31 : Shattered
Horris was making everyone nervous whether he knew it or not. They had all expected him to be nervous, at least a little, after the hell they all figured Voldemort put him through. Instead he seemed as calm as a stone statue of an ancient Greek god, standing straight and motionless at least a foot in front of his father. The dim light gave his face, the only skin that stuck out from beneath his heavy cloak, a metallic quality that was only enhanced by the crisp and frigid air. If he was at all scared he didn't show it, though few would have been able to hide anything from Voldemort…
Without a sound he fell onto his right knee, giving Draco a pointed look to do the same. With their leaders bowing, the other Asps followed in gesture as well, the last dropping a split second before the stale night air was stirred. In the center of the kneeling circle of asps materialized Voldemort, thoroughly pleased with his entrance. His smile deepened evilly as the Asps came into focus, especially Horris. Everyone sensed all of Voldemort's attention focused on the boy, but he himself did not move.
"I see yous remembered my lessonsss child…" The darklord hissed, "Rise my Asps."
Horris stood in one smooth motion, a minute jerk of his head pulling Draco up as well. Some of the others were more hesitant, but Voldemort seemed to pay them no heed.
"Your arm, my boy."
Close observers, of which were many, could see every one of his muscles tense, his eyes cloud slightly. The arm rose nevertheless, the mere implication making most of the Deatheaters present look to their own forearms, quickly turning to search for a similar mark on the boy. His arm was clean and pale, a white spot where the mark would have been, almost unnoticeable to the casual observer. Voldemort inspected it carefully.
"Healed as alwaysss I take it?"
"Yes, My Lord." Was the emotionless response, though the arm trembled ever-so-slightly.
"No point in repeating it then, isss there child?"
Horris remained silent,
"For now, at leassst…" Voldemort added, a cautioning quality to his hiss.
The arm fell with slightly obvious haste, hands balling into fists at the boy's sides.
"I take it you enjoyed the time with your father?"
A tiny spark filled the emotionless green spheres for a split second at the comment, Horris stepping back slowly until he could feel his father.
"I sssee you have not forgotten?"
The spark came back, ever so briefly, as if trying to once again ignite some extinguished quality, a burst of rebellion and determination that nearly broke through.
"I have not My Lord." The answer arrived the next instant, the hesitant response dousing the already-extinguished flicker. The eyes were cold and hard now, vanquishing all fear as they watched Voldemort intently.
The moment Voldemort's gaze left Horatius, Severus instinctively pulled his son to him, eyes never leaving Voldemort. He felt his son press into him, securing the man's arm with his own. He was shaking slightly, not enough for anyone else to notice. Severus barely felt it, weakly through the cloak, only pulling the boy closer.
Draco watched Horris closely for the remainder of the gathering, hoping for any sign of rebellion or defiance. He saw none. Horris left his father's embrace quickly, standing just out of the professor's reach. Draco hadn't questioned Horris' order to kneel, but he certainly would when they returned. He stood much like him now, though the blonde's eyes lacked the stone-like quality Horris' possessed at the moment. It was so scary, seeing the almost fluorescent and emotion-filled eyes look so dead and rough… so cruel. Even when he first returned his eyes hadn't looked so dead. They stayed glazed and unreadable for days, but they still had shone of life. The eyes focused on him now, Draco's own ice blues locking with the emeralds of his commander… his friend. He usually forgot the former, especially when looking at his eyes. 'Friend' was usually synonymous with 'political ally' or 'accomplice' in Draco's world, someone to use, cheat and dump. Horris was different. Draco had found what he never thought fate would allow him in Horris, a true friend that he knew he'd always be able to count on.
The cold green eyes flashed with something for the briefest moment… hope? Determination? Whatever emotion filled them disappeared as fast as it entered, long before Draco could read it. He searched for any clues, any repeats but the eyes were statue-like once more. Horris was nothing but a shell again.The air was thick with incense and herbs that gave the air around a mist-like quality. It reminded Sirius of Divination at Hogwarts, though not so overpowering. Quickly, he found India far from his liking. The beggars and stray animals in the poor areas only served as a reminder of his own social status, of his lost fortune, his lost chance to raise Harry. He looked rich and powerful now, but inside he knew how poor he truly was… he felt lower than the lowest. All he actually wanted he could not have… all because of a rat his godson wouldn't even let him kill! Oh, how different things would have been if he had killed him… if they had never become Animagi… if they had never befriended him. That's the mistake it all came down to, wasn't it? Allowing Peter in and actually trusting him. Merlin be damned, how kindness has a way of biting you in the butt!
"Would it have been better to have never met any of your school friends?"
Sirius whirled around, coming face to face with a man who looked at death's door with a drawn face and long, white hair that only spoke of an age long passed.
"Is it better to have smiled and cried, Mr. Black, or have never smiled at all?"
"Forget not the wise words of your father, Mr. Black, you will soon be in need of them again."
"You know nothing old man, I have no father." He didn't. Regulus Black was his father's only son as far as Sirius was concerned. The man was had been truly evil and he hated being even remotely acquainted with the old devil.
"Who was your blood brother then, the one whose father you loved as if he were your own?"
Now that spooked Sirius. The old man knew more than a casual read of the Black family history could have told him. "What did Mr. Potter tell James and you?"
"What did he say?"
Sirius remained silent, unsure of what to make of the stranger or what to say, if anything. The old man however answered for him, reciting the man's speech word for word.
"I care not what mischief you get into boys, for an army could not prevent the two of you I fear… but promise me this-"
"Don't get caught and don't stray from your principles." Sirius took over, the words rolling off his tongue almost magically. "If you must follow outlaws, follow the ones who helped, not harmed, so no matter how many times you get punished you will never regret or hate your actions. Think things through, don't blindly trust appearances and most importantly follow your hearts so that you may never fail yourselves. Disappointment in oneself is the worst feeling of all boys, the worst of all."
"Disappointment in oneself is the worst feeling of all boys, the worst of all." The old man repeated, "You have done well in following these rules, do not waver at them now."
"Who are you?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. Yeah, great answer. "A seer?"
The old man nodded, "And you are late." The man added coldly, pointing a crooked finger at Sirius, "come."
"Bloody seers…" Sirius huffed, his teeth clenched. He was led across the market, around countless streets and buildings, through what felt like dozens of alleys and up a billion steps before stopping at an ornate door made of the purest gold. Perfectly round stones studded its surface, a large onyx serving as the handle. Two guards stood before it, watching Sirius with a cautious eye.
"What business?" one asked coldly, making Sirius realize the old man had vanished into thin air.
"Er…to enter?" He answered dumbly, unsure of the correct reply. At least they spoke English…
"…" Yeah, like he was about to actually tell them, sure, he was suicidal after all…
"Sirius Black?" The other asked, looking at the roll of parchment with no show of alarm, "Are you looking to speak with the Great Seer?"
"…" The entire day was becoming weird, really, really weird.
"You are expected. Enter."
Sirius followed the polite command warily, the large daggers and scimitars the guards carried warning him not to take any unnecessary risks.
The room looked like his Divination teacher's inspiration. The walls were covered with flowing fabric, large soft-looking pillows littered the ground and small incense dishes burned with an array of different mind-numbing fragrances under each of the small, arched windows. There was a door on each side of the triangular room, flanked by two windows on each side. At the center was a hexagonal table made of a rich, dark wood atop which was something that looked like a gigantic clear pearl. From it light reflected as if it were the purest diamond, fit to adorn the most luxuriant jewelry or chandelier. He took a cautious step in, the door slamming shut behind him and the walls began to spin. The incense fumes began to twist and intermingle, creating a delicate whirlwind around Sirius as they somehow pushed him toward the center. Everything stopped as soon as it had began and Sirius suddenly found all three doors securely locked. It was then that he noticed the letters above each door; a silver M over one, a golden H on another and a bronze R on the third. The windows each showed something different, all twelve set dangerously high above whatever they looked out on. Forests, mountains, deserts, cities, water… he wouldn't survive the fall.
An odd ping directed him to the center jewel, which was slowly beginning to spin. It looked almost like a disco ball he had once seen, shooting tiny specks of light every which way despite its smooth surface as it began to acquire wisps of soft colors and hues. The same moment a high-pitched whistle replaced the gentle sound making Sirius cover his ears. Suddenly the crystal broke, exploding into billions of tiny pieces that flew out of every window, giving him barely enough time to drop onto the soft pillows to avoid the sharp projectiles."Stay…" Severus heard his son whisper before he once again slipped out of his reach. Voldemort had just left and Horris was heading for the exact spot the Dark Lord had just occupied. His stance was frighteningly rigid and his eyes held determination as he turned to face the circle. "All Deatheaters are to leave, now." He said so calmly, but some foreign quality in the voice nearly pushed Severus to comply.
Horatius turned slowly as he spoke in a way Voldemort often did when he wanted to intimidate, sending chills down Severus' spine. Not because of the way he did so, though it did affect a few others, but that he did so at all, that he acted so.
"Well?" Horatius called slightly louder, seemingly spurring the shocked Deatheaters into action.
Pops were heard all around, leaving only Severus and the Asps… seemingly. He had not noticed the lone Deatheater in the shadows, but apparently, Horatius had, his eyes locking with the seemingly empty patch of stone.
"I told you to leave." He repeated, his voice colder than Severus had ever heard it.
"I do not take orders from a boy…" Lucius responded, coming back into view, "I only obey my Lord."
"You forget Malfoy, Asps command Deatheaters and I command the Asps… my age has nothing to do with it."
"I think not boy," Lucius countered warningly, a sneer forming on his features, only to have Horatius sneer right back.
"You do not want to know what I can do to you Deatheater, until Voldemort says otherwise I can just as easily kill you for insubordination as a rat in my path." He shot back in a sinister voice Severus sometimes employed on his older students.
"You wouldn't…" Lucius almost whispered, taking a seemingly arrogant step back.
"No." Horatius confirmed, his mouth slowly twisting into a shallow smile, "But I could make you wish I did… I suggest you leave."
This time, to Severus' great amusement, Lucius complied instantly.
"Draco!" Horris called out as soon as the pop was heard, his voice almost normal again. Severus could have sworn he murmured something to the blonde about the need to control his blasted father before the two of them engaged in a hushed conversation of seemingly great importance, exchanging hurried and opposing whispers that seemed to set them at the opposing ends for quite a while.
"We don't have the time!" Horris finally stated, ending the debate as he turned to the circle once more. "Aspidis…" He addressed them, "I know not how much time I have so I have to make this as quick and direct as possible. For now, I am surrendering my leadership position to Draco. You are to do what I say only with his compliance or permission. Till further notice, our positions are reversed by my order as Alpha. Tell no one. Understood?"
The others nodded slowly, looks of confusion on most faces.
"Take them home Draco." Severus barely heard Horris say in a voice suddenly strained and fatigued. He had not noticed how tired his son was, something was deadly wrong. The entire occurrence confused Severus, but he dared not let it show… not yet. Draco had given Horatius' order, the blonde's pale blue eyes never leaving his son.
"What about you?" Draco asked as Horris moved towards Severus,
"Don't worry Draco, go home."
"You'd better be back come noon Horris…"
A ghost of a smile played on Horatius' features as he nodded, waiting for the blonde to disappear.
"You'd best go as well Dad."
"I can't go there yet." Was the instant reply, cutting the faint smile like a steak knife. "Like Draco said, I'll be back by noon. Please understand dad, I can't face Hogwarts yet… I can't."
He did not. For the life of him, he could not understand.
"Are you alright?" He asked fruitlessly,
"I will be."
The answer did nothing at all to soothe Severus' nerves. He could literally feel concern wriggling free of his mask.
"I promise I won't do anything dangerous… if you want to know more just ask Draco, tell him I told you to ask. Please, I really need to blow off some steam and I really, really need to be alone for a bit. I need you to trust me."
"I always trust you Horatius," Severus sighed, knowing full well that the argument his son just used was probably the only one that could have pushed him away right now, "Just promise me I need not worry."
"You will anyway dad…"
"That is your mother talking." Severus countered, "and she would be right."
"I'll be fine." Horatius promised once more, "I won't be doing anything I haven't done before. You had better leave though, I'll see you tomorrow."
"I suppose there is no way to make you return with me?" Severus questioned, knowing the uselessness of asking.
"All the Aspidis stunning me might do it… have the hide of a dragon I tell ya!"
Perhaps Horatius' lax mood did soothe Severus slightly, thought he could not stop worrying about it all. At least he was rather confident Horatius would not be popping in to say 'hi' to Voldemort, or run somewhere to cry in peace…
So, with a plastic smile Severus disappeared with a pop, knowing how much he had at times needed to leave everything behind for a moment. He could only hope that was all Horatius intended. For now there was the matter of interrogating a blonde Slytherin to deal with…