Forlorn Hope

Past Recollections

30 : Past Recollections

Sirius was cold, wet and exhausted. The damn stone was driving him crazier than Azkaban ever had! Months on the trail and still he felt no closer to finding the blasted thing. Everyone he asked was certain the seer was where he or she said… Mexico, Asia, China, France, the States, Australia… now he was on his way to Finland, freezing his ass off. At this rate, he figured he'd never see Harry again! His last contact said the stone he was looking for was atop one of the mountains, the owner living in a small cottage near the summit. Finland! Why in hell's devil would the 'Blind Seer of the East' be in Finland? Still, better check it out and move on than have it turn out to be the real deal… And still no news of Harry. Sirius had tried to stay as far away from the Wizarding World as he could but… 'no news is good news' didn't really apply to him. No news worried him as much as bad news; more so even! Oh, to just find the blasted stone and see Harry safe and sound doing loop-de-loops on his Firebolt just like James had… oh wasn't he the show off, constantly trying to impress everyone…. Especially Lily… oh wouldn't they be proud of their little boy? Who wouldn't be? Harry was a gem, an endless supply of courage and will that rivaled any Sirius had seen. As much as he hated picturing his godson as a destroyer of anything, the boy would destroy that demon Voldemort, he just knew that was Harry's destiny. Then… then he and Sirius would live together somewhere far from the hustle and bustle of the idiotic ministry and be a real family. For now, he just had to find the blasted stone!

Severus paced the room in a livid mood, eyes never straying from the two boys before him. The vein above his temple was throbbing annoyingly and he felt like a raging bull that was being spurred on in a locked pen.

"You could have been killed!" he snapped angrily, "What in the name of Merlin were you two thinking? Were you thinking?"

They were both standing straight and rigid, trying not to visibly shake in fear though Severus clearly saw their petty attempts. He always half-expected Horatius to risk his own life because of the Gryffindor influences that still inhabited him, but Draco? Did not Lucius grind in the Malfoy self-before-all-else philosophy into his heir yet?

"You could have been Killed!" He yelled at the blonde, "And you," he continued turning, "You could have killed him!"

It was a low blow; he realized that. If there was one thing Horatius had ever hated it was to be the cause of harm to anyone… let alone a friend. Was that not what had kept him quiet about Ronald Weasley for so long?

"If you ever keep anything from me, both of you will be sorry you ever even met me! Where was your Slytherin sense of self preservation?" He demanded, his glare at full blast, "Do not you dare turn into mindless Gryffindors on me! And do not even start Horatius, Lea is practically a Ravenclaw… as are you for that matter, and Draco if memory serves… where in hell are your brains!"

"We didn't want to worry you."

"Why thank you." Severus sneered sarcastically at the barely audible reply, "Now I have the distinct pleasure of wondering what the hell is wrong with the two of you and why you look as if someone had sicced Fluffy on you!" His eyes locked onto Horatius, "Why did you not tell me your venoms were not working properly?"

"You would have kept asking till you found out everything and then you would have tried to single-handedly destroy one Tom Riddle…?" Horatius answered cautiously, his voice strained. It was probably true too, just by seeing Horatius' half-healed injuries that night, Severus had wanted to do just that. Still, working on the venoms in secret from everyone, thus trying them in secret from everyone, then trying them out on Draco of all people to make sure he had them down… Merlin!

"You must tell me anyway. Saturday Voldemort is calling a meeting that includes your lot and I can not risk finding out something that would make me angry… I could still cope with it by then if you tell me now, but finding out on the spot might prove…"

"I know sir, I don't want to though…"

"Leave Draco." Severus said sternly, the boy leaving with Horatius' stern nod. Sometimes, their relationship truly amazed Severus. Here they were, obvious friends, yet each still kept the other's rank in mind. No, Severus was not as dense as to believe Draco only waited because Horatius was his commander, the boy was worried about him. Imagine, a Malfoy actually caring about someone… what an awkward concept that made… even more so when one considered the focus of said Malfoy's care was none other than the one previously known as 'the boy-who-lived'.

Shifting quickly from the tangent musing, Severus did not even ask if Horatius had put the wards up… the boy always did, he just motioned for him to sit.

"You know I would not ask if I did not need to know…"

"Yeah, you've given me more time than anyone else as it is dad, I know you'd never ask if you had it your way."

"You would have nothing to tell if I had my way." Severus commented offhand, "Still… not knowing could endanger my cover, endanger you…"

"I know, but, but you won't like it." Horris answered, rubbing his forearm just as Severus had so often. And then it clicked. Before he realized he had moved, Severus had almost lunged at Horatius' arm, revealing… nothing.

"Thank Merlin!" He sighed in relief, only to hear his son's indignant snort.

"I wish that thing was on my arm, it would sure have made things easier…"

WHAT! Severus looked dumbstruck, usually controlled eyes swelling to the size of dinner plates.

"He tried to mark me alright… did you know the bloody thing is based on the killing curse?"

Severus raised a questioning brow, one he knew Horatius knew as a response more or less meaning 'no'

"Which itself is based on the Cruciatus… the pain is so great it kills you before you even feel it. If you take the pain you feel while he marks you and amplify it so it covers your entire body simultaneously you get something as painful as a killing curse would be… if you survived long enough to notice." Horatius took a deep breath, tightening the grip on the arm of his chair. "I'm immune to the effect, not the way it kills… I feel the pain. The mark kills a specific area of the skin, the pain stopping when all the tissue is dead and the mirror spell that connects you to Him is in place. Only problem is that my skin can't die completely… the first three times he undid the mark himself so I'd shut up… the fourth he kept on, figured it may work after a while, put some silencing charms on my room I guess… even that didn't work; my body undid it completely in a few days…"

Days! Severus was ready to kill the bastard now, correction; he wanted the bastard dead yesterday, his cover be damned!

"See, that's why I didn't tell you…" Horatius commented, having probably seen the shock on Severus' face, "He found the killing curse a nice punishment after that, since I can't feel the Cruciatus… he usually used it only if I failed to keep up in the lessons…"

"Lessons?"

"Said I needed to know things they didn't teach here if I am to be in command of all his forces… some of the stuff wasn't half bad, other things were simply horrid…"

"He still sees you as the commander of his troops then?" Severus asked, to which Horatius smiled sadly.

"I doubt it, but he can't replace me, not really. If I die, Draco will be in charge of the Asps… as strange as it sounds, Dray's truly as loyal as any Gryffindor or Hufflepuff and Voldemort knows his loyalties lie with me. If I denounce him Draco would as well, probably adding 'revenge' to his list of 'things to kill Voldemort for'… doesn't matter really, we both agree Voldemort's a loon and he'd no sooner follow him than I would."

Severus nodded slowly, allowing his son's words to sink in. As much as he thought he would never admit it, Draco was loyal to Horatius; not just in a strategic sense. The boys had developed a strong bond in a relatively short time… probably because of their common experiences.

"He kept me there to win my loyalty or scare me into obedience should the loyalty tactic not work… and to make me spill my secrets."

"Did you?"

"Some. He knew I had secrets, keeping them all would have proved quite futile… I told him what my venoms were; he'd find out anyways, eventually. I told him about my contribution to the fire show… that's when he realized just where Draco's loyalty lies; he lied to him on my request…"

"Fire show?"

"Ask Draco later, he saw more of it either way… I passed out after a bit… back to Voldemort; before my great Gryffindor courage gives out..." Horatius glazed past the question, strain ever-increasing in his voice. "I didn't reveal anything I didn't have to; about you, Harry Potter, some other stuff…"

"What did he teach you?"

"Well, there was elemental control… that proved rather handy, an array of dark curses; most of which I hope never to see or hear again. Swordsmanship with the daggers of Slytherin; said I could use them since I'm the Alpha, I must admit he was pleased with the result… I think the weapons of the damn founders are somehow attracted to me… I must admit though, they are quite exquisite. Anyway, what else…some aura-reading stuff, said it was handy for finding muggleborns in a crowd- save the bloody purebloods an' all… some extra charms, some advance transfiguration that might actually raise my OWL score… not that I'm happy about how I learned them. He also tried to show me some necromancy… you'll be glad to know I can't do it, even if I wanted to."

Severus let out a breath, out of all the things, that was by far the foulest.

"I'm simply not meant to do it or he can't teach it… either way I'm glad, even if it hurt like hell…"

Severus noticed Horatius finger his wand, remembering its purchase as if it were yesterday. He was as surprised as Ollivander when the wand picked him… he had never even heard of a 'Phoenix Heartstring' core before… Ollivander seemed hesitant to sell it actually, Severus had to pay twice the normal price. It was a work of art though, eleven and a corner inch, made of shiny ebony with delicately engraved swirls on the handle. It was an adult's wand with an extremely powerful core… one of about seven in existence as far as Severus could tell. It was perfect for powerful magic and precision spells. Thankfully, it was also seemingly too pure for the foul arts like necromancy. Speaking of which…

"I do believe Ollivander stated that no dark magic could be produced with that wand…" Severus prompted,

"It can't." was the instant reply, "Wandless magic. One of the talents I 'forgot' to mention… most things he caught me doing I could blame on the elements… a little wind, a little water or fire…" Horatius looked down at the fine piece of wood, "The wand hates him… he's too evil I suppose. He tried to use it once, practically cursed himself in the process… pity he didn't, would have saved us all a great deal of trouble were he to be the tool of his own demise…" The boy was speaking lightly now, though Severus still saw a bit of trembling… two occurrences that spelled trouble when combined. Severus knew he had to end this soon, he did not want to push Horris too far.

Lea fingered the silver lion head pendant she had gotten from Horris on Christmas… it's sparkling emerald eyes cool to her touch. She had cried when she got it, Horatius still missing in Voldemort's clutches… Ginny had a good laugh when she saw it after returning from her vacation, calling it the 'nametag for Snape's pet kitty' when she saw the

Lea

Lioness of Slytherin

Engraved on the back. Lea loved it though, treating it more like a royal title than a mark of ownership. It was sweet, and Horris simply wouldn't have made it to mean that, especially after how he risked his life for her only days before she received it… to her it showed his devotion, his nobility and the special place she held in his world… if not his heart.

"You alright Lea?"

"Yeah, have you seen Horris? Is the professor done with his interrogation?"

"My part of it, yeah… Horris is still in there, he put his wards up as soon as I left…"

She nodded, seeing nothing unusual there.

"You're worried." She noted blatantly,

"There's a meeting this Saturday… guess I'll finally find out if he broke him after all." Draco responded dejectedly.

"Don't even say that!"

"He was there for two weeks, he came back half dead…"

"If Voldemort had succeeded he'd have healed him, not crippled him!"

"We'll see Lea, I sure hope you're right."

"I do too… are the Deatheaters going?"

Draco nodded,

"Good. At least he'll have the professor with him then…"

"I'm not too sure that's a good thing Lea, he might just do something foolish."

"At least he won't let Horris get hurt." She huffed.

"But he might get killed. That would really hurt Horris."

"He won't, haven't you noticed how cautious he's gotten lately? He loves Horris too much to make him suffer like that. He'll be careful."

"Why are we doing this again?"

"Er… real reason?"

"Would be nice…" Horris nodded,

"Your dad asked me to keep you occupied till tonight." Draco said uneasily, seeing the other roll his eyes.

"I thought that was it… told you to only let me use a school broom as well, right?"

The blonde nodded,

"Guess he's training me up again… don't know why he bothers…"

Draco silently watched him walk to the broom shed,

"Did he specify a model?"

"No…"

"He usually insists I use the worst ones… oh well, can't say it doesn't help… he thinks I can't tell he's training me you know… he's hoping I'll try out for the team once I-" Horris cut himself short, a thoughtful look on his face, "as soon as I acquaint myself with the new loyalties."

"Haven't you yet?" Draco questioned, puzzled.

"Overall, yes. Quidditch is harder though, too many memories…"

"You played on your old school team then?"

Horris nodded.

"You wouldn't be fighting against them you know, what position you play?"

"Seeker, and I would be playing them… in a way… the Gryffindor team reminds me most of my old team, minus Ron Weasley that is…"

"Were there houses?"

"No. Not really… there were groups though; about seven. Mine looked most like Gryffindor actually."

Draco wasn't surprised, not really. Horris seemed hesitant to talk but Draco could easily picture him wearing Gryffindor red at times… usually getting chills at the idea's implications.

"Think you'll ever play for Slytherin?" He asked,

"I might… not this year though." Horris replied,

"You're good, I take it?"

Horris smirked evilly.

"Think you could beat Potter?"

And the smile grew.

"Show me."

"With pleasure…"

Draco was at once glad the professor had thought of this… Horris seemed to almost instantly forget his worries and simply feel the thrill of flight. Draco did the same. The troubles tomorrow's meeting would undoubtedly bring they'd deal with tomorrow, right now they could pretend to be as free and careless as first years…

At least for a precious moment in their dark and troubled lives…

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