40 : Tangents
The darkness was overpowering, disturbed only by slightly lighter wisps of some sort of smoky fog, by which the boy plotted his hectic course. He was running; sprinting further and further into the seemingly endless abyss of total darkness, chased by some looming and unseen force. He didn't know why he was running, but he was; just as he didn't know what was chasing him, but he knew that something damn well was! He dared not turn around in fear that whatever the unseen danger, it would gain on him. Far back, voices called out to him, seeming oddly warped and inhuman… unearthly even. They were calling out endlessly, as if their very sound could capture the frantically running boy. They were gaining on him, that he knew for sure and now was not the time for anything but instinct- the instinct that told him to run and run as if his life depended on it. For all he knew, it did. He already felt something brush against him, like fingers attempting to grab an object just beyond their reach. Just as he felt a palm press against his shoulder blade, his feet became suddenly as heavy as boulders and tugged him to a dead stop, a column of light falling upon him from somewhere high above. The floor changed too, now a sticky and gooey mess beneath his feet.
More and more hands came at him now, becoming an endless sea of limbs seemingly attached only to the blackness around him. Each now pressed him down, pushing him ever deeper into the rising substance. They were on his shoulders, on his head and some even kept his arms at his sides, preventing him from lashing out. He screamed out, but deep down he knew none would hear his call. He was alone, so very alone the silence inside him was deafening, even as his vocal cords ached with shrieking sounds. He was up to his elbows now, no longer needing the strange hands to keep his arms squarely at his sides. No, each hand now felt as if a brick hung from every finger, inflicting pure agony at even the slightest attempt to move the already sore limbs. The goop was rising now, faster and faster, tickling the tiny hairs on his chin even though he had leaned his head back as far as it could go. He was panicking now, searching wildly for any sign of help though he doubted any would ever be found. He felt as if he had been led through a maze, right to the deathtrap at the center. He didn't know why or by whom, but he didn't have time to contemplate it now.
The hands parted suddenly, untangling from his now-messy blonde hair and easing the pressure on his aching shoulders. Before his a single hand appeared, somehow seeming far more human and trustworthy. It didn't touch him, it just waited there, beckoning to let it help him up. Somehow, his own hands were suddenly perfectly fine as he reached for the offered arm, the pain and weight gone and forgotten. The hand lifted him up off the cold but very solid floor upon which he lay, putting him face to face with the last person he had expected.
"Horris?" He asked in disbelief,
Horris stayed silent, even when Draco repeated the question.
Something was off and Draco could feel it in his very bones. Horris didn't have a concerned or relieved expression as one might expect, but bore a look as sharp as any blade, as unmoving as the heaviest stone. He was angry, ultra angry and every micron of his anger was directed at the blonde before him. Not only that, but Draco knew that Horris was deadly disappointed in him, what's worse, he also knew that he deserved every bit of the disappointment his friend, his Alphafelt toward him. He didn't know how he knew it, but he did, and that only served to add to the blonde's despair and confusion. He had let Horris down, the one person he wished to never disappoint. He knew that, too, and that was perchance worse than any other piece of information he could possess. And it wasn't a little disappointment either, one of those things that blow over in a day or two… sometimes even by the time class lets out. No, this was big time disappointment, the kind that those who hate you would like inscribed on your tombstone; 'Here lies Draco Malfoy; the man who failed Horatius Snape'. There was terrible anger on Horris' face, anger that Draco hoped never to see, but the anger was also toward Horris himself- as if the boy was mad that he couldn't make Draco succeed, or perhaps, for trusting Draco at all. There was also a great deal of pity in the jade orbs, even as they glared daggers his way; pity for whom he wasn't sure.
Draco let go of the boy's hand and Horris began to slowly step out of the light that illuminated them both. Draco nearly lunged at him when he realized Horris was fading from his side, but all he caught were slightly tinted wisps of ghostly smoke, dispersing the image even more. The light disappeared right then, too, leaving Draco stuck in the dark; scared and alone. Some impalpable stimulus spurred Horris' words to replay in his mind, sounding as if the entire chamber was screaming it out to him in a foreboding whisper.
"I only hope you shall be ready when the Asps call on your leadership"…
"I fear next time you will be denied the benefit of my aid and council"…
Draco stood there, frozen for a moment, the phrases playing over and over in his mind. They were pressing him just as the hands had, though thankfully, the floor remained quite solid beneath his feet. He finally shook them off, forcing himself to forge ahead, seeing what might be a light far to the left.
There was a faint light around an odd, shadowed shape, almost like a propped mermaid brushing her long hair. As the light slowly spread around him, he saw that it was, in fact, two shapes; one kneeling, hunched over the other who's head was secured in the first figure's arms. Their hoods resembled the heavy black cloaks Death Eaters wore to meetings, but that might have simply been his imagination and the surrounding darkness fooling his vision. The light spread further, revealing a thick, dark wooded area and several dozen figures running hectically about. Curses were shot towards his general area. Blue, red, purple, green and silver shafts of light zoomed by him, retaining within them dark curses with which he was quite familiar. Other such beams shot back from behind him and from his left, strait at the oncoming forces. He tried to figure out what was going on, his head flinging violently around the illuminated area. He was constantly drawn to the figure he had first classified as a mermaid, inching towards it even though the motion remained unprompted by the platinum-haired child.
The wand he didn't register holding dropped from his suddenly numbed hand, a realization slapping his in the face with more force than any Avada Kedavra. The others, Asps he realized, were now staring as well; at him, then at the form and back again. Time seemed to stop at that moment; only the sound of passing spells keeping Draco from believing the moment truly would last forever. The other figure's eyes left the unmoving form for a moment, locking its onyx orbs with his pale blues. Somehow, he instantly knew what was happening, what must have occurred. He screamed. He screamed louder than he had ever thought possible.
He screamed as he woke, eyes wide and terror filled as he instantly snapped into a sitting position on his bed. The nearly used all his venom reserves on the sheets that entangled him, kicking and tearing at them in fear and fury. Even as he finally calmed himself to ragged breaths and felt the lack of any danger, The anger filled face he saw upon his Alpha burned in his mind; a face he hoped would never leave the realm of his darkest nightmares.Horris tried not to let just how mad he was show. He was having the toughest time keeping his face from contracting into a scrawl or his eyes to squint into one of the famous Snape deathglares that were somehow seemingly imbedded into the very genetic makeup every generation. Why was it that 'pick any topic' actually meant 'pick any topic but the one you really want'? For the first time he had actually thought one of McGonagall's 'big projects' could be something more than endless hours in the library with one's nose stuck in one dusty book or another… okay, it would still involve countless hours in the library… at least he thought he'd be researching something relevant and fun… but noooo… can't have that now, can we?
"Do you not find it fit to answer me, Mr. Snape?"
"I asked, Mr. Snape, if you have a secondary topic I may consider."
"I wish to do the project on wandless magic, professor, as I have said many times."
"And as I have said many times before, I will not allow you to do this topic."
"It is far too complex a topic for an OWL-level project. If you still wish to use this for your NEWT final project, you may do so then. For now however, you must pick another topic. I will not repeat myself again."
"I will not be able to research it for the NEWTS… why can I not just do it now?"
" I do not believe you know how excruciation my grading policies are young man…
"I am confident I will meet them, whatever they are… Professor, please?"
"I cannot al-"
"You'd let a Gryffindor do it." He finally growled, more to himself than to her. As luck would have it, she heard the words quite clearly.
"I assure you, Mr. Snape, I would not."
"Minerva dear?" A tall, raven-haired woman called from the door, cutting off Horris' rebuttal. She wore a dark purple cloak and her hand rested on a tall, closed umbrella.
"Why Abdicaterra darling… is it raining out?"
"Does it not do so constantly here?" The woman retorted, a pleasant smirk on her features. "Oh…" she sobered, seeing Horris, "If you are busy…"
"Nonsense, dear, the boy was just leaving."
Horris shot the professor a quick look before nodding to the newcomer, exiting the room without looking back. There was no use arguing now, after all, McGonagall would never back down for a student in public…."I didn't expect to see you Abby dear, what brings you to Hogwarts?" Minerva smiled as the door shut behind the boy.
"Can't I just come to see you?"
"Abby…" Minerva warned, "You know how dangerous it is for you to be here!"
Abby sighed, "I can not keep running from my past Minnie…"
"He would still throw a fit if he saw you here child… you must be cautious."
"I highly doubt the man would waltz into your office." She retorted smugly, "Besides, Randolph needed to give you something and I did not want it thrown into the post. Enough of this though, I see you have your own Slytherin problems…"
"Oh, no, Horatius truly is a sweet child… his persistence can hardly be thought of as a flaw… who knows, it may even save him one day… "
"Oh? And what caused this great persistence of his?"
"Oh," Minerva smiled, "his choice of research."
"No, actually, wandless magic."
"Well, that must be rather refreshing, coming from a Slytherin and all… he is not of a Dark family I take it?"
"Well, I suppose that depends on what one would consider Dark…"
"You know, the usual… Death Eaters, Muggle-haters, snobs or some combination there of."
"In those terms, I suppose Horatius would qualify…"
"Pity. Lord Snape must spoil him senseless then… kissing up to the child's parents as always…"
"Oh, not as much as you might think Abby dear. He actually makes a decent role model for the boy on most accounts."
" Some role model!" She huffed indignantly, "I am willing to bet half of the future Death Eaters would turn away if not for having one as their house head…"
"Now Abby…" Minerva tisked, "be fair."
"Fair? Fair Minerva? Has a Snape ever been fair to me?"
"Do not judge Severus by the sins of his father Abdicaterra, no other Snape has wronged you."
"Next you'll tell me Severus is a saint." Abby growled, crossing her arms, "I know him Minerva, the son is no better than the father! Besides, he never chose to right any of the wrongs, now did he?"
"You of all people ought know the consequences of disobeying Severus' father…"
"That madman has been dead for years Minnie… I know Sev. is your colleague, but by Merlin, you do not have to defend him!"
"Calm yourself Abby, this is not like you at all…" Minerva hushed her, letting the last jab at her professional pride slide by. "Perhaps I was right… you ought not be here and the proximity to Severus is making you jumpy."
"I am not afraid of Lord Snape, Minnie, you know that."
"But you are afraid of becoming a Muggle… as most of the magical community is. To them, it is just an improbability they take on an 'it can never happen to me' basis… to you however, it is a very tangible and legal punishment. Now, I do not mind you coming here and you know that, and with legitimate business I can most likely smooth the matter over with Severus even if he should find you here. I can not, however, smooth over such accusations as I've heard of him tonight. You know as well as I that Severus is a far cry from Atrox Iniquus Snape and I can say he has surprised me many times over the course of this year…"
"Severus surprised you? Oh, do tell!"
"Abby I am quite serious. This is neither the time nor the place to discuss such things, especially for you!"
"Oh, I'm sure you are quite serious Minnie, I just have a hard time believing you that's all… So tell me, what has the great and misunderstood Severus Snape done?"
"It is not an event Abby, his whole demeanor has shifted slightly; he seems more concerned about everything now, less bitter toward life in general."
"Really… now that is something." Abby said, the words bearing a thin sarcastic lining, "and what, you suppose, brought about this sudden change?"
"Horatius… you mean that boy that was about to bite your head off?"
Minerva nodded, pursing her lips at the last bit… as if a student would ever so much as attempt such a thing!