20: Haven's Hell
"You done with that Transfiguration essay?"
"Since when do I look like Lea? Have I ever finished Monday's work by Thursday?"
"True… Speaking of Lea, did you ask her yet?"
"I already told you, I'm not going." Horris smirked as he caught Draco's expression, "Don't try to glare, it's pathetic."
"I resent that!"
"Resent it all you want, it's still the truth."
"The truth is also that you like Lea."
"Not this again, Draco… I thought we already drained the topic dry- several times over."
"It'll be over once you accept it." The blonde declared tauntingly, "How long will you let her use you like this? It's high time she pays you back."
"No, Draco, drop it."
"Fine." The blonde submitted, following Horris into the room. "Um, what's that?"
"You blind, that. You didn't tell me it's your birthday!" Crap!
"You forgot your birthday?" Draco questioned skeptically as he ran his hand over the gifts, raising a brow.
"To tell you." Horris lied, knowing no other excuse that the blonde might buy.
"Oh, right." He remembered? Horris mused, amazed as Draco handed him a card from his father. "Your dad got you a broom … go on, see what model it is." But Horris wasn't listening, his nose in the elegantly-written card.
Happy Birthday, I hope you thoroughly enjoy it. I know I cannot attempt to make up for all I have missed, you and I both know I would fail miserably at the task, but I hope you will not live to regret your choice. I do not know if it is too soon to ask this of you, but I would love to see this broom on the pitch during matches- I could finally wipe that smirk off Minerva's face. Either way, I know you will enjoy it, on or off the pitch (you certainly did at the manor, though I swear I will skin you if you fly inside the house one more time…) Stay safe and be careful son.
"Your father signs his letters to you 'Severus'? "
"Seeing as this is his first letter and that's how he signed it… yes."
"Oh, sorry, I keep forgetting you only found out, what, six weeks ago?"
"Give or take." Horris confirmed,
"You two just seem so… you fit together, as if you'd known each other all your lives."
"I still feel uneasy around him sometimes…"
"You don't show it- you gonna open that?"
"At least your father cares about you, mine-" Horris stopped fiddling with the wrapping paper, "I wish I had your father … Damn, when did I get so sappy? So, you gonna open it or wait till Christmas?" Horris nodded, wishing Draco wouldn't snap shut like that. He knew pushing him would just make it worse, but…
He was just so different from Ron- the old Ron. The redhead could tell all, trusting people's advice and selfless motives. Draco knew better, in a way. He had learned early on to keep his weaknesses as far from prying eyes as possible, treating each as if it were his fatal flaw. Harry had done that too, or was starting to anyway, though he mostly still confided in his two friends. Horris wished Draco had someone like that, someone to tell him he didn't always need to pretend perfection and a total lack of emotions. He knew what Draco meant, about Lucius, that man was like ice. Horris doubted that man ever actually showed Draco that he loved him… if he loved him as something more than his heir, the fulfillment of his duty as the head of the Malfoy family.
"Damn, your father dished out!"
"Your father bought the entire team brooms, Draco."
"But that's a Firebolt!" Horris forced a smile, though he wished his father had picked any other model. "You alright? You look kinda blue… what, broom too much for ya?" The blonde teased, slapping him playfully on his shoulder. He was saying more, but Horris didn't hear him. He was too busy trying to stay calm while his mind screamed in panic. He didn't even fully know why. Yes, he knew, Sirius gave him a Firebolt. He'd almost forgotten about him with all this crap. Yes, his Firebolt was now in that traitor's hands. Damn the traitors! First Peter, now Ron… Merlin, must history always repeat itself? Can't it all just end?
"I have to go, Draco; I gotta get some air… Don't- don't tell him, alright? Don't tell dad." Horris found himself pleading, nearly running out of the door, praying Draco did not suddenly find the need to follow him. His feet almost instinctively carried him to his old sanctum… the room he used to escape from, well, everything. Just stepping inside it calmed his mind, seemingly clearing it with no internal effort. He was just about to fall into 'his' beanbag when a low hiss alerted him of a foreign presence. The snake was mumbling to himself happily, in a broken syntax that sounded as if it was translated verbatim from a language with a very different sentence structure…
"Work did." It would tell itself, "knows-help with all no." and "Potter blast!" And then Horris saw it. A bright orange snake, sprinkled with blackish-brown spots around his head. Ron. His mind acknowledged. He would be a Snake! He tried backing out of the still-open door, but the slimy git-er-snake finally caught Horris' scent and turned like lightning to face him, raising its head level with Horris.
"You leave me alone Weasley." Horris told it, careful not to fall into Parseltongue. "You bite me and I tell Dumbledore everything…" The snake hissed angrily, sounding almost like a growl to the green-eyed boy. "You can't kill me." He added, hoping it was true. "I… I have venoms you can only dream of." He couldn't tell him what venoms, he wasn't sure Dumbledore knew them all… even he couldn't let two kids run around with the ability to control everyone- even him… not to mention the fourteen who could put anyone under the Cruciatus poison at will…
"Afraid of a little snake are we?" Weasley mocked, turning back. Horris figured he had just finished learning to change, his transformations slow and shaky. "I would have expected better from Slytherin."
"Only Gryffindors are blindly brave to the point of suicide, Weasley, us Slytherins actually value our lives."
"You're just bloody cowards is all, afraid of a little snake… aren't you supposed to be pals with 'em though?"
"Tell you what, you jump into a cage full of hungry lions and then we'll talk."
"Funny. Seeing how I have the advantage here…"
"Oh?" Ron turned back into a snake, instantly lunging at Horris Boa Constrictor… Damn! Why-oh-why did animagi forms allow unusual coloration and markings? Weasley might have been new to his form, but his instincts were most certainly in fine working order.
Horris tried fruitlessly to dislodge the huge snake that had pinned his arms to his side, constantly tightening his hold around the boy's chest. His magic was fruitless too, wandless or not, the lack of air impending his ability to speak. The few weak spells he could do without an incantation would be of no help. The building pressure blurred his vision, tears of silent protest threatening to escape. He couldn't even shift himself, his mind too oxygen-deprived to focus at all. What he felt was burning hot rage, the likes of which Horris had not yet known. His skin felt hot, his palms burning and a light in his eyes that evaporated all tears. He didn't feel the pressure lift from his sore ribs. He didn't notice his rapid breathing. He didn't bother with why his mind was clearing or why the heat kept building… not until he saw the snake at his feet, its belly charred and the tip of his tail smoldering. Only then did he look down at his enflamed cloak, dropping it onto the ground in an attempt to put out the fire. His palms were raw as well, a tiny tongue of fire levitating itself just above his skin.
Taking one last glance at the snake, he bolted, running blindly to the dungeons. Draco found his elements when he turned a water charm aside in his sleep (an attempt to wake him)… Horris has to be bloody strangled for his to come! Merlin, why did everything happen to him?
"Merlin, what happened? One moment you run out only to-"
"Whoa, wait…. Weasley did this?" Horris shook his head, still panting hard.
"Finally! What's Weasley got to do with it though?"
"The Weasel? You?"
"Oh…WHAT!" Draco protested, "Dumbledore won't let any Slytherin have so much as a garden snake!"
"Not a pet…Draco." Horris tried to explain, leaning on a bedpost, "He is the snake."
"You… you mean he's an- a- A-" Horris nodded somberly.
"I saw him change; he grabbed me 'round the middle. I-"
"He was transforming in the hall?"
"You didn't run up to the Gryffindor dorms, did you? For Lea, perhaps?"
"What about the dorms?" Lea "They are still in one piece, right?" A light went off in his head, sudden rage mounting.
"YOU!" He yelled at her, scaring both other occupants of the room. "You knew! You knew he was a bloody snake and didn't even tell me!"
"Out, Granger, now." Horris managed through clenched teeth… she ran. He couldn't bear seeing her, not now. His anger was already rising, his eyes burning. Now both had betrayed him, one by deed, the other by omission. Weasley could have killed him and she knew it…Weasley could have snuck in at night and killed Horris in his sleep and none would have been the wiser. He was so mad at her, but if he hurt her in a fit he'd never forgive himself. Damnit! He dismissed Draco with an abrupt wave of his wrist, not daring to face anyone at the moment. Later… later he'd have to ask Draco to help him control the elements, for now he needed to be alone. Draco would understand; he'd been through it, Lea… Hermione might not. He'd let her come to him, if he pushed her he might lose her, not to mention he was still pissed off…Hermione had not been this scared since she had to take Horris up on his offer. Her savior had become her worst fear… what was she expecting from a Slytherin? Well, she no longer saw them as bullies at least; no…no they were soldiers, good or evil depending on their leader, strong in unity and feared by all. And she had angered their leader… what would she do if they started attacking her now? What could she do? Gryffindor wouldn't back her up, the other houses wouldn't risk it- her not being one of their own… she was royally screwed. At least Draco had warned her, running after her when Horris threw her out. Even if all he told her was that he didn't know what Horris intended yet but was pissed beyond deadly and she needed to be on her guard in case he sicced 'his serpents' on her… at least she knew Draco wasn't just tolerating her on Horris' orders anymore. He also told her what happened, what he knew of it anyway… the worst part was that Horris was right! She did keep the fact that Ron and she had taken the potion… she didn't know he was a Boa though, last she saw he was only sprouting scales. But she couldn't tell him… they'd know she had done it as well, and if they knew she and Ron had become Anamagi, they'd know Harry was as well… Merlin, why does life have to be so complicated?
"Watch it, Granger…" So she was Granger now, not 'Lioness' or 'Lady Lion' or 'Lea'… Only Horris called her Lea, he and Draco. At least she wasn't 'mudblood' again, not yet.
The Slytherins didn't call her 'mudblood' all day to her immense surprise, nor did any show open hostility toward her. They no longer stepped aside for her in the halls, they never smiled as she passed and no longer shielded her from Ron or anyone else who bullied her… but they did still keep the hate from their eyes, they still stopped insulting Muggleborn or Gryffindors when she neared, they still seemed safe. Horris was another story. He and Draco were sure to keep their distance, calling her Granger if they needed to address her at all. Neither seemed to welcome her company and returning to Horris' room was clearly out of the question. The Slytherins were still tolerant of her, whether of habit or by Horris' order she didn't know, but she didn't dare chance an excursion to the 'Snake Pit' again. Some Halloween this turned out to be…