Forlorn Hope

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

43 : Wrong Place; Wrong Time

Horris knocked on the door, hoping his father was inside (or, at lease, the people inside would know where his father was). He had already checked his rooms, his office, the Slytherin commons… not a sign of him anywhere. Hopefully, his dad had come here. Horris had, after all, made quite a spectacle of having to give up his weekend to speak with McGonagall last night.

"This is NOT a good time!" someone called out, not asking who he was.

"I'm looking for Professor Snape… I was wondering if Professor McGonagall knew where he might be." He called back, knowing that asking for his 'dad' at times proved too ambiguous and annoying to the other Professors. A few seconds later, the door opened, revealing his thoroughly peeved father. "Um… you were looking for me sir?" he asked cautiously,

"This is not a good time Horatius."

"Oh. Sorry."

"Go to my office and wait for me there, I shall be finished here soon Horatius."

"Giving your keyword to students now, are you?" A voice called from within, one Horris was unfamiliar with.

"You are in no position to lecture me Abdicattera!" His father snapped back, "Leave, Horatius, now."

"Yes sir."

"Severus!" McGonagall called back, "This concerns the boy as much as it does yourself!"

"It concerns neither of us."

"Severus!"

"I said no, Minerva." His father cut back with such fury Horris actually thought he might hit the transfiguration teacher if she didn't shut up. "We are leaving. Horatius, come."

Severus did his best to calm himself as he walked down the hall; his long, infuriated steps making his son nearly run in his wake. At least the boy knew not to push him at times like these (thank Merlin)… Oh, Severus did not doubt that he'd have to answer the boy, but at least Horatius had enough sense to hold off his inquiry until Severus had calmed (somewhat, at least). Minerva, apparently, did not posses this skill once class let out… which only served to clarify why most Gryffindors did not display it as well.

For Merlin's sake, how heartless did she think him? Cold? Harsh? Biased? Hell yes… but did the woman think he would actually have destroyed Abdicattera's life on sight? True, he was inclined to do so now, after her dear daughter-in-law had lost all sense of tact as soon as she saw him… After all, if anyone could be said to have become immune to his dark (and some would say twisted) sense of humor it was his son and Abigail. He shouldn't have scared her before she had even seen him perhaps, but it had been no worse than the things they had done to each other as children… Living with Minerva's son must have over-sensitized her indeed!

Minerva's game, of course, had been (by far) more dangerous. He could not believe she'd dare endanger his son that way! At least she had not named him thus outright… the hints she had dropped and the ways she had tried to make Severus slip (as if she actually thought she could succeed where the Dark Lord had failed) were simply disgusting. She had tried to play both sides (trying to keep Abdicattera safe while making him to slip), helping neither. If anything her tactics only served to flare Abdicattera's normally volatile temper. She should be glad Severus was no stranger to her tantrums or Minerva would be on the verge on explaining to her son exactly why his wife suddenly became a Muggle.

Even with Minerva's attempts he would not reconsider. He made it perfectly clear to Minerva, before Horatius had even set foot in Hogwarts (as Horatius, anyway), that Abdicattera was not to be told of him. The woman was probably the greatest danger short of Voldemort! Abdicattera could single-handedly put Horatius' very identity under a level of scrutiny that not even Dumbledore could overcome (though Severus doubted if he would even be inclined to, at present). That woman not only held the power to destroy Horatius' cover, but could make his son whole-heartedly detest him without great effort. Abdicattera has always had an impeccable talent for morphing truths to fit her purpose (his own father had once called it her greatest gift), and Severus knew she would like nothing better than to make him suddenly inclined to desire hell over life. She had always tried to do so (from a distance), but now Severus actually had something to lose. That 'something' went by the name Horatius, and Severus would be damned before he would let Minerva tell that woman of him.

"Dad?" His son asked him, signaling that Severus' time to cool off was over.

A quick glance at a nearby corner told Severus that his son had already set the wards, giving him no chance to stall (not that it took Horatius long to set the blasted things, as it did normal people). Abdicattera had actually taught him that corner trick; she was always one to find new uses for tools. Now he would pass the skill on to Horris, as soon as the boy mastered the basics of Auras. Severus had been quite pleased when Horatius could learn them no quicker than a normal child. Even now, all he could sense were the confusing energies everything gave off; quite useless at this stage. Soon, his son's mind would attach colors to the signatures, making their origins gradually less and less obscure. The wards were extremely difficult to see, appearing only as a thin, matted layer most visible when there ought to be defined edges (thus the corner trick).

"Dad!" his son repeated, a bit more forceful. Clearly, his boy was becoming quite frustrated with being kept in the dark. Unfortunately, Severus doubted the boy would be placated by what he could safely tell him. He usually tried to be as honest and straightforward as possible with his son. This time, however, he could not afford to.

"Sit."

"What happened?"

"Something I would rather you not become involved with."

"But-"

"I am serious Horatius, you are to stay from that woman. She is extremely dangerous and would like nothing better than to see the Snape name disappear altogether. She does not know you are anything more than a favored Slytherins at this point and that is what she must continue to believe. She is not match for you, physically or magically, but even Lucius would kill or a fraction of her ability to influence politics or manipulate a person's image. She could make people run from a mouse or cuddle a Manticore without too much effort. You are safest if you remain invisible in her eyes, so invisible you shall remain. She can read Auras better than I, so any thoughts of spying on her are to be disposed of immediately."

"Yes sir." His son sighed, obviously not liking the idea. "Why you?"

"Excuse me?"

"Why is she after you?" Horatius repeated, "As far as she knows, after all, you're the only Snape left, right?"

"Her reasons are quite complex." Severus stated, not knowing how much to say. "We… grew up together. Family alliances pulled us apart at a quite impressionable age and forced us to opposite sides. My father… hurt her more than I will probably ever know and she hurt him."

"If this is about alliances, aren't you on the same side now? Why don't you tell her th-"

"No." Severus cut him off, not needing to hear the remainder of the argument. "The issues have not been about alliances for a long time, son. Our differences can not be so easily reconciled- they probably never will be."

"I don't get it."

" I know." Severus sighed, "I do not believe that even she and I fully understand, Horatius, we must simply live with the situation at hand. The point, son, is that she knows me well; there was a time we trusted each other with everything. Because of this, she has more than enough ammunition to ruin both out lives. We all do things we later regret Horatius, you probably understand that better than most. Abdicattera and I both made rash decisions we are unable to undo…be careful."

"I will dad"

"And you will stay away from her."

"Yes sir."

Ginny sighed dejectedly, finally getting out of her hiding spot. Hermione and Malfoy had left quite a while ago, but she wanted to be sure they couldn't notice her trailing out of the library they had thought deserted. She couldn't believe what she had heard there, after Snape had gone and the tidbits before he put those stupid wards up. What had she expected though, Slytherins always considered covering their ass a top priority… even Lea was getting dubiously overcautious with information. Colin thought it was because of how some Gryffindors treated her, but she knew it was just her dear Slytherins rubbing off. Besides they were being no worse towards her than she deserved. Hanging with Slytherins- honestly!

In all honesty, it was her friendship with Malfoy that worried her most. Snape she could understand… he had only to play the 'new guy' card and manipulate Hermione's naïve notion that not all Slytherins are Death Eaters. But Malfoy? She knew Malfoy was a total and utter git, a sure future Death Eater if there ever was one. How could she befriend him? She figured they tolerated each other, as all Slytherins tolerated her and vice versa, but she was sure the relationship was strained at best. She, like most other Gryffindors, had believed the other Slytherins had done as Snape asked on Malfoy's (or, perhaps, Professor Snape's) order; no more. After their earlier display though, her perception found itself on shaky ground. It appeared, certainly, that the young Snape had far more power than his father's position or the hereditary glare and attitude allotted.

Hermione had spoken to Malfoy the way Ginny spoke to her friends or perhaps even brothers. This was not how people who can barely stand each other converse. Furthermore, if they truly were friends, then what Malfoy had said would be, at least to some degree, honest. She toyed with the idea of him simply pretending to be her friend, but why bother? She had obviously trusted Snape to have gone there, despite her dislike and detest of Malfoy, so the front wasn't needed. Snape may have ordered the front, but, if Snape held such power, Malfoy wouldn't have said anything against him. Though an undeserved compliment in her eyes, she doubted calling Snape a 'Gryffindor at heart' would be considered flattery whilst coming from Malfoy. Besides, if he had been forced, Malfoy wouldn't have stayed with her so long, using any excuse to leave her presence.

Yet they had spoken for quite a while, about an array of subjects, Ron amongst them. Malfoy had, quite plainly, called her brother a Death Eater. What's worse, a part of her believed him. Perhaps not believed him in the traditional sense, but she had heard him. Really heard him. He hadn't been trying to get Hermione to believe him, he was practically scolding her for worrying over him after what Ron had apparently done. And, based on her reaction, Ron had done something… something bad.

"There goes our vacation I guess…" Horris sighed. Severus had shown him the blasted letter, and his son had reached the same conclusion he had. He knew that his son had looked forward to spending some quality time with him, as much as Severus had himself, but realities could not be avoided. Teaching these curses on Hogwarts grounds would trip too many wards, and not teaching them at all would equal committing suicide. The only option left was to have them all come to the Manor and train them there. The house elves, at least, would enjoy the guest load. As he looked back to his son, who at present was looking over the curse list, he cursed Voldemort deep in the recesses of his mind. These kids oughtn't know these curses!

"This isn't going to be easy dad…"

"I know."

"You're going to have to teach the first three… Voldemort never could explain them properly."

"The first three?" Severus asked, taken back. Did his son really know all these already?

"Yeah…" Horatius nodded solemnly, "I figured he'd order me to pass the knowledge on; that list is almost an exact duplicate of one of his special lesson plans."

"You are not teaching them these curses." Severus said flatly, wanting Horatius as far from them as possible.

"If they don't know them we're all as good as dead Dad, and I need to brush up on them myself… I'd rather not find out what Voldemort will deem a fit punishment for letting his lessons go to waste. Besides, he showed me some variations I'm sure he assumes I'll pass on as well."

Severus just watched Horatius, not speaking as his son attempted to speak calmly of the matter. The color had drained from his features, his eyes dancing with a wealth of suppressed emotion. He had to keep himself nearly ridged in order to keep from stepping forth and comforting the child, his child. It pained him not to be able to do so, but he knew how dangerous the alternative could prove. In any other instance, Severus would have comforted him, but not when the boy's discomfort came from thoughts of Voldemort. Neither could afford it.

Horatius' greatest strength, they both realized, came from the lack of fear he displayed while in that monster's presence. Though the boy was no longer unaffected by the bastard (which, in some respects, Severus believed to be a good thing), his experiences had not yet made the boy cower before him. If he or Severus fostered the fears, however, the fears would only grow. As harsh as it sounded, such fears were best dispersed when the harborer was made to face them, cut off from any help. Thankfully, this was a concept Horatius had seemingly learned long ago. The boy had, actually, taken the initial task upon himself quite a short time after the incident itself. So soon, in fact, that Severus worried about it. It was not until nearly a moth later that he stopped attempting the exact opposite of what he was doing now. Though this method was effective, Severus knew that the person had to first accept the fear itself, an aspect with which comfort and understanding helped immensely.

The boy's small smile helped placate Severus somewhat, though he still watched him with a discerning eye. Horatius was doing an exemplary job, dealing with the circumstances, but Severus still made sure the boy did not turn fighting the fear into suppressing it. He was not about to let his son commit the same mistake Severus had made. Horatius was far too important. This is why Severus had so wanted this chance to be with him. They both knew summer would be when Voldemort officially place the Asps in charge of his minions. Even now Horatius exhibited some control, but Severus was not even be tempted to think Voldemort would waste a summer full of Muggle attacks and Death Eater recruiting. No. By the time term began (if they were allowed to return at all), the Asps would be in charge of all the Death Eaters as they were supposed to have been- with Horatius in charge of it all.

If the Asps were to defect, that would be the time. If they had already gained control of the Death Eaters (the Dark Mark itself, perhaps), they could give them a choice to defect beside them, perhaps pulling enough away to somewhat weaken the maniac (Not that the loss of his Aspidis would be insignificant by itself). Each child, he assumed, could easily fend off dozens of ordinary wizards… more if what he knew of their powers was not all there was to know.

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