Severus attempted to patiently wait until the class let out, eyes darting between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Something was wrong, that much was painfully clear. Ron Weasley was actually attempting to concentrate on his work (not throwing daggers at him as he had since the day they met with Voldemort), Horatius wasn't concentrating at all, Hermione 'Lea' Granger was sitting as far from the Slytherins as possible, and Draco Malfoy seemed to be trying as hard as possible not to get involved. So Horatius and Hermione had a fight? How in hell was Severus supposed to deal with this? He couldn't talk to Horatius, doing that would lead them nowhere, not without a wealth of foreknowledge. Draco was just as useless, surprisingly loyal and tight-lipped for a Slytherin… Granger? Would speaking with her help? Could it hurt?
"Please remain, Miss Granger."
"Yes, sir." She nodded, unusually reluctant. The class was dismissed, Horatius approached his desk.
"I need to speak with you, sir."
"Now?" Severus questioned, eyebrow raised.
"Could you wait a moment, Miss Granger?" If he was lucky, he could have dismissed her, still – better safe than sorry. If Horatius asked him to help, or at least told him what the problem was, things would be far simpler. "I doubt this will take long. Excuse us." Severus led Horatius into his office, reluctantly leaving Hermione in the classroom. The girl knew not to touch anything, of that he was sure.
"We need to talk."
"It's about the broom." The broom?
"I understand if you do not wish to join the team, Horatius, to be honest I-"
"Not that, I can't accept it."
"Don't be silly, boy, it was a present and you have every right to accept it." He loves to fly… why would he not want it? No doubt he knows we can afford it.
"I'm touched you remembered," The boy said honestly, "It's a wonderful gift but I really can't take it… you gotta take it back… please." There were suddenly tears in his eyes, a look of total defeat on his handsome face that pained Severus to see, though he could not bring himself to look away. What do you do with a crying child?
"Why?" he asked gently, hoping not to make matters worse.
"He gave it to me and I gave it to that… that traitor, just like the rat… and… and replacing it would be like… like replacing him… I can't do that to him, Dad, I can't." Who 'he' was would have to wait, for at the moment Severus felt like he would kiss Voldemort's ass if only Horatius asked him. The boy was crying, but not the way he had when he told Severus of Hedwig's untimely death. Sometime during the boy's plea he had gotten up, no longer hesitant in comforting the child… his child. As soon as he was done with Horatius and Hermione (since this obviously was not the only thing troubling the boy) he was going strait to Dumbledore, demanding the old man fill in all the damn gaps… this was his bloody son and he was through running into brick walls and making idiotic mistakes because he wasn't informed!
"It will be gone before you return from lunch, child, I promise."
"Th-thanks… I really am glad you remembered, you know, I…"
"I know. I understand."
"You do?" Severus nodded a sad smile on his face.
"Care to tell me what else is troubling you? My door is always open …"
"Yes, sir, I know."
"You do not have to call me sir."
"Nothing is bothering me…" Damn… he closed off again!
"Very well then, enjoy your lunch, son."
"Thanks… for everything." Horris ran out, and Severus slowly made his way to Hermione.
"Excuse the wait, Miss Granger; I hope I am not keeping you from something?"
"No, sir…is this about Horris?" Severus nodded. "How much did he tell you, sir?"
"Nothing, more or less." Her face darkened quickly.
"Oh, perhaps he'd best –"
"Stop, Miss Granger." He said smoothly, a light sneer on his face that halted her sentence immediately. "I need to know what is wrong. We can talk here or in the Headmaster's office." The latter was a bluff, but her reaction would tell him if the situation was serious at least.
"How much trouble am I in?"
"That depends on what you tell me."
"Meaning, if I tell you, you'll keep this away from the ministry, or, when I tell you, you'll call the Aurors on both of us?" Merlin… what did they do?
"I can promise nothing without knowing all the relevant information." He lied calmly, his gaze hardening.
"Can't you please ask Horris?"
"He has enough to worry about at the moment." She nodded.
"I know. Sometimes I think he has it worse than Harry did… at least people cared about what happened to him. No one but Draco and… and I care what happens to Horris. And you, sir, of course!" She added in haste, "Most of the school still doesn't know what happened after Horris left Gryffindor tower… and that involved Unforgivables!"
"Horatius used UNFORGIVABLES!" Severus cut her off in alarm.
"N-no, sir, he didn't tell you? Ron did… Horris didn't want us to tell anyone, but… I… I thought he'd tell you."
"Obviously, I didn't, Granger… Is this how you spy on me, Father? "
"Horris! I thought you told him… honest, I–" But Horatius was not listening to her. Severus peered into the stone-cold eyes that were fixed upon him, the hateful disappointment hurting Severus like no Cruciatus could.
"Have you swapped all my secrets, or did I interrupt half way? I really can't tell anyone anything, can I? Even noble Gryffindors lose their loyalty!" Horatius stormed out, but a solid wall of fire that missed Severus by mere millimeters stopped his father's pursuit.
"When, Miss Granger, did Horatius develop his elemental powers?" Severus asked, falling into a chair as a killer headache overtook him. He was defiantly not father material…
"Last night, sir… when he… when Ron attacked him."
"Tell me everything, Miss Granger, unless you wish to test my formula for Aspian truth venom." He could hear her gulp."Horris, are you–"
"Leave!" the brunette stated defiantly, his voice turning into an ice-cold whisper, capable of breaking the strongest will. "You say one word to Granger or my father and I swear I'll kill you, Draco."
"They're conspiring against me… swapping information and comparing notes. There's a reason I didn't want my father to know what Ron did, now he knows… everything probably… and there I was, actually thinking I could trust him!"
"What did you tell him?"
"Nothing, like I said I would."
"So he went to interrogate Lea."
"Granger." Horris corrected sternly.
"Er… right, so?"
"So why doesn't he keep his oversized nose in his own damn business!"
"He's your father, you dolt! You have no business that isn't his. Everything you think, do, or say is his business. He makes sure your every action is for the good of the family and you… since I know Snape cares nothing for his family name, his focus is probably on the latter – you. Didn't your mom bug you about what was wrong? Mine pesters me constantly… you really are green to this father thing… by the way, some elf took your broom, did you tell it to clean it for you, cuz I can promise you that elf can only ruin a broom. I remember—"
"NO, he brought it back to Father." The blonde's eyes went wide.
"Why? Don't tell me he took it away as a punishment… you didn't yell at him, did you? How mad was he?"
"Um… I told him to take it back… before he went to talk with Granger, I yelled plenty and, um, left before I could tell how mad he was—why?" Horris questioned, suddenly not so resolute in his actions.
"You yelled at him in front of Granger? My dad would kill me… shoot a good Cruciatus at least! When we were alone that is, but boy would he excuse us from there mighty quick!" Draco mused, shuddering. "You're really something, Horris, no wonder you talk to Voldemort like that, did you ever have to pay for acting up?"
"Sure I did… the Muggle way." Horris admitted, frowning. "Guess I just, I don't know, got used to it. A bully beat me up a lot as a kid— before I found out I was a Wizard, Mum didn't tell me see, I didn't want to involve anyone so I learned to take it… simple as that."
"Weak men know no pain…" Draco recited with a haunted look…" 'That's why the Muggles scream'… that's what Dad once said, always called me Muggle if I cried."
"At least we can understand each other… normal people would think us mad." Like Ron's family.
"That's what they do think of us, thus Slytherin's reputation."
"So, I do belong here…" Horris mumbled, catching himself only after the fact.
"Oh, the Sorting Hat… it tried to dump me in Ravenclaw at first…"
"I can see that… Gryffindor too, come to think of it, you've got the honor their lot brags about."
"They don't see it in Slytherin, though…"
"But we do, we see the Slytherin in them as well, just not the way they think of it."
Horris smiled, "how'd you do that?"
"Here I am, ready to kill them both, and in a few minutes you make me forget all about it…"
"Oh," the blonde nodded lightly, "practice."
"No problem, now about that little matter of controlling your elements…""I don't know, sir, Horris doesn't exactly tell all; he's a lot like Harry in that respect."
"Master Snape, sir?" A shy elf interrupted, "Master is asked for broom?" Severus nodded, taking back the elf's burden, the said elf disappearing as soon as the weight was lifted from his hands.
"Is that Ron's Firebolt, sir?" Severus smirked.
"They brought it from his old school? I didn't know he played!"
"Seeker… I highly doubt even Potter could beat him." That was true, Severus' type of playful training certainly proved that… by the time Alexander left, Horatius could match the boy's Nimbus easily, the other boy practically begging for the Comet (or whatever other relic Horatius was on at the time). "It was his birthday present— Halloween."
"You aren't taking it because of how he acted— are you? Merlin, now he'll blame that on me!"
"He asked I remove it, not that this ought to be any of your concern, he seems to have a special memory from a Firebolt and thought it disrespectful to receive another." Please tell me why, I can not endure Albus' twinkling eyes right now…
"Oh, like Harry's… It must have been so hard for him to leave it so soon after Hedwig died… that was the broom S-" She cut herself off sharply, but Severus already understood her.
"Sirius Black bought it for him…" He stated, taking in the full meaning of the statement while hiding under a mask of indifference. Merlin! The boy adds emotional baggage to everything… why can nothing come easy for him?
"Yes, sir, his godfather… you know he's innocent— right?" Severus nodded, ending the conversation as soon as possible. He needed to talk to Lupin, now. The Floo seemed to take forever to connect, only aggravating his fluctuating anger levels. He briefly pondered if it was possible that the connection was such that angry people couldn't pass… that would have prevented his mother from ever traveling, though, perhaps only when the person was above his normal state of anger?
"Oh, Severus… I didn't expect you—"
"Come here, Lupin." He cut him off, in no mood for any more chit-chat.
"No." Severus sneered, glaring.
"Many things, one with which I unfortunately require your assistance."
"Don't try to act snide, Lupin, the look does not suit you." Severus commented dryly, "You would be likely to know the whereabouts of Potter and you were friends with Minerva— correct?" The werewolf nodded. "Good, I need you to ask her for a favor. I bought Horris a Firebolt… "
"But Sirius—" Lupin began to protest,
"I know that now…"
"How'd he take it?"
"Not well." Understatement of a lifetime… "I need you to ask Minerva to switch the broom I bought with the one the mutt got him."
"Ron Weasley deserves no broom, but I doubt he would notice…"
"You are a Gryffindor, she would not think you sabotaged it."
"Did you?" Severus glared at the accusation.
"I bought it for Horatius."
"Right… a 'no' would have sufficed.""Horris, what are you—"
"To relax. Don't follow."
"Don't. Follow." Horris repeated, glaring at the blond even as he disappeared.
"Damn invisibility…" Draco mumbled, "Be careful, Viper."
"Always, Draco, always."
"See you in the morning, I guess…" Draco muttered, walking back into the common room. Tomorrow he'd come back, relaxed and calm… if night-long excursions were what it took to keep him sane, so be it. People with less problems than Horris cut themselves; Draco had tried that once— not a good idea— quickly finding less self-destructive ways of coping. Slytherins needed to toughen up or the other houses ate them up and spat them out. When, in his first year, Draco had shown fear in front of Potter, his house took it upon themselves to toughen him up. No one knew it, but for the next week the seventh years had dragged him into the Forbidden Forest, deep inside, leaving him to find his own way back (as soon as the confusion spell wore off), alone. You don't show fear after that— Merlin no!