28 : Spoken Silence
'"Now sir, You know I'd never do this without a very good reason…" Draco told the fully petrified potions master, mentally thanking Merlin for his Venoms. "If I didn't you'd run out of here before I could bat an eye. You see sir, he came last night… everyone was asleep… I only know because I heard the door- Merlin he sounded terrible, good thing I'm a light sleeper. He didn't say a word sir, just got into bed, bleeding and all. I tried sir, I really did try to call Pomfrey, but he slammed the door so fast and hard that the entire room shook! At least his powers are still in working order- stronger, I'd say. Must have woken half our house with all that noise. He wouldn't let me out no matter how I tried, ether he used his wind element or wandless magic … damned if I know. I healed him sir, the best I could, he was in really bad shape though- half dead at best- Merlin! No broken bones though, not so much as a hairline fracture… real weird if you ask me… with all the stuff I had to do to fix him up. Couldn't touch him either, and not cuz of the injuries, acted as if I wanted to kill him he did, almost cooked me when I tried to check for a concussion… I didn't want to get into the details of all the crap I healed, still has plenty on him I couldn't, but most of it's just stuff that has to heal on its own… nothing serious." Draco stammered on, trying to say everything as quickly and concisely as he could before what little guts he had were spent. He did not doubt the professor would soon overthrow the effects of the venom.
'"Lea almost fainted when she saw him- she's with him now sir… he's sleeping though. He still hasn't said a word, hasn't even looked at us. Something's mighty wrong with him sir- I'm damned if I know what though. He's just lying there, staring at the bare wall next to his bed, or the ceiling. The only time he'd respond to me at all, besides the time he refused to let me see Pomfrey, was when I asked him to move a bit so I could heal him- he should be able to heal himself, come to think of it, but I wasn't about to tell him that at the time… Just wanted to tell you before you saw him, I don't know what he'll do…"
As soon as Draco released his hold, all hell broke loose. He only hoped the Professor would be too occupied with getting to his son's side to give him a proper thrashing for petrifying the man, but he be damn well knew that the man would be gone as soon as the words 'Horris was back.' Left his mouth. It had taken a minimum of six Asps to keep Snape at Hogwarts as it was, something Draco fearfully implicated after the ones that had helped Wolf deliver the message were almost overpowered. Lea had been easier to deal with, her desire to confront Voldemort again was nonexistent and her understanding of power differences remained firmly intact. She wrote her parents first thing, calming their nerves and asking to stay at the school… they agreed, of course. Draco collapsed into a chair, he was not cut out to lead this lot, having acquired an entirely new appreciation for Horris' skills at keeping them in line.
'Severus burst into the Slytherin commonroom, using all his willpower not to do the same to Horris' door. The children present had quickly learned to walk on eggshells around him since Horris had gone missing, the other houses totally avoiding him over the vacation, each desperately wishing to have joined their family or friends at home. It was as if the entire population of Hogwarts, the staff included, had reverted to a state not far from that of first year Hufflepuffs while in his presence. True, many a time he had to struggle not to shoot some with some form of the Cruciatus… still… he had only actually cursed Draco. It was not as if the boy was not impervious to the curse… and the blonde did decide to tell him that his son was currently at the mercy of that monster. He deserved it… if only for the momentary fear that flashed through his eyes before he remembered what he was. How dare the impudent whelp forbid him… his professor, from leaving the castle? Severus could say so to him… NOT the other way around! And assigning those blasted Asps to trail him like that! Even now he could see two in the shadows, another few probably off hidden somewhere. He had to admit, however, all of them had learned to quickly hide themselves from his eye… even if they knew that he knew that they were there… Who would have thought, Voldemort acquired intelligent followers…
Lea was sitting by the bed when he entered, relinquishing the spot to him before he could say a word. He accepted it with a nod, his gaze transfixed on the boy as he set himself down. Horris was indeed asleep, terribly pale and haggard.
"How is he?" He asked softly, careful not to wake him.
"Ummm… He still hasn't said a word sir, I… I don't rightly know if he's all… all there. He was trembling earlier, convulsing almost, with his eyes all spaced out… I didn't dare touch him… with what happened to Draco… Merlin knew I wanted to do something, anything…"
Severus nodded, eyes never leaving his son. Merlin, what a father I've turned out to be… couldn't even protect him when he needed it most! Finally, he turned, "I know." He told her, never doubting her intentions. She had always been there, for Harry as well as Horris. "He has spent two weeks in hell," He whispered grimly, "Horris could not rightly waltz in happy and undaunted Miss Granger." The girl nodded, though he only caught the motion out of the corner of his eye. He did his best to stay calm, constantly making sure the drive to run out and kill the bastard did not overpower him. He had to act calm. For Draco, for Lea, For Horris. He lightly pushed a few strands of hair from the child's face, careful not to stir him. He was running a fever… he'd have to tell Draco to check him over once more.
'As much as he wanted to call the nurse the second Horris returned, he knew why the boy would not allow it, taking a small satisfaction in the fact Horris still had his wits about him. They hadn't lost him, but the understanding Horris had displayed worried Severus as much as it soothed. Horris wasn't idiotically proud like a Gryffindor to not want help for the sake of pretending not to need it. No, Horris knew he simply could not call Pomfrey. The mediwitch kept quiet when Severus came back battered and broken, suffering from the aftereffects of the Cruciatus and what not, for she knew Severus served them as a spy. She did not question Harry Potter, the cause of dark curses on the boy was simple; another fight with Voldemort, almost died, miraculously escaped (again),bla bla bla… Horatius Snape did not have that luxury. Him Pomfrey would more willingly interrogate than heal, checking his forearm for good measure and slipping a dose of Veritaserum with the blood-clotting potion. Severus hid from her in school as well, he and Lucius tending to each other's injuries in the dorms… how history loves to repeat itself, though a Snape is now the highest…. Oh will not Lucius be pleased… depending on what Voldemort decided next. What did Severus expect though? Things could not have gone so well for Horatius indefinitely… Voldemort hurt all his servants; he had waited longer than usual as it was. Still, seeing Horatius lay there like that, the sheets stained in his blood and wet with his tears… so young. Severus had been a Seventh Year when he had been marked, Lucius as well, and even then only after Easter and only because their fathers were such loyal Deatheaters themselves…
Horatius was too young for all of this, so very young.
'"Cruciatuss doesss not work on you child, but alasss, other meansss are effective- even on you." The dark Lord hissed, sneering. "Veritassserum does not work either boy, one of the ssssecretss you kept from me?"
"Yes sir." Horris whispered, fear clear in his voice. He was so small there, so alone.
"I sshall teach you ressspect indeed my Alpha, you will make your massster proud yet. All you need isss discipline. You shall learn never to disrespect your massster!"
Severus woke as Horatius' hand was being violently jerked out of his own. When he had fallen asleep he did not recall, but he wished he had not done so. With all his heart he wished he had not done so. He was sitting by Horatius' bed, but the boy was not asleep. He instantly let go of the hand Severus had subconsciously taken into his own when he slept- before perhaps? He must have tightened his grip slightly, waking Horris as he woke himself.
Fear, as intense as in the nightmare was in the boy's wide eyes, his body crammed against the wall, as far away from Severus as possible without leaving the bed. The blankets were wrapped around him like some cocoon, his breathing fast and irregular. The boy still did not make a sound, watching Severus' every move as if he was about to mutter the killing curse at any moment, or disappear altogether. The boy's senses were on full alert, waiting… just waiting for something, terrifying Severus more with every passing moment. He had never seen Horris or either Potter act like that. Even as a first year Horris had been able to mask his fears easily, too easily even, as if he'd been practicing from the crib. It took Voldemort to even worry him, outwardly at least, what in hell had happened now? The boy's eyes were darting around the room, whether in an attempt to find the best escape route or some hidden foe Severus could not discern. Either way, he was obviously upsetting the boy. Severus slowly started to stand, as much as it tore him inside, backing away in the least threatening way he could. The second he moved though, Horris launched himself at Severus, pain filling his eyes. The man braced himself, expecting the child to lash out, fearing the boy may even be inclined to use his more potent venoms on him. Did Horris have a killing venom? He could not remember, hoping that if the boy did in fact possess it, it would at least be instantaneous, not long and painful. No one actually fears death, only dying…
'It took him a moment to realize Horris' blows had never come, though the child was practically strangling him. The boy seemed to be holding on to Severus tighter than seemed humanly possible, crying soundlessly into his shoulder. Severus, mystified, gently returned the embrace, ever careful not to startle his son. Horris was in a far more fragile state than Severus could have anticipated, Merlin… what has that monster done to him?
"Shh…" He whispered, stroking the boy's head ever-so-lightly, "Everything is going to be fine now… he can not hurt you here."
The boy pulled back, only enough to be able to look Severus in the eye. His lower lip was trembling, ever so slightly, the once iridescently- green eyes shadowed and dusty. Severus thought the boy was about to say something, disagree, but Horris just sank his head back into Severus' chest, crying again, soundlessly. It felt like an eternity before it stopped, leaving Severus' robes thoroughly soaked with tears. Horris did not move, clinging to Severus as if his arms had been frozen in place with a strong binding charm, and Severus was not going anywhere. Even if it had not been the holidays, even if all his potions had been about to explode, Severus would have stayed right there.
'He laid the boy back on the bed once he was asleep again, hours later, transfiguring a small sofa in the room into a temporary bed for himself. Draco had come in later, asking what Severus thought of the situation. The boy was rational, he gave him that… thinking not only of Horatius but of the general problem as well. As soon as he had learned Severus' diagnosis of Horatius' condition he moved on to what he was to tell Lea, what Severus wanted him to do with the other Asps and if he needed help with anything. At least Severus did not have to concern himself with keeping the Slytherins in line… Draco did so almost as well as Horatius had, though the blonde had not tried to implement any such drastic rules as Horatius, though all the Asps seemed to make it their priority to make certain all of Horris' decrees were strictly kept… holidays or not.'As soon as Draco had done all that was necessary, he collapsed onto his bed, dead tired of it all. Not physically, not really, but emotionally he was at the breaking point. He knew better than to expect the Professor to keep everything in line, he doubted the man would so much as leave the room even if the castle had been collapsing around him. His father would, of course… cannot have such a trivial thing as his child keep Lucius Malfoy from keeping all his investments in order and his subordinates in quaking fear. Snape was different though. Draco couldn't help but feel a pang of longing for such a father, one that would not simply order an elf to make sure he got better. According to his father, after all, such trivial shows of affection only fostered weakness and were far below a Malfoy.
'Draco shook off the fruitless train of thought, knowing now was not the time to dwell on self pity. He had to make sure everything was as it should, from the Asps to the Slytherins… Dumbledore could take care of the other houses well enough… Soon, hopefully, Horris would be back and Draco could return to just having fun at the expense of some ruddy Gryffindors… ah, the good old days…
'When Severus woke the following morning, he nearly jumped as last night's events came back to him. One look toward Horris' bed was enough to send him into a panicked search of the room until his eyes rested upon the form of his son, sitting safely at his desk and staring at Severus. The relief was visibly showing on his features but he could not will himself to care. Horatius noticed some time during Severus' mental whirlwind, and was now staring intently at his face, silent as ever. The boy was not crying though, his eyes just a bit brighter than before. Hell, compared to yesterday he was practically smiling, not scared of Severus in the least.
'"Are you hungry Horris?" Severus asked softly, the boy eagerly nodding in reply as Severus snapped his fingers for a house elf. "Anything in particular you would like?"
The boy only shook his head, still soundless.
Damn! "Would you prefer something solid or would a nice bowl of Cream of Wheat agree with you better? You are still far from a clean bill of health son…" He reminded softly,
The boy bit his lip.
Why does he refuse to speak? "Cream of Wheat?"
Horatius shook his head roughly.
"Are you sure you can handle bacon and eggs right now?"
Horris nodded, almost smiling.
"Bacon and eggs it is then, but a portion of cream of wheat on the side, and if the former does not suit you, you will eat the latter- no arguments." Severus agreed, waiting for the boy to respond. Horris nodded curtly, clearly not planning to touch the mush. If Severus rushed things he just knew he would lose him, he prayed he did not screw this up… he would give anything; he had to do this right.