His steps were muffled as he marched down the hall, even though he stomped down on the clearly inferior carpet. Outwardly he was sure he presented an image of competence and determination. Inside, he was uncharacteristically beset with jumbled thoughts. Still wondering what he would say. What can you say to a man who had deliberately doomed his nearest relative to living death? Who had stolen everything of worth, physical and otherwise, from his only son?
He reached the room which had been his when he was master of this house. When he had thought he was master of this house. The door was locked but opened with a simple spell. The room did not look as he had left it. Everything that was personal had been stripped from the walls, now painted a light mauve. The closets, wardrobe, and drawers were empty. The panel under his desk did not hold his money and legal papers, the drawer did not hold his files.
Nothing. Nothing. He stood, staring at the window for a long time, then out at the view which had been his in his childhood.
He marched down to his mother's rooms, which had been next to his own. A sitting room and a small library, in blue. His father had left it exactly as it had been when she died. Or so Klaus had thought. He had seldom been allowed in. There was nothing in the closets, no papers at the desk. But there was a small library, and when he growled the spell which showed him what was his, almost all the books glowed with a deep red aura. He packed them up efficiently. Three rings, hidden behind the books were the only bits of jewelry in the room, and they, too, had a rosy aura. Glowing also was a curiously empty painting of a garden, which rattled until he took it from the wall, as if it were eager to be gone. There was nothing under the bed except proof that the household did not have enough help.
The rooms next to mother's had once been his nursery, and had now been turned into a suite for his father's nurses. Two rooms, obviously in use by two men, although no one was present. There were hardly any personal items here, much less any of his. He wondered if the old man was so ill that these men did not anticipate a long stay. Perhaps Klaus had left this task too long.
Emerging into the hallway once again, Klaus took a deep breath and forced himself to walk towards to the heavy wooden door. The carvings on it were three hundred years old. The area behind had always been his father's mysterious domain. No children allowed. Klaus had only been inside a dozen times in his life. When his father had not been in residence it had been kept securely locked.
The knob and hinges were well oiled and the door opened with hardly a sound. He stepped into dim light. The outer room of the suite held a casual group of seating, and a desk with a comfortable chair. The rug on the floor was a magnificent Turkish carpet. The fireplace was on the left and a heavily draped window on the right, Klaus stood there, drawing in the scent of tobacco and illness, and let his eyes adjust. When the door to the actual bedroom opened, Klaus whirled, hand to his wand. He frightened the nurse into jumping and yelping out a bit of profanity.
“Who let you in? The patient is not to be disturbed!” The nurse had a pleasant, light voice which hampered his effort to be stern, as did his wide, frightened eyes.
“I am here to speak with...the old man.” Klaus said. To his surprise, the slight rasp which had plagued him off and on since he had woken up from his coma was not only in evidence, but distinct and heavy. It made him sound almost...sinister.
Briskly the nurse straightened and said officiously, “He's just fallen asleep. You'll have to come back.”
“That is not possible. I will see him now.”
“But you do not understand. He is not strong. It takes several minutes, even a quarter of an hour, before he becomes aware enough to hold a conversation, and that is after he has rested. It is because of the pain medications, and I have just given him his pills.”
“I will wait, then.” Klaus said firmly, “Do not come back until you are summoned. Please tell this to your relief nurse as well.”
“But I have to check on him every hour!”
“If he seems in difficulty I will call you. What is your name?”
“Frederich. Anton Frederich.”
“I commend your attention to duty, Herr Frederich, but this business can not be put off. I will wait and perhaps do paperwork until he seems able to speak coherently and at that point my business will take only a quarter of an hour, or perhaps just a few minutes more.”
“But I should....”
“Go,” Klaus waved him away, and such was the force of his personality that the other man left, looking back over his shoulder.
The moment the door closed behind the man, Klaus flicked on the lights and began his search. He found three of his books on the bookshelf above the desk, and in the drawer, a file narked only K. It was a very thick file, and seemed to hold most of the personal documents Klaus had hoped to find. It also contained all the papers in connection with his attack, the resulting coma, and the placements afterward. At least one piece of parchment nestled among the modern paper. Klaus took it all, placing it gently into his black bag. Then, forcing his shoulders back, he strode into the next room, the bedroom.
It was dim here, too. Klaus cast a lumos and held his arm high. His father lay on the bed on his back, his arms outside the covers. Every year of the last decade lay carved into his face, changing him into someone Klaus almost did not recognize. Gaunt, thin, almost...small. His hair was white, and his face needed a shave.
When he could not stand looking at him any more Klaus stomped through the room to the door on the other side. It opened onto a luxurious bathroom, it's tiled beauty marred by the chrome and cotton contraption for getting an invalid in and out of a bath. A tall nurse's cabinet stood where the vanity had once been. On the other side of the bathroom was a door to another room, one which had been the province of the wife of the house in the days when married couples of a certain status did not automatically share a bed.
In that room there was a comfortable looking double bed, with a canopy. There were trunks and dressers, wardrobes and, tucked into the corner, the missing vanity from the bathroom. And when Klaus cast the spell which identified what was his the room lit up from all directions, so that it was as if he stood in the middle of a fire.
He packed it up without looking through any of it. In a tall wardrobe he found the last German uniform he had worn, complete with medals already pinned on, and boots beside it. His other uniforms, both school, army, and NATO, were nowhere in sight.
“One to bury me in?” Klaus murmured, as he took it, hanger and all. No other clothing came to light. He found his personal files, which had once been in his Bonn apartment, medical and hospital records three decades old. Another file of his transfers, his promotions. His commendations and reprimands. And, although he did not remember ever having kept such a thing, one of Eroica's cards. From Eroica, With Love. The calling card left behind at every theft Dorian wanted to acknowledge. Had his father taken it as a personal message, a sign that his son kept inappropriate company at the very least?
His father's assumption, rather than truth, because at that point of his life, all Klaus had was a few guilty fantasies and regular on-the-job harassment from the beautiful Lord Dorian Red Gloria.
Klaus made a face and thrust the file box into his black bag and went on looking. In a wooden box he found his cufflinks, his tie bar and money clip, with his initials in silver and black. These had been given to him mostly by the butler, Herr Hinkel, who had helped raise him. The emerald set from his father was in the box as well, and the black he had chosen for himself.
He went back to check on the sleeping man, staring at him again for a long time before he began to search the room. Nothing. He placed a comfortable chair beside the bed, and then he opened the drapes of one window, flooding the room with light. The face of the old man looked no better in the harsh brightness, and upon consideration, Klaus drew the inner curtains and diffused the sunshine into something his own eyes could tolerate. As he turned back from the window, Klaus gave a small start of surprise. There, in the space between the ceiling and the lintel of the door, was the Man in Purple. The painting had been poorly, perhaps hastily, hung, and was placed so the man in the bed could look up and see it easily. Klaus found this amusing and he smiled a dark, grim smile as he moved back to the bed.
Klaus sat in the chair and said, in a clear voice, “Wake up.”
There was no effect. Klaus got up. Piling up the pillows, he lifted the old man and propped him up so that he was sitting upright. This caused the patient to sigh and open his eyes. He did not seem to see anything as he blinked and took a few shallow breaths. After nudging him into a better position, where the old man would be looking directly at him when his eyes completely focused, Klaus sat down again.
“Wake up,” Klaus commanded for the second time. It seemed to help Heinz focus. For several long, long minutes, he stared.
“Klaus?” the old man whispered, in a quavery voice.
“You may address me as Herr Eisen. I had another name once, but it was stolen from me by...someone I trusted.”
“You...live.” The tone was incredulous, doubting.
“I live, with no thanks to you. The wicked old fool you hired is in Azkaban, a prison for wizards.”
“Prison.” It was like a pale echo.
“Where you no doubt would be, if you were not a rich old man. But do not worry. You will die free. But you will have no reputation, no honor, and men will spit upon your grave; even your new heirs might refuse to speak your name, in their embarrassment. It is the only revenge I will have, to tell you what I think of you, and to know that you will know, while you live, that your name is tarnished.”
The old man was awake now, his eyes showing more life. His focus was stronger as he continued to stare at Klaus Eisen. He would see a man who did not at all resemble the the vibrant man he struck down in the prime of life. He would see a gray-haired man with lines in his face, and eyes that were sharp with scorn and pain.
Klaus sighed. “I first thought to confront you, to demand an explanation. But now it seems a waste. What could you tell me that I don't know? You might tell me the lies you told yourself to make it tolerable to you. Or make something up. Or tell me your version of the truth, your reasoning and justifications,which would be painful to hear. On the surface I know why it happened. I know that I had not yet married, as you ordered me to do, I knew you suspected that I leaned towards the male in my preferences. But why this method? Why at that point? Why, when I was obeying, when you were close to your desires, did you kill me?”
“No!” The harsh voice could not manage a shout, but the word burst from the old man with force.
“Yes. You killed me, old man. You had the Draught of Living Death poured into me, and you abandoned me to endure a coma for ten years. The potion kept me alive, yet I was very close to dead when I was rescued from that place where you left me at the end of the first year. You must have known death would eventually come, if I did not received good care. You were not brave enough to watch it, so you sent me away. Away. I was not even allowed to stay and die on German soil!
“I was rescued, but when another year had passed and the ulcers were healed and the infection out of my system, I still lay as one dead. You placed me in an iron grave while I was still alive, and left me to rot, before my battle had ended. You took away my name, my heritage, and gave it to someone else. You robbed Germany of my service. You cut out my heart, and left me to wake into the deepest grief, to know my own father had done this.
“I had been injured and made a prisoner, left for dead. No one came to help me. Not family. Not country. Some of my men from NATO made attempts, but they lost track of me when you had me taken out of the country. Their efforts to find me were thwarted by orders from higher up. No one came for me except a foreign, flamboyant, faggot thief with golden hair. A man who spent almost ten years and untold funds keeping me alive and comfortable while he searched for a cure. He never gave up.
“You gave up. You have not the honor or the moral strength of a deviant fop.” The hard, clipped words were a weapon he stabbed into the old man's heart.
Von dem Eberbach's eyes closed, as he took the hit. There was a small silence as they both stayed very still.
Klaus eventually spoke again. “I woke up to find my name, my inheritance, the family home and my flat, gone. My health, gone. My belongings, the small things I had earned with my own work, my sweat, were all gone. I woke up to find that I was not Klaus von dem Eberbach. Well. I accept this. I am Klaus Eisen. I live in England with a beautiful man. You flinch? Why? You arranged it.
“I was determined to be a good son, you know. I had spoken three times with a woman of my own age and we both had expressed interest in a union, in heirs. Neither of us was enthusiastic, we did not move quickly towards this goal. Still, we were close to announcing an engagement. I had never taken for myself what was on offer, from men. That took...great strength. I was ready to sacrifice happiness in order to please you. At the point where you decided to kill me, the only question in my heart was if it would be honorable to, just once, please myself, before I married. I had decided that would be cruel to...everyone involved.
“What made you think I would turn my back on duty? When you came to such a conclusion, why did you not just speak to me? For that matter, why did you never tell me about our wizarding heritage? I am sorry that you never had what you wished from me, but you never even told me how I had failed you.
“If you wanted me gone, why not just arrange to have me killed? Why were you such a hive of secrets? If you could contact wizards to harm me, why not do so with positive intent?”
Klaus put his hand to his pocket and stood up. He turned, letting his robe swirl out in a way he had learned from a friend, and when his face was once again in the sight of the old man, he held his wand in his hand.
“If you had spent the money you wasted to hire a wizard assassin on a wizard healer instead, you might have learned that I have magic. It seems I gave too much to my mother as I was born, that both of us might live, and I was drained, damaged. It could have been fixed. It was fixed, in England, although not without considerable pain. You would have had your magical heir.” He cast a lumos spell, lighting the room briefly. “But instead, you have no son. You have no grandchildren, because I fell in love with the man who stood up for me. Your direct magical line is dead. Another branch of the family will carry the name to whatever fame or honor the future holds.
“You have no son, to stand at your grave and mourn. When you die, I will not know, or care. All I want from you are the items and the funds you stole from me. You or your estate will give me back the money you have from taking and selling what is mine. Your lawyers have received the bill. I suggest you pay it promptly. If you have any honor left, you will also return to Germany what the country has paid you for ten years for my care.
“Germany and I are not depending on your honor. If you do not produce the money in a timely fashion, we will present our legal suit. If by some odd chance you manage to use your money and influence to defeat the suit, I have told my lover that he may take whatever treasures he wishes from this house, from the estate, to the value of twice what is owed, and sell them at auction to cover your debts. There will be no secrecy, we wish there to be gossip and speculation. I remember, you see, what your opinions are about public humiliation.
“If you were not already standing with one foot in hell, old man, you would also find yourself in wizarding court, facing charges. Hiring an incompetent dark wizard to make a potion to harm and rob your son. In England this type of crime results in twenty years in Azkaban.”
Herr Eisen sat quietly, frowning and staring at the man. “Sometimes I wonder if it was best that it played out this way. That you were not a wizard. If you had been, you would have been a dark wizard. You disagree?” The old man had mad a gruff sound of protest. “If not born one, the terrible experiences of the war would probably have left you inclined to it. A dark wizard whose child is not a wizard? I would not have survived. You would have killed me earlier, that is all. I think, anyone who would kill their own son would have not held back from killing others. Perhaps, had I magic as a child, I, too, would have grown up to be a dark wizard.” He paused and then added, “Should it interest you, I am not. I have allied myself with the side of the Light.”
Klaus Eisen stopped speaking. He seemed to be studying the pattern of the wallpaper. Eventually he asked, “No apology? No explanation? Is there nothing you wish to say to me?”
The silence seemed to become deeper, heavier. They both listened to the old man's raspy breathing for a few minutes. Then Herr Eisen took a deep breath and stood up. “I leave you now for the last time. Do not change your will or your mind. Let the cousins have everything. The heritage and the land. Do not, in your haste to make some late retribution, leave me anything. I will take nothing from you. You are the past, from which I can walk away with my head high.”
He noticed a tear sliding down the crease in the old man's cheek. He watched it fall on the the bristle at the edge of the lip, and then slide sideways to be lost in the sparse white hair. “In my more charitable moments I blame the war, for burning your soul out of you. It must have been terrible, to see comrades fall and know that if only you had the magic that should have been your birthright, you could have saved them. I do not know if you were ever a good man. I would like to think that you were. Once.” He stood up and turned away. He did not look back as he left the room.
In the anteroom, the nurse was sitting very near the door, and scrambled up as Klaus emerged. Klaus ignored his belligerent look and spoke to him firmly.
“I did not give him good news. He may have need of your help. Good evening,” Klaus added as he left the room. It was done. He did not feel better for having had his say. He had not expected to. But it was done. At least it was done. Dorian waited for him, and they could go, leaving all that had been behind. He did not stop to have one last look at the dark fortress which had once been his. He liked his castles brighter, now.