A/N Welcome to the fourth book in the Heritage Series, and the Eighteenth novel in the Jennifer Craw series. If you're new, series one starts with Jennifer Craw and the Phoenix Wand, although you're free to take a look at this one, of course, although you probably might get a bit lost since being over thirty years later than the original stories, it's mostly original characters, and the cannons have had some attitude changes thanks to mishaps in the storyline. The novels in general focus more on OC's living in the Rowlings world rather than the main characters, with some notable exceptions.
For those returning, welcome back! You should find this is a bit faster paced book involving a murder mystery, with a helping of character development as in the rest of my books. Severus has to Sort a granddaughter AND a brother-in-law this year, not to mention break in a new DADA professor. This is also the book where Jennifer really starts to see for the first time how slowed aging can be a double-edged sword, and Toby gets more in touch with his human side. And just what is with the kid in the water? Well, you'll see what I mean. Hope you like the book!
Update notes! Books 4,5,6,7 all got some major TLC on this site, cleaned up some of the Quidditch matches as well as Severus' chat with Sirius in the kitchen cooler. Fixed typos in books 2, 8, and a few in 9, although still working on that one.
Jennifer Craw and the Curse of the Monkey's Paw
For over a hundred years, there was only darkness. It had been abandoned and undisturbed until three days before, when an experimental tap-tap-tapping had broken the silence of decades… a sign that perhaps after so many years, the end of their wait to be rescued from their horrible entrapment was near.
Suddenly, a pinpoint of light seared through the cavern, and an instant later the wall began to crumble into fist-sized rocks from the force of the mining drill. As the rocks begin roll into the carts, the three wizards standing there began to cough. They held the silks over their mouths tighter until one of them twisted his wand about, calling up a waft of sweet air that drifted in from behind them.
"So? Is it another shaft?" asked a wizard with a thick Middle Eastern accent.
"Give me a minute," said a short, gruff-looking wizard, still pressing the scarf against his face as he lifted the lantern up to see inside. He became startled, jerking the light away involuntarily. Recovering, he raised the lamp more slowly this time to inspect the mangled corpses lying near a different wall. They were different positions as if they had died from intense pain; all except one skeleton leaning in a corner.
"Get Sam down here, I want this entire room searched for hexes and curses," the gruff wizard foreman said as he began murmuring a set of spells to check for more conventional types of booby traps. Before long, another wizard with a leather duster appeared and began casting spells of his own.
"Eh? What's this?" said Sam, squinting in surprise, and the foreman looked around to see the faint glow of something under one of the skeletons. "Something magic over there, Mr. Silverman."
"Oh?" the foreman squinted, readying his wand. "Well, go ahead over, the floor is safe. I'll cover you."
Cautiously, Sam crept over to the skeletons and carefully levitated the one he had seen the glow under. As he gently tried moving the skeleton aside, he realized the object was strapped around the skeleton's shoulder.
"It's a satchel," he said, and one of the other wizards raised a lantern so they could all see inside better. "Charmed obviously, and more than likely a great deal bigger on the inside than outside."
"Grave robbers," Silverman grunted. "Well ease it off, Sam, we'll take it back to camp."
"There's another pouch here in the dirt, must'a been on his belt…" Sam said, pausing to pick up the fist-sized pouch. "Odd…" he murmured as he felt it, for the contents felt quite strange and made the pouch bulge in a curious shape. He murmured a spell to identify curses before carefully unlacing the pouch to see what was inside. Bewildered at its contents, Sam pulled out a mummified monkey's paw covered with a thick layer of dust.
"I told you to wait until we got back to camp!" Silverman barked. "There's no telling what any of that stuff does! Who knows, something they brought with them might be what killed them! After all, if they were wizards, they should'a managed to get out of a cave-in."
"I checked it beforehand, Silverman, I know what I'm doing," Sam said with a sigh, but put the monkey paw away. As he gathered pouch and the satchel and followed the others out, he couldn't shake the strong sense of foreboding that came over him.
Far away on the other side of the world, Dale Chance was making the most out of his short summer holiday, wasting no time that morning getting out on his private beach with his house guests. His mother and father had invited some of his cousins, his band members, and some of their business associates' kids for an afternoon barbecue, so it was likely to be a busy and fun-filled day. At that moment, however, Dale was relaxing and working on his tan. He had just turned onto his front, and was watching a volleyball game going on with extreme interest.
"Hey, bronze boy! Isn't this taking Ravenclaw colors a bit too far? Or are you just going for skin cancer?" said a taunting voice behind him. Dale leaned over long enough to see it was his best friend Bobby March.
"Sunshine is good for you in moderation, haven't you heard? And from the looks of it, you could use some," Dale said, holding up some lotion. "Anyway, it's about time you got here. Everyone else showed up last night, you know."
"Yeah, but my mother wanted us to do the family thing before letting us come," Bobby snorted, the looked around. "This is great, though! Do you know all these girls?"
"Most of them," Dale nodded.
"Good, then you can introduce me," Bobby said. Dale shook his head at his best friend.
"What about Lindsay?" Dale asked.
"Well, she won't know if you don't tell her, and it's only for a couple weeks, right? Besides, I hear American girls go nuts over British accents," Bobby said cheerfully, scoping the beach eagerly before following Dale's gaze over towards the volleyball net.
"Wow, who's that over there with the black hair and red shorts bikini? She is stacked!" Bobby said appreciatively, watching as the girl jumped up to slam the ball back over the net.
"Hey!" Dale protested with a laugh. "That one's mine!"
"Oh, now, that's typical! Just because you're some hotshot singer now you think you can just claim the hottest girl on the beach? Not every girl is going to fall at your feet just because you've made a name for yourself, you know…"
"Okay, okay, fine, then I'll make you a deal," Dale said with a sly smile. "You go over there and try to make an impression, and if she decides she likes your moves better than mine, then go for it."
"And you won't tell Lindsay," Bobby added.
"I would never tell on you," Dale assured him.
"All right, it's a deal," Bobby said with a grin, getting back up. "Just watch, maybe you'll learn something."
"I'm watching," Dale said with a smile. Bobby walked over confidently, looking back at Dale when he was almost there, getting a 'thumbs up' from Dale.
"I'm back!" Ambrose said cheerfully as he came up from behind Dale and set down a nylon cooler. "Your mum sent me back with some drinks for you guys, too. Wow, Lucky looks good out there, doesn't she?"
"You have no idea," Dale said with a slight chuckle and a wide grin.
Ambrose frowned in confusion as he turned back to watch the game, but it had paused as Bobby walked over there and Lucky suddenly turned around and planted her fist across his jaw. Dale fell backwards in a fit of laughter that was so loud that he attracted attention at the volleyball court.
"'Ey, what's so funny? Did you put him up to that?" Lucky demanded as she walked over.
"He didn't realize it was you, Lucky," Dale said, quickly trying to pull himself together, but couldn't help but couldn't keep himself from chuckling.
"That's no excuse! I oughtta tell Lindsay!" Lucky snorted.
"I'm sorry, Lucky!" Bobby said as he followed behind her, still with a hand against his jaw. "Really, if I knew it was you it wouldn't have happened. Honestly, Dale, you should've warned me!"
"Sorry, Bobby. Anyone want a water or something?" Dale asked diplomatically, holding one up.
"Thanks," Lucky said, taking one. "I'm going back to the game. We were winning before he came along," Lucky said irritably, turning back around. Both Dale and Bobby stared as she walked back over until Dale noticed Bobby looking at her and tripped him, making him fall into the sand.
"Stop that!" Dale laughed at him.
"What happened?" Bobby asked. "I mean, I thought she was wearing all those baggy jumpers and uniforms to hide all that baby fat she used to have. When did she get so hot?"
"Wrong person to ask, I think. I've always thought she was hot," Dale said evenly.
"She looks the same to me," Ambrose shrugged.
"Give it a couple years," Bobby said to Ambrose.
"Hey, guys!" Gary ran up through the sand and dropped on down on the blanket, ignoring the protests as he brought half the beach with him for the ride. "Hi, Dale. Hey, Ambrose, is it true what they've been saying in the gossip column? Is Toby the Tinker really your real father?"
"He sure is!" Ambrose said proudly.
"Careful, Ambrose," Dale warned.
"It's all right, Dale. Professor Snape said I could tell them he was my father if I wanted to," Ambrose said. "Toby and my mother went off to sort things out, and that's why I'm spending most the summer at my godfather's house this year."
"It surprises me that with all that business about you disappearing last year that Snape even let you come down here to visit," Bobby said.
"Nah, he's not worried. He knows Lucky and I can take care of ourselves," Ambrose declared.
Severus Snape opened his watch for the fifth time that day, glancing at the two names marked "Elsewhere" before snapping it shut and putting it away. It was a glorious sunny day at sea, so much so that he had put on an extra dose of sunshield potion to make doubly sure that he didn't end up with a tan.
As usual on these types of ventures, Severus opted to stay well out of the way, preferring instead to occupy himself with quieter activities. In fact, in some ways he would have preferred to spend his two weeks off locked in the library or basement of his house and reading as he was doing now on the deck of their boat, slowly combing through the tome in front of him having to decipher some of the runes as he went.
It was the fact that no one could easily contact them that was singularly appealing; only the family knew how to get in touch with them in an emergency. That solitude more than any other reason was his reason to acquire The Wizard's Temptation for Jennifer for their wedding anniversary, and she along with the three Merrow crew were more than happy to take care of the business of actually piloting the boat without his interference.
It wasn't long after he had gotten back into his work that he noticed a change in movement and realized that he didn't hear the hum of the engines. He glanced around then to see one of the Merrows, glancing at the flower in the elf's red cap to discern which one it was.
"Where are we, Kelpie?" he asked.
"In exact coordinates, sir?" she asked.
"Just a round about general area and direction will suffice," Severus said.
"We're still in the Celtic Sea, sir, heading south-southeast at the moment and we're due west of the Channel," she said.
"Oh. So why have we stopped?" he asked.
"The winds have changed, sir, so the captain has asked we switch to sails," Kelpie explained. "It won't take long, sir."
"And did the captain finally decide where it is exactly where we are going?" Severus inquired.
"I believe so, sir. She said something about being hungry, then she had Capper plot a course around the coast of Portugal, sir," Kelpie said. Severus rolled his eyes.
"Thank you, Kelpie," Severus sighed and put his book down for a moment. His chain went cold for a brief instant and his hand went to the back of the neck thoughtfully, but the moment he began looking around to spot the source, the chain was back to normal temperature again.
"Odd," Severus murmured, peering aft to see Kelpie messing with the lines. Shrugging it off, Severus stepped down into the salon, and over at the short steps leading up to the wheelhouse where Jennifer and one of the other Merrows was busy looking over a map.
She was dressed in an outfit that Ashley had given her before she left; an ivory cotton shirt and ivory leggings, gathered at the wrists and ankles in a way that made it look a bit puffy. But for once Jennifer didn't seem to mind it (she had always avoided leggings whenever possible,) having admitted to him that it was much more practical on a boat. Her hair was done up in a high tail and along with the flats, it reminded Severus of something of a more Arabic origin and less of a sailing outfit.
"Jennifer? Are we heading to the Mediterranean?" Severus asked.
"Yes, oh, how did you guess already?" Jennifer said, putting her hands on her hips.
"Just came to me," Severus said expressionlessly. "Certain we cannot just stay around here?"
"We're in the middle of nowhere, Severus," Jennifer chuckled.
"I meant near Britain, Jennifer. We can always pop off to Greece or France for an evening if you'd like, and I do only have two weeks, you know," Severus said.
"Now, don't worry about that, Severus, we should be back with a day or two to spare. Even if Capper and I did time it wrong, it isn't as if you can't just pop back. The Merrows can perfectly well handle the boat on their own and can manage it long enough for me to pick up Lucky and Ambrose, we do have those extra berths after all," she said slyly, Severus squinting at her. "Besides, you did say I could go anywhere I want."
"So I did," Severus said thoughtfully. "But if you decide to go to the moon, I would like a few hours notice first."
"I don't think there's water on the moon, Severus, or I might try it," Jennifer said teasingly. "Are you about ready for lunch?"
"As long as it doesn't involve fish."
"No, that's not until dinner, Severus," Jennifer said. "Kipper is out on deck fishing that up. It wouldn't hurt for you to put out a line either, you know."
"I believe you've heard them all by now," Severus mused.
"Oh, I see how it is," Jennifer chuckled, stepping down. "Then go back to your book if you like. I'll be out in a minute or two with some drinks and sandwiches."
"Very well, since I seem to be in the way," Severus said.
"No more than usual," Jennifer said flippantly. "Really, Severus, you didn't think I would take that sort of bait, did you?"
"Just practicing my fishing skills," Severus said before stepping outside again.
It was just then he heard the sound of a splash. He wondered about it for a moment before deciding it was probably one of the Merrows taking advantage of the temporary lull to take a swim, but he noticed that the deck around his chair was quite soaked. In fact, even the book he was reading seemed damp.
Frowning at his carelessness for leaving it out on the deck at all, Severus quickly dried it with his sleeve, opening it to make sure that none of the water had seeped into the pages. But as he inspected it, he saw a slightly darkened edge and flipped over to it, staring at the odd water impression on the book. It was anything but random; for the two damp marks were on slightly different heights of the page but were unmistakably human thumbprints as if someone wet had opened the book to look at it.
Suddenly remembering both the splash and the sensation in his chain, Severus stuffed his book in his cloak and went over to the side and uncuffed his wand.
"All right, you may as well come out, I know you're there," Severus said firmly, his eyes scanning the surface of the water. "Monstre hostis!" he cast, but then frowned when the Reveal Enemy spell did nothing at all. Surely if they had gone underwater they wouldn't have been down that long without coming up for air, unless they used a potion, he mused, then surveyed the horizon. But where could they have come from? There wasn't a boat to be seen anywhere in any direction.
A bit less certain, Severus sighed and glanced down into the water again, this time not really expecting to see anything. So convinced, in fact, that he was quite startled to see he saw a boy's face gazing up at him under the surface, and dropped his wand in surprise.
Immediately the boy reacted, spotting the wooden object and grabbing it while it was still bobbing on the surface and then finally surfacing himself. He was a young boy of about nine or ten, but his hair was a curious charcoal grey in color. His soulful eyes were a mix of green and blue and his pale face and shoulders were covering with a multitude of freckles. The most amazing part of it was how unquestionably human he was despite the odd color of his hair.
The boy quickly swam up to the side of the boat, pausing only long enough to admire the animals carved into the wand before climbing a couple steps up the ladder so he could reach, and then turned the wand over so he was handing Severus the correct end of the wand.
"I'm sorry I startled you," the boy said. "I didn't mean to cause any trouble. You won't tell on me?"
"I can hardly tell on you if I don't know who you are," Severus pointed out. "Although I'd very much like to know the answer to that. Where is your boat?"
"You're a wizard, aren't you?" the boy asked. "My parents were too. I thought you might be when I noticed the Merrows. Most people think they're unlucky, you know, but I rather like them, don't you?"
"Well, yes, obviously… what are you doing out here again?" Severus asked.
"Actually, I'm supposed to be working," the boy admitted. "And really, I'd better be getting back to it before I get into trouble. It was nice meeting you!" he added, and before Severus could think up some way to detain him had gone underwater, his pale feet kicking up momentarily as he dove deeper while Severus leaned far over the edge in a futile attempt to figure out where he went.
"If you keep leaning over the rail like that, Severus, you're bound to fall in," Jennifer said, loud enough that he nearly did just that as she came out with a tray with drinks and sandwiches.
"Don't raise the sails just yet, Jennifer," Severus said in a tone that made Jennifer gaze at him curiously. "I just saw a boy in the water."
"A boy?" Jennifer said, blinking. "Out here? Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm… now, don't look at me like that, Jennifer, I know it sounds a bit fantastic, but I did see a boy just now in the water," Severus said firmly and looking at her dead on.
"And you didn't save him?" Jennifer frowned searchingly.
"He didn't seem to need any saving," Severus said, frowning and staring over the side again. "He simply seemed… well, a bit curious, actually."
"Perhaps it was a merman?" Jennifer offered.
"No… no, he looked quite human, feet and all," Severus said.
"Perhaps a Fomorian then?" Jennifer ventured.
"A Fomorian?" Severus repeated, considering it. "Well, he did seem home in the water, and his hair was a strange color… no, I don't think that fits either. He spoke perfect English, although he did have a touch of an Irish accent."
"Strange color?" Jennifer asked.
"Yes, his hair was grey… perhaps it was black once, and bleached by the sun, but still curious," Severus said.
"Yes, very curious," Jennifer said, sounding distant.
"He also said something about his parents being wizards… or were wizards… past tense… I don't suppose he'd be out here on his own? Surely there is some logical explanation for all of this," Severus said.
"Logic can't explain everything, Severus," Jennifer smiled at him.
"You don't believe me, do you?" Severus frowned.
"I believe you, Severus. Do you want me to send the Merrows to see if they can find him? We're in a bit of deep water right now and I'm not sure if we can drop anchor, but we can circle about if you like," Jennifer ventured.
"Really? That deep?" Severus murmured, even more puzzled than before.
"Yes, but don't worry, once we start sailing again, I'm going to make for the bay and follow closer to the coastline, I've no intentions of going too far out. I wonder how it is that he got all the way out here?" Jennifer pondered. "I don't see any boats. None at all!"
"That is a mystery," Severus murmured. "Either that, or I really have had too much sun. Why don't you go ahead and let them set sail, Jennifer? I think I'd rather eat inside."
"All right, Severus," Jennifer said unconcernedly, but what she was thinking she didn't hint to him as they gathered their things and went inside and the Merrows unfurled the sails.