Lion in the Snake Pit
18: … Lion in the Snake Pit
"What the… hello? Ron, is that you?" Hermione asked as a movement caught her attention. She called forth the lights, having to do a double take at the form on the sofa. For a second, she thought it was Harry, the boy having often fallen asleep on that couch. It was Snape.
"Sorry, where am I?" He mumbled, making her stare at him dumbly. She could run, he still looked only half awake; she could make the door before he caught her. Then again, he didn't much resemble the boy she saw last night, threatening Ron left and right.
"You got lost on your way back?" She finally asked, he was new, after all.
"As you can see. I… I slipped in the hall…. Next thing I know, I was here." He looked around, an odd expression on his face. "Where is here?"
"Oh, um, just a room we found, a clubhouse almost. Most people don't know about it so we just hang out here. You know?" She lied quickly… it was sort of true…
"Ya, sure, looks like one hell of a clubhouse." He smiled warmly, the bright green eyes seeming to know more about her than possible. "Not to seem rude or anything, but could-" She studied him for a moment, not sure what to make of a Slytherin that was being civil.
"You're different." She stated finally, not knowing she had said it aloud until he raised a brow.
"Different. Not what I expected… or saw last night. You're, well, nice."
"And were you expecting Draco or my father?" He questioned lightly, bemused at her hesitation. It wasn't often he got to see her so… unsure of something.
"Both, actually." She admitted, blushing. "Especially after…"
"I'm sorry you ladies had to see that." He stated truthfully, it shouldn't have escalated to the common room.
"You wouldn't care if we were all Muggleborns." She said coldly, "only purebloods are ladies to you lot."
"You did expect Draco…" he countered, finding the situation oddly amusing.
"A Slytherin. Don't deny you'd spit on a 'mudblood' as soon as you knew her!" His smile faded.
"I haven't yet, have I? Nor have I called you that- or anyone. That's Draco's father you described, not mine… a lady as smart as you ought to get her facts straight before she accuses people." He answered, angered by the statement. "Now lady of the lions, if you'd kindly show me the door…" He pressed, stressing the title.
"Don't." He cut her off, "Just show me the way out, please… I knew the stereotype I fell into the moment the hat placed me in my house, it isn't your fault you believe everyone there is a 'mudblood hating spoiled brat'- that's how you see me, correct?"
"Horatius I'm-" The door creaked open.
"Hermione, sorry I'm la- YOU!" Ron's eyes widened as he caught sight of Horris, one turning white, the other red.
"Calm down, Ron, he was just leaving."
"Doesn't bloody well look like it! What you want this time, Snape?"
"Don't play with fire, little Ronald," Horris retorted, "You'll get burned."
"Get away from him Hermione, he's an Asp!" Okay, now he was mad.
"Care to tell her how you know that little fact, Weasley? I can't help what I am, you-"
"SHUT UP!" The read-head yelled, shoving Horris.
"What, don't want to be compared to a certain rat?"
"SHUT UP, SNAKE!"
"You're the snake, Ronald… a slimy serpent poised to strike… ask the lady to leave and I'll give you a piece of my mind." Did he mention being a Snape had its perks?
"She can stay where she is!"
"As you wish, Death Eater scum." Horris stated mockingly. "Don't trust him, my lady; Voldemort would love to get all of Harry's friends within reach. What, afraid of his name, Weasley? Afraid of your master?"
"Ahhh!" The other boy screamed as Horris twisted his arm and shoved him away.
"That's nothing! Ever felt the Cruciatus, Weasley? It's his favorite you know… uses it on his Death Eaters for fun. Hasn't Harry told you what he sees, he feels? How they look when he makes them crawl on their knees to kiss his muddy boots and how he hurts them just to hear their screams?"
"You're an Asp!"
"Doesn't make me his…I'll never be his!"
"You already are!"
"If I was, you'd be dead. You try to hurt her and you will be." Horris swore; his voice dead serious. "Do you even know what he'd make you do? You'd kill her-" he pointed to Hermione, her eyes wide at the scene before her, "-to prove you're loyal, to hurt Harry… that's why you wanted the mark isn't it, to hurt him? Your family would be next, he'd get them to convert or keep them prisoner to keep you loyal. Ginny might be raped a few times…" Ron lunged at him, "What, you think he wouldn't do it? You think Voldemort would play nice, play fair? Wake up and smell the coffee, Ron Weasley… truth hurts." He stormed to the door, "Stay away from him, Hermione… warn Ginny too. Adieu."Why did the school always seem ten times bigger when you needed to find someone? Especially someone who didn't have any patterns yet? Someone he really needed to find-now! Damn it, where was he? And how in hell did that boy-from-nowhere get to be Alpha? Horatius Ferox Snape was an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, and shadowed in mystery. Draco had figured him the Beta, something about him setting him above the other Asps Draco had met. And it was the other way around… Draco was the bloody Beta, damnit, and he owed Horris for saving his hide too! Horris was the only one who dared undo one of the Dark Lord's punishments… and then he was kept back. No, his father said Horris was fine, just on edge… who wouldn't be!
"Watch it, Weasel!" He huffed as Potter's little sidekick ran past him. Any other time he'd have taught him a lesson; had not something down the corridor the weasel had come from caught his attention. Someone was in hysterics, halting the sobs only to choke out a 'finite incantatem' before they started all over again. Granger?
"Please, please be alright… oh Merlin!" What the…
"Horris?" he said. The girl whirled around frantically.
"Malfoy, help me… he-"
"Who did this!" He demanded, making her just start crying again. He knew the symptoms; anyhow, someone had hit him with the Cruciatus. He was sure as soon as he touched him. "Horris, you alright?" He asked, seeing the boy come to. "Leave, Granger, he doesn't need a mudblood stinking up his air." She didn't even get mad, to his utter surprise, just stood up with tears still in her eyes. Good, I'll be able to heal him.
"Wait. Don't go." Horris called, his voice strained. Are you nuts? Draco mentally cursed, he couldn't heal him with- "She knows, Draco," Oh… still "Hermione can stay." If Horris' current situation did not negate the possibility, he'd swear the boy could read minds. Granger, for her part, stood half-turned, obviously at a loss at what to do.
"Well, Granger?" He asked indignantly, "Are you going or staying- pick one." He turned back to Horris, hoping his venom would help him out, not feeling up to alerting the professor that his son had just been slapped with an Unforgivable. Horris' father always had a way of knowing when Draco needed the blasted concoctions, even during the summer holidays. Where was he now?
"Thanks, Draco…my Lady." Horris smiled to each in turn, the pain apparently diminishing. My Lady?
"You feeling alright, Horris? Granger is-"
"Muggleborn." The raven-haired boy nodded, "Is that a problem?"
"Didn't think so." The boy smirked, using Draco's shoulder to hoist himself up. The mystery of Horris deepens it seems…
"Let's get you back to the dorms, alright?" Granger wisely turned to leave in the opposite direction, getting stopped once again when Horris grabbed her wrist. Was he insane?
"She's a Gryffindor, Horris, she can't-"
"She's not safe there."
"So?" Did all Snapes have such potent death glares? Merlin help us! "Right…" At least Granger looked just as uneasy as Draco at Horris' implication.
"Please, my Lady?"
Granger was shaking as they entered the common room, holding onto Horris like a lifeline. The effect was instant. All conversations stopped, all heads turned, confusion and detestation in all their eyes. No one but Horris moved, guiding the lone Gryffindor into his room. Draco didn't follow. All eyes were on him now, as he figured they would be, knowing none would openly challenge Horris… not after he won Voldemort's favor last night. Word spread quickly indeed, the other Slytherin Asps conveying the gist of the events they witnessed. Horris was infallible- for now- Draco wasn't.
"Draco?" Horris… "Tell them I'll take full responsibility for her, please, they still think you're Alpha." Horris whispered.
"You do it… you have more leverage than I do... after last night."
"You're kidding." Draco could almost laugh at the bewildered look on the boy's face.
"You earned the Dark Lord's favor… he was mad at me."
"Oh." He straitened up, apparently accepting Draco's explanation, turning to the expectant room. "Granger is under my protection." His voice ran over their startled faces, "She can come and go as she pleases and if anyone has any problems with that you can bring it up with me." His tone mimicked his father during a harsh lecture, "Merlin have mercy if you call her a 'mudblood'- understood?" He stormed back to his room, not waiting for a reply. The few that weren't shocked out of their wits nodded feebly, the rest looking totally dumbfounded."If anyone so much as looks at you wrong, you tell me, alright? You okay?"
"I'm the one who ought to be asking you that… I still can't believe Ron-" She mumbled,
"Me either. Harry spoke highly of him…" Harry?
"You've met Harry?"
"Briefly. He's a good kid, I'm kind of sorry for him though. I'm not a follower of Voldemort you know… they just think I am." She nodded hastily.
"You do?" Was that really so shocking?
"You're too nice to follow him…" She stated. The truth was she simply couldn't not trust him, though the very concept unnerved her to no end. She was sitting alone in a Slytherin boy's room, one who could easily kill her, surrounded by Voldemort supporters and at least a ten-minute walk from the nearest Gryffindor… why in hell did she come here? The worst part was she wasn't even scared- not really. Nervous as hell- yes, but part of her wanted to be here… as if she'd been here before.
"Well, I'm glad you trust me, either way. You can come anytime, the password is Emerald, and the one to the common room is Venom. I suggest you come straight here, though all the Slytherins know you're off limits." Off Limits sounded almost as if she was his property, a prize of some sort, at least it would have, if anyone else had said it. It didn't sound that way coming from him.
"Why are you doing this?" She asked, hoping to satisfy her confused curiosity.
"It's my fault, isn't it? You're in danger because of me." His fault? "If I-"
"How in hell is Ron's idiocy your fault? Don't you go taking the blame off him too … Harry did that and look, now Ron thinks he can do no wrong!"
"So it's Harry's fault?"
"NO! It's Ron's … all Ron's! It's high time he took responsibility for his actions, always blaming anything and anyone to weasel his way out of any situation…" She hadn't said anything to Harry, knowing he'd probably take Ron's side anyway, but now… maybe she ought to have risked their friendship after all!
"You alright?" Did I just space out?
"Fine, just stressed… Tell me about you… you seem to know loads about me." She tried to change the subject.
"Harry told me."
"What do you want to know? About my past or about the Asp thing?"
"Both… whatever you'd like really.""I thought you said I'd be immune you idiot!"
"Not right away!" The blonde defended, "You only got the blasted things in a few days ago; you can do little more than control which comes out when… these things take time. The venoms, yes, as soon as you get yours they can't hurt you. The actual curses are different… the venoms have to be in your blood for a while before that immunity sets in, a month or so. Right now your senses are sharpened and the safeties aren't in place yet so all curses are gonna prove far more potent on you right now. Potions too." Draco added as an afterthought. That certainly explained a few things…
"I was wondering why it felt so strong…"
"You've been cursed before?" Horris glared. "Right, stupid question." Horris just reviewed the blonde's rant,
"Oh, after a while you'll be able to sort of alter the level of your senses, from zero to spell-enhanced-like levels. I can tell you, turning off your hearing when some idiot decides to throw a party the night before an exam is a life saver!"
"I bet. Any chance at you letting me finish this homework so I can get some sleep?" Horris asked after a short laugh. He didn't want to, but Monday was only a few hours away, if he intended to sleep at all, and he had absolutely no time since Friday.
"Oh, right, sorry." Draco said, quickly getting up. "See you later."
Horris had just enough time to finish his homework for the morning when someone knocked at his door, again.
"What, Draco?" He called, knowing the blonde was the only one who knocked that way. "I want to turn in soon."
"Sorry, found your kitty outside… thought you should know."
"The Lioness you decided to tame… looks rather haggard too."
"Hermione?" The blonde nodded, making Horris drop his book as Draco let her in. "You alright?" He asked, alarmed. She was crying, her cloak tossed on carelessly, and in a manner he had never seen her before. "Draco, out." He knew not to ask her what was wrong, being in a position of just wanting to escape many times himself. "Look at me… look. It'll be alright… nothing can hurt you here, okay? You're sleeping here. I'll call an elf to get you some things- you thirsty?" She shook her head, wiping her eyes. "Still, some tea will do you good. Just give me a second, alright?" He looked around, "I have some dreamless sleep potion on the bedside table; a half-dose will help-okay? I trust you won't snoop…" she shook her head, leaning on a chair. He didn't think she would, not that she'd find much if she did, but he stealthily locked the trunk with a twitch all the same. "Good night, Lea, peaceful dreams."
He closed the door, calling an elf to bring her necessities and some tea.
"Gonna sleep out here, Horris?"
"Was planning on it. Why?"
"Need to talk with ya, is all… can we talk in my room, seeing how yours is taken at the moment?"
"No." Horris replied bluntly, eyeing his door.
"Don't trust them to stay put?"
"Like you trust Slytherins…" Horris retorted sarcastically, throwing a pillow at the blonde.
"I trust you."
"Honored, I'm sure." Horris smirked, catching the returning pillow mid-flight, leaning back on the surprisingly comfortable sofa.
"What did you need to talk about?"
"You know I'm not Alpha…" Horris nodded, "You are."
"You have officially lost it, Draco."
"I'm serious, I'm the Beta- you're Alpha."
"And how did you come up with this colorful conclusion, exactly?"
"I got six venoms, others have three, you got what, eight?"
"Nine. Point being?"
"The Alpha has more powers than the Beta, who has more powers than the others. That makes you Alpha."
"You can control elements, I can't." I don't want to be Alpha!
"Got the venoms before you as well…" Horris looked off into space for a moment, damn.
"What do we do with this little piece of information?" He asked somberly, still disliking the idea.
"That depends who your loyalties lie with. Mine lie with you." Horris' eyebrows shot up, what? "I'm your second in command- right? We need to be honest with each other so I can help you… I gotta know, Horris."
"Where do your loyalties lie, Draco?" Horris asked, grabbing the boy by the wrist.
"No matter who mine lie with?" Draco nodded. Looking to make sure no one was up anymore; Horris loosened his grip, undoing the truth venom. "Voldemort doesn't find out who I am- alright?"