His Own True Heirs
Draco watched as Snape spoke; he could see the unvoiced doubts on the others’ faces, the hidden fears, all suppressed by the faith they had in one another. Even his father, he realised with surprise, even Lucius seemed every bit as committed as the other three men.
‘It won’t work,’ Harry said flatly, as though he knew he was pouring cold water on their fragile hopes. ‘How do we get to the Department of Mysteries without you lot being arrested?’ He nodded to Sirius, Snape and Lucius.
‘That is your first job for today, Potter,’ Snape replied.
Draco watched Harry blink in surprise; the Gryffindor had fabulous eyes he thought with an inward smile.
‘You and Lupin are going to Hogwarts. You must convince the Headmistress to speak to Kingsley Shacklebolt, to make sure that we get into the Department unmolested. I can cast charms about myself, but I cannot take any more ruddy Polyjuice than I have to,’ Snape replied with a shudder. ‘I cannot risk being unfit for whatever may lie ahead.’
‘So the Polyjuice nonsense was just a waste of time?’ Lucius asked with a pained expression, as he nodded to the cauldrons. ‘All that muck over there is for fun.’
‘Indeed not,’ Snape said. ‘Black will still need to become you in order to become the cobra. Nagini must be dealt with. Lupin will also need to take Polyjuice to become Black.’ He looked away for a moment, as though his next remark were of little importance. ‘I intend going through tonight.’
‘Why tonight?’ Lupin asked, as the rest of them stared at Snape. ‘Why can’t we wait until tomorrow? We’ve waited this long.’
‘Let us not allow him to become too strong, Lupin,’ Snape replied. ‘This is one night that he will not expect us.’
Draco thought Sirius was the only one who wasn’t surprised. He wondered why Severus was lying, and why Lucius seemed to be deliberately trying to avoid his eyes. ‘What do Harry and I have to do?’ he asked.
‘You will take one of the Horcruxes through, unless I decide to destroy them before we go through the Veil,’ Snape replied. ‘However, I now suspect we shall destroy them before; in that way we only have the brooch to destroy when we get through.’
‘And Voldemort and Nagini,’ Lucius added, in case anyone had forgotten.
Draco nodded his agreement with Lucius; he thought his father was becoming very nervous. ‘And Harry, what’s he taking through?’ he asked.
‘His wand,’ Snape replied with a smirk.
‘What am I going through for if I don’t take a Horcrux?’ Harry asked.
‘Your second task of the day.’ Snape twisted his lip. ‘You have to kill Voldemort, Potter. Didn’t I mention that?’
Harry gave him a tight smile back. ‘Nah, it must have slipped your mind.’
Draco felt himself draw slightly closer to Harry, as he watched his father look away; he knew Lucius had something on his mind. When Malfoy turned back, he held Draco’s eyes for the briefest moment, as though in apology.
‘Draco isn’t going,’ Lucius said flatly as Draco felt his stomach swoop.
‘He must go, Lucius.’ Lupin put a hand on his arm, but Malfoy shook it free. ‘Severus, tell him; tell him you need five of us to make a pentagram to protect Harry.’
‘Draco is not going,’ Lucius repeated. ‘I shall not allow it.’
‘Father!’ Draco gasped. ‘Don’t do this.’
‘Don’t do what?’ Lucius replied. ‘Don’t send you to your death? Don’t put you in so much danger that I am unable to protect you from it? Is that what you don’t want me to do? Sit back and let it happen, like I had to do when he tried to get you to kill Dumbledore?’
‘I must do this,’ Draco said in a low voice, as he swallowed the tears of injustice that struck in his throat. ‘Don’t stop me, Father.’
‘Draco,’ Snape said quietly. ‘Do not argue with your father.’
‘What?’ Draco blurted in disbelief. He was being humiliated in front of everyone, treated like a child. Worse than that, he’d heard Dumbledore say they all had to go; he was being made to be responsible for the failure of the mission before it started.
‘I said do not argue with your father,’ Snape said smoothly.
Draco ignored the warning look from Snape, the look that said he had something up his sleeve as usual. ‘I’m going, with or without his permission. I’m seventeen; I don’t need his consent,’ he said, but he didn’t feel particularly proud of the way Lucius started back at that.
‘Fine, go and get yourself killed. I shall not attempt to prevent you,’ Lucius said with a flare of his nostrils. ‘But know this much. You have no idea of the power of the Dark Lord, Draco. I will be unable to protect you properly.’
‘You’ll be too busy protecting yourself, Shirley, won’t you?’ Sirius replied.
‘Sirius!’ Lupin warned.
‘Oh, it’s all right, Lupin; let him scoff. He has not had the pleasure of meeting Voldemort for himself; we’ll see how well he fares.’ Lucius had sat back. ‘And while we’re at it, Animagus, keep your godson away from my son. I prefer him to mix in more fitting company,’ he said, shaking his head a little. ‘Not cavorting with half-blood Gryffindors.’
Draco gasped incredulously, as Sirius look pointedly from his father to Lupin, and back to his father again. ‘I don’t know how to break this to you, Shirley,’ he said with a grin.
‘Do you have a point, Black?’ Lucius arched his eyebrow. ‘Or are you trying to score a cheap trick at my expense?’
‘You’re perfect, Lucius,’ Sirius replied. ‘You’re totally barking mad.’
‘A touch eccentric perhaps,’ Lucius said with a smile, ‘but mad is a poor disease. Not one a Malfoy succumbs to.’
‘You could have fooled me, you fat tart.’
‘That’s enough, thank you, gentlemen.’ Snape sat forward from where he’d been watching the rest of them argue. Draco had a feeling he’d wanted them to air their more ridiculous prejudices, to get them out of the way, perhaps even to draw attention away from the fact that, after weeks of relative inactivity, he’d suddenly decided to act that night, when the full moon was going to be in eclipse.
‘Severus,’ Harry said, a little self-consciously, as though he were uncomfortable with using Snape’s given name, but thought he needed to get it out of the way for later. ‘He won’t go alone. I mean, even if you manage to summon him, what’s to stop him bringing Bellatrix and Wormtail, and Merlin knows who else? How am I going to get a shot at him?’
‘Why don’t you leave that one to me, Potter?’ Snape evaded. ‘Just be ready when I am.’
‘How will I know when you are?’
‘You’ll just have to trust me.’
Draco watched Sirius look away; he wondered just how many plans were afoot. ‘Can I ask something?’ he said tentatively. He didn’t want to sound like a coward in the face of all this bravado, not after he’d just made his stand with Lucius, but he needed to know. ‘Who’s going to call us back if we’re all through there?’ He watched the others exchange looks, except for Snape, as though none of them had wanted to ask the question to which they all wanted an answer.
‘It is quite simple, Draco,’ Snape replied. ‘You will call your father through, and I presume he will call Lupin, who will in turn call Potter, then Black, who I suppose could be relied on not to forget me.’
‘Yeah,’ Draco said, frowning, ‘but who’s calling me back?’
‘Your mother, of course,’ Snape said, as Lucius sat up straight and Sirius laughed.
‘Very funny, Severus,’ Lucius snapped. ‘Why don’t you let Black sweat for the laughs?’
‘If you have a better idea, please share it with us, Lucius,’ Snape said blandly. ‘If not, kindly keep quiet now. I’ve listened to enough of your tripe for one day.’
It was Harry who spoke up again, with another dose of cold water. ‘You’re winging this, aren’t you?’ he accused mildly. ‘I’m not sure whether you’ve forgotten or not, but I have no blood tie to anyone here. Lupin can’t call me through the Veil any more than any of the rest of you can.’
‘Of course he has, so does Black, and even Lucius and I. Your father’s blood lives in us and you,’ Snape countered, but Draco could see he wasn’t at all sure of his own argument, not as sure as Harry was of his.
‘Oh, I know that. But none of your blood lives in me, none except James’s … and he’s dead. Even I know a Blood Oath takes twelve months to mature.’
‘Severus and I have worked that out, Harry. Leave that to us,’ Sirius replied.
For the first time Draco felt true fear well up in him; Harry was right, Severus was just making this up as he went along. Draco wasn’t a cowardly boy, but he wasn’t ready to die either. There was a glaring hole in Snape’s plan and he suddenly realised just what it was. ‘Severus,’ he said, and then waited until the bickering died down before he went on. ‘Sirius will need to take Nagini outside the Veil.’ He shook his head as his thoughts crystallised. ‘Nagini won’t go through; she’ll need to wait on this side to call Voldemort back … so Sirius can’t go through either.’
He watched Snape carefully, watched the way he shot a quick warning look at Sirius; of course he’d known. He knew all the flaws, even the ones that hadn’t occurred to the others. It was the ones that hadn’t occurred to Severus that really worried Draco. ‘Why do we have to go through at all? Why can’t we just ambush them before they go through?’ he asked.
‘I need Rowena Ravenclaw’s brooch, and I think Voldemort will realise that,’ Snape replied, surprising Draco with his tone. It was quiet, reasoning, with none of the acid that usually laced his comments when answering what he considered was the obvious. ‘I need that pentagram too. I don’t think I can do it alone.’
‘And Nagini?’ Draco pressed him for an answer.
‘Black will deal with Nagini before he goes through the Veil,’ Snape said flatly, and stood up.
Draco knew he was dismissing any further questions. He nodded to Harry, and stood up from the table. He needed to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge him; for some reason he’d cast Potter in that unlikely role.
Harry nodded back to Draco. ‘I’ll just be a minute. I need to see Sirius about something,’ he said, turning to Sirius. ‘Can we go outside for a moment?’ he asked. He didn’t want to speak in front of the rest of them any more than Snape didn’t appear to want him to speak to Sirius at all. He thought he detected a frown somewhere in Snape’s scowl, as though the last thing he wanted Harry to do was talk to his godfather.
Harry felt the oddest sense of relief as he closed the cottage door on the fabric of lies and half-truths and hopes he’d been listening to. ‘This will never work, Sirius,’ he said quietly. ‘He’s got no plan. He’s trying to lure Voldemort out, and he doesn’t even know who’s going to do what. He could turn up with an army of Death Eaters. He’s …’
‘He doesn’t have a script, Harry, any more than you had when you met him.’
Harry felt the calming influence of Sirius’s eyes, as he saw the reasoning. ‘I know … but what’s the sudden hurry? Why tonight out of the blue? Why not wait until the full moon’s passed, so at least Lupin doesn’t need to take Polyjuice? Why the extra complication? What’s his plan?’
‘He has no plan, save that of getting you a clear shot at Voldemort when the Horcruxes are destroyed.’ Sirius raised his hand to stave off his objection. ‘But he has one great advantage, one you haven’t thought of.’
‘He’s summoning Voldemort. The first art of warfare. Let your enemy come to you, on your terms … even better if he doesn’t think you’re expecting him.’
Harry found his argument crumbling; Sirius was right. ‘What’s he going to do, Sirius? What’s all that stuff he’s got brewing?’
‘I think you know, Harry,’ Sirius replied. ‘Now get off to Hogwarts and make sure you do what he needs you to do. There’s no point in all of us arriving at the Department of Mysteries to be taken straight to Azkaban. I’d take Draco with you; keep him out of Lucius’s way.’
Harry nodded, he’d pretty much decided that anyway. ‘About Lucius, Sirius,’ he asked. ‘You don’t trust him do you?’
Sirius seemed to think about that for a moment before answering. ‘If I’ve learnt anything from life, Harry, it’s not to trust anyone.’
‘You trust Snape though, don’t you?’
‘He’s different.’ Sirius looked back to the house. ‘Don’t worry too much about Lucius. Severus knows his measure, as much as anyone does.’
Harry nodded again, a little uneasily; he had to agree though, Severus Snape was different. There was something else about him too, something Harry couldn’t quite put his finger on, something that seemed to draw him in some way. He wondered if it had been the same thing that had fuelled the immediate hostility between them. It had been as though they had known one another for a very long time. Harry had never understood that before, how they could have just met when he was eleven, and yet had known one another for years. He wished he could have spoken to someone about that, but he suspected the only person who would understand what he was asking, was Snape, and he didn’t feel ready to expose himself in that way. He knew one thing for sure; Snape had enough to worry about without wondering if Lucius Malfoy were going to betray them.
‘I don’t know what he’s planning. I don’t think he even knows himself.’ Harry raked his fingers through his hair, and did yet another circuit of the Gryffindor Common Room. He’d left Lupin with McGonagall when she had agreed to ask Kingsley to come to the castle to speak to him. ‘We’d better get back, Hermione. I’ll see if Lupin’s ready yet.’
‘I think I know what he’s brewing and why he’s kept it a secret.’ Hermione watched him for a moment, and dropped her head to the slim black book that lay open in front of her. ‘A lot of the ingredients he asked you to take him are mentioned in this.’
Harry sat down beside Draco and looked at the book; there was something disturbingly familiar about the jagged black handwriting. ‘What’s that?’ he asked. ‘I didn’t think you were in to reading Potions books for fun.’
‘It’s not a Potions book, Harry.’
‘What is it then?’ Draco asked as he picked up the book.
‘It’s called “Eclipsing the Wolf”, it’s about controlling werewolves.’ Hermione bit her lip as she watched Draco pale under Ron’s freckles. ‘It was written by one Severus Snape. I wonder who he is?’
‘Fuck,’ Harry muttered. ‘I knew he was up to something when he suddenly decided to go tonight. He’s either stirring Potions or reading ancient scrolls that don’t even look like English, and then suddenly he makes his announcement, with no warning.’
‘That’s not strictly true, Harry. I mean you’ve been hanging around the safe house for weeks now, waiting to go,’ Hermione replied. ‘You were complaining only a couple of days ago about what was taking him so long to come up with an idea.’
‘My father told me all the crap he spewed about wondering if he could isolate the werewolf if he took Polyjuice when the moon was full,’ Draco muttered. ‘It’s only a fantasy, isn’t it?’
‘Probably not,’ Hermione reasoned. ‘He’s probably never had a chance to put it into practice before. Theory is fine, you know, unless it doesn’t work.’
‘I wish we’d been at the safe house that night. There’s too much going on we don’t know about, and Sirius just tells me to trust him,’ Harry muttered.
‘But you do anyway,’ Hermione said with a knowing look. ‘You trust him anyway now. I don’t think you needed Sirius to tell you that.’
Harry looked down as he felt himself nod. Yes, he trusted Snape, and he was only just beginning to understand something else. He’d always trusted Snape; he just hadn’t realised. He took the book from Draco, to cover his confusion, and flicked through it quickly, making no sense of the spidery writing. ‘Is this the only copy?’
Hermione nodded. ‘I think so. I actually found it by accident.’
‘In the Restricted Section?’ Draco asked.
‘Erm … no,’ Hermione said as a flush crept into her cheeks. ‘It was in Snape’s rooms.’
‘Taken to breaking and entering now, Miss Granger?’ Professor McGonagall said from the top of the stairs. All three of them jumped. They hadn’t heard her arriving; they didn’t know that she’d been sitting under the table in her other form, eavesdropping on their conversation.
‘No … well, yes, I suppose so,’ Hermione replied.
‘And I suppose we have to assume that the men have some sort of surprise ready for Voldemort, other than the destruction of the Horcruxes; that is if he even deigns to turn up,’ McGonagall said with a pinch of her nostrils. ‘Let us hope it is nothing too spectacular. They tend to get carried away with their own cleverness, just to make a show of things.’ She turned to where Harry sat on the arm of the chair beside Draco. ‘At the end of the day, only one incantation is really going to matter.’
‘Mine?’ Harry asked quietly.
‘Indeed, Potter. Don’t forget the words.’ McGonagall looked across to Draco. ‘Your mother is ready to do her part, Mr Malfoy; although it may be an idea not to let your father know that she felt he was better left behind the Veil … I’m not entirely sure she was speaking in jest. You have to make sure that Lucius gives his Keepstane to her before he goes through the Veil, that way she can summon you back, even without you knowing, if you are in extremis.’ She held Draco’s eyes for a long moment. ‘It is imperative that Lucius hands the Keepstane to Narcissa himself. To hand it you, and for you to give it to Narcissa, is not enough; the magic will weaken the further it goes from Lucius.’
Draco nodded his understanding as he swallowed another lump of fear; he didn’t fancy the word extremis, there was something a bit too extreme about it. He hoped Lucius would comply; he was worried about Lucius. ‘What about the Department of Mysteries, Professor? Is it safe for Severus and my father to go there?’
‘There will be no outside interference. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Lupin are finalising their arrangements as we speak,’ McGonagall replied. ‘But neither will there be any help. They are on their own.’
‘You’ll be there, Professor, won’t you?’ Harry asked in a hurry. He didn’t fancy leaving their fate entirely up to Narcissa Malfoy, even though McGonagall seemed to know all about the mysterious stone that Lucius gave Draco every time he went outside the cottage, the one that seemed to be so alive that it was actually a part of Malfoy Senior, the stone that had so intrigued Sirius.
‘Of course, Potter. Andromeda and I and Miss Granger will be there. Remember that Andromeda and Narcissa are both cousins of Sirius Black, they have blood ties to him too.’
Harry nodded. ‘It kind of leaves Lupin, Snape and me a bit adrift,’ he said with a small smile.
‘One of the advantages of pure-bloodedness, Potter,’ McGonagall replied with an arch of her eyebrow, giving Draco a sideways look. ‘In fact one of the only advantages. Anyway, you must take this with you; Sirius and Severus will need it to bind you to them. It has ancient magic that will allow them the same effects as a fully matured Blood Oath, as long as two lots of previously connected blood are allowed to quicken with the third.’ She took an old dagger from her robes. It looked like a small version of the Sword of Godric Gryffindor, except for the runes running up the hilt, which seemed to change before his eyes.
‘What is it?’ Harry asked, not at all sure what she was talking about.
‘A dagger, Potter. What does it look like?’ McGonagall seemed to falter as she also watched the runes dancing before her eyes. She gave a little gasp as they coalesced into a message for a moment. ‘So it is true. I confess I did not truly believe. In fact only two people really did.’
‘What’s true? Believe what?’ Harry stammered, as he felt an almost audible click as he closed his hand on the ancient hilt, and the words “Harry Potter”, and something that blurred before he could read it, as though that part of the message were for someone else, swam out of view again.
‘Tom Riddle may have been Salazar Slytherin’s ultimate heir, Potter,’ McGonagall said quietly, ‘but I suspect he does not know that you, and only one other, are Godric Gryffindor’s.’
Harry felt the slam of knowledge, the very rightness of her declaration. He felt the others turn to him as a sense of belonging and latent power surged through him. He caught the Headmistress’s glassy gaze and nodded to her. ‘I think I’m ready for this now, Professor. I never was before, but I think I’m ready now.’ He lifted the dagger up to the morning light that filtered through the high mullioned windows of the common room, and held it in front of his face in a salute to the portrait of Godric Gryffindor. ‘Who else believed, Professor?’ he asked quietly, even though he already knew the answer.
‘Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape.’
Harry nodded his acceptance and looked up to where the founder’s portrait scowled down on them. ‘You said there’s another. You said me and another,’ he said, holding her eyes for confirmation of what he now believed to be true. ‘Who’s the other half?’
‘I’m sure you do not need me to tell you the answer to that, Potter.’
Harry gave her a long look of understanding. ‘But he’s a Slytherin,’ he argued.
‘Indeed,’ McGonagall agreed, her lips pursed. ‘And they do not get much more Slytherin than Severus Snape. Now, why, I wonder, did the Sorting Hat see fit to place him amongst the Slytherins?’
‘Yeah,’ Harry said with a start, ‘it tried to put me in Slytherin too.’ He smiled as he felt his confidence grow; neither he nor Snape were alone after all. They didn’t even need a matured Blood Oath; they had the same blood running in their veins anyway. That was what had called them to one another, blood, Harry realised; blood calls to its own, and wizard blood more strongly than any other. ‘Does anyone know about this?’ he asked McGonagall.
‘Of course they do, Potter,’ she replied. ‘I know … and you know.’ She nodded to where Draco and Hermione sat quietly watching on. ‘And so also do Miss Granger and young Mr Malfoy.’
‘You know what I mean,’ Harry objected, and then frowned as a thought occurred to him. ‘Snape … he doesn’t know, does he? Professor?’
McGonagall looked away for a moment, as though considering her reply. ‘I think there are two answers to that particular question, Potter.’
‘What do you mean?’ Draco asked breaking his own puzzled silence. ‘There’s only yes or no.’
‘There is an ancient proverb about knowledge, Draco,’ she replied, favouring him with both the use of his given name and a twist of her thin lips. It is attributed to both the Persians and the Chinese, even Confucius gets a mention in dispatches. The third line of the poem,’ she said, smiling again as Hermione squirmed in her seat, as though she were resisting the urge to stick her hand in the air and answer a question that had defeated the rest of her class. McGonagall nodded in dry amusement to her. ‘I’m sure Miss Granger is just dying to enlighten both of you young men.’
‘We’re not just that uneducated though,’ Draco replied, equally dryly with a sidelong glance of triumph at Hermione. “He who knows but knows not that he knows, is asleep. Wake him.”
‘When?’ Harry asked.
‘There will be a right time, Potter,’ McGonagall replied. ‘Only you will know when that is.’