Forlorn Hope

The Masters

37 : The Masters

"You have some nerve Headmaster," Severus countered flatly, "as does your flee-bitten mutt."

"Now Severus-"

"No. Horatius may be a great actor, but I am no fool in underestimating his attachment to that pathetic excuse of a man." He paused, glaring at the Headmaster, "Do not smile old man, he still meant what he said and I intend to fully support him on that."

The Headmaster's twinkle vanished, his faint smile washing off like soap in warm water.

"More like push him into it."

"You, Lupin, have no more right to interfere in Horatius' life than that mutt. As far as I am concerned, Black never had a godson… and unless by some miracle Horatius asks it of me, he never will. That chance he lost by running like the spineless coward he is- Great Gryffindor indeed!" Severus spat, venom in his words.

Horris' eyes focused on the fireplace, silently wondering where Sirius was. He was still mad, even more so after finding out that Sirius had run out of the office and out of the castle as soon as he learned the truth (or figured it out, whichever). From what Horris could gather, since he was not about to ask Dumbledore or Lupin, the latter had, eventually, found Sirius and the former had sent him on some new mission, task, whatever. In all honesty, Horris was disappointed in his behavior, though he himself didn't know what he had expected… 'sorry' perhaps. 'love you anyway'? No, that wouldn't do, it would either be fake or far too much to ask for. Horris only half-consciously made the wand a test but Sirius failed, big time.

"Note, you still didn't deny it." Remus reminded, pulling the conversation back to his previous accusation.

"What would be the point, Lupin?" His father countered sharply, "What would possibly sway your mind?"

"So you rather we believe you're a manipulative Death Eater?"

"Your opinion of me is worthless Lupin, I assure you. Furthermore, I doubt Horatius would be far distraught to find you believing him of so weak a will."

"What you fail to rea-"

"What you fail to realize is that Horatius is my son." Severus cut the old man off, "Not your weapon, not a convenient hero to rid this world of Voldemort, not a rally point, not a predestined martyr but my son. He has been to hell and back, lived through things that would have surely killed anyone else, and had seen things I would not wish on any child, adult or otherwise… he does not need either of you to add to his problems. Using Black the way you did was despicable Albus, this conversation is over."

Horris trotted to the door, hoping to be able to slip out after his father without anyone noticing, a slim smirk playing on his face. Dumbledore's expression was priceless to say the least, not to mention Remus'! He thanked Merlin his father had not decided to ceremoniously slam the door behind him,

That would be painful Horris noted, rubbing his nose. He was about half-way past the man and about to make a bee line to the Slytherin dorms when his father caught him by the collar. Only one word echoed in his mind as he figured throwing off his invisibility would be a very prudent course of action;

Busted.

"This is most unfortunate…" The Headmaster sighed.

"What is, sir?"

"This situation, Remus my boy, this entire state of affairs is clearly out of hand."

"Do you believe Severus really is controlling him?"

Dumbledore actually chuckled, "I wish it mattered what I thought…Alas, all that matters now is what young Horatius thinks."

The man sat down, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Remus noted how tired he looked, how old.

"I shall be frank with you, my boy, Horris doubting his father may be our only chance now… otherwise he is gone. I must admit, was Voldemort to invade Hogwarts now, I know not who's side the boy would stand on."

"Surely you don't think he'd…"

"As of late, Remus, I cannot be sure of anything. What is worse, if the said scenario were to occur, whichever side he stood on would undoubtedly be victorious."

"But-"

"I had high hopes for him, truly I did… I had thought he would take my place someday."

Remus forced a smile, "We all did sir, especially Sirius and I."

"I thought it would be you at first my boy, I do believe I had more sense back then…"

Now that surprised Remus, Dumbledore had thought that he would take over?

"You always were bright Remus; clever and with a good heart yet you rarely allowed your emotions to rule you."

"I'm getting old Remus," Dumbledore continued, absently stroking his phoenix, "I can feel it in my very bones."

"You can't die headmaster…" Remus encouraged, the man's death truly seeming impossible.

"Phoenixes are immortal Remus, yet they can die…"

Just then, as if in slow motion, Remus watched Fawkes lose a tail feather, a gray one that sharply contrasted the rest of his fiery plumage. Phoenix feathers were never gray; rarely were they yellow or blue, but never, never gray.

"You and Fawkes are bonded?"

"Clever as ever…" The headmaster confirmed, nodding, "I am over five hundred years old Remus, I will not live to see another war child, I can only hope to live long enough to see peace rule once again… you were my first and apparently best choice for a successor Remus, I only wish my views had not been so skewed."

"I cannot succeed you sir." Remus pointed out gently, the words almost painful to say. He had never seen Dumbledore this vulnerable… this helpless.

"Yes you can Remus, yes you can."

"But my Lycanthropy-"

"A phoenix cannot become ill Remus, he would cure you as soon you bonded. Phoenix bonds are rare and powerful, I have yet to encounter powerful enough to kill me."

"But-"

"I cannot handle all this anymore Remus, I need help; I need you. Horris is turning out to be far more than any of us imagined, now with the prophecy…" Dumbledore broke off, turning to Remus, "I need to tell you what I have never revealed to anyone Remus, you must understand everything… Voldemort, as cunning and powerful as he is, has never had the imagination to think up something as powerful and ingenious as his Aspidis. Instead, he used the journal of Zegbar."

"The ancient warlord?" Remus asked, amazed at the name, "Zegbar was a wizard?"

"A warlock actually, far more powerful, if you remember the power stages professor O'Faron drilled into you sixth year… "

Remus nodded, remembering the lecture quite clearly. Wizards were most common, using power-stabilizing wands, words and gestures. Sorcerers were just slightly more powerful, using a non-stabilizing staff, longer incantations and broader gestures. Warlocks used only incantations and subtle gestures and Wiccans use no words and only the subtlest movements for the more powerful spells. Highest on the power scale were Mages who used no words or gestures for even the most draining spells. It was far more complicated than that, involving magic signatures and other subtler differences, but the details escaped him.

"Yes, well, Voldemort adjusted Zegbar's creations to suit his purposes. The notes state how certain things may be infused, like the venoms, so the process did not require too much imagination him his part. Voldemort found the prospect of such children the perfect solution, a weapon against your enemies and an heir to pass on your legacy… unfortunately, so did the order."

"The Order? I don't-"

"Remember?" Dumbledore supplied, "Of course not! We all agreed only one person should be allowed to remember it to avoid possible leaks… if Peter had known-" He let the sentence hang, "We made our own child, just one, to fight Voldemort. However, we did so differently. We gave the potion to the mother, thus locking the child's powers until they were needed. We had hoped they would not be, so we made sure that they would only show themselves when we woke them."

"How do you release them?"

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