Marauder The Slash Nymph, NEW MOM (marauderthesn) wrote in mtsn_hp_au,
Marauder The Slash Nymph, NEW MOM

Another Prisoner, Another Professor: Chapter Fifty-Three

The still, dusty grandeur of the house seemed miles away from the graffiti and pounding music in the street; as Black shut the door behind them, the sound of the stereo died. Harry looked around, his eyes adjusting to the dim light.

With its high ceiling and tapestry-covered walls, the enormous entryway could have been a room at Hogwarts. Certainly at least one of the four founders would have approved of it; from the silver serpents that composed the chandelier to the carved wooden legs of the sofa, the entire room was decorated in snakes. Harry even noticed tiny embossed snakes on the wallpaper as Black lit a lamp with the tip of his wand. “Good thing you weren’t at Hogwarts last year,” Harry said, watching as the green crystals hanging from the chandelier seemed to glow in the light. “If anyone had known about this place, they would have thought you were the heir of Slytherin.”

“More like the heir of Slytherin’s disciples,” Black replied. There was a long string of cobweb hanging from the chandelier; he gently pinched it and watched it glide to the floor. “I’m the one and only Black to be sorted into another house, all the way back to Octavius the Black in the Dark Ages. He was Salazar Slytherin’s right-hand man – when Godric Gryffindor came to ask Slytherin to reconsider leaving the school, Octavius threatened to cut Gryffindor to shreds with his own sword. That’s a fair representation of the Black mentality on the whole, I’m afraid. Remus used to call my family the mad bad line.”

Harry glanced at a heavy velvet drapery on the wall; from the way it clashed with the rest of the tapestries, he suspected this was the curtain Black used to cover the portrait of his mother. “How – mad, exactly?”

“Very mad.” Black held out one hand and began to count off on his fingers. “There was my Great-Aunt Cassiopeia, who tried to drown her brother Marius – he was a Squib, didn’t reflect well on the family. My Great-Grandfather Cygnus tried to poison the Minister of Magic, although no one could ever prove it. His great-grandfather Hybris lead a raid on five Muggle villages and was given the dementor’s kiss in Azkaban. Then there was Hybris’s granddaughter, Elladora, who had the idea of beheading the house-elves once they were too old to work – “

“Did she actually do it?”

“Not only did she do it, but she managed to convince them that it was an honor to be beheaded. Kreacher’s still upset to this day that his mother died in her sleep and didn’t go to the chopping block like her ancestors.”

Harry thought of Dobby’s parents, buried in the Malfoys’ garden; with a pang, he realized he had yet to write to Dobby like he’d promised, and vowed to do it before he went to bed that night. “How’d they keep the family going, if they were that mad? Just find other pureblood nutters to marry?”

“Or marry their own.” Black raised his eyebrows. “My grandfathers were cousins. Usually our family didn’t get quite so desperate as to marry off first cousins to each other, but Bellatrix and I were special cases. Her parents wanted their firstborn daughter to give them a grandchild before they died and my parents wanted someone who could keep me in line. Of course, her parents already had a grandchild, but Nymphadora didn’t count for them.” He took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his disheveled hair. “I might have to order Kreacher not to say a single word while the Tonkses are here. I hate to do it – I don’t like having that power over someone – but he’s got very good at finding loopholes in his orders ever since I started giving them. I tell him to stay out of my bedroom and he stands in the doorway levitating my things. I tell him to make chicken soup and he leaves white feathers floating in the bowl. Once I told him to get out of my sight and he put out all the lights in the room. He’d rather stab himself in the foot than willingly be polite to a bunch of Muggle-borns and blood traitors.”

“What’s a blood traitor?” Harry asked. After the events of his second year at Hogwarts, he was quite familiar with how some wizards thought about Muggle-borns, but he couldn’t remember ever hearing about blood traitors before. “How can you be a traitor to your own blood?”

“Blood as in ancestry, not the blood that’s in your veins.” There was a grand staircase at the other end of the entryway; Black went to it and began to climb the steps, Harry following him. “A blood traitor, basically, is a pureblood wizard who doesn’t think he’s superior to everyone else. I’m considered a blood traitor – so are the Weasleys, but that’s not quite as egregious because they’ve been at it for generations. Andromeda’s Kreacher’s least favorite blood traitor of the whole lot because unlike me, she used to swallow all that rubbish. When she and her sisters were girls they used to plan to find three pureblood brothers to marry.”

The staircase smelled like a sour combination of mothballs and mold. Leaning over the railing and looking up, Harry saw the upper stairs winding around and around like a maze above their heads. “So how’d Andromeda end up with Ted, then?” he asked Black. “If she wanted to marry a pureblood and her parents wouldn’t have liked anyone else...”

“You know, I’ve never really asked her about the details. I was nine or ten when it happened, so all I remember is her mother sobbing in my mother’s arms. Andromeda started writing to me a few times a year after I began Hogwarts. By the time I was old enough to think to ask about her problems, I had my own to deal with.”

The first floor consisted of a long, dark corridor with three doors on each side. “All right,” said Black, “this is the quick tour. You can do more exploring of the house after we’ve got the cleaning under control. That far door on the left is the drawing room. Don’t go in there unless I go with you, it’s infested with doxies. The room next to it used to have a piano, but it’s empty now. This bedroom needs to be cleaned.” He opened the door and Harry got a quick glimpse of lavender wallpaper and white lace curtains. “I figured we’d give it to Nymphadora for now, but if you want to have it and redecorate it, we can do that over the summer. Over here’s the bathroom – we’ve got to clean this too. The library’s here, but we’re leaving that alone. The same thing goes for the master bedroom at the end, so that’s two rooms on this floor that we need cleaned before we go to bed tonight. Next floor up.”

On the second floor, the corridor was wider and the rooms were smaller. “This room’s mine,” Black said, opening to the first door on the right.

Harry rather liked Black’s room; it was painted light blue, with a brass bed and an old mahogany wardrobe. The window overlooked the back garden, a long, thin patch of dead grass with a large tree at each end. Kreacher was pacing between them, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Must be trying to delay having to come inside,” Black said, glancing out the window over Harry’s shoulder. “We’ll let him stay there for another minute or so.”

The room to the left of Black’s was a small sitting room, papered in green and gold stripes. “We’re cleaning this too,” said Black, brushing some of the dust off the back of the sofa. “It’s a small room, but there are only five of us. Over here – “ He stepped into the corridor and opened the door across the way. “I thought we’d give this to Andromeda and Ted – there’s another double bed on the third floor, but there’s no point in going up there to clean just one room. That’s my mother’s old office there, then another bathroom, then a bedroom I thought you could take for now. I’m sorry we don’t have the time right now for you to go through all the bedrooms and pick out which one you want – “

“No, that’s okay,” Harry said immediately. He opened the door on the far end and looked inside.

It was a dark but not unfriendly room, the walls covered in oak paneling and the floor covered in burgundy-colored carpet. The twin beds in the middle gave it something of a dormitory feel; with some more light and three more beds, it almost could have been Harry’s room at school. “Looks good to me,” he said. “So we’re cleaning – the entryway, the purple room, the first-story bathroom – the sitting room, Andromeda and Ted’s room, the second-story bathroom, this room – “

“And the kitchen downstairs,” Black finished. “There ought to be cleaning supplies in that cupboard. Kreacher! I need you here!”

With a popping sound so loud that Harry nearly jumped, Kreacher appeared by the cupboard door. “Master has brought the Potter boy here,” he was muttering to himself, tugging on the end of one hairy ear. “Kreacher did not believe he would – and Miss Andromeda will come too, oh my poor mistress, she swore Miss Andromeda would never enter her house again – “

“And she was right, Kreacher,” Black said. Kreacher looked up at him, slowly blinking his watery, bloodshot eyes. “Andromeda never did enter her house again. But it’s my house now, and we’ve got to clean eight rooms before we go to bed tonight.”

“Master cannot do it,” Kreacher replied. “Not unless Master stays up after midnight – and he will make poor Kreacher stay awake with him, poor Kreacher who must serve the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black – “

“The sooner poor Kreacher stops feeling sorry for himself and starts cleaning the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black,” Black said sharply, “the sooner poor Kreacher can be finished and go to sleep in the mildew greenhouse he calls a bedroom. You start with this bathroom, Harry and I will do his room over here.”

Kreacher stared in horror. “Master lets the Potter boy sleep in Master Arcturus and Master Lycoris’s room,” he whispered, aghast. “Master lets the son of a Mudblood sleep – “

“Where did you think he was going to sleep, the broomshed? Get to work.”

The sheets and blankets in Harry’s room were covered in what must have been at least five years of dust. “These’ll have to go in the laundry,” Black said, tugging off a pillowcase. “I’ll worry about the carpet, you dust the furniture and spray the cobwebs.” He handed Harry a bottle of something called Wendolyn Wembly’s Web Wremover. “I know some of them are high up, but this ought to get them anyway.”

Dudley would have loved the Web Wremover bottle, Harry thought as he sprayed a torrent of blue liquid at the ceiling. Whether by design or by magic, it shot further than any of Dudley’s six water pistols. “Who’re Arcturus and Lycoris?” he asked Black, watching the layers of cobwebs in the corners dissolve. “Besides your relatives, I mean.”

“Arcturus was my father’s father,” Black replied. “Lycoris was – “

“One of my most disappointing grandchildren,” said a smooth, sardonic voice.

Harry spun around. A tall, green-robed wizard with a pointed black beard had just walked into the picture frame on the wall. “Never actually had to disown him,” the wizard continued, pulling off one white silk glove, “but I’m afraid the boy never had any of the family intelligence. Thick as a troll’s skull. There’s one thing I can say for you, Sirius Aurelius – you do appear to have at least some genuine cleverness, even if it’s dimmed by misguided idealism and – “

“This is Phineas,” Black said to Harry. From the tone of his voice, Harry got the impression that Black was just barely managing to keep his temper. “He’s my great-great-grandfather.”

Phineas raised his eyebrows, looking, for a split second, a good deal like his great-great grandson. “Oh,” Harry said, unsure of how to respond. He had never been introduced to someone’s long-dead ancestor before. “Er – hello.”

Phineas snorted. “’Oh, er, hello,’” he repeated, rolling his eyes. “Well done, Sirius Aurelius, it appears you’ve taught him all the social niceties.”

“The day you can lecture me about social niceties is the day my mother can lecture me about kindness to Muggle-borns,” Black shot back, yanking the top sheet off Harry’s bed. “Is there something you want?”

“Why yes, it happens that there is.” Phineas sat down in his painted chair. “I have it on good authority from your mother – “

“Don’t even start, Phineas.”

“ – that my umbrella stand downstairs has gone missing. What have you done with it?”

“I had Kreacher throw it out,” said Black, reaching for his wand and pointing it at the carpet. A small cloud of dust rose from the floor and disappeared. “This may come as a shock, but most people don’t like having severed troll legs in the house.”

“My dear boy, I am very sorry to say that nothing ‘most people’ like or do comes as a shock to me.” Phineas looked at his hand for a moment and then pulled off his other glove. “I spent much of my life dealing with the ridiculous and mundane nature of ‘most people,’ but we are not ‘most people.’ We are the – “

“ – overbred descendents of a raving madman, who happen to have a good deal of money,” Black concluded. “Keep spraying, Harry.”

Harry had forgot for a moment what he was doing. “Right,” he said, and shot a fresh round of Wendolyn Wembly’s Web Wremover at the rafters. “Sorry.”

“Of course, I also stopped in to see the famous godson,” Phineas said. Harry willed himself not to look in the portrait’s direction. “He certainly does look like a Potter.”

Black levitated another cloud of dust. “Yes he does,” he said tersely.

“Not the slightest hint of the McKinnons, though – pity, they were such a handsome family. Perhaps a little of the Gamps around the ears. The eyes, of course, are straight from the Peverells – “

“The eyes are from the Evans side.”

“Hmm? Oh, that must be the boy’s mother.”

Harry’s hand clenched into a fist, sending another blast of Web Wremover into the air. There was a dismissive, condescending quality to Phineas’s voice that made his blood boil; it was as though someone had magically combined Snape and Aunt Marge into one person, and then put him on a canvas. “She must be the one responsible for that puny, stunted look he’s got – “

“Look, I’m thirteen!” Harry said hotly, turning towards Phineas. Phineas looked mildly interested. “How tall do you think I’m supposed to be? I’m not even the shortest one in my year, Malfoy’s got to be at least an inch shorter than I am – “

“If Draco Malfoy is shorter than you are,” Phineas said, raising his eyebrows again, “it’s because his mother was always delicate.”

“Yeah? Well, my grandmother was short, so how’s that any different from Malfoy’s mum being delicate?”

“Because, you – “

“Get out, Phineas,” Black said quietly. Despite his voice, there was a raging look in his eyes. “Get out of here and don’t come back until two weeks from now when we’re gone, do you understand?”

“I do indeed,” said Phineas, rising from his seat. “Of course, the third reason why I’m here might interest you, but perhaps not.”

“No, perhaps not. Get out.”

Phineas sighed and looked at Harry. “It’s always emotion with him, isn’t it? Never the slightest concern for logic – all right, all right,” he added, glancing at Black. “I’m supposed to deliver a message, and I even went through all the trouble of memorizing it for you.” He pressed his lips together for a moment, apparently thinking very hard. “I believe the message was, ‘Moody’s in, Portia’s sunburned, hope you’re happy, signed, Brutus.’ Does that sound probable?”

“It does. Out.”

“Is Brutus’s hope fulfilled?”

“It will be the second you leave.”

“Then I suppose I mustn’t disappoint him.” Phineas turned and walked out of the painting, his head held high. “I do congratulate you on hiring an attorney from Slytherin,” Harry heard him saying somewhere past the edge. “Well done, Sirius Aurelius.”
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