24 : Friendly Foe
Over his shoulder, Horris could see all the Slytherins watching him, ready to flee at the first sight of conflict, staying only to see the possible maiming of a known werewolf and Gryffindor. Impulsively, Horris slammed the door behind his father with a thought, a bit too strong, rattling them on the great hinges. He also pulled up the wards, strengthening them in case things were said that simply couldn't be overheard. Few things, he noticed, could anger his father, but when the emotion truly engulfed him…Horris could only hope the founders built a castle strong enough to survive to see the sunrise. Only moments after his spells were complete, as if his father sensed them and had only paused to let him finish, Horris was pulled away from Remus and tucked behind his father.
"I told you, Lupin, no Snape would join his bloody Order… " Horris heard his father whisper, the threatening tone only heightened by the controlled and calculated level of the man's voice. "That includes my son. The deathtrap killed his mother… I am not letting it kill him as well."
Mum? Horris looked up, trying to catch either man's eye. The Order killed mum? No, that couldn't be right… unless… "Voldemort killed them because they were in the Order?" He muttered, focused on Remus.
"Didn't tell him that detail, did you, werewolf?" He heard his father accuse. "You did not tell him what made the Potters such a sumptuous target, did not see fit to tell him what set them apart from others, what pushed them to the top of his bloody list. No, you only told him how nice it is, how it supposedly helps save lives and protect those involved. Did you tell him that your little friend Peter was part of your almighty order, that he would have never joined Voldemort had he not signed up?"
"That's not true!" Remus refuted hotly.
"Have you asked?" Severus taunted, "I have… I and my good friend, Veritaserum. Would you like to know why he turned, Lupin? He was tired of seeing old friends die for strangers, tired of seeing them act as if any beggar meant more to them than he did. He was tired of being forced to prioritize who to save based on what they could do for the Order. His hatred of it outweighed what little value he tied to his friends…"
"That doesn't even make sense! Besides, we couldn't save everyone."
"So you saved the rich and powerful; magically and politically… people who out of gratitude could fund you or help rescue those who could. I never claimed Peter was sane…"
"That is NOT how things were… that's not how they are!" exclaimed Remus.
"I survived because that rat did not know I was a spy. If I had joined, I would be dead now, Lupin. If Horatius joins he will be dead by month's end!"
"There's no spy now!"
"Ask Voldemort… I am sure he will say the same. First rule of spying, Lupin, keep your alliances hidden— if they know, you die. Bottom line, wolf, is that you had no right to ask Horatius to join, regardless of what Dumbledore wants with him." Horris saw his father advance slowly, a look of fear clear on the other man's face. "I want you to leave my son alone, Lupin, if you so much as mention the blasted Order in his presence or mine again; I swear you shall beg me to kill you before I am through. You will wish Voldemort was torturing you and you will regret the day you were born. One word, Lupin, one word." His wand was pressed into Remus' face, the voice daring to be disputed. "Get out, Lupin… Open the door, Horatius." The look his father gave him nearly pushed him into automatic compliance, but something nagged at him, causing him to pause his already outstretched hand.
"Wait…" he almost whispered, his voice unsteady as his mind reeled. "You said you had two things to tell me… about mum…"
His father stared at him, only causing his resolve to drop farther. Horris knew he was playing with fire, unleashing all the fires of hell if he pushed his father too far or too fast. Still… a part of him figured now might be the only time Remus could tell him what he was going to say. Later, if there was a later, Remus or Horris might not be able to attain a conversation. He knew how stupid it would be to try and talk to Remus if his father truly didn't want him to. Remus obviously knew as well— or would shortly.
"She…" Remus started uneasily, obviously careful of his word choice, "Lily wasn't what she seemed, what we believed her to be… what you were told about her."
Horris couldn't figure out what he meant by that, but he got the distinct feeling Remus didn't want Severus to know either… The look in his father's eyes as he looked upon the ex-professor told Horris not to pry further; the pained expression Remus wore confirming that the man would say no more.
"You… you'd better leave, Professor, I… I need to talk with Dad." Horris tried to say calmly, his voice wavering slightly as he pulled open the door.
"What did he tell you?" Severus demanded as soon as the door was closed.
"Almost nothing about that Order thing, just that it fights Voldemort outside ministry jurisdiction and that Mum was in it… and James." His father seemed to relax at his words, "Why?"
"I do not want you to join," Severus stated simply, "and if that idiot would have given you a long 'join to save the world' speech, I would have been obliged to rebuke it all."
"And now you can simply say 'don't do it'?" Horris asked angrily, "So you're just gonna keep stuff from me, as well? What did I expect… you're just like them… always thinking it's best to leave me in the dark."
"I do not wish you to join for a multitude of reasons," Severus expanded, cutting in at the first possible moment. "The Order is a deathtrap, first of all, not to mention that you must fight both sides. Has Lupin already used the 'outside ministry control' line? Everyone uses it, you see, it is a most convenient way to say they are against ministry control without scaring their candidates. They fight Death Eaters and Aurors, son, thinking that they can actually win. It killed your mother, her husband… it made good people do terrible things and made others into sheer weapons. They want you now because they can use you, and with you will come your Asps— a force to be reckoned with in its own right."
"They are afraid, son," he continued, "afraid to lose influence over you, influence they have instilled from the day the Dark Lord attacked your family. The moment Lily signed into the Order she signed you up as a possible candidate. They have treated you as a weapon ever since you defeated Voldemort. They let Muggles raise you, hoping you would develop sympathies towards them, feel like a Muggleborn rather than the Wizard you are. They trained you when you came here, telling and showing you things to instill their ideals, exploiting your interests to shape you the way they deemed fit. Even your 'adventures' were allowed, hoping the experiences would toughen you, inspire the reckless hero they needed… the one they could make do almost anything, simply by saying it would save a few lives. They almost did."
"Then you came along." Horris prompted.
"And Potter," Severus agreed, "That journal of his really hurt their plans, son, it gave you something they never counted on— me."
Horris smiled at the revelation, while his father retained a small, sad smirk.
"A lesson in strategy, son, if you seek to control someone, the first objective is to make them dependent on you."
Horris raised a brow, wiping the smile off his father's face. The last bit confused him, really confused him. Not that any of this was anything but confusing…
"Think back to Harry Potter if you do not believe me… who did he go to when he had a problem?"
"Dumbledore, McGonagall sometimes, Hermione and… and Ron." Horris answered, sour at the last name on his list, "Oh, and Sirius!" He added hastily.
"And did you question them?"
"Not Dumbledore, my friends sometimes…"
"He often played the role of an infallible grandfather, did he not?" Severus asked, Horris only nodding, "And now?"
"Who do you go to now?"
I don't "You?"
"Hardly." His father said, somewhere between a smile and a frown, "I wish you did so, actually, but as far as I can tell, you work things out on your own, mostly."
"I come to you with the big ones…" Horris defended.
"You can come to me with all of them, but return to the example for now. When you do seek out my assistance, do you find me infallible?"
No. "Um…well I—"
"A simple 'no' would suffice; it is the other answer I would have found troubling. Advice is to be assimilated, analyzed and questioned, Horatius, only orders are to be followed blindly, and even they can only be treated as such if one has full confidence and respect for the superior. Our dear Headmaster is an artist when it comes to skewing the line between advising and ordering. People actually trust and respect him, making his task all the easier… if at any point you disagree, tell me."
"He's too nice, isn't he?" Horris asked.
"A quality that makes for a superb Headmaster. He is the first person that frightened first years run to, the one they feel safest with, the one that always seems to appear when needed… for the ones he finds to be promising prospective Order members that is. Have you ever seen him appear when a Slytherin is in need of his assistance? Do not worry… he rarely takes notice. Slytherins are my problem, the good and the bad. Even good ones quickly learn to check a person's motives, by second year, third perhaps, his tricks become ineffective so he does not even try."
"And now I'm learning too…"
"More so everyday." his father confirmed, "And every day they can literally feel their influence on you lessen and your reliance disappear. Slytherins are hated because they are self-sufficient and able to survive almost anything. Gryffindors think that they are, but they die too quickly," he stated bluntly. "Why do you think he has chosen now to invite you into the Order? Why not before, or after graduation, as is the normal procedure?"
"They know it will be too late by then?"
"It is already too late— unless you accept when they ask at your graduation."
The last surprised Horris.
"If you do so then, I will not attempt to stop you, you will be old enough and wise enough –hopefully— to choose the path most suited for you. You are a born leader— literally— and I highly doubt you would allow anyone to lead you once the taste of authority sets in. I am sure you will not abuse the position as you have not abused your fame, but it is still hard to cage a wild dragon— is it not?"
"Yes, sir." And he did know what his father meant, almost painfully as he realized how true it was. The Order had tried to tame a tiger cub, training him to perform in a golden cage without noticing the bars.
"What would they have done if I hadn't fought the Sorting Hat first year?"
"Perhaps they ensured you would not let it do so…" His father stated thoughtfully, "why did you counter its decision— the first time?"
"Well, there was Draco trying to tell me who to befriend, Hagrid—"
Horris nodded, "He picked me up, my relatives didn't exactly want me to attend Hogwarts— anyway, he told me about Voldemort after Mr. Olivander said something about my scar and that it was made by the man who had the brother wand to my wand… said he did great things, 'terrible but great'. Hagrid also told me all the bad witches and wizards came from here— Slytherin that is, why?"
"Both in the Order I believe."
"That's what scared me the most, the Hat saying that I could be great in Slytherin…"
"You are; you know that," his father confirmed.
"So the Order did prevent it?"
"Most likely, even if Draco unknowingly aided their endeavor.""What will we do now, sir?" Remus asked, eyes following the older man as he paced the length the office.
"I have waited too long, Remus, I fear what could happen now." The other said solemnly, age more evident on his face than Remus had ever seen before. No twinkle graced his eye, no smile tugged on his beard. He looked just like a very tired old man.
"And what would that be, sir?"
"That, alas, is the worst of it… I know not." he admitted regretfully. He who knows all, he who plans for all possible problems, he who can anticipate all the angles, he didn't know. Now their greatest asset could become their fatal flaw, their savior could prove their destroyer. Dumbledore had thought Harry Potter would one day take over as the head of the Order; he was delighted to find out that they'd have an Aspidite on their side, he could only hope Severus did not corrupt the boy, turn him Dark, turn him against the Order. Not allowing him to join was a step, but Remus did say the boy seemed reluctant to comply with his father's orders …
He had waited too long, he knew that now. Albus had stayed away for a reason, knowing full well how one wrong step while the boy was so uprooted could have pushed him away forever. He figured the boy would come to him when Severus slipped up, he was almost certain he would… that way Dumbledore could play the savior again. Even if he didn't come, he could simply say that he wanted to give him some space to allow him to get to know his father without his intrusions. It looked like a risk-free situation… but Dumbledore simply refused to even consider this a shut case with no way to get his successor-to-be back. Surely there were options still available to them— perhaps other influences could sway him? Oh, if only the one person Albus was sure could sway Harry was not on a mission!