Forlorn Hope

Asps, Death Eaters and Harry

25 : Asps, Death Eaters and Harry

Horris walked the icy streets of Hogsmeade, the winter proving colder than most. The snow was lightly falling, putting most students in the full spirit of the season. The lampposts were wrapped in red wrapping paper resembling candy canes, wreaths hung in store windows and mock-gifts sat beneath decorated evergreens. He, like most students on the last trip into the village before the holidays fell upon them, searched the stores for presents, his moneybag filled to the brim. He still didn't like asking the goblins to take him to the Snape Family Vault (as his father told him to), but he couldn't very well go to Harry Potter's… now could he? His father said he'd make him a savings vault (like the one he had as Harry Potter, the majority of the Potter fortune was in the family vault) but he hadn't said he had yet, and Horris felt odd asking about it. His father's money was his father's money, no matter which vault he took it from. He had already bought a present for Draco, a small pewter statue of a Hungarian Horntail… the full symbolism of which the blonde would likely never know. The little namesake was bewitched to move and could even wake someone like an alarm clock. The latter function would save Horris the trouble of sending someone when Draco 'accidentally' slept in, not to mention the little fellow was a lot more pleasing to wake to than Goyle's ugly mug… For Lea he had bought a silver necklace with a lion's head pendant that had emerald eyes. He had the owner engrave the back as soon as he saw it, paying extra for a dark green box with the Slytherin crest embossed on top. He wasn't exactly sure why she had stubbornly kept her distance, but this should sway her- right? He figured she was either mad at him for yelling at her or she thought that Horris was. Either way, the gift could count as an apology or an invitation. The truth was he missed her, not as the only real link to his past but as his friend- Lea. He had stayed away to give her some space but…

Back to the task at hand; the carriages would leave soon and he still needed to get the gift he most wanted to be perfect. What would the get though? He had thought of getting something at the apothecary, but that would be like a gift one buys a teacher, not a father… Merlin, what do you get Severus Snape that has nothing to do with potions? Horris was quickly beginning to realize how little he knew the man. The worst part was no one actually knew him… not his colleagues, not his students, not the people he considered friends, not even his son.

A chime sounded, signaling the five-minute mark, calling all students to the final carriages, dampening Horatius' spirits. Now he would have to sneak out to buy his dad a gift- at least he still had some time to think it over… He, unlike Lea, was staying at Hogwarts for the holidays, giving him a good deal more time to buy all his presents. He had thought of buying something for Ginny and the twins in Harry's name, but that would mean he'd have to get Ron something as well… That boy had been quiet for the past few months, too quiet for Horris' liking. He had known Ron for four years- at least he thought he had- and such quiet usually indicated the calm before a storm of trouble descended like a hurricane. Though temperamental, Ron had always been the strategist, a good one, in chess as well as life. Horris just knew he was biding his time, rechecking his options and calculating the best plan of action. At least he was leaving as well, though the absence could be as much an obstacle as an advantage, depending on what the redhead did with the time. Even Horris wasn't about to believe he'd just sit idly and enjoy Christmas, not by a long shot. Thankfully, he couldn't very well connive with anyone who would help him, the Weasley family having no Dark ties in the past or present. Ron's parents weren't stupid either, regardless of the impression one took from Mr. Weasley.

"There you are Viper!" A voice called, sounding strained with exhaustion.

"What do you want, Grim?" Horris asked the sixth-year Asp. "What you do, sprint from the dungeons?" He added dryly, mildly surprised at his nod. Grim, Zack LeStrange to most, wasn't exactly Horris' favorite person, despite being under his command. Actually, he was one of the few who had not yet pledged his loyalty, Horris figuring he'd be the last (if he pledged at all). Oh, he'd obey like all the other Slytherins, but he had probably thought he'd be Beta, if not Alpha. After all, Bellatrix and Rudolfus were among Voldemort's favorites and he was one of the first-born, nearly two years Horris' senior. Zack actually prided himself on being born exactly nine months (to the day, he said) after Voldemort ordered the Heirs. The Asps varied in age, most were fifth years like Horris. Zack was one of four sixth years that included, to Horris' surprise, Cho Chang and her friend Emily, not to mention the Gryffindor chaser Angelina. There were also two fourth years, a Slytherin and a Ravenclaw he remembered only as Hydra. Suffice to say, Horris wasn't Grim's favorite person, and the Asp simply wouldn't seek him out for a social call.

"An owl arrived for you…"

"An owl?"

"The owl."

"From…" Voldemort was unsaid, but most definitely understood.

"Yes, sir."

Horris followed with a nod, wondering why in hell the owl came to him. The old coot normally informed them of meetings through his dad, probably knowing teacher mail is far less likely to be intercepted.

Why risk owling? He wondered, knowing that if the git wanted to talk to him he'd just call another bloody meeting. Voldemort had proven fond of showing favor or ill will at gatherings where others would have to watch…

"Where is it?" He questioned, entering the dorm.

"Your room, sir." Merlin how Horris hated suck-ups like him… they both knew he hated Horris and that the opposite was much the same.

"Right…"

In the room was indeed an owl, jet black, stubbornly perched on one of Horris' bedposts. It flew onto his shoulder as soon as he walked in, sticking out its leg to be released of the gray parchment.

My Viper,

Horris rolled his eyes (discreetly), 'his Viper', right… why not his son, while the git's at it?

Inform your Asps of a meeting the week before Christmas. DO NOT alert your father, Death Eaters are not invited. I have also heard from Ammodytus that your training has been progressing nicely, I would enjoy a demonstration- be prepared to please your Lord.

'Lord'? Horris had made it a point never to call him 'Lord' or 'Master'. A simple 'sir' sufficed most times; the git was probably taking it in a military sense rather than that of diplomatic and common courtesy… that was his problem, not Horris'. He had yet to acknowledge Voldemort holding any authority over him, especially since addressing him as 'Voldemort' didn't seem to hold any negative repercussions.

I have heard your elements are awaking; I am most pleased to hear you have used fire to your liking… I have found torturing with flame to be most amusing, especially on Muggle young.

Horris closed his eyes, forcing himself not to torch the parchment as he tried to rid himself of a disgusting image of a girl with enflamed hair, screaming as Voldemort laughed.

If he's hinting at what he wants to see, forget it… if he so much as tries to suggest that his head will catch fire. How the hell did he find out about my elements, anyway? Horris had been careful not to let Voldemort know of his powers. As far as he could tell, the old snake knew only of his elements waking, perhaps his venoms. Not even the Asps had known, besides Draco, and Horris was quite sure his Beta- his friend- would not rat him out like that. Of the teachers only his father and Lupin knew, neither of which would have told him. Dumbledore probably knew as well, thanks to Remus, but that would be it-right?

You and your Asps are to come at the usual time, apparating to the same location as the last meeting took place. Stay safe, child.

The Dark Mark served as his signature, bright green on the dark parchment.

"Draco," He called out, beckoning the boy into his room. "Midnight, same place, week before Christmas… spread the word. Oh, no Death Eaters- just Asps."

"Week before Christmas?" The boy pouted before returning to a more serious tone, "you telling the professor?"

"He'd know anyway." Horris nodded, just in the remote case that Draco did tell.

"Yeah, the man watches you like a hawk…"

"He does, doesn't he?"

"Angelina, can I talk to ya for a min?"

"Sure Dean."

Hermione perked up, straining her ears to hear the two Gryffindor Asps converse.

"…meeting… before Chris…"

Chris? There was no Asp named Chris… Christmas? There was a meeting before Christmas?

"…all he said…"

"Why not?" Angelina demanded, her voice louder than Dean's,

"Ask him if you're curious… Merlin knows I know no more than you!"

"But they've always come with us…"

"Th…s a first … everything- right?"

"You alright, Hermione?" Ginny asked, overlapping their conversation.

"Just fine." Why did she have to pick now to talk?

"You think Harry will send us stuff? Letters or gifts or something?"

"No." Hermione replied flatly, sure 'no contact' included Christmas gifts.

"Are you sending him stuff?" Ginny asked, Hermione shaking her head in answer, "Why not?"

" 'No contact', remember?"

"But it's Christmas! I'm sending him something, no matter what they say. Mum is too, I think… I found the cutest-"

"Wait till he comes back." Hermione cut her off, if he comes back…

"He deserves a Christmas!"

"Not if it could cost him his life!"

"Well I can't stand it! No letters, no nothing… what if he's already dead?"

"He's not dead, Ginny, they'd tell us."

"Would they? I'm starting to think it was all to make us think he was fine… what if he was dying or something, but he told us he was training so we wouldn't cry and the world wouldn't know?"

"That's absurd! Besides, they told us about Cedric, didn't they?"

"Cedric wasn't Harry." Ginny stated flatly, "The entire world's hopes didn't ride on Cedric's shoulders!"

"Don't think that way, Ginny, thinking he's dead is worse than him being dead… he wouldn't want us to cry, even if he was… don't do it when he's not." Hermione tried, truly hoping Harry wasn't dead. Ginny was right about one thing, they wouldn't tell them, not as long as Voldemort was alive. She had questioned Harry's whereabouts and welfare many times since he took his leave, never getting further than 'what if's and impossibilities. She silently cursed the entire thing; closing her dorm door as any further eavesdropping -er- information gathering was out of the question.

"How do you know?"

"I don't." Hermione confessed, "I have hope and what he'd want though," she added solemnly.

"That's not enough!" Ginny protested, hitting Lavender's pillow against the bedpost.

"We have to make do with what we have, Ginny, going nuts won't help Harry." She stated with a calmness she didn't feel, for Ginny's benefit as much as her own.

"Would it be enough if your dearest Snape was the one missing?" Ginny suddenly accused, "Would 'hope and what he'd want' be enough then?"

"Ginny… Horris and I-"

"Don't." The younger girl cut her off, "Just don't try and deny it, Hermione. I've seen how the Slytherins treat you, what they call you… where'd they get 'Lea' anyway?" Ginny awaited an answer, but Hermione only shifted on her bed. "Fine, don't tell me… for all I know it was so that he'd be able to say it, we all know how hard 'Hermione' is to say for your boys…"

"You leave Krum out of this!" Hermione shouted,

"Notice, you aren't denying it…"

"You and I both know Horris is perfectly capable of pronouncing my name."

"'Hermione' or 'Lea'?"

"Drop it Ginny!"

"Why Lea? Afraid someone would think you betrayed Harry?"

"I'd never betray Harry."

"Yet you're going out with Death Eaters."

"Horris is not a Death Eater!"

"But you are going out with him… a Snape for Merlin's sake!"

"Horris is nothing like his father!"

"That depends who you ask. Note, you still aren't denying you're his girl."

"I AM NOT HIS GIRL!" Hermione screamed.

"Then why do you act Slytherin all of a sudden? Why run to Horris?" Ginny asked, mocking the name, "Ron not good enough for you?"

"Please tell me that's not what this is about… Did he put you up to this?" Hermione questioned a fire in her eyes that could rival any redhead's.

"No." Ginny denied, "For once in your life find a decent guy Hermione… First Durmstrang, then a Slytherin, what next?"

"You don't know what you're talking about, Ginny," Hermione said quietly, truly disappointed in the girl. "You are a terrible judge of character and you'd best just go back to your own dorm."

"Who have I misjudged- except you that is?"

"Everyone… Horris, Viktor, Ron." Hermione responded, the last name slipping, but the accident not dampening her train of thought. "Viktor wasn't evil, Ginny, even if he went to that awful school. Horris has been hurt by Voldemort- he would follow him no sooner than Harry. Ron-" No, she wouldn't tell Ginny, not now. After Christmas, let her at least have the holidays without worry…

"What? Let me guess, Ron is the evil Death Eater?"

"Leave, Ginny, please."

"What the hell has that slimy snake done to you Herm? What made you think he's a saint and Ron's the devil?"

"Please Ginny, I can't, just leave."

"Merlin!" The younger girl exclaimed, "He did do something!"

"No!" Hermione whispered, "Not Horris."

"One of his goons then."

Hermione shook her head,

"Who?"

Hermione stayed quiet, silent tears flowing down her cheek.

"You tell me right now Hermione or I call Professor McGonagall."

"No one did anything- honest."

"I don't believe you."

"I know."

"Is it the truth?"

"The only one you'll believe."

"Did any of the Slytherins do anything to you?"

"No."

"Is that the truth?"

"Yes."

Ginny looked over Hermione, truly worried for the girl. Here she was, trying to make all goodie-goodie out of a Slytherin and Snape for Merlin's sake! And… and now this. She obviously had some secret she was holding back, someone did something… Ginny was sure of that… Pushing her for answers wouldn't work though. Nope, coming from a house full of stubborn boys she knew what it meant to push someone too far. She'd have to believe her… on the surface if she couldn't at heart. Telling McGonagall wouldn't help though, not unless they decided to use Veritaserum for some strange reason. Not even that would work… Snape would make the stuff, undoubtedly he could do something to it to make it useless or even make her say what he wanted her to say… that could prove disastrous! The safest way, by far, would be to simply let Hermione be for now, pester her about it later… yeah… later.

"Tell me why he calls you Lea then."

"Will you leave if I do?"

"I won't even call the professor." Ginny nodded, forcing a small smile.

"Fine, but you keep it to yourself."

"Deal."

"It's Latin for lioness… 'Lioness of Slytherin'. Dra- Malfoy joked one night that I was like a kitty in the snake pit; Horris threw his two cents in and said I was more like a lioness and it stuck. Happy?"

A/N; the formatting should be fixed now... my beta used that microsoft editing program and I thought saving it without making all the 'accept change' things when you close the tracker would simply keep the wording on the screen. It doesn't, and that's why the echo's were there. If you see anymore, tell me, and I do apologize for not double checking it after I posted.

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