35 : Entrapment
Severus was doing what usually occupied his time these days, apart from Horatius and potions, he was grading essays; the dull, seemingly endless and unrewarding task that plagued his existence. Especially now that he had Horatius to occupy his time. At least the child was not rebellious or attention craving… Horris had learned to be extremely self sufficient at his uncle's, usually choosing to focus on the times Severus could give him attention than on the times he could not. That helped immensely, though the boy knew he was to tell him if anything was wrong; he knew that Severus would drop everything for him at a moment's notice. Several Hufflepuff first years had the bright idea to copy off of a Gryffindor who just so happened to have written his answers straight from one of the older potions references (which just happened to be wrong about the effectiveness of this particular ingredient who's greatest use was not discovered until three years after the said text was published, thus telling Severus exactly where the five conspirators received their information even though each changed the wording slightly). He'd have to have a nice long chat with them… perhaps a threat of expulsion? He had not really encountered such behavior from Hufflepuffs before, but then again, every house has some black sheep, right? Beyond that the grading was boring as ever, making his eyelids unnaturally heavy even after several extra cups of coffee…
Suddenly he jumped out of his chair, wildly searching for whatever had made the door slam shut as all traces of weariness left him in an instant.
"Shut your trap, Snape!" Came the infamous answer, the voice instantly recognizable…
Dumbledore must have told him… why?
"Black!" He called back, voice filled with disgust, "Get the hell out of my office."
"Where is he!"
"Don't play the damn fool Snape!"
"Get off me, you filthy mutt!" Severus called back, trying to pry the idiot's arm away from his throat. The mongrel had him pinned against the wall, the rough stone edges sinking into his skin. Whatever strength Black lost in Azkaban, he was still much stronger than the Potions Master, always proving muscular as a youth. But what Black had in muscle, Severus had in magic. Unfortunately, that power depended on a slender Dragon Heartstring Ebony wand… said wand currently residing on his desk.
"What did you do, you slimy Slytherin! Where is he!"
Just as the lessened amount of oxygen was beginning to take effect on him, the door burst open, a black blur forcing the madman off him. The next thing Severus knew as he barely contained a coughing fit, Black was on his back, pinned to the floor by… by a panther? A black one, bigger than what he had thought a normal panther to be, the creature's paw pressed firmly against the mutt's still-human cheek. The claws were drawn in (unfortunately), but the fur on its back looked like raised porcupine quills, the long tail twitching and his eyes fixed on the prey. Severus could not see them, standing almost directly behind the feline.
"W…what in hell?" Black stuttered awkwardly, just as the cat gave out a call. Vibrant green eyes suddenly watching him… he knew those eyes. Apparently noting Snape's sudden awareness, the 'cat' jumped off the mutt, pacing between him and Severus as if on prowl.
"And when, exactly, were you planning to tell me of this? " Severus questioned, eyes transfixed on his son. The boy, for his part, made an attempt at an ashamed look, his ears falling flat on his head. Severus looked on disapprovingly, though on the inside he tried to grasp the situation. His son could transform- illegally, he presumed- into a panther, a beautiful black panther… but that was not what had set him off. With all of Horatius' Aspian qualities, this was not all that surprising. Severus had long dreaded the moment Black would show his imbecile head. Hell, Severus had been terrified of the danger the man represented. He had forgotten lately, with all that had occurred, but the fear remained somewhere at the back of his mind, just waiting to reawaken.
"Pet of yours?"
Both Horatius and he glared, the reply perfectly clear to the sarcastic mutt.
Was he really so blind?
Thankfully, his fear had not come to pass… Horris did not abandon him as soon as the Wonder Mutt reared his ugly mug… he protected him!
"Change back, Horatius." Severus ordered with a heavy heart, knowing the boy would not want to show himself to his godfather, "You realize he will find out either way; he might as well find out now."
There was a worried expression on the cat's face, as misplaced as it looked. The change was fast and fluid, shinning of practiced perfection. Oh, he would definitely have a long talk with the boy about this…
"I really meant to tell you, dad, honest! It's just… with all that's happened, with-"
He must have forgotten about Black…
"Later Horatius, calm yourself."
"Dad? " The mutt suddenly burst out, openly disgusted at the term, "I don't know who you are kid, but you certainly don't want the likes of him associated with you! If you can manage a transformation like that you'll do fine, even without the Snape treasury behind you… if I were you I'd run back to wherever he took you from."
Severus wanted to kill him, he wanted to tear him limb from limb and toss Fluffy the scraps. He did not. He did not move, he did not look to Horris or even glare at the damn mutt. That was exactly what he had once thought Horris would do, what he would think. If he- he wouldn't- but if he did agree- he couldn't- but if he did look to Black like he had before… like…like a father.
"How'd you brainwash him Snape? Any under-the-counter mind potions you'd like to mention?"
Severus tightened his grip on the wand in his cloak that he had snatched from the desk when the boy had pushed Black off him. Horatius must have taken a step back now, close enough for Severus to feel him to his right.
"Got him trained like a lapdog I see…"
Oh he did not just-
"protecting his master…"
-compare me to my-
"even has the glare!"
"Got him marked yet, Snape?"
Severus drew the wand, taking a step forward. No one insulted his son, no one called him Voldemort's servant! His mental roll-a-dex of curses was spinning, looking into the 'Trump Card' category for the most effective.
"Don't." A small voice told him, hardly recognizable as Horatius'. The boy pushed his wand down with an uneasy hand; had he chosen Black after all? He let his hand drop to his side under the small pressure, if he had lost Horris, no spell he could use would possibly bring him back.
"Sorry kid, didn't know it was you who had him trained….""This could be terrible… are you sure, Remus?"
"I've checked and double checked sir. Lily was as Muggleborn as Sirius." Remus confirmed, "and all sources confirm at least two founder lines directly crossing her family tree."
"That would make a total of three in Horatius, not four."
"He is connected to Voldemort through his scar and blood as an asp sir, that makes four and links the prophecy to him in any interpretation." Remus countered his old headmaster, sounding much more controlled than he felt. How they had taken Lily to be a Muggleborn so long stunned him, though the history he found was far less appealing. In the pureblood circle remained several 'classes', each having none, one, or several bloodlines of prominent ancestors (such as the founders). Of the Hogwarts founders, no class had more than two; none. Families in each 'class' usually married in that class, though the distinctions were vague and marked by mostly slight distinctions. These 'classes' were not defined levels or sections of society, but groupings within which unknowing members sought friendship and life partners. Light families liked other light families, smart people preferred the intellectual sort and so on and so forth.
"And you are sure that the test was not flawed?"
"I took his blood as soon as Draco had broken his disguises. That would have been blood free from any magical alterations or falsehoods sir."
The test he had performed that day started all this, why he had to be the one to undo all the lies was beyond him. Anyway, the test was a family genealogy test, from which he sought confirmation of James' words. He got them, but Lily's side was all wrong. Shehad been masked as well it seemed, showing her parents' names as illegible blurs. He shouldn't have looked. He did. Using every spell-breaking tool he knew, Remus cracked it, revealing two names he hadn't expected. Two pureblood names of two rather prestigious families. The problem; the families never merged, officially at least. Her apparent father was of the Longbottoms, the grandfather of Neville in fact. Her mother however was a Gryffindor woman of Irish roots, falling prey to Voldemort as her family's unmarried heir a few years later. Remus figured the girl had chosen to give Lily to the Evans' instead of an orphanage or… or aborting the child. How the pampered princess (judging by what books said of her) knew any muggles was beyond him, but it didsave Lily, either way.
"If that is the case, Horris and Severus must not learn of this, do you understand me Remus, we must keep this knowledge secret at all costs. Failure to do so could prove… catastrophic. I can only hope Sirius will be able to turn Horris back from dark influences. The boy must join the Order.""You, Mr. Black, have no right to talk to my father that way, nor do you have the right to make any judgments of me." Horatius said coldly, taking a step forward. "I suggest you leave, before my patience is spent."
"Big words, boy."
"Bigger claws." Horatius countered smoothly as Severus stood stunned;
was this really happening?
"Careful kid; I'm a big, bad murderer, remember?"
"That's not what you told Harry. Who'd you lie to; him or me?"
"You are a Snape!" The mutt called in surprise,
"Slow as always, I see?" Severus cut in, letting some of his fear for Horatius vent through his venomous words as he snapped out of his dazed state.
"Cut the crap Snape, where's Harry?"
Oh, Severus was going to enjoy this!
"Don't." Horris countered, wiping the smug sneer off of Severus' face in an instant, "Don't tell him, dad."
Spoilsport… Severus grumbled in his mind, knitting his brow.
"Shut the hell up you devil's spawn, whatever woman was foul enough to make you ought rot in hell!"
At once about five things occurred. Severus drew his wand, Horris hit Black with what looked like a wall of water, Black hit the far side of the dungeon with a solid smack, all torches blasted dangerously and Horris disappeared, pushing past Severus to get as far from the dungeons as possible.
"You Black," Severus stated just as his curse was absorbed by seemingly nothing a foot in front of the mutt, "are extremely lucky Horatius nearly never looses his temper."
"Oh? And what did he just do Snape, keep his cool?"
"He saved your life… as worthless as it is." Severus shot back flatly, "Fire comes easier to him than water Black, that could have been a wall of flames he smacked you with just as easily if not more so. Furthermore, that would be a killing curse his shield just absorbed, in case you were too wet to notice."
"I'll send him a 'thank you' note. Now where's Harry?" Black mumbled, sarcasm and hatred in his voice.
"I do not possess the slightest inkling as to where Potter's brat is." Severus answered truthfully, Horatius was nothing like he had been a year ago… he was not Harold James Potter; not anymore.
"You tell m- GET THIS BLOODY SHIELD DOWN!" He barked, having walked right into it.
"Only Horris can undo one of his shields so I suggest you be nice if he comes back. I have to find my son."
"Your son, my ass!"
"Snapes always preferred horses to mules Black, but your kind has always been stubborn." He retorted, his glare at full strength. "Never insult Horris again, or his mother."
"Damnit Snape, where's Harry? Dumbledore said you knew!"
"I did, but he is not there anymore. Only Horatius knows where Potter is now. I would wish you luck in coercing the boy to tell you, but Horris almost never gives out his secrets."
And with that he left, knowing Dumbledore could do nothing to him. He had told Black Horatius was not the brat he knew as Harold, but he had also said, in no uncertain terms (or so he could make it seem) that Horatius was Harold, but he would not give out the secret without the boy's consent. The mutt would not understand, certainly, but Albus would have to accept the explanation. Perhaps a student would find the mongrel and call Aurors? Oh, he could only dream… but now to find Horatius.Sirius was trying to get a grip on what happened. Silence, emptiness and isolation do that. Guess that's the idea behind solitary confinement. Not that he wasn't used to being alone, or isolated… still, a cell was a cell and that's where he was, a bloody cell. Who put him there? A kid, not Snape, not Aurors, not Voldemort, just a damn kid! How in hell did Snape get a kid? His 'wife' didn't have any when she died, he knew that, nor could he imagine anyone actually wanting to- no, bad image, bad image! Whomever it was must have been powerful though, Merlin knows Snape isn't… he couldn't force a transformation like that had his life depended on it! Alright, so perhaps he over-taunted them… insulting the kid's folks (one of which he didn't even know) was a low blow, especially since he knew how powerful the boy must be. What if the mother was dead? Like Harry's? Oh, nope, he definitely did not want to think about that, another guilt trip was not something he needed. But they tried, did, keep him from Harry! Harry mattered, not them. The Snape kid had Severus at least, who did Harry have? No one, that's who! He couldn't believe he actually thought that boy was Harry when he first pounced on him… Harry would never protect Snape. Oh, but the eyes! Why did the Slytherin have to have such eyes! And who was he to tell Snape what information he could tell him? Oh, Snape would tell him where Harry, his Harry was, even if it took forcing a flask of Veritaserum down the grease-covered git's neck!
Too many things are off, his mind noted, falling onto a total tangent as it had started to in Azkaban a few years back. Yes, things were off. Hermione was speaking with Malfoy (on first name terms no less), Snape had a son, Dumbledore acted all wrong… perhaps he was still in one of the blasted doors? Hadn't he wasted enough time in the other 'realities'? Well, not realities, per se, but the doors did lead to different worlds. So the old seer made him figure out which was which alone… why the guy kept past, present and future portals linked to the doors was weird enough! And to mark them M, H, and R… it had taken him a wrong trip through the 'Memories' door to get the little man to translate the letters for him. Memories, Hopes and Reality. No, he was sure he had gone through 'R'. If that old man had tricked him…