Forlorn Hope

Cats and Dogs

41 : Cats and Dogs

Once the bubbling concoction was ready, Severus swiftly bottled and labeled it into one-dose vials. The next full moon was in two days (Monday) and he had just finished this month's batch of Wolfsbane. He took the Floo from his office, knowing that apparation could destabilize the mixture.

"Lupin?"

"Ah, Severus, I did not expect you till tomorrow." The werewolf greeted, standing up as he put aside whatever hand-me-down novel he had been reading. Why the mutt did not simply invite the man to stay at the Black manor was beyond Severus… Black had, after all, no shortage of food, time or money.

"I brought the potion Lupin, do take care with it…" Severus droned, producing the vials from one of his many pockets.

"Thank you."

He nodded, turning with a swish of robes.

"Severus…" The werewolf called as Severus had turned to leave, "I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what Lupin?" He asked, affixing Lupin with a questioning look.

"For Sirius."

"As close as you are to the mutt, you can hardly boast control over him."

"Still, I apologize on his behalf… the way he handled the situation-"

"His actions were inexcusable." Severus cut him off, "Furthermore, I could care less whether he apologizes to me or not. It is Horatius who needs to hear this, and he needs to hear it from the mongrel's mouth, not yours."

Remus sighed, "How is Horris taking it?"

"I meant what I said in the Headmaster's office, Lupin… Black had some nerve running off like that…"

"He was scared."

"How very Gryffindor of him; jump to conclusions, try to solve everything with fists and, when the tides turn on him, run with his tail between his legs." Severus sneered back, not accepting the childish excuse.

"I am not condoning his actions Severus…"

"Really?" Severus asked sarcastically, "I was under the impression you outright supported him!"

"That's hardly fair, Severus! Sirius is extremely emotionally driven, you should know that by now… he thought he had failed his godson in the worst possible way."

"He had." Severus bit back, "You should have seen how disappointed Horatius was when the mutt failed to show."

"He thought Sirius would try to hurt you?"

Severus smirked; try was by far the driving word in that statement. "Obviously, the boy had overestimated the mutt. Where is the mangy mongrel anyway Lupin? Did Dumbledore send him on another goose chase or is he still hiding here?"

"He's sound asleep, Severus."

"Are you sure, Lupin?"

"I've slept next to him for seven years at Hogwarts… only two things ever wake him; water and someone trying to sneak up on him. It always baffled me how he could snore right through Lily and James screaming at each other in the common room, but wake at the slightest hint of you trying to prank him… I don't think any of us were even able to shoot him with water to stir him by sixth year…"

"And why, Lupin, is the mongrel asleep in the early afternoon?"

"He was out snooping all night, he didn't come back till a good few hours after sunrise and practically collapsed on the bed… he won't be up anytime soon." Lupin actually chuckled as he said so, Severus sneering in response.

"As long as you are sure he will not wake Lupin… I do not feel like battling him at present; as enticing as the idea is, I doubt Horris would enjoy the news of Black's sudden demise."

"Nor the idea of a wounded father, right?"

Severus glared.

"Listen, Lupin, and perhaps you shall realize something. You know what happened to him over Christmas… at least the physical part of it."

"There's more?" Lupin questioned, eyes widening, "Severus-"

"I doubt he has even told me all that he endured there. He has, however, become extremely protective of me since then… I believe that He threatened to harm me since harming Horatius obviously proved ineffective."

"You?"

"As far as He is concerned, Horatius has no other family and has left all his friends behind in his old school… not to mention how easy it would be for him to do si… given my... connection to him."

"He can hurt you through it?"

"That occurs often Lupin… He can, however, just as easily kill through it if it strikes his fancy."

"But-"

"It's times like these I wish I had never found out about Horris… never had to put him through this hell… never have shattered his foolish Gryffindor notions of Good and Evil with the gray reality of total uncertainty."

"Voldemort was trying to kill him as Harry Potter Severus…"

"Control is often worse than death, Lupin… have you yet to realize that? Before I had Horris I wished to be found out at every meeting."

"Then why not-"

"Black Destiny, Lupin." He snarled back, seething at the name. How often had he wished to be discovered, unable to simply declare himself or consciously make a fatal mistake without invoking that blasted law… It was written down by Merlin's second apprentice, but it had existed since the moment magic began. If one commits suicide, or does anything that leads to his or her death with the main purpose of dying they are never allowed peace, existing forever as restless spirits that none can see or hear, forced to watch lives with no chance of undoing their sin and passing over as most ghosts can. He shuddered even thinking about it.

The werewolf fell silent, averting his eyes.

"Did you give him the Firebolt yet?" He finally asked, hoping the subject change would deplete the heavy mood. Remus had known about the Black Destiny law, hell, it had kept him alive several times… no one ever mentioned it lightly though, no one. "He really should fly on a good broom right now… Merlin knows how relaxing he finds it."

"No, I told the elves to bring it to the manor. He shall discover it when we return for spring holidays. Draco has taken him flying a few times however, and trying to use an inferior broom will only sharpen his abilities."

Sirius curled his tail beneath him, getting up from his spot near the half-closed door. The more he tried to listen in and gather some information on Harry the more he discovered he didn't know. It was as if his world was crumbling beneath him… the last links to his past were falling apart. Remus was being civil, friendly even with the man responsible for his losing Harry, Snape sounded as if he actually cared about the boy and Harry seemed more and more like a total stranger… he didn't even want the Firebolt Sirius got him! He held back a whine, knowing what hell would break loose if Snape suddenly realized Remus had underestimated the effect Azkaban held over him.

Back in his room, Sirius lay back on his bed, fingering the picture of Harry the boy had sent in one of his letters right after the first task. He was smiling warmly with his Firebolt slung over his shoulder and Ron telling him some joke or another. The pride radiated off of him in bursts, Hermione holding the golden egg that would eventually lead Harry to the next obstacle he had to overcome. He almost got lost in the small snapshot as Harry waved at him warmly. But the boy didn't look like that now, did he? It was not this face that wouldn't let him sleep, filling his mind with the image of the glaring Snape-child the moment he closed his eyes…

He shut the little night lamp off when he heard the fire sputter, a tell-tale sign the Floo had been used. He made sure he looked quite asleep if Remus chose to check on him.

"Stop snoring Padfoot; I didn't live with you for seven years without knowing when you're sleeping and when you think you're making others think you are."

Black eyes grudgingly snapped open.

"So Sirius, how much did you hear?"

Sirius shrugged, "All of it, I think."

"You know you've got to stop acting like this… it's killing you as well as Horris."

"Oh bull Remus! That boy doesn't care about anything."

"Do you honestly believe that Siri?" Remus asked, hating how Sirius simply ran in circles… every time he thought he was getting somewhere Siri would suddenly revert right back to where he had started from.

"You weren't there."

"He's still the same boy, Siri… he still cares about you."

"That is not Harry!"

"No, it isn't." Remus agreed, "It's Horris. That does not, however, change the fact that when the spells were undone and the lie was tossed off the boy's personality was in no way altered. He still bears the same scars and memories; his morals and feelings have not been stripped or replaced… can't you understand that Siri?"

"No!" Sirius snapped defiantly, "He acts differently, thinks differently, talks differently, dresses differently and most certainly feels differently towards me, you, Snape, Dumbledore and almost everyone else."

"Haven't you heard a word Severus said? Haven't you heard a word I've said?"

Sirius glared.

"He's adapted, yes." Remus continued, ignoring his friend's reaction, "He's matured a great deal and he certainly assimilated his new experiences into his outlooks Siri, but the young child you know is still in there. His views didn't change overnight either; you should have seen how he and Severus built their relationship… it still astonishes me how they bonded. His relationship with Lea, too, is simply astounding… not even Severus can comprehend how it came about."

"Who?"

"Lea… Hermione." Remus replied off handily, shaking off the digression and further pressing his original point. "You have no right to act towards him the way you do, and for once I completely see Severus' stand on this issue."

"So he's got you wrapped around his finger too?" Sirius accused bitterly, "I thought at least you'd be immune to Slytherin scheming… you're losing your better judgment, Moony…"

"I've had more time to adjust to the reality of it all." Remus replied, "Look, I've offered to give you the damn journal… why do you refuse to believe me, Horris, James, Severus and Dumbledore?"

"It's not Harry, that's why."

"You mean that it's not Harry Potter, Sirius…" Remus sighed.

"I want you to do something for me Siri… no, you're going to sit your butt down and listen." Remus said, his voice growing stern. "I want you to think back to the first time you met Harry after you got out of Azkaban. I want you to remember what he acted like. What he did. I want you to remember how he stood up to you when he thought you were going to harm his friends… how he stood up against Severus before he even thought you innocent… how he would let no harm come to anyone… even Peter. That was the son of Severus Snape, Siri, not James Potter. Remember how quickly he had accepted you? How he longed to be part of a family, any family where he might receive the love that had so long been denied him? Do you really want to take that away from him when he's only just found it?" Remus paused, staring deeply into his old friend's eyes, as if trying to hammer in the significance of what he had said into the pale blue depths. "The boy has lived through so much Siri, how can you add to his problems?"

Remus paused, looking over his friend. Sirius was staring at him intently, fearfully even, hopefully signifying that something had finally hit home.

"Think carefully before you act, Padfoot," Remus finally broke the heavy silence. He picked up his glass and stood with every intention of leaving his friend to his thoughts. "I don't think you've lost him yet Siri," he said thoughtfully, pleased that even Severus had noted Horris' lingering attachment, "but your next move may very well push him out of reach." He paused again, one hand on the door, "And Siri," he added as an afterthought, "that includes sitting on your rump and doing nothing… I'd say that would prove the fastest way to lose him." He didn't add any advice about how to approach Horris, not even sure if Sirius would try to do so. Severus' remarks in Dumbledore's office would do little to help, and Remus didn't know what else to say.

He'd learned never to take anything about Horris for granted, nothing beyond the most basic truths anyway. The boy had, as Sirius so eloquently noted, changed to an incredible degree. The change was good in many ways, at last allowing Horris to live beyond outside expectations and do something other than what everyone expected of him. That was also what scared everyone senseless… including Dumbledore. Remus disagreed, quietly albeit, with the conclusion his mentor had come to. No, in no way would Horris ever turn evil. Well, he wouldn't follow Voldemort at least, that much was certain. But Remus also knew that was not the type of evil Dumbledore feared Horris would fall to. No, Dumbledore was worried that Horris would indeed destroy Voldemort, his Asps at his side, only to hold the throne himself. Dumbledore could deal with Voldemort, even without the aid of the mighty Harry Potter. It was Horatius Snape that the wise old Headmaster now feared. It was the boy's wrath that scared him when seemingly nothing else could.

The worst part of it was that, if Horris chose to, he could dethrone Voldemort and take over without almost any problems. The Death Eaters had been told many times that they would be following the orders of Asps, just as soon as they had finished their training. That day was soon approaching itself, Remus felt, though even without formal declaration from Voldemort the Asps would have no problem making the Death Eaters follow their instructions. Their venoms were well known in the ranks by now, a captured Death Eater had told the order as much… all of Voldemort's henchmen had apparently been told enough to fear the Asps as much as (if not more than) Voldemort himself.

Horris wouldn't turn dark though, Remus' mind snapped back, disgusted at the road he had been following. Horris, for all his dark impressions still held the same memories, thoughts and feelings Harry Potter had. Just as Remus had told Sirius, Horris had evolved from Harry because of new knowledge and experiences… he had not grotesquely mutated himself from Harry by some dark power or foul play. He had not been brainwashed, forced or disillusioned in order to make him into what he now was. The problem arose when one saw the seemingly striking difference that now existed between the boy they knew as Harry and Horris. Horris was not afraid to take charge, to use what he was given, to speak out or to push people. His glare was just as effective as Severus', his stubbornness staunch and his mind sharper than his tongue. Most of those things though, Remus admitted, he had seen specks of long before he ever found James' journal. Even while teaching him years ago, he could feel there was something closed about the boy. He didn't know it then, but he sure as hell knew what that was now. Harry had been hiding things; hiding them from his teachers, his friends, everyone. Based on the boy's grades, Harry couldn't have mastered the Patronus, yet he did. In his essays, Remus had found tidbits so strikingly beyond what he believed the boy was capable of. They were little things, allusions to concepts far too complex for a third year or a conclusion that needed a far deeper understanding to link what he apparently had. At the time, Remus either brushed them aside as a sentence or two the boy copied from a book he didn't understand(as most kids do at that age) or from Miss Granger. He even, at times, thought the allusions and vague references were just his imaginations; his unconsciousness reading far too much into the boy's accidental word choice to make the boy appear more like James had at his age.

James… oh how life has a way of coming and biting you in the ass! Remus thought he was giving Harry too much credit because of James' impeccable abilities and it was Horris who outdid James in every way… Where the marauders were tricky and smart, Horris (and Severus, Remus admitted) was clever enough to not flaunt his knowledge as they had. Horris, even at the young age of eleven, had already known the value of keeping your strengths hidden. Not even now did Remus think he knew all of the skills the boy had. That was the worst part of it as well… the way Horris remained such an enigma despite the headmaster's best efforts to figure out what made him tick… that was the most dangerous part. No one could really foretell what the boy's reaction to something would be, his meeting with Sirius was probably the most potent example. It was why Sirius was so scared to do anything too. Harry had always seemed open and predictable; Horris was a total unknown. With Harry, Sirius almost always knew what to say and what to do to get a desired response (at least, Sirius thought he did… Remus now guessed it was more Harry wanting to please Sirius than his apparent openness and predictability), with Horris, Sirius would have to tread carefully. Remus… Remus would have to tread carefully too.

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