Forlorn Hope

Stress Relief

­19: Stress Relief

"Horatius, stay behind please."

"Yes, sir?" Horris asked timidly as soon as the remainder of the Potions class filled out.

"How is it that in less than two weeks after your arrival seventh year Slytherins are taking your orders, certain Muggleborn Gryffindors sleep in the Slytherin dorms- private quarters no less, and no one mutters 'mudblood' without first making sure you are on the other side of the castle?" Severus asked a somewhat amused expression on his face.

"Right… that." Severus raised a brow. "Well, you were there for the first one… most of them figure I'll tell Voldie on them if they don't do as I ask. Lea-er-Hermione isn't exactly safe in Gryffindor so I let her sleep in my room…" He shot his son a shocked glare, making the boy turn red as a raspberry. "I was on the sofa!" He stammered quickly, "As for the last one…" he composed himself, obviously in an attempt to avoid the subject of Miss Granger, "I didn't notice, sir, I just told them not to call Lea that."

"Lea?" Severus asked, cocking his eyebrow.

"Long story… it means 'lioness'."

"I know Latin, child, who gave her the name?"

"Er, I did… sort of. Just stuck I guess."

"Slytherin suits you after all, I see…"

"In a way, sir, it's certainly different." Severus gave a slight nod, prompting the boy to continue. "I can't let my guard down in there." Severus nodded, glad that the boy had acknowledged the fact, "I always have to question everyone's motives."

"As long as you know not to trust them… now, you know that the lessons start soon?"

"Yes, sir."

"You need to inform the other Asps, as well as Miss Granger… she must know you will be unavailable during those times."

"Yes, sir."

"Are you the Alpha, Horris?" Severus asked abruptly, feeling as if an eternity passed before the boy hesitantly nodded. "Does Malfoy know?"

"He… he told me, sir." Damnit!

"Stay away from him then." The calm response hid his trembling thoughts. This. Was. Bad. Draco would undoubtedly tell his father, and a jealous Lucius paired with the suspicious acts of his son were not what Severus needed right now, the meeting was still far too fresh in his mind.

"He's loyal to me, sir, not Voldemort." Severus hid his shock.

"Are you sure?"

"Truth venom- better then Veritaserum as far as I can tell. Only I have it, so he isn't immune… I can give you a sample if you want."

"Make it so." Severus agreed.

"Anything else, sir?"

"Be careful."

"Always, sir…"

Severus resisted the unnaturally strong urge to rolled his eyes; if this was careful, he did not want to see his son acting careless!

"Raven, Kitty. Pony, Hydra." Severus started pairing them off; using the names Voldemort had given them. "Harpy, Phoenix. Badger, Stingray. Cheetah, Grim. Scorpion, Wolf and Viper, Dragon." The class, if one could call the room that, was dark and dreary, full of signs of the years of misuse that the cleaning spells could not undo.

"Ever use these, Viper?" Horris shook his head as Draco pointed at the long swords, knowing the little adventure in the Chamber of Secrets did not count… he'd have done better with a spear. Draco looked at him oddly. "So you still won't learn from the-"

"No." Horris cut him off, his voice final. Any knowledge implanted by Voldemort was not something Horris wanted to mess with… he still believed there would be some bloody Imperius woven into it, forcing him to submit.

"I can't always teach you everything, Horris. You've got powers I don't and-"

"Don't worry about it, if I have to I'll use it." Horris lied, "Unless you don't want to help."

"I do! I just don't know why you always look for the hardest way to do something." The blonde replied earnestly. "Guess we'd better teach you the basics then." Horris nodded.

"You two stay behind, I will be giving you extra lessons." Horris heard his father state from behind him as Draco and he started to practice.

"The elements, sir?"

"Once both of you reach that level, yes."

"Apparating?" Horris prompted, seeing his father in an agreeable mood.

"No, that all of you must learn before the next summons. Keep your arms closer to your body, Dragon. Viper, bend your knees… more…more…there. Don't slouch!"

"Blaise-er-Cheetah wants to pledge to you… asked me to deliver the message." Draco whispered as Horris' father walked off to help the others.

"How'd he find out?" He prompted, dodging Draco's light blow. No one was supposed to know.

"He just knew."

"Ought I worry, Draco?"

"Doubt it, once they pledge they can't betray you… some failsafe of the Dark Lord's."

"Still, how'd he know I was Alpha?"

"Instinct- I felt it too, just didn't know what it was. It's like a deep desire to please you."

"Doesn't that bug you, though, knowing some idiot programmed you to listen to another idiot? It would annoy the crap out of me."

"It did, at first. You're not an idiot though, and I'd much rather serve you than him, not to mention the fact that it isn't like any of us can actually do anything about it… we're as screwed as Potter, come to think of it."

"We are, aren't we?" Horris nodded; slightly surprised that Draco didn't believe Harry Potter had lived some perfect life.

"Yup, the lot of us are royally screwed… might as well make the most of it." He paused there, his cocky expression changing. "That's what bugs me about Potter, he's screwed, he knows it, and the dolt accepts it!"

"Meaning?"

"We're meant to serve the Dark Lord and he's meant to serve Dumbledore… we fight it though, he just rolls over and does what he is told, no questions asked."

"So we ought to follow Dumbledore and let Potter follow Voldemort?"

"Are you loyal to Dumbledore?" Was he? He took the headmaster's side, yes, but he didn't tell him about Ron or Hermione… neither did his father, apparently. Did Dumbledore even know about the lessons? "I'll take that as a 'no'. Either way, what I meant was that Potter is to accepting of his fate. Me, I'd hide and tell the world to leave me the fuck alone… I'd ask them what gave them the right to dump this crap on my shoulders… he just carries it, it's pathetic." Horris' breath stopped for a moment, isn't that what he'd done? Hidden himself and shed the weight? "Now he's run off to train, Merlin knows where, so that he could carry even more of the world's problems. Just you watch; he'll come back willing to take Voldemort on all by himself … as if asking a few Aurors to help was simply unthinkable…"

"You've been thinking of this for quite a while I take it?"

"Way too long, actually…. Just annoys me, I guess." Horris smiled back. "As your second in command, I advise you to be loyal to your own bloody self, forget about both of them and look out for your own damn good… get rid of Voldemort if he bugs you, using Asps, Aurors, whatever, and fade out of the headlines. If I've learned one thing from the faults of my father- don't tell anyone this, mind you- it's that only idiots seek fame and power… take us for instance; we got the galleons, the looks and the might, what in hell do we need world domination for? Now, revolting, penniless orphans like Voldemort I understand… us? We can have all we want, no bloodshed necessary. The more people envy you the less you can enjoy life- who needs the headache?"

"Nice speech…" Horris responded, "Do you believe it?"

"Yes, actually…. At least I think I do, we don't really know till the end- do we?"

"When'd you get so bloody philosophical, Dragon?"

The past weeks were taxing on Horris, full of confrontations with bloody Gryffindors who thought of him as Satan's spawn (shifting the honor from his father onto him), tiring training sessions with his father (group and private), Draco's constant presence, Lea's problems with her House, Asp pledges and Voldemort's meetings (not all of which ended as well as the first)… It was just all eating away at him. Tonight Horris needed to relax. He walked out of his room invisible, for the first time truly happy he had his venoms. No worries about a cloak slipping, not covering something or any other such bother. At the edge of the forest he changed forms, long ago having mastered the art. He was almost as invisible now as before, his velvet-black fur fading into the shadowed forest like a chameleon. His ever-vibrant green eyes shone in the dark, penetrating it with unnatural sharpness.

And then he leapt into the air, nearly flying as he stretched muscles and flicked his powerful tail. Oh the joy! He adored his Animagus form, sincerely grateful it had not turned out to be a snake. A hawk would have been nice he supposed, but it would never compare to this… the perfect balance of power and style; deadly and silent, a beautiful terror… the ultimate bad boy. This was his only escape and he was going to enjoy it. The forest welcomed him, none of its inhabitants ever bothering him on his runs. If it was out of fear or some innate knowledge that he meant no threat to their health or hierarchy he wasn't sure, not really wishing to test either theory. He could still feel his venoms, an odd sensation he had become accustomed to, almost like tiny tingles on his skin waiting to be released. He figured this meant he could use them in this form as well, taking immense relief in the protection they offered. He took a catnap up a tree, waking to watch the sun rise over the lake. It was a beautiful sight. Willing himself invisible, he ran home, reluctantly albeit, dodging Filch and scaring a surprise hiss out of Mrs. Norris. Oh, if he could smirk… not that anyone would see him. He changed back, careful to remain invisible, muttering the password under his breath.

"Look who's back…"

"Mornin', Draco." He muttered, letting his disguise drop.

"Planning to stay out till sundown next time?" Horris glared.

"Leave me alone, Draco, it's Sunday."

"Where'd you go?"

"None of your business."

"It is if you get caught, hurt or killed." Draco shot back, his tone akin to the one Lea used when she stated the obvious.

"Didn't know you cared… it's not dangerous anyway."

"Translation; 'It's not completely suicidal', right? What did you do, take a stroll through the forest?" Horris failed to hide the smirk,

"A jog more like it…" he countered, hoping the response would throw the blonde off. "But really, I just watched the sunrise- honest."

"What about the ten-or-so hours before that? Lea was here, so you couldn't have been getting' some… you're 'too nice' to play her…"

"I resent that." Horris growled, "And for your information, Lea and I are not together."

"So she gets all the perks without giving anything back? You're spoiling her you know…"

"Drop it, not all people are just looking for what they can get out of every favor…"

"Yeah, but you're not an idiot."

"Nice of you to acknowledge that… can I use your shower?"

"Be my guest." Draco nodded, smirking as Horris yawned. "You can crash there while you're at it..."

"Morning, Lea."

"…or not."

"Not what, Draco?" She questioned,

"He offered to let me crash in his room." Horris explained, her expression losing its snap.

"Oh. Wait, you just got back? Where were you?"

"Watching the sunrise, apparently."

"You aren't my lawyer, Draco." Horris muttered, trying to get into his now-empty room.

"Wait! That only accounts for the last hour or so, what did you do before then?"

"Nothing… you and Draco are definitely spending too much time together."

"You're not getting any sleep till you tell me!" Lea insisted, reminding him of her usual manner. He smiled.

"I'd love to see you stop me, Lea…"

"Oh, I will."

"Move Lea, I'm really tired."

"My pleasure, as soon as you tell me what I want to know." Horris rubbed his temple.

"Fine. Draco, I'm crashing in your room after all it seems… good day."

"Oh no you don't, Horris!"

"Lea, I swear… you let me go right now or I'll petrify you." She let go with a yelp. "Right, now, will the two of you let me sleep?"

"She's just worried about you, Viper." Horris sighed, not meeting the blonde's eye.

"I know. I just went to blow off some steam. Honest… I'm not fighting trolls or anything."

"Come back, you can sleep in your room."

"Why thank you, my Lady." He drawled sarcastically.

"Anyone tell you you're terribly cranky in the mornings?"

"Only when I haven't slept in a while." He called back, closing his door. The warm water felt so good on his tired muscles, which felt sore from the night of running. He fell onto the bed, melting into the warm covers. He was so tired, but sleep eluded him, nagging at the sore muscles and bloodshot eyes.

"I hate this…" He muttered, chancing a glance at the bedside table. No such luck, the vial was empty. His own sleeping venom was useless, it wouldn't allow him to wake until someone shot him with the antidote (He had learned that, thankfully, he was not immune to the non-harmful venoms like the healing and sleeping ones). He couldn't get more from his father either, that would make him suspicious and that would end in a full-blown interrogation or a nice chat with the headmaster. That's all he needed right now… 'watching the sunrise' and 'blowing off steam' wouldn't cut it with them, though it was technically true. Then again, how long would he be able to keep this little ability secret from his father, from Dumbledore? Not long he noted sadly, but the longer the better, as far as he was concerned. The headmaster hadn't so much as smiled at him since the sorting, making Horris want to distance himself from the man even-more. But that was not something he should think of in his half-conscious state, no good could come of it.

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