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Chapter 38 : Kerri's Family
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We got the important stuff out of the way first. He reported that he hadn't found anything useful in those old diaries of Voldemort's and I filled him in on what I'd learned from Athena. We decided that he would talk to Filch to find out if there are any maps of the sewers in existence and I would take some of the diaries home with me and see if I could get anything useful out of them. He sounds about as enthusiastic about the sewers as I am about handling Voldemort's diaries.
He followed me over to the empty table while I set out the food. "Rather than go into the sewers ourselves, I should delegate the task to the seventh years. One hundred points to the house of the first student to bring back the head of the basilisk."
"I'm sure Dumbledore will love that idea."
"I know what Lockhart's boggart is." said Severus with a smirk as we sat down to eat.
"How did you find out?"
"Accidentally, of course."
"Of course." I said skeptically.
"We happened to find ourselves near a broom closet. I had no idea there was a boggart inside." said Severus, his tone unconvincing.
"I'm sure you didn't."
"I heard a noise inside so naturally I wanted to investigate. Lockhart was standing directly in front of the door and I was behind it when I pulled it open. Lockhart screamed and fainted as a werewolf came bounding out."
I laughed so hard that I choked, wondering if Lockhart's boggart was a werewolf because Remus had threatened him last year. I hoped so. "You're so evil. I love it."
"Are you certain that he isn't possessed like Quirrel? Quirrel's incompetence was merely an act."
"I tried to tell you that, didn't I? And no, Lockhart really is that stupid. Trust me. Oh -- and Gilderoy Lockhart isn't his real name. It's Gorgon Finklefark. Try calling him that sometime and see the reaction you get."
"Or I could let it slip to my students." Severus suggested.
We had a nice dinner while we abused Lockhart. From there we moved onto discussing our future potion project, his inept students, and my schooling. Pretty much anything but the Chamber of Secrets mess. It was a birthday party, after all. And then all of a sudden he hit me with It out of the blue.
We had finished eating when he showed me a folded copy of the Prophet. He gestured to an advertisement for Howard's Magical Herbs, which I had seen many times before. "Did you know that these are your mother's relations?"
"No." I answered, surprised. "It's a common enough name I guess."
"The business is successful and they're fairly well off. I've acquired moderate respect for them while I've been doing this research. They re-built everything from the ground up after the incident in 1971."
"So it was bad then?"
"The entire family complex, home, greenhouses, fields, orchards...all of it, were burned to ash. They had a larger establishment then and your grandfather was fairly well known for his...outspokenness. It was in all the papers. I saved a few articles for you."
"Why were they attacked in the first place?"
"I'm almost certain that I know. Most of it is fact but some is speculation. Do you want the whole story?"
"Not really. But I guess it's time that I faced it, whatever it is. Let's just get it over."
"Very well." Severus leaned forward slightly, his dark eyes piercing mine. "The Howard family are an old pureblood line. They've all been Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs, if you'd like to use that to get a general idea about their temperaments. You come from good, decent people on your mother's side, so that should please you. They lived in Little Hangleton, which is where your mother grew up. Remember that you asked me when we were there if any wizarding families lived in the area other than the Gaunts and I told you that none did anymore. The Howards moved away in 1971."
"They knew the Gaunts?"
"The two families had lived in the area for generations, the Howards growing more prosperous and the Gaunts growing more desperate. The Howards were really what the Gaunts played at being in some ways. They were respected, successful purebloods though they weren't elitist as the Gaunts were.
The Gaunts bought herbs from them...or stole them if they couldn't afford to buy. There are a few records of Morfin Gaunt being arrested or given warnings about trespassing and stealing. The two families loathed each other as you might imagine.
The Howards had lived near the Gaunts long enough that they knew a good deal about them. Much more than was wise. They had been witness to generations of Gaunts marrying their own cousins and becoming more deformed as the years went by. Your grandfather was aware of the Tom Riddle -- Merope marriage fiasco and knew about the pregnancy. When the Dark Lord began coming into power, Kincaid Howard, your grandfather, was entirely too eager to tell everything he knew about his family."
"How did he know that V--what's-his-name was one of the Gaunts?" I asked.
"Because the Dark Lord has always been proud of his Slytherin heritage and has used it to recruit followers. Kincaid Howard knew that the Gaunts were Slytherin's only descendants and that if the Dark Lord was indeed a descendant of Slytherin, that he must be Tom and Merope's long lost child.
He began telling every Gaunt family secret to anyone who would listen, referring to the Dark Lord as 'Tom Riddle Junior' and openly accusing him of being a half blood. He gave out the sordid details of the Tom Riddle-Merope romance which the Howards knew must have been contrived by a love potion or something of the sort. He ridiculed the Gaunt family, pulling every skeleton out of the closet of which the Howard family had been in a position to be aware of for the last two centuries. He called them squibs, inbreds, and mentally subnormal. To top it all off, he accused them of being a disgrace to Slytherin's line. The Dark Lord, he said, was sullying it completely. I believe the last straw was the letter to the editor that he wrote to the Daily Prophet."
"And that's when the attack happened?"
"Why did he have to do what he did to my mother?" I asked cautiously, dreading the answer.
"That's the part that I can only speculate about. I think it was Kincaid's jab about the sullying of the Slytherin line. The only thing that makes sense to me is that he decided to humble Kincaid by attacking his daughter and sullying the Howard line."
"Thats --- insane. That is the stupidest...most medieval..." I stuttered, completely unable to come up with anything coherent to say. "That's sick and stupid and it just proves what my grandfather was saying. The whole Gaunt family was mentally subnormal. They were freaks."
"There was a fire that night." Severus continued the story. "As I said, everything was destroyed. Your mother had a sister named Kelsie who was killed in the fire. Also, your grandmother, Arial. Lunn, your mother's brother survived. He married and has two children who are just slightly younger than you are, named Griffin and Dera. "
"What about my mother? How much do people know?"
"Well, as I said, it was in the papers. The papers reported Treasa Howard to have run away. There was speculation as to what might have happened to her, but none of it is close to the truth. Eventually it all just died down." Severus looked at me closely. My face must have been reflecting my feelings because he said, "You knew your origin. Does knowing the details really make it worse?"
"Yes." I had been inflicted on the family like a disease or something. I was supposed to 'sully the family line'
"You were really just a byproduct. He couldn't have known. It was only luck that your mother got pr---"
"Luck?" I snarled.
"That was a poor choice of words."
"I shouldn't have been born. I shouldn't exist. It's disgusting and humiliating."
"Which is not rational." said Severus implacably. "It isn't your fault."
"I know it's not rational, but I can't help what I feel."
"Emotions are not rational, I agree. Would you like a dose of draught of peace?"
"No." I snapped. " If I'm going to do that I may as well just go ahead and take a shot of Ogden's. It all amounts to the same thing -- trying to artificially make myself feel better."
"Do you want to hear the rest?"
"I thought you might be interested in knowing about the current state of the family." said Severus, shrugging.
I glanced down at the Howards' Magical Herbs ad. "Much better evidently. If I have cousins close to me in age, why don't I remember anyone else with my last name at Hogwarts?"
"Because Kincaid became a bit reclusive after the attack. Not reclusive exactly, just very distrustful of the system. His son, Lunn has followed his lead. He educated his children at home. They all live together on their new property and have done very well for themselves. On the whole, I find them impressive, even if they do tend to churn out Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors. I went to their farm and bought some potion ingredients from them in order to get a first hand appraisal."
"You've met them?" I asked, surprised.
"Yes. Over the summer."
"What do they look like?"
"It was Lunn that I dealt with. He's short, rather stocky. Kincaid has red hair. You look nothing like them at all." said Severus, guessing what I wanted to know. "And by the way I had no idea your mother was that young until I began researching. She really isn't that much older than I am."
"I want to rip Voldmort to pieces." I said, flaring up again. "I hope that he does have a body and that he comes walking up to my door to recruit me. I'd love to get my hands on him."
"If you continue ranting like that I will force feed you draught of peace."
"Or maybe I could direct the basilisk to eat him. That would be fun."
"What would you like to do now?" asked Severus.
"Start checking sewers. That would be a good place for him, now that I think about it."
"I mean are you going to go and see the Howards?"
"No. At least I wouldn't walk in there and say, hey -- I'm your long lost granddaughter, niece, cousin, or whatever. Maybe I'll be sneaky and go there as a shopper one day. I don't think I'd ever want to introduce myself."
"If you ever do decide to go meet them I would ask Professor Dumbledore to go along to smooth things over." Severus suggested.
"Does he know them?"
"He certainly knows of them. The headmaster has a talent for making things easier. The Howards are decent people but usually decent people are the quickest to cast the first stone, in my experience. It would be better if the headmaster were there to smooth over any problems that arise."
I was getting tired of talking about the Howards. The whole thing was making me feel dirty and depressed. I cast about for another subject and remembered what Jillian had asked me about Dumbledore the other day. "Someone asked me if the headmaster is gay."
I said, making it a question.
"Already?" asked Severus, not at all surprised.
"What do you mean, 'already'?"
"Reporters have been trying to get dirt on him for years. Whenever a new teacher is hired they always start questioning them. I suppose they believe that new teachers don't have the same loyalty to the headmaster as those of us who have worked for him for many years. I overheard a reporter questioning Lockhart after the staff luncheon. She asked him if the headmaster was gay and he had no idea what she was getting at. He replied that Dumbledore was very happy now that he had himself in his employment."
"What an idiot." I laughed.
"Just be careful what you say."
"I'll tell them it's none of their business."
"Be polite. Remember you are representing the school." Severus warned.
"I'll tell them that I don't know, which is true. I don't know and I don't care. What matters is that he's the best headmaster Hogwarts has ever had and people are just jealous of him."
"I didn't think you were so very fond of him."
"I'm very fond of him. I just don't think he's perfect like you do." I glanced at the clock and saw that it was beginning to get late. Probably I should go rescue Ryann and Jillian from Mary Ann. "I ought to get going."
"Don't go home and mope. I was afraid that you'd only see the negative aspects of what I've told you tonight."
"What exactly is positive about it?"
"You've always disliked having certain traits that we assumed came from the Dark Lord." said Severus, as though this should be obvious. "It's just as likely that your temper came from the Howard side. Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs...I ask you. Kincaid was a Gryffindor which explains his behavior in mocking the Dark Lord. All bravery and no brains."
I tried not to glare at him. It was his birthday, after all. I didn't feel loyalty to the unknown Howards but I didn't think I wanted him making fun of them either.
"These are yours." he said, pushing the binder full of research toward me. "And take these." he added, putting some of Voldemort's journals on top. "And take some of the cake with you. I should take some to the headmaster when I go to report to him later. You know how he likes sweets." He cut a large chunk of the lemon poundcake I'd made for him and balanced it on a plate on top of the rest of the things I was taking with me. "Just don't get crumbs on the journals -- they're old."
His fondness of Voldemort's diaries is completely beyond me. Personally, I'd burn them.
"Be careful about walking around the castle -- go out through the back." he warned. "There are staff members on patrol but not on the grounds. I know there is no way it could be traced to you but I prefer to err on the side of caution."
"Thanks for looking all of this stuff up for me. You went above and beyond by actually going to meet them." I said, as I picked everything up and headed toward the door.
Before I left he caught me by the arm. "No matter what you think, no matter what they would think, I at least am glad you are here."
Which I supposed was as close as he could come to saying that he loved me.
Despite the feeling that I should hurry to pick up Mary Ann, my feet slowed as I passed Hagrid's cabin. I really wasn't in the mood to go home and go to bed where I would probably lay awake and "mope" as Severus phrased it. I was upset from thinking about what had happened to my mother.
I decided to stop for a moment to share some of the cake with Hagrid. It was probably a good idea to check on him anyway to see that he wasn't still freaking out over the Chamber of Secrets thing. He seemed much better. Although the door still had the extra security, at least I wasn't greeted with a crossbow pointed at my face. I felt that this was encouraging.
"I brought cake." I announced, setting it down on the table where Hagrid had seated himself to return to the task of mending a broken fairy wing, which I had interrupted with my arrival. It was incredible to watch those huge fingers tenderly and skillfully perform the delicate maneuvers required to bind the injury. The fairy sat patiently in his palm, her golden light shimmering against his skin.
"Tha''s nice." said Hagrid. "I'll make tea when I finish this."
"I'll do it." I told him, moving toward the stove and nearly tripping over Fang. "A house isn't a house without a dog to trip over. I can't stay too long. Mary Ann is with a friend and I have to go get her."
"She an' Remus gettin' along better?"
"Not really. I think she has an aversion to men so that doesn't help. From what I've seen of her father and heard of her brother, I don't blame her."
"Yeh aren' still worried about meetin' Remus's parents are yeh?"
"Yeh look upset." said Hagrid as he stood to put the fairy into a nest he'd made for her. It was a basket with some soft material in it, hanging from the rafters between a pair of hams.
"Do you remember any students with my last name?" I recklessly asked.
"Some. The last ones I guess would've been back in the sixties or so."
"Were their names Treasa, Kelsie, and Lunn?"
"Yeah. Nice kids. Two were Gryffindors an' the other was a Hufflepuff I think." said Hagrid, who I do believe remembers every student that's attended Hogwarts in all the time he's been there.
"What happened to them?"
"Well...one was killed an' the other disappeared. Their father got on Yeh-Know-Who's bad side. I guess the other one, the one tha' went missin', is probably dead too."
My hands shook as I set out the tea. I was so close to just telling him the whole thing. Could he take it? I decided that he couldn't. "I've been finding out about them because I think we're related."
Hagrid then went off on a track that I could only have hoped for. "I remember the boy best. He was always sneakin' into the forest an' I was always havin' to brin' him back out. He was worse than Fred an' George. He could slip in there so fast. He wasn' really the mischievous sort, jus' kind o' liked excitement. He was in Gryffindor.
His sister Kelsie was in Gryffindor too. She was on the Quidditch team. She was a seeker 'cause she was such a little thin'. None o' the Howards were very big but they made up fer it with fight. Sort o' like those Cornish pixies. They're little, but don' seem to know it.
Treasa was the Hufflepuff. I didn' know her tha' well. She was kind o' quiet, at least until she got riled. I remember she got into a duel once right out in my pumpkin patch. I don' remember what it was about though."
Incredible. I simply could not imagine my mother getting into a duel no matter how hard I tried.
"Kincaid came stormin' up to the school over tha' one." Hagrid recalled. "He didn' like anyone messin' with his kids. Did he ever have a temper. I think he has Irish blood." Hagrid added as though this explained the volatile tendencies of the Howard family. "And now tha' I think o' it, I think they might be distantly related to the Weasleys through the Prewett side."
"That doesn't mean anything. All the pureblood families are interrelated. Don't you have any family anywhere Hagrid? Not even on your father's side?"
"My father may have people somewhere but I never met 'em. They didn' want anythin' to do with him after he married my mother. Far as I know they never spoke to each other again. They probably don' even know I was ever born."
"Somehow I doubt the Howards would be happy to see me either." I said darkly.
"It's been jus' yeh an' yer mother, hasn' it?"asked Hagrid.
Again I felt a strong urge to tell him. I felt that I needed to tell someone or risk going mad. Hagrid would be a bad choice though. At the very mention of Voldemort he'd simply fall to pieces. Remus, I remembered, uses Voldemort's name openly and doesn't flinch when other people do. "Yes." I answered his question. "I have her last name, not my father's. I've been researching and I'm curious."
"The Howards are decent people an' so are yeh. There's no reason they wouldn' like yeh."
"I don't know. Maybe I'd like to meet them one day. I've just always wanted a normal family, you know? A father and mother, and brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and cousins. " I looked up at Hagrid whose expression was understanding.
"Maybe some day yeh an' Remus will build yer own family." he quietly suggested.
Maybe...Somehow it seemed as though that would set right all of the things I felt I'd been deprived of as a child. My children would have a father who loved them and cared for them. They would have each other to play with and count on. Their Uncle Severus...once he got over the werewolf part...would tell anyone who would listen that they were geniuses. They would call Hagrid 'grandpa' and follow him around the grounds just as I had done as a child. Someway, somehow, my mother would be part of their lives as well.
And then the vision vanished. Remus would not want to have children with me if he knew what he was, and I would not trick him into that by not telling him first. Besides, Remus had made it clear that he didn't want to have children ever -- and hadn't I said the same thing? I must be going out of my mind.
And yet...Remus was taking me to see his parents. That's a big deal right? What happens if I tell him my secret and he dumps me? Won't his parents want to know what happened? What will he tell them? The thought made me feel panicked.
I know there is no future for Remus and I and that I should just break it off now. The problem is that whenever I try to think ahead into my future, it always includes him. It used to be Hogwarts. At one time, Hogwarts would have been enough. And then I met Remus and my patronus changed from a winged boar to a wolf. I just can't seem to get the wolf out of my system.
"I'll teach. I'll live at Hogwarts like you have and Hogwarts will be my family." I resolved, but without much conviction. "I'll be married to the school like Dumbledore is." Or was that really the case? Maybe Dumbledore has more of a life outside Hogwarts than I'd realized before. Truly, my perceptions of him have been shifting a lot over the last year.
"Is everythin' alright still between yeh an' Remus?" asked Hagrid, looking puzzled.
"Just fine. It's late -- I just stopped in to say hello. I need to pick up Mary Ann."
"Oh. Alright." said Hagrid, now sounding concerned.
"I'm okay." I assured him, giving him a hug. I patted Fang and headed for the door. "Love you." I told them both.
I started off across the grounds on my way to the gate feeling a little on the reckless side. I was half tempted to go straight to Remus and --- do what, exactly? Tell him the truth? Maybe. As always though, I couldn't get up the courage to just show up at his door and give him the whole story. I rationalized it by telling myself that it was more important to go rescue Ryann and Jillian from Mary Ann. Well --- I was a Ravenclaw, not a Gryffindor. With us, brains do win out over bravery.
I can't help feeling though that something has to give. Things can't keep going on like they are right now without me either telling Remus the truth or dumping him to spare him the danger of being associated with me. Whichever I do I hope I don't just snap and do it on a reckless whim like the way I was feeling tonight.
Author's Note : As I'm sure you all know from my shameless begging, reviews are always greatly appreciated.
Next Chapter : "Mary Ann's family". Kerri learns the hard way that Mary Ann's mother is just as dangerous as her father.
I was poring over the numbers when all of a sudden a brick came crashing through the front window. I shot to my feet, the fragile diaries and loose pages of equations scattering everywhere. Mary Ann dropped the stool she'd been levitating and it fell to the floor with a clatter. I just had time to snatch up my wand when Sheila, Mary Ann's mother appeared in front of the broken window. "Mary Ann, get your ass out here now!" she shouted.
"No!" Mary Ann angrily yelled back, furiously charging toward the window. "I don't want to ! Go away!"
Sheila reached through the window, heedless of the shards of glass, and grabbed Mary Ann by the hair of the head, trying to yank her out of the house. She looked more like a wild animal in human form than I'd ever seen a werewolf look before. She was completely unhinged.
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