Forlorn Hope

Silver Spring

46 : Silver Spring

Dumbledore fingered the single shard his old friend had gifted him, watching it prism the light into rainbows on his office walls. Who would have thought so small and chaste a thing could keep the seer imprisoned for so long… Why, this little piece alone could hold nearly endless amounts of power… a soul even. Yes, a soul. That was why the man had traveled all this way, after all.

"A keeper of lives you've become, dearest Albus," his old friend had noted, "but it is a soul you soon shall seek."

Albus had denied this, of course, but his friend would not recant it. To kill a person for just the power of their spirit was probably the darkest trespass worth making and Albus was certainly not going to try. The soul gave its wielder, when rid of the encompassing body, unimaginable power… if but for a short while. It was like a burst of energy, having once been often used to defeat an aggressive army. It was not outlawed, if the soul giver be willing, but quite against Albus' ways. He tried to tell that to the Blind Seer, but the man only smiled knowingly and shoved the stone into Albus' hand.

"You oughtn't destroy the irreparable my friend," the Seer later cautioned. "You try turn silver into ivory, as Tom tempts it; turn to coal. Life burns kitten- chars it, blackens; yet you spur it evermore."

"Is that a prophecy friend?" Albus had asked, only to have the Seer shake his head.

"Prophecies tell of things to come… what I give you is but a warning." The man responded, "Silver tends to darken with age, ivory tends to yellow… what you try to do is impossible, yet you remain determined to make it so. The only way to rid yourself of the darkening crust is to destroy it, and destroying the outside harms what lies within as well. If you continue to chip away at the protective coat you so despise, soon there will be no inside left at all."

The seer did have a point, though he provided no alternative. Was he really expected to allow the child, his best chance, to fall right into Tom's hands? Certainly not! Severus was doing more than enough to gift his son (and thus the world) to Voldemort. Dumbledore had thought the man would be more cautious where his son was concerned… he certainly did not expect him to refuse the protection that Order membership would provide. He had refused the Order alone, yes, but to tell the boy to do so?

"Oh why did you choose to tempt me so?" Albus sighed, still fingering the crystal shard. Why did he have to give him so simple a solution to all his problems? It was a mistake to allow Severus such unchecked contact with the boy, such power over him. The man held far more influence than Albus had predicted, manipulating his own son in true Slytherin fashion. He was turning the boy into a real Slytherin, an act Dumbledore had been quite sure the child would be far more opposed to. So many years…. wasted.

Even if he forgot about the boy, Severus himself still posed a great problem. Never before had Albus needed to pull information from him or question the truth beneath it all. Now all Severus said had to be studied intently and taken with a grain of salt. He now left larger and larger gaps in his reports, conveniently forgetting facts, names, places… Albus still didn't know what exactly happened over the two weeks Horatius had been taken by Voldemort. He probably did not know all the Aspian powers, either. This last letter worried him especially. At this very moment, the children were learning dark curses that Albus did not know of. Sure, Severus had presented him the letter, but the curse list had conveniently been misplaced. Half the time, Albus felt he had need for a spy to keep tabs on his spy… though not many people could shadow a Snape and live to tell the tale. He had hoped Horatius' loyalty would help ensure that of his father, but things were working much to the contrary it seemed…

"Oh honestly Ginny, I have homework to finish!"

"We need to talk Hermione, and this is one of the few occasions you are actually among your not-so-dear Gryffindors."

"What's that su-"

'"Look, your dear Snape is gone, as are all the other Asps, right? NO one left to run and tattle to."

"Oh for Merlin's sake Ginny, it's not like I tell them everything!"

"So you don't even deny it? Why? How can you associate with… with Asps?"

"How-"

"They are You-Know-Who's Hermione… worse than blasted Death Eaters from what I've heard… got all them freaky abilities n' stuff… how can you even bear to be in the same room as one? You- a Muggle-born!"

"Fine!" she turned suddenly, pushing her book shut with a bang. There was an unearthly fire burning in her eyes as she seemed to suddenly tower above Ginny. "If you want to play Hardball, we'll play Hardball. I don't know what you did to find out about Asps, I don't want to know, but I will not stand here while you yammer on about things you haven't a clue about!" she snapped, clasping the silver necklace she always wore in her hand. "I almost died Ginny… Died! The only reason I'm not dead and buried is Horris and you will not sit here and call him one of Voldemort's damn lackeys!" The words dwindled from a near shout to a bare whisper, yet they hit Ginny with the force of a scream. "Didn't you ever wonder why I came back early from Christmas vacation, why I wasn't on the train?" She asked after a moment, giving time for her earlier words to sink in. "Or why Ron didn't return at all?"

"Where the hell are you going?" Ginny called out as Hermione got up, walking toward the portrait. "I thought you were going to tell me… not spew some dramatic monologue!"

"Not in here I'm not… if you want to know, you'll just have to follow."

"Where? The Snake Pit?" She asked sarcastically,

"Horris kept the wards around his room up… other walls have too many ears." Hermione confirmed to Ginny's utter horror.

"You… you're serious?"

"Your choice."

"You're serious." She repeated, forlorn. "But-"

"It's now or never Ginny." Hermione sighed in return, "I still have that homework to do."

Severus stood statue-like on the upper terrace of the north tower at the Snape family Manor. What used to feel so deadened was now filled with life. Ever since Horatius and Alexander came to the house in the fall, the manor had been practically pulsing with energy and vigor. It felt so different from how Severus remembered it from his childhood, and for that he was glad. But now, now the manor radiated with power… a power so forceful it nearly overwhelmed him at first. Even now, the beat with which the manor pulsed gave him a headache, the magic that now ran in the old manor's veins reigniting the near-extinguished flame. Far below him, on a field he could barely see (even now, after having searched the entire house for the best viewing spot) the Asps spared. He suspected Horris had indeed picked that field for the sole purpose of keeping Severus away and clueless. He could barely see the wisps of color as the spells shot out, straining his mind to figure out who might have shot what at whom. After Severus had taught the first three curses, Horris had quite bluntly told him not to come out while they were there. For ordering him thus, his son received quite a tongue lashing, of course, but in the end Severus had grudgingly complied.

"Professor!"

"Draco?" He questioned the voice behind him, startled.

"We need your help sir… healing potions and something to ease Post-Cruciatus Shock."

"Who the hell used Crucio?"

"Horris sir."

"WHAT!"

"Please sir, we've really no time to explain." The blonde insisted, grabbing Severus before he could interject, pulling him all the way to his potions lab.

"What is the healing potion for?" Severus asked whilst pocketing several concoctions off the shelf.

"We need Skelo-grow, some painkiller and the Cruciatus reliever… lots of Skele-Grow."

"Skele-Grow?" He asked, baffled, as he reached for several more vials. "Why had Horris not come himself?"

"Trust me sir, your potions lab is better off without him here."

Severus' arm was unceremoniously yanked once more as soon as he had touched the last of the vials, which Severus promptly dropped a short distance from the manor, when he could finally see over the Ravenclaw who was tending to a crying Pansy.

"What happened?" He demanded, eyes not leaving his wounded Slytherin charge.

"Thank Merlin Dragon brought you… I need Skele-Grow quick… I can't hold her much longer."

He numbly handed several vials to the exhausted Ravenclaw. He knew why she was tired; having to hold Pansy together was no small feat. Somehow, not a single bone was left in the girl, who would have been crushed by her own weight was it not for Miss Chang.

"Why is Horris not helping?" He demanded harshly,

"Cho's healing venom is the strongest we've got… plus she was training to be a mediwizard since third year." Draco supplied, reminding Severus that Asps were in no way equal.

"Where is Horris?"

"You don't want to know sir…" Draco whispered, the other Asps hushing as he did so.

"Where is my son, Draco?" He repeated, sternly, "Now."

"Yelling at Markus."

"The Slytherin fourth year?"

Draco nodded. "He told both him and the fourth-year Ravenclaw not to try the curse before he spoke with them but Mark went ahead… Fourth years haven't learned about focus spells yet… all they knew are the kind that only require the right wand movements and incantations."

"I repeat, where is Horris."

"There sir." Draco answered, pointing to a spot where the field turned, obstructing a small portion from view.

Draco suddenly ran past him as they both heard the younger Slytherin scream out, springing Severus into action as well. The other Asps followed, but only he and Draco dared near the two figures.

"Horris!" Draco called out, though his words seemed to have no effect on the teen.

"Horris! Let him go!" Severus echoed, receiving the same result. A sinking feeling enveloped him as he saw his son standing over the screaming boy, as if he did not hear him at all. "I said let him go Horatius!" Severus repeated, pulling on his son's shoulder to cut the contact, careful not to touch the boy's skin. He was not going to allow this to happen to his son, he would be damned if he let this overtake his boy. As his son spun from Severus' pull, turning to face and glare at him, Severus' fears were confirmed. He let him go from shock, backing off a few steps in case the boy decided to grab and pull Severus' hand off himself. Severus had seen a person suffering from what had been termed Soulshadow only once before, and never would he have expected to see his own son exhibit the symptoms. But Horatius' eyes were fully black; the whites turned a bloody red, a sure-tell sign of the Soulshadow sickness. One look back at Draco told him the boy knew what was going on as well, as terrifying as the notion sounded. When a normal wizard fell into this condition, three stunning spells were needed to bring him down… but what could bring down an Asp in this condition? An Alpha?

"Sir…" Draco whispered in his ear, as if reading his thoughts. "We need you to distract him." With that he moved back and around the bend, as did the other Asps, leaving Severus alone with his withdrawn son.

"Horris… Horatius look at me." He ordered, his tone purposefully patronizing as he pulled himself to his full height (allowing him to look down at his son). "You have to regain control Horatius, you are stronger than this." He told him, his voice softening as he claimed the child's attention. "I know you can overcome this, now try… please son… do not allow this to control you."

"I don't want to fight it." his son growled, a voice so strikingly unlike what Severus was used to that it nearly froze the man.

"Yes Horris, yes you do. It is like the Imperius Horatius, do you remember being put under that curse?" Severus asked, his son's statement cutting him deep, even if he knew it was only the Soulshadow and not what Horris actually wished.

"I am in control, Death Eater, I control it all."

The boy moved towards Severus, grabbing the man's forearm, right where the Dark Mark lay. The next instant Severus screamed, the liquid Cruciatus overwhelming his senses just as it did the young fourth year. Merlin was the venom potent… not even Voldemort's curse held such a thrust! True, the Soulshadow (of which Severus constantly reminded himself of as he looked into the ever-sable irises of his child) usually boosted a wizard's power, but still, the venom was at least three times as strong as Voldemort's at the man's most evil moment. It felt like an eternity before the pain stopped, though by the lack of shaking Severus felt, it had lasted no more than a fraction of a minute.

"You alright sir?" Draco asked him, rubbing his palm over the area Horris had held. Healing venom, Severus realized, instantly throwing his time estimate out of the proverbial window.

"Horatius?"

"It took almost all of us to put him under sir… he's asleep."

"How long?"

"You were unconscious for only a few moments sir, we were barely able to carry Horris to his room and come back before you came to."

"How long since he came down with Soulshadow boy." Severus elaborated,

"I swear sir, he wasn't like that when I came to get you… angry and yelling, yes, but nothing like this sir… honest."

"Take me to him."

"I don't think you're in any condition to move sir…" The boy cautioned softly, though Severus was not having any of it,

"Help me, Mr. Malfoy, or I shall have to attempt the trip myself."

"What will happen now?" Draco asked uncertainly, helping Severus to his feet.

"Far less than ought be, obviously. However, I believe you would agree that Horatius is top priority…" Severus answered warily, " I assume you are to take over command. You may tell the others to take a day's rest, Draco, though I expect a full list of what curses you have mastered, studied, and had troubles with and so forth on my desk by sundown. You are also to make sure Pansy and Markus are fine since Horris shall probably demand my full attention. I am to be alerted of any important changes or problems, but do not expect me to hold your hand Draco…"

"Sir?" Draco asked softly after Severus and he had stopped just outside of Horatius' room.

"Yes Draco?"

"Is Horris going to be alright? I thought the only way to get rid of Soulshadow was-"

"Now is not the time to explain the origin of my knowledge of Soulshadow, Draco. Suffice to say, there is a way to forgo the procedure your father undoubtedly informed you of, though few know of it. If you have the time, do explain what happened here to Markus, as I am quite sure he is rather scared and confused right now, never having so much as heard of the condition…"

"We're all scared sir." The boy sighed, "I- we all thought Horris was so strong, unbeatable."

"Then perhaps realizing he is as human as any of you shall benefit us all." Severus chilled him, wanting to see his son as soon as possible yet unable to bring himself to brush the so obviously scared boy aside. "Everything, be it a wall, a ward, a sward, a wand or a flower has it's threshold. Push any just a miniscule amount more than that threshold and the object, subject or defense will break." Severus sighed, his hand on the door. "Now if you excuse me Draco, I have to check on my son."

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