Forlorn Hope

Abdicattera

45 : Abdicattera

"Say I believe you…" Horris prompted, still not fully believing her story.

"Oh no dear boy, I know better than to hope a Snape would trust so easily. You seem to have inherited mother's tact at least, thank Merlin for that."

"So you believe in my father now?"

"I said Snapes do not trust easily… I did not say that we refuse to accept blatant truth when it smacks us in the face dear." The woman told him, rolling her eyes. Horatius found her incredibly immature, though she honestly didn't look a day over thirty. She was actually forty-two(or so she claimed), making her almost six years older than his father.

"Still, Mrs. McGonagall, your story raises far more questions than it answers."

"And in raising these questions it gives you the opportunity to solve a few yourself."

"I find myself with more than enough questions to think over as it is Mrs. McGonagall."

"Yes, just like your father… always to the point."

"And you, Mrs. McGonagall, have his stalling tactics." He countered in stride, allowing a tinge of annoyance to lace his voice.

"Why, what do you expect me to say? You will certainly not believe me until your dear father confirms it, and calling him will only result in trouble for the both of us. Will it not? It seems to me, dear, that you are 'stuck between a rock and a hard place', as the Muggles say."

"I, Mrs. McGonagall, am rarely stuck."

He leaned back against the armchair, pondering exactly what his choices were. They had been speaking in the sitting room, where Horris figured would be the best place to conduct such a talk. Discussing such matters in the catacombs felt extremely disrespectful to the people resting there, and quite frankly, made his skin crawl. Also, if this woman truly were dangerous, the house elves would know to help him and alert his father should she try to pull anything. His options, however, were not as numerous as he made them seem. Telling his father, for instance, would not go well. If the man would not strip her of her powers as soon as he heard she had come onto the property, he would surely be angered that Horatius disobeyed his wishes. Not angered, actually, but disappointed. Disappointment was worse. It was worse than anger could ever be. Not telling his father, however, was not even an option. Besides the fact that Horris simply refused to lie to the man, he could not possibly keep something like this from him. And thought he doubted Mrs. McGonagall (as he called her purely to incite her annoyance) had lied, it would be nice to hear both sides.

Abdicattera McGonagall, called Cat or Abby by most, was the wife of his professor's eldest (and only) son. Apparently, it was he who turned her away from her family's views at a young age and thus angered her father to the point where he disowned her before she so much as graduated Hogwarts. Her father's reasoning for this was two-fold. Firstly, he would not allow his eldest child to 'dishonor' her name and go against the family by running around with Gryffindors (she had been a Ravenclaw). The second reason, thought she claimed her father found it far more important, was the closeness her younger brother and she shared. According to her, what their father feared was the impact her behavior would have on his heir. Severus had been only eleven when his father kicked her out, only just shy of starting at Hogwarts himself. Since they would both be going to school for a year, their father implemented an additional constraint. Namely, she was not allowed to make any contact with him, forced to snub him when necessary. The boy had been sorted into Slytherin however, his father's iron hand having obviously turned on him already. Or so, at least, Abdicaterra had thought.

Horatius, trying to read between the lines, figured his estranged aunt was not as innocent as she claimed, but that was for his father to counter. Horris was fairly certain that her judgment was clouded by the assumption that their father had turned Severus into an exact replica of himself, and in doing so she (indirectly) projected her anger back onto her brother (as had occurred when his own father had assumed Horris was exactly like his stepfather James). He could just see her as a seventeen-year-old spreading rumors and even helping the inexperienced Gryffindor Marauders. Sirius had once mentioned that the best prankster before them had been a Randolph McGonagall, from whom they had taken most of their early ideas. That would explain the zealousness with which the Marauders teased his father, as well as his father's current feelings toward his once-endeared sister.

"You, Mrs. McGonagall, are making a fatal mistake." Horris noted, pulling himself back to the topic at hand."

"And what would that be?"

"You assume I will not tell my dad that you are here." He explained smugly. Her expression indicated he was quite right in his deduction. "I am not my father, nor is he anything like his."

"My father died before you were born; do not pretend to know him."

"I know enough." Horris countered, "I know my father hated him, as you seem to have hated him yourself. You told me he cared more for his family legacy than his children, I know he'd have rather been feared than loved… I love my father, Mrs. McGonagall, I trust him to no end and will never need to fear his wrath. I wish I could tell you exactly who he is, what he does… unless you can claim the same of yours, my father is nothing like grandfather."

"For your sake, I do hope your father is as good as you believe him to be."

Horris stood as she said so, straightening his robes.

"Now, if you excuse me for a moment, I have a Floo to make."

"You… you're actually going to bring him here?"

"Yes." He answered, making sure his tone and facial expression simply screamed 'isn't that obvious?', stepping into the Floo. He was not actually looking forward to the conversation, but he knew that he needed to do it, and soon. He had stayed longer than he ought as it was, as the shining stars reminded him. Plus, if he did not Floo, his father would, and that might prove truly disastrous.

Abby wondered if she ought laugh or cry at the sounds she heard coming from the Floo. Most of the conversation was hushed to the point of a dull murmur, but it was always fun for her to hear her brother dearest lose his all-important composure. Every once in a while a 'You did WHAT?' or 'HORATIUS!' would escape the door, forcing her to fight a losing battle against the assault of giggles. She wondered what the boy had said to affect Sev so, though she felt sorry that the lad had to endure her brother's temper.

Brother.

She hadn't thought of him as that for what felt like eternity… she wondered how long it would last. It felt good, as odd as it was, to pretend she still belonged here… she missed it so. She had snuck in to see her mother rather often, but she never risked coming to the actual Manor. Even now, years after she had married Randolph, she still felt the hole where her past used to be. It hurt, not being able to discuss her childhood or even look back on her youth. It hurt not having a name… at least it had, before she married Randolph McGonagall. For years she had simply been Abdicaterra or Miss… Abby had always loved the manor, her room, the courtyard… it had been so good to be back, to see it all once more. She only wished the price of her peek had not been so high. Any second now, she knew, Severus would strut out of the adjacent room, the boy in tow, dead set on commandeering her magic. She wished the boy wouldn't have to see it, but she knew better. The boy had to see it; he was the Snape heir. Her father had been the same. It was a real shame too, the boy was a good kid. It was so sad that he was born to such a family.

"What in the name of Merlin do you think you are doing here?" Severus' voice called out as he stepped into the room, right on schedule. Just as she had predicted, the boy was half a step behind him. "I asked you a question Abdicaterra."

"You have a wonderful son Severus."

"Abdicaterra." He warned, "I do not believe you are in any position to try my patience." He took a poised step back, leveling her with the patent Snape glare.

"Visiting mother." She answered in all seriousness, "Something you ought do more often."

"You are far from the Willow, Abdicaterra."

"That is your dear son's fault." She countered calmly, turning to the boy. "Horatius, was it?" She asked with a smile. She was screwed either way, she might as well keep her dignity.

"I thought I made it clear you were to stay away from her Horris…"

"I didn't know it was her! I just saw someone walking around on my way back to the house… I couldn't exactly ignore a stranger wandering the grounds!"

She had to hand it to the lad, he sure had spunk.

"So you chose to allow her into the house instead?"

"I figured you'd like to know." The boy answered, more shyly this time.

"You… you're not going to really do that to her, are you dad?" Horatius asked him after a prolonged silence, the boy's eyes fixed upon him.

"And what, pray tell, would you have me do instead?"

"Must you do anything at all?"

"You had best leave Horris, tomorrow shall prove quite busy for you I believe."

"But-"

"Now Horatius," Severus insisted, hardening his gaze. "We shall speak of this in the morning."

The boy nodded this time, albeit hesitantly, and walked into the adjacent room. Severs did not know what he was going to do, but he wanted his son as far from it as possible.

"Thank you," were the first words uttered by his estranged sister in decades which did not hold hate and defiance, timed perfectly with the flare of the Floo.

"I fail to see what you have to thank me for woman." He snapped at her, not willing to be so easily coaxed into lowering his defenses.

"I feared you were going to make him witness this." She elaborated, "At least this way I don't have to carry the guilt of breaking his illusions of you."

He didn't trust her smile. She always smiled, especially when she was in a conniving mood.

"What I do with my son is no business of yours."

"I noticed. He adores you, you know." The smile on her face grew, her eyes practically dancing with some guarded emotion. " He actually defended your honor Severus, imagine that! He is a wonderful boy, really, such a shame he's yours."

"Care to elaborate that point?" He asked warningly, his voice nearing a growl. How dare she! His wand radiated at his agitation from its holster. He had to fight the urge to hex her where she stood.

"Come now dear brother… we may be estranged, but I still feel the poison that pumps in our veins. How long until you present him to your master Severus? How long until he shares your mark? Tell me the day Severus, tell me what day I ought mourn for the boy I met today."

Severus stood, unblinking, frozen as if she had hit him with a full body bind. He had wondered why she visited mother on this day, why she had chosen today to honor her. Now he knew. On this day their mother's spirit was chained and stabbed. On this day obligation killed her. On this day, their father had taken his bride.

"Leave, Abdicaterra, leave and never return. Tonight never happened, and it will never occur again. Do not try to contact Horris, do not speak of him at all. Go now, Mrs. McGonagall, before I change my mind."

"Perhaps your son was right about you after all… you have changed." The woman before him whispered, "Which in and of itself makes me wonder just who his mother was…" Her smile held almost a knowing quality, "Be careful; his situation is unlike your own… he cares for you. He truly cares and yearns for your approval… do not use that against him. He told me he didn't fear your anger Severus… I thought he was lying then, Now I know, and I fear it will be his undoing. It is your disapproval he fears, Severus, not your hand."

"Why do you suddenly involve yourself in this Abdicaterra, why now? Or have you finally fooled me?" He asked, pulling her back from the door.

"For the first time, Severus, I've met an honorable Snape. For the first time, I met a Snape who loved. For the first time, I saw a future for this family. Whomever raised him, for it certainly was not you, did a fine job Severus… the boy has potential to be so much more than a robe-kissing slave."

"You had best go, Abdicaterra."

"Yes, Lord Snape, and may our paths not cross again."

The following day, Severus knew he would likely curse himself for acting so like Lucius… or, dare he think it, his father. At present, however, he did not care. He never did when this mood reached him, though it did not do so often. Last time had been a good eight months ago. As he had his own office, his father's old study now lay in shambles. This was the first time he had entered the place in decades, the first time he had the power to lose himself without repercussions. Why did that infernal woman have to return? Why now? Now, when his life was finally becoming bearable, she had to reignite the Tartarus that was his past. Why could Horatius not have paid heed to his warnings? Why could he not have simply left her be? Why did he have to be so bloody candid with her? Why did Abdicaterra have to be so damn manipulative… was she even being manipulative? He could not even figure that out anymore! Damn her. Damn her, damn Voldemort, damn Dumbledore and damn this entire hell bound situation!

Oh how he wished to tell her that no more Snapes would ever bare the mark, that the darkness in their family would die with him, allowing Horris to start a new chapter of light and opportunity. Severus did not care about the family name, truly, but Horatius was a different matter entirely. Horris was his life. Abdicaterra's jabs at his supposed allegiances had never bothered him before… today he could barely hold back his urge to tell her exactly what he thought of Voldemort. But Abdicaterra was too close to Minerva and Randolph McGonagall… two of Dumbledore's rather avid supporters. While she would be happy that he was not the loyal 'robe kisser', he was too unsure of her motives to tell her. She might be hard to manipulate, even by Dumbledore, but she would still present a liability Severus could not afford. The choice was a hard one, too, as he knew how much Horatius longed for family ties and a sense of belonging. Horatius would have loved the girl Severus knew when he had been nine or so, as would his aunt have loved him to no end… especially now that she could have no children of her own. If only contact it was not so dangerous… if only she was not so dangerous.

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