore. He walked around the back of the cottage to where there were no windows. He didn’t want the others to see Hedwig; there was no point in starting the inevitable fight that Harry’s owl was likely to start, not until he knew if it were necessary. He stood in the drizzly rain for a few moments, before striking off across the beach. It was good to be out of the cottage for a little; he hadn’t realised how frayed his nerves were. He watched the owl dip across the bay, and lifted his head to her, sorry he hadn’t had the presence of mind to slip a crust into his pocket for her. He smiled to himself, sure in the knowledge that she’d forgive him.
His smile turned to a frown when she flew on, circled the bay once, and disappeared again.
‘That was quick,’ Sirius remarked.
‘Yeah, like you said, it’s raining.’ Lupin sat down.
Snape lifted his head; he wondered why the werewolf had gone out at all. He gave him a long look, and contented himself that he wouldn’t keep it a secret for long.
‘Does anyone know we’re here?’ Lupin asked diffidently, the way he did everything.
‘I certainly hope not,’ Lucius replied, and threw Draco a glare. ‘You haven’t been shouting your mouth off, I hope.’
‘I don’t even know where we are,’ the boy replied. He’d become very sullen.
‘Why?’ Snape asked, before they managed to strike up a fight about nothing.
‘It’s just that Harry’s owl is circling the bay,’ Lupin replied, ‘and whatever message she’s got, it isn’t for me.’
‘Damn, Potter,’ Snape swore; all he needed was Potter’s interference. He snapped the book shut; he wasn’t getting anywhere, he needed to be on his own. He couldn’t concentrate with all of these people around, with Black around, being there, breathing his air.
It was bad enough when it had just been Black and Lupin in the cottage, and he could come and throw a few insults at them, and go back to Hogwarts. But he couldn’t go back now; on the surface of it he’d murdered Dumbledore, a detail that was so staggering that he couldn’t even look at it objectively yet. He struggled to come to terms with the fact that he was every bit as much a prisoner there as he would be at Azkaban, and now he had Lucius and Draco flung in for extra measure. He’d only been there for two days, and already the scream of impotence was threatening to rip from him.
He noticed Draco had coloured slightly at the mention of Potter’s name, and frowned to himself. ‘Perhaps we should go out one by one,’ he said, ‘and see just with whom Mr Potter wishes to converse … although I suppose we can take you out of the equation, Black, as he has not sent a Necromancer. You too, Lucius, as you never learnt the art of reading, and nobody would want to write to you anyway.’
Severus watched in satisfaction as Lucius’s nostrils flared, Black gave him a hard look, and Lupin sighed in exasperation; it was the high point of his day so far.
He smirked and pulled the door open. ‘Come, Draco, you and I shall take a short walk.’ He watched the boy hesitate.
‘I thought you said we’d go one by one,’ Draco said eventually, clearly uneasy about any company he might have. It only confirmed to Snape what he had just become sure of; whatever message the owl carried, it was for Draco.
‘You’re not leaving this cottage alone, young man,’ Snape replied, suddenly wondering if Draco and Potter were having a fling, and deciding not. He was left with no option but to admit to himself that he was intrigued.
They had only gone a couple of dozen steps when the snowy owl swooped from nowhere and landed on Draco’s shoulder. She had a scroll attached to her foot which the boy swapped for the piece of bacon rind he’d lifted from his plate as he’d stood. He toyed with the scroll as Hedwig hovered over him.
‘Bring the owl back in; she can follow you, if you permit it. We may want to send a return message.’ Snape smirked unkindly. ‘Or you may, depending on the content.’
‘It’s to me, not you,’ Draco flared at his father. ‘Just because no one ever wrote to you unless they wanted money, doesn’t mean I don’t get letters.’
Snape raised his hand as his earlier suspicion confirmed itself to him, the one he had brushed aside. ‘Just read the letter.’ He turned to Lucius. ‘Keep your opinions for those who want to hear them,’ he muttered, managing not to look at Lupin. He looked back to where Draco was frowning over the scroll; obviously it wasn’t private, he’d unrolled it completely across the kitchen table.
“Hi, perhaps it’s best if I don’t mention your name. I’m not sure where to start here or even if I should start at all, but for what it’s worth, I’ve got a gut feeling that I’m right. I think that much more has been going on than I’ve ever realised, and that S was doing something that I didn’t understand at the time. I’m not going to say much because I could be very wrong, and if I’m not, I’ll leave it to you to find a way to let me know I can trust you. I’m stuck pretty much on my own here, trying to work out a way of finding the missing articles we’re all looking for. Between Hermione and me we think we’ve worked out where one of them might be, but it seems to have disappeared from under my nose. I’m not going to say any more just now, except that if we’re on the same side, I need help, and if we’re not, well, I’ve made mistakes before, I’m getting used to it. If I’m right, I hope you’re safe and well and you can find a way to write back.
Bye for now, from Harry.”
‘He’s obviously concerned about security,’ Sirius mused, as he scanned the scroll for himself.
‘Quite,’ Snape concurred grudgingly. ‘We need now to find a way to let him know that he can trust us.’ He mulled something over. ‘Have you ever written to your godson, Black?’
“Dear Harry, thanks for sending Hedwig. You’re right, I’m staying with friends for a bit. I think we can get together soon and work things out. Maybe better if we do it in secret. Don’t mention my friends or use Hedwig again; I spotted her right away. Regards, Remus J Lupin.”
‘Well, that settles that,’ Hermione said with a smile. ‘He’s with Lupin.’
‘Anyone could have written that,’ Ron argued. ‘Malfoy could have written it himself. Don’t trust him, Harry. You said you told him to find a way to make you trust him … forging Lupin’s name isn’t good enough.’
Harry sat in silence for a few moments; he wanted to be sure his voice would work when he tried it out. He was aware that the two of them were staring at him, but he didn’t care; it didn’t matter. ‘He didn’t forge Lupin’s signature, Ron,’ he said, feeling the blood rush through him as his sense of purpose threatened to explode from him. ‘Sirius did. That’s his handwriting.’
‘Harry,’ Hermione said softly, and touched his arm. ‘Sirius is dead.’
‘Well, if he is, his corpse can write.’ Harry began rummaging in his trunk for the couple of scrolls that he’d received from Sirius. He laid them beside the letter Hedwig had just delivered, in triumph. There was no mistaking it; the dashing slanted handwriting belonged to Sirius Black.
His Own True Heir by Scaranda [Reviews - 1]