Forlorn Hope

Dancing with Fire

AN: the rest of the chappies are unbetaed in order to save time while reposting. Hopefully, the drop in quality will not be overly noticeable.

26 : Dancing with Fire

"I still hope he doesn't suspect me to be Alpha… the last thing we need is Voldemort suspicious of us." Horris muttered softly, shaking his head at the forbidden forest. Something about this felt off… way off. It wasn't that this was the first time they were called without their parents, this wasn't about the terribly weird letter… it was something else entirely. Something would happen tonight, he could feel it.

"Well, if we don't apparate soon he will be suspicious- Alpha or no Alpha." Draco informed him,

"How'd he find out about the fire though?"

"We'll worry about that later… go!"

They apparated together to the meeting grounds were the others already waiting. They silently took their places, side by side, completing the circle. Horris hated how Deatheater-like it felt, but he wasn't about to argue this with Voldie…

Speak of the Devil…

"Welcome, my Aspidisss, how glad I am to finally greet you without my Deatheatersss. Dragon, Viper…" He called, "Take the place of your fathers."

With a quick glance at Draco, Horris and he walked to Voldemort's side; Draco on his right, Horris on the left.

"Ah, now we may begin. Horriss," He questioned, "iss it ready?"

Horris nodded, "yes sir."

"Well?" Voldemort asked impatiently…

Horris shot Draco a look he hoped would remind the blonde of his role… it did.

"Begin!" Draco called out, while Horris nodded subtly in case the teams hesitated, careful to make sure Voldemort did not catch the motion.

Two teams led by Cho and Zack formed, some with swords, others with wands. They were told only to fight with others equipped like them and only to stun or draw first blood.

"Ass entertaining as these duels are," Voldemort commented after the fight had been waged for a while, "my Deatheatersss could manage this… what of their Aspian abilitiessss?"

"If I may sir…" Horris commented, "I doubt it would be wise for them to use their venoms…"

"They have them then?" He asked, spirits rising, if one could call could use the term 'smile' to describe the formation of a twisted smirk on his snake-like muzzle-of-a-face that signaled the end of his displeasure.

"Three sir." Draco cut in, "A healing substance, a strong sedative and the liquid form of the Cruciatus."

"I sssee." Voldemort nodded, eyes still on Horris. "You ought have requested sssubjectss to use Viper… mugglesss perhaps?"

"I-" Horris caught himself before stuttering, knowing the act would not go over well, "shall remember that next time sir." He nodded, truly hoping there would be no 'next time'.

Severus paced the room, worried out of his wits. He did not like this… he did not like this at all. Voldemort had never called the Asps without their parents. Why now? The letter Horatius had handed him did little to ease his nerves- quite the opposite. The usual letters Voldemort sent were little more than a date, time, place, and perchance a side note on what and who to bring or that it would take longer than normal. This letter was too letter-like, too nice, if he could call Voldemort nice, per say… The news Horatius told him unsettled him as well, how did Voldemort find out Horatius' element woke? Why did he want Horatius to organize a demonstration of Severus' teaching, why not him? What if Voldemort knew he was a spy? Would he… would he take it out on Horatius? Merlin he hoped not, could he stand Voldemort sending him a 'package' like he sent to a 'friend' of his? His entire body shook at the memory, the poor girl finding her brother's severed head in a plain black box, his eyes still open in shock and his tongue transfigured into a snake to mimic the dark mark. No, he… he couldn't do that to Horris, Merlin! Not Horris, just not Horris!

The only thought that comforted him at the moment was that Horatius was Alpha. He was important to Voldemort, Meredith's brother had not been. Horatius was smart, he had his Asps with him, they would surely protect him should the need arise…

"Dragon, I am right to believe that the Alpha has yet to be found?"

"Yes sir." Horatius heard Draco respond promptly, stealing the faintest look at Horris. "I haven't."

"You had best hope you will soon Dragon…"

"I do sir."

"Tell me, what elements has my Dragon mastered…"

Horris hated when Voldemort used his non-hissing voice… somehow, it sounded more frightening than his usual slur… to Horris at least. Perhaps it was that it made him sound human… which he wasn't, of that Horris was sure… no human could be so cold. Horris nodded faintly, giving Draco the 'go ahead' over the git's shoulder. The game they played was dangerous but necessary, as they knew well.

"All four sir."

"And Viper?" The question was immediate, though he was still looking at Draco. Horris quickly shook his head, holding up one finger, pretending to rub his nose.

"Only fire."

"Pity." Voldemort tsked, "I expected a show."

Horris saw Draco fidget, albeit slightly, an occurrence that, to him, was a blunt indication that the boy would not last much longer. He only hoped Draco found his elements as relaxing as he did…

"If I may?" Both instantly turned to face him, "Dragon and I could still 'play with fire' as it were… if the Beta and you agree, of course." He added, lowering his head for effect, knowing Draco was smart enough to not let his pride overtake him now. The boy may be overflowing with it, but somehow he managed to control it and hide it when the situation becomes dire enough…

"You're crazy!" Draco said in a hushed whisper, even as he walked beside 'Viper' to the center of the meeting grounds. What was he thinking? A firedance? Merlin! What if one of them lost control? Draco had yet to see Horris even use fire outside the one time he had helped him control it. Oh, that just further dampened his spirits, remembering the fireball he had to face… Thank Merlin the room had extremely high ceilings… the ball was bigger than a bloody Hippogriff! Draco figured he'd be able to intervene if Horris lost control, having far more practice, but what if he lost it? Would Horris be able to stop it? At present, Draco felt hard pressed to control his temper, much less fire. Bloody Viper indeed, isn't this just a bite in the ass… "What were you thinking?"

"Oh for Merlin's sake Draco, stop that! Hissing suits you less than the half-glares you try to do. Just relax."

Relax? Draco couldn't believe him, and what did he mean 'half-glares'? Draco had fine glares, thank you very much… sure, they weren't the patent Deathglares seemingly all Snapes were born with but…

"What are we doing?"

"Nothing Draco." Horris said easily, only confusing Draco further, "You'd muck it up." The boy before him continued, smirking. "And I told you, don't glare. All you're doing is maintaining a fire-aura- think you can handle that? I'll take care of all the fireworks and say you did."

"But…"

"And try not to gape, k?"

Horris only hoped he could live up to his boastful talk. At least Draco seemed less nervous now. They were both starting to glow a faint red, tiny tongues of flame dancing on their skin. The trick with not catching his cloths on fire Horris found most useful, but somehow doubted it would impress Voldie.

One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three… He chanted mentally, catching the rhythm and visualizing how it would all look.

"Draco…" he whispered, "I'll make a burst of flame around us, you maintain it- alright?"

The blonde nodded. Horris started from the outside, igniting five rings of flame. Draco seemed to have no problem maintaining it, the roar of the blaze suppressing all other noises. "Little higher Dragon!" he called over the flames, knowing the sound would carry no further. "There, keep it there!" Now none would see what was going on inside. Not needing to concentrate on the rings, Horris concentrated on his fireballs, levitating them to where everyone could see them. The tiny ones jumped from ring to ring like fish, the one huge one remaining right above them. Teasing the rings with his air element, he made them seem to spin in opposite directions, changing every bit or so. The outer rings naturally became lower than the inner ones, requiring an ever-increasing amount of raw power to maintain their larger circumference but receiving no more than the inner rings. They looked layered this way, each visible.

"Look like you're concentrating!"

"I AM!" Came the reply, making Horris smile slightly.

"I need you to look like you're about to lose control!" That said, Horris tried to look like he wasn't concentrating all that hard- a far more complicated task, as he started to call all the tiny balls into his 'sun'. He then carefully started lifting the rings, giving everyone their first look at the boys. They were far too busy to look for awe-inspired looks in the crowd. Now he really started to spin the rings around the center star, carefully lifting and shifting them to look almost like a giant flaming target with thin black gaps.

"Let the rings go!" He told Draco, mindful of the level of his voice, "Keep the aura up!" Suddenly everything was back in his hands… figuratively speaking. He was sweating from the strain. Draco had over-powered the rings a bit, as Horris had his fireballs. In training, Horris could control a thing like this for quite a while, now his body was begging to be released. He complied, raising the fire and merging it into a single ball at the same time. Once clearly above the trees, he let it explode, a ring of fire flowing and fading into nothing as his wind element quenched it. Horris fell to his knees, hearing Draco follow his example. Horris' entire body felt limp, unresponsive as he let his face drop onto the heat-hardened ground. He could hear faint clapping, someone calling his name from what felt like miles away before finally giving into the darkness.

"Enter… what in Merlin's name are you doing Lupin? I thought I warned you against returning."

"Well, I thought you'd want this back… for Horris." Remus replied, tossing a wandbox-like package onto a vacant sofa. "Wouldn't want you to think I stole it."

"That remains one of the few things I never would accuse you of." Severus answered coldly, stillclearly mad. "You brought the broom, now leave. I have enough on my mind."

"Oh?" Remus asked curiously, trying to strike a conversation.

"Yes. Leave."

"Anything I might be able to help with?"

"No. Leave. Now."

"Is Horris-"

"If you are here when he returns, I shall insist he barbecues you Lupin, now Get Out!"

When he gets back? He isn't here? Then… "Horris is at a meeting?" Deathglare…

"But you aren't?"

Another potent look,

"Why?"

"Asps only," Severus growled through clenched teeth, "Now get out or-"

He's on-edge… Remus noted quickly, worried about Horris no doubt…

"-I swear I will!"

"Right. Listen, I know you're worried, but if he-"

"One word about the Order and you fly out…" Severus interrupted,

"But if he was he'd be safe!"

"He. Would. Be. Dead. Dead like Potter, dead like Lily, dead and forgotten!"

"They aren't forgotten!" Remus screamed back, wand at the ready.

"Oh?" Came the cold reply, just begging to be challenged

"Everyone remembers them"

"No, everyone knows their names… just like Harry Potter."

"Leave him out-"

"They make them into Gods Lupin, no one remembers the people! What was Lily's favorite subject?"

"Charms." Remus replied instantly,

"Arythmacy. She was good in charms, she never truly enjoyed them." The cold voice countered once more, "What was her favorite color? Book?"

Remus' mind drew a blank,

"Do you even know Potter's?"

Blue… or was it- "Blue."

"And the book?"

"Quidditch."

"That is practically a genera."

"And Lily?" Remus called back, hoping to catch him off guard.

"Lord of the Rings- part two, if you count them as separate novels."

"People do remember them."

"No, they only picture what they consider a perfect couple and plaster onto it their names and faces. Even I know Lily and Potter had problems… and I am not referring to Harold." Severus added bluntly, "Now leave."

"Merlin, my head…" Horris mumbled, his forehead throbbing.

His first thought was to ask if anyone got the number of the rampaging Hippogriff that must have run him over, his common sense thankfully interfering long enough for his memory to catch up. A quick glace to his left told him Draco was up already. Now if only he was alone… Nope, the Asps were all looking at him, one- Pansy- running toward the far-off house. Getting Draco, or Voldemort. Horris figured, taking into account Pony's usual reasoning.

"How long was I out for?" He questioned, careful to keep his voice steady.

"Not long- five minutes tops."

He turned to face whomever answered him,

"Dragon's speaking with You-know-who-"

"Voldemort." Horris corrected, "Say his name Wolf- Gryffindor that you are."

"Right Viper, sorry." Dean mumbled back, "He's mad though."

Damn! "At me or Dragon?"

"Dragon, from what I could tell- thinks he pushed you too far."

"Thanks." Horris smiled, accepting the hand as he stood, the smirk not reaching his eyes. Dean helped him the first few steps, Horris' never-broken Gryffindor pride not allowing any further help.

"Thank Merlin you're alright!" He heard Draco call as the blonde ran up to him.

"How mad Dragon?

"At you or me? The blonde retorted, "He thought I pushed you too far!"

"And what did you say? Horris asked,

"Sorry, for starter, what was I supposed to say?"

Horris messaged his temple, "Did you take the blame?" He questioned sadly, his potions lessening by the second.

"Pony ran in just as I was going to-why?"

"Next time, be a good little Slytherin and put the blame on me you dolt!" Horris huffed, hitting Draco softly, reassured Draco would not end up barbecued.

"Very Gryffindor of you…"

Horris glared, "I did not realize you had a death wish… do you realize that you nearly volunteered for a torture session? Voldemort can't afford for one of his precious Asps to be rendered useless because of an error on the part of the leader. I say that I pushed myself too far and he thinks I wanted to impress him. You say that you pushed me too far and he thinks you an incompetent leader."

"Right, sorry."

"As long as you're playing big-bad leader, no taking blame… got it? Merlin! Didn't the years of bossing your two goons around teach you anything?" Horris demanded angrily.

"I…er… was more afraid of what you'd of done if I had dumped it on you…" The blonde whispered after a moment. Making Horris' eyebrows rise.

"I seee you are up Viper…"

"Yes sir." Horris nodded as Voldemort addressed him. "It was my fault."

"How ssso?"

"Dragon and I hadn't had much practice time. He told me three rings, I did five, I thought I could handle it sir."

"We did not have time to argue sir," Draco thankfully cut in, "I thought since he could handle it, he could."

That's more like it…"I did handle it." Horris pointed out, "Forgive me for passing out sir."

The old git nodded, "Come, the main part of the evening isss still ahead child…"

Horris quickly looked to Draco, the two exchanging puzzled looks. Voldemort and surprises were not things one mixed lightly, especially in the absence of Horris' dad. As skilled as the man was at saving explosive concoctions in class, he was far better at appeasing the madman… even if Horris had inherited the ability to some extent…

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