Chapter 15 –Matters of Blood (published 05.08.12 – Beta: none)
The rhythmic humming of the Hogwarts Express lulled Herwald in a peaceful state of mind. The days following Gerard's death, between grieving and putting things in order for the funeral, had been hectic and with little chance to rest.
Despite being separated from Leda once more, Herwald was glad to return to school. Between classes and assignment he could divert his mind form the dull ache of loss.
He was glad to see his friends again but he proffered to be alone for the ride, as it was probably the only time he would have to completely sit back for the next few months. Once he'd step inside the gates of the ancient castle he would have to revert to his usual, workaholic self.
Therefore he sat by himself in the last carriage, with few other empty compartments between his and the other student's.
He was counting on being left alone but he didn't consider just how much a certain bushy haired girl would want to see him.
"Herwald? What are you doing here all by yourself?"
He must have dozed off since he realized that Hermione was there when she was already standing beside him. He hadn't even heard the door open.
"Hermione? Hi. Sorry, I just wanted to be left alone for a while," he mumbled. "How are you doing?"
"Fine, thank you. What about you? You didn't reply my letters and I didn't see you on the platform. I was worried something happened to you during the holidays."
Herwald blinked, shaking away the cobwebs. He didn't remember Hermione writing him at all, but the past week had been a little heavy on the emotional side. He could actually have overlooked a few owls.
"I'm sorry, Hermione," he apologized. "My grandfather passed away last week. I didn't really paid much attention to anything beside the funeral."
"Oh, Merlin. Herwald I'm so sorry. I didn't know."
"Of course you didn't know, I didn't tell you," he said. "Don't worry, I'm doing fine anyway."
"Yes. It hurts a little, but we knew it was coming for a while now. He had been ill for years. At least we managed to spend a last Yule together. I suppose that's better than nothing."
Hermione was at loss for words, as most would be in such a situation. There wasn't much she could say without sounding cliché. She settled with setting beside him and squeezing his hand a little. Herwald seemed to appreciate as he smiled and squeezed back.
"Have you seen Alex?" He asked, changing the topic.
"Yes, he went looking for you in the other direction, though Ron wasn't exactly pleased with it."
"Ugh," he moaned "What's the problem with Weasley anyway?"
"I think he's jealous," Hermione admitted.
"Jealous of me? Why? He hasn't show anything but contempt for me so. What could he be jealous about?"
"Eh. Many things I think."
"Care to share?"
"Well, for one you're... rich," she offered timidly, as if she was ashamed of point out his wealth, "and you are self-confident."
"It doesn't look like he's shy to me," Herwald objected, but Hermione shook her head.
"No, he's loud and arrogant, but he has no confidence at all. Maybe it's because he has plenty of older brothers, I'm not sure. I think he perceive your friendship with Alex as a threat to his own."
Herwald considered her opinion carefully and then he nodded.
"I see. They have been friend for quite a while."
"According to Alex, Ron and Neville Longbottom were the only kids he frequented as a child."
"Because of the Boy-Who-Lived mystique?"
"Yes," Hermione confirmed. "Since Voldemort's downfall the Potters have been a reserved family. The Weasleys and Longbottoms where pretty much the only families with children of Alex's age they frequented on a regular basis."
Again Herwald took a moment to consider her words. Something didn't quite add up.
"You said that Longbottom was Alex's other childhood friend, but I never see them interact with each other. I mean, Alex always drags Ron with us even when it's clear that he doesn't want to. Why doesn't he do the same with Longbottom?"
"Actually, I don't know. As a matter of fact Neville is by himself most of the time. He's a little shy and most boys makes fun of him, even in Gryffindor. Maybe they grew apart?"
"Maybe," Herwald conceded. It wasn't a strange thing for children to stop being friends for a reason or another.
It was a good thing that they stopped speaking, because Alex choose that moment to open the compartment's door.
"There you are. I knew you would be at the end of the train rather than the top " he exclaimed cheerfully before noticing the two still holding hands. His mouth quirked up in a grip. "Am I interrupting something? Hermione, if you wanted to be alone with Herwald you just had to say so, instead of in sending me on a fool's errand."
"W-what?" Hermione sputtered indignantly, not much because his allegation was wrong, but because it was spot on. "You got it all wrong."
"Am I, now? Looks to me you are quite smitten with each other," he said pointing at their still intertwined hands.
"EEEEP," Hermione squealed, trying and failing at retrieving her hand from Herwald's grasp.
"It's not like that Alex," Herwald choose to defend her friend, as he was completely unaware of the girl's thoughts, "she was just giving me her condolences for my grandfather's passing."
All the amusement on Alex's face was flushed away.
"Damn! I'm sorry Herwald, I didn't know. Is that why you didn't write back? How are you holding up?"
"I'm fine, really. Things got quite hectic with the funeral and I kind of forgot about everything else, Sorry about that."
"Don't even mention it," Alex said, still embarrassed over his faux-pas. "You had more important things to think about."
"Anyway, why don't you sit with us, now that you're here? Tell me how your holidays went."
Both teens were more than glad to change topic once more. They spent the rest of the ride talking about the gifts they received and the places they had been. Herwald apologized for not even opening Hermione's present, which she confessed being a kit composed by both a quill and a pen for Herwald to sign his future books.
Unaware to all three of them, a certain redhead was fuming in his compartment, completely forgotten by his supposed friends. Ronald Weasley never once thought that he could have gone with them looking for Herwald. He preferred to sulk by himself, plotting to get back at the Dark Wizard for stealing his friend.
Draco return to Hogwarts was a little more pleasant. His father had been happy to hear that his son was trying to befriend the scion of a powerful. Pureblood house. Lucius Malfoy, being in the same high circle as Gerard, was aware of the elder Grindelwald's passing and prompted his son to write his condolences to the young heir.
They received a formal thanks, but no invitation to participate at the funeral. It wasn't surprising. The two families had a few businesses together but never mingled beyond that. Still, as their heir was studying in the country, there was a chance that his family would further expand their businesses in England. As such, it was a good idea for Draco to befriend him, even if the Grindelwald weren't exactly of the same political agenda as the Malfoys. Blood purity was fine, but in the end, between ideals and gold, the latter always won. Lucius Malfoy had many flaws but no one could say he wasn't a practical man.
Draco had very little interest for all of that at that point in his life. He understood the importance of it but knew it wouldn't really matter until later in life. He genuinely wanted to befriend Herwald and for that purpose he decide that giving his condolences in person, as a good friend would. Hopefully, the raven haired wizard would see it as that, and not as a chance for Draco to gain some favour.
When the train arrived he watched his intended target step off accompanied by his usual entourage. Potter and Granger were with him but he would be damned if he allowed that to stop it.
He strode confidently in Herwald's direction, ignoring the flow of students that pushed him back until he was right in front of him.
Herwald saw the easily noticeable blond head making his way toward him. He wasn't exactly sure of what Draco wanted, but judging from the look on his face he was determined to obtain it.
It was a interesting change for the boy that usually sneered or taunted, but never actually took action. To his surprise, Herwald was looking forward to find out what the other boy wanted.
"Herwald," Draco greeted with a nod of his head
"Draco," Herwald replied in the same manner.
"I heard about your grandfather," the blonde said without dancing around the topic. "I wanted to offer my condolences."
He stuck his hand out and it took only a mere second for Herwald to grasp and shook it.
"Thank you, Draco. I received your letter but I'm glad you took the time to talk to me in person."
"It was the least I could do," he admitted, sincerely for once. "Well, I suppose I should go now. I'll see you later, I suppose. You too, Potter. Granger."
He spun and left, leaving behind a pleased wizard and another pair of stunned teens.
"All right," Alex said after a moment. "Either he was Imperioused or it was an imposter under polyjuice. I'd bet on the latter."
"Alex, honestly," Hermione huffed after she got over her own surprise."Not even Draco can be a prat all the time."
"Hermione, a Malfoy being anything less than a prat would mean that it can rain backwards."
"Alex," Herwald spoke with a tone of reprieve, "that's the same thing I always hear about me and my family."
"What? Hey, it's nothing like that," Alex defended himself. "This is not a matter prejudice. It's direct experience. I actually met three generations of Malfoys and they all were prats to the core. Malfoy senior was a Death Eater and his father before him a pureblood supremacist of the worst kind."
"Still, I think you should give Draco the benefit of doubt," Hermione protested and Herwald agreed with a nod.
"Why are you defending him of all people? He always treat you like dirty and even called you with the M-word."
"M-word?" Herwald asked.
"Mudblood," Hermione explained.
"Ah. And what's wrong with it?"
"What's wrong with it?" Alex asked bewildered. "What do you mean what's wrong with it?"
"Don't answer a question with a question. I just don't get what's the point. What's wrong with calling Hermione a Mudblood? She's one."
A moment of silence fell between them. Had Herwald just insulted Hermione? It didn't make sense and the girl in question seemed to think the same. Alex on the other hand was taken aback.
"Herwald, Mudblood is intended as an insult here in England," Hermione offered, guessing that it was a misunderstanding born over language. Herwald was native of Germany after all.
"It is? How can Mudblood even be intended as an insult?"
"Duh," Alex said. "Mud is dirt, so it's like saying that her blood is dirt too."
"Ah, I never thought of it like that," Herwald scratched his head in thought as he admitted it. "Oh well, I suppose that it's the intent behind a name that makes the difference."
"I don't understand how you could intend it as anything but an insult Herwald," Alex deadpanned.
"Because it isn't," Herwald shot back.
"Herwald, this discussion isn't getting anywhere. Why don't you explain us what that word means for you?"
"All right, but it's better if we do this after dinner. We're going to be late at this rate."
He was right. Most of the students had already left the platform. They immediately rushed after the crowd, postponing the conversation to a later time.
With a full belly and no longer hurry, the trio sat at the Ravenclaw table with a few more listeners in Padma Patil and Daphne Greengrass.
The latter had approached Herwald after with the same intentions as Draco. She was quickly invited to join the discussion and didn't see any reason not to. She didn't really mind the company and Herwald was considered worthy of being befriended by the rest of her house.
It was only due to his closeness to the Potter heir and the Slytherin House insular nature that the young Grindelwald had yet to make any real acquaintance among the snakes. In this instance he invited her to join him and as such she had no reason to consider eventual discomfort to her presence from the rest of his friend.
Not that there was any. To her surprise the Potter boy didn't seem to have problems with her being there. He merely gave her a neutral glance and then shrugged. Granger too didn't seem to have any grudge against her for being a Snake. After all, the only person who gave her any trouble for her origins was Malfoy and his goons, and even them had cut back with the taunts recently.
It seemed that when Herwald was put into the equation the usual roles shifted. There was a lot more enmity toward Granger from her own House. She probably didn't notice but only her friendship with Alex shielded her from having the same treatment as Longbottom.
How ironic that the Muggleborn girl was considered to be a traitor in the very Bastion of the Light.
That was one thing she had to give Herwald credit for. Whenever he was around he cast a different light on things. Perspectives changed and people showed their worst. It didn't escape anyone that even the usually fair McGonagall was waiting for a chance to corner him.
It involved few people for the time being but never before students from different houses sat together outside of class or the library. The odd group only lacked somebody from Hufflepuff, but that was only due to the sense of loyalty that pervaded that House. She could clearly see the Bones girl peeking at them every now and then. She had no doubt that given the occasion she would have hopped on that particular cart, out of curiosity.
Even the staff table kept an eye or ten on the raven haired wizard. After the troll incident he had been one of the first suspects, but he walked out of that position with little effort on his part. The talk down he gave to the House of Lions for failing Granger in time of need was still a topic of discussion (and laughter) beyond the doors of Slytherin's dorm.
And speaking of the staff, professor Flitwick had obviously taken an interest in the mixed group and was now walking in their direction.
"Ah! Good evening," he greeted. "Forgive me if I interrupt, but I couldn't help but wonder what you children were talking about. It's not every day that we can see such a mixed group."
"We aren't doing anything wrong, are we professor?" Hermione asked, worried of having broken some unknown rule.
"No, not at all Miss Granger. For years we tried to promote House unity but never got more than a few study groups from the students in NEWT years. It's just really wanted to know what could have brought such a group together."
"Oh," Hermione said, "Herwald was going to explain us the meaning of the term Mudblood."
Flitwick blinked several time at a very fast pace. He didn't expect that. Never before he imagined that a group of children would sit down and discuss the etymology of a known racial slur, especially not the potential target of such word.
"Ah. Is that so?" He asked not knowing exactly what else to say. "Would you mind if I joined in?
"Not at all , Professor," Herwald said politely. "Please have a seat."
"Thank you," he replied sitting down on the bench right beside Padma. His head was the only part of his body that could be seen from the other side of the table. Alex had to hold back a laughter at the comical sight.
"As I was saying, I didn't understand why the term Mudblood was used as an insult but then I considered that I was brought up by the Old Ways."
"Most Pureblood are," Daphne pointed out.
"Pardon me, I misspoke. I meant the Ancient Ways, My family still has a very strong druidic culture."
"Ah, I see," Alex said, and then immediately denied that statement. "But how does that change anything?"
Herwald chuckled."Druids are notoriously in tune with nature and see things from that perspectives. Tell me Alex, what is mud?"
"By a human standpoint I would agree, but I meant by a more practical one."
"A mixture of soil and water," Padma replied easily.
"Correct, Padma. Elaborate on that."
A moment of silence followed. It was Hermione, unsurprisingly, to come up with the right answer.
Herwald nodded at her. "Exactly. Back when the Pureblood movement still didn't exist Muggle-born children were considered to be a promise from the world to renew the gift of Magic. They represented a way for the Magic-folk to continue existing. It was a great honour for a magical family to welcome a Mudblood in their ranks and vice versa."
"This only proves that the Pureblood supremacist's beliefs of superiority is just bullsh...," Alex trailed off as he remembered that a professor was with them. "Ahem, I mean foolishness."
"Of course you do," Hermione said condescendingly.
"But that's wrong. There is a direct relation between blood purity and one's magical potential."
"What? But that's not true," Alex snapped back.
"Actually, Mr. Grindelwald is right," professor Flitwick said. "Lineage actually affects magic very deeply."
"How? I never seen anything of the sort," Hermione cut in. "Even here in school I never seen Purebloods having any sort of advantage over the Muggleborn."
"Because it doesn't work like that, Hermione," Herwald said, taking charge of the conversation again. "Magical heritage affects how far a person can get, magically-wise, but doesn't offer any initial advantage. ... Perhaps I should clarify. Magic is an hereditary trait. Even Squibs, unable as they are to perform any spell are able to interact with the magical world. Do we all agree with this?"
He received nods of confirmation from everyone, even though he was mostly speaking with Hermione and Alex.
"As far as magical power goes, only a fraction is passed on from generation to generation, but as a matter of fact a pureblood has more magical energy than any Muggleborn."
"But... I can cast more spells then... say...Draco does in most classes," Hermione objected.
"That is because you have better control over your magic, and your wand work is superior as well. You also put more effort outside of the actual classes and as consequence you perform better overall. If you compare it to a car, a pureblood has more fuel capacity whereas you have a more efficient engine. If Draco put half the effort you do he would undoubtedly keep up with you, stamina wise. The point of magical inheritance has little to do with this however. What's truly passed down is specialization."
"Specialization?" She asked.
"Yes, when a magical family applies itself to a certain branch of magic, the children born of that blood will have a higher potential than others. Alex's family, for instance, his known to be pretty talented in transfiguration."
"But I'm not as good as my father was at my age," he protested. "You mean it's because I'm only an Half-blood?"
Herwald groaned and shook his head. "How messed up is British society?"
"What are you talking about now?"
"He means," Daphne cut in, "that you aren't a Half-blood."
"What? Of course I am," Alex answered befuddled.
"No you aren't," Herwald said back. "First, your heritage has still to show, so your mother's origin doesn't affect you. As for your blood status, both your parents are magical and as such you are a fully fledged Pureblood."
"But my mother's a Muggleborn."
"So? She's still magical. For you to be an Half-blood she would have to be a Muggle. I suppose your family doesn't much care for blood status, but ask your father about it when you can. Furthermore, beside the Blood Purists, no one in magical society would look down on you for who your mother is; and those who would discriminate you for that only want to push Muggleborn out of the Wizarding world. Do you think that Voldemort's followers," he ignored the flinches at the mention of the Dark Lord's name, "where all Purebloods? There's just an handful of families in every country that hasn't at least a Muggleborn or a so-called Half-Blood in the past three generations. And those few are dying Squibbing out."
"Wait," Hermione paused, "you're saying that Muggleborns are actually a necessity for magic to continue existing?"
"Pretty much. While bringing fresh blood into the family halts the increment of talent in the family's field of choice for a generation or two, it's a needed procedure to renew the gift of magic. Truth to be told, the purist movement initially began to minimize the need of such influxes in order to speed up the improvement of magic. Only a few centuries later it became a political movement based on cultural fear. Of course, it never abandoned the claim that it's for the sake of magical heritage, even if it's actually counter-intuitive in that regard by now."
"Wait, wait, wait. I'm losing you here," Hermione admitted. "How is the pureblood movement damaging to magic if preserving it was the original purpose?"
Herwald sighed. "Magical inheritance affects the maximal potential a wizard or a witch possess in a determined branch of magic. It's a factor that hardly ever comes into play because nowadays, beside a few researchers and scholars, no one pushes himself magically beyond what's needed in everyday's life. This is especially true when it comes to old, wealthy, pureblood families."
He stopped to give his listeners a moment to process what he said.
"Their heirs, once they leave Hogwarts hardly ever need to use their own magic to do anything. House Elves take care of the basic needs and, as they spend most of the time working life administering their financial businesses, they don't even need to cast anything but a few elementary spells. Even thought they might have a natural disposition in a certain field due to their ancestry, they no longer exercise it to the point of it being significant. Combined with the policy of keeping fresh blood political means and monetary wealth it results in magic withering instead of prospering. Wizarding culture is stagnant and magic suffers in return, resulting in decreasing fertility and an increase in Squibs' numbers."
Hermione groaned. "Why don't they teach us this stuff in History of Magic?"
"A very good question," Herwald commented. "Let's take this chance to find out why this isn't' a part of the standard curriculum. Professor Flitwick?"
"Actually, as far as I know, it is included the first year course load," the diminutive professor said.
"And how many people have acquired a OWL or even a NEWT in this subject in the past few years?"
"None that I'm aware about," he admitted.
"And that would be because?"
"Mr. Grindelwald," Flitwick piped up. "Are you expecting me to comment negatively the work of my colleague?"
"I wouldn't dream of it," he said smirking. A little arrogantly in the Charm professor's opinion. "I would appreciate, however, if you brought this subject up in the appropriate courts, if you agree that there's something below standard in our education."
Flitwick rubbed his temples. "Are you formally asking your Head o House to file a complaint against another professor?"
"Not necessarily. So long as the matter is solved I don't quite care how it is done. I'm confident that you're more than capable of choosing which method to apply to see it done."
The professor actually nodded. "It's my responsibility to see that this matter is properly examined, that much is certain. Thought I'd appreciate if you were less of a smart-mouth when bringing up eventual complaints."
"Noted, professor," Herwald answered still smirking.
"I'm serious, Mr. Grindelwald. There's no need for you to corner me with evidences for me to listen to anything you have to say. Your heritage does not matter to me."
Herwald sat back straighter and blinked. How had the conversation turned to this? Had he assumed that his teacher was biased and would not listen to his opinion because of his family? Not consciously, no, but he still pushed the matter forcefully and unwittingly offended the man.
"I apologize professor," he said bowing his head lightly. "I'm afraid some bad habits are ingrained too hard for me to bypass them easily. It wasn't my intention to offend you."
"Apology accepted," Flitwick said. "I do understand where you are coming from Mr. Grindelwald."
"Of course. Thank you, professor."
"Anytime. Now, I suggest you to retire for the night as soon as you can. The holydays are over and classes will restart as usual tomorrow. Make sure you are all properly rested."
"Yes, professor," they agreed in chorus.
Hermione waited for Flitwick to be out of earshot before speaking to Herwald.
"What just happened?"
"I think I just made an ass out of myself," he commented sourly.
"Happens to the best of us, mate," Alex said patting his back.
"You would know something about that, wouldn't you?"
"Oh, you're such an arse."
The group dissolved in laughter, blissfully forgetting any and all barriers built between Houses. Herwald too enjoyed the moment, and for the first time in days he managed not to think about his grandfather. He hadn't quite finished grieving yet, but with the help of friends the process would speed up considerably.
He slept a restful sleeps from that night onward, until things started to change again.
And to think that all it took was a tiny little dragon.
All right. I'm finally back to this story. I had a major family loss recently (my old, faithful notebook died out), and I had a bit of trouble retrieving the latest copy of my data. I have a triple backup of everything important, so it wasn't a complete disaster, but it was a setback nonetheless.
As usual, reviews are appreciated. I'll be starting a forum for my fics so feel free to join and discuss them there.
Also, I'm in the process of editing this whole story so it might take a while before I update again.