Forlorn Hope

In too Deep

49 : In too Deep

Ginny hated classes. Even a week after it happened, her excursion into Slytherin was playing in her mind, at the moment winning over the History of Magic lecture she was presently sitting in on. After Hermione had somehow gotten her to go into the heart of the Snake pit, without her mind you, the people there hadn't been what she had expected. True, the first thing she'd have thought went on in the Slytherin commons would be hushed plans toward world domination or practice (or real) duels with not-so-legal curses flying by, but so did most of Hogwarts Students. She certainly had not expected them to be playing Exploding Snap and other normal stuff. Most of all, she had not expected them to be nice to her once Hermione left. The boy that had introduced her to everyone, Brian, had made her feel so… well… welcome. She figured they'd all tolerate her because of Hermione, but she hadn't thought she'd be pulled into games and coaxed into conversations… especially not by the Slytherins who were in her year and had taunted her each class they shared. She looked over at them, sitting at the opposite side as usual, only to see one of them give her a small smile as he caught her gaze. She stared at the teacher immediately. In fact, she couldn't recall a single one so much as glaring at her since school resumed… it was as if, as soon as Malfoy had acknowledged her, she was no longer a Gryffindor. The notion sent shivers down her spine. That, and how unforced the change was. Malfoy had in no way, as far as she could tell, told them to change their attitude towards her, and Hermione certainly hadn't. The Asp Beta seemed to tolerate her, while Hermione had been there anyway, but he seemed in no way inclined to actually make such an effort. Asp Beta, Merlin! To think Hermione had scolded him so… he could break her like a twig! And he let her, Malfoy actually let her yell at him and demand things! Him… an Asp.

"..and during the rebellion they formed, several…" Professor Binn's voice faded in and out of her thoughts.

Rebellion. That was what the Asps were planning, essentially, wasn't it? Going against Voldemort… at least according to Hermione. She doubted they were, as her friend had said, biding their time, but if they were, the outcome would not be pretty. Was that what Hermione was so upset over? Had something gone wrong? She seemed to have been crying when she came out, certainly on edge enough to put everyone else in the Slytherin commons on alert… giving Ginny a sinking feeling the girl had come there in such a state before, probably because of the way the Gryffindors treated her. She wouldn't tell her, either way, and she was not Gryffindor enough to walk up to Malfoy and ask. All she knew was that, as Malfoy had warned, Snape, had not yet made it back to Hogwarts.

"…infiltrating nearly all opposing groups and creating a network of reliable…"

Asps in Gryffindor. Asps in all the houses. Another sore fact she could not pretend Hermione had been lying about. One would think children who were bred by the Dark Lord to help kill, maim and destroy would be sorted into Slytherin before the hat had sat on their heads for more than a moment…or even before it touched them, like her brothers had said it did with Malfoy. How did a killing machine get into Hufflepuff? Ravenclaw maybe, if she had to rule out Slytherin, but Hufflepuff or Gryffindor? If that wasn't a paradox, she didn't know what was. Almost subconsciously, she looked over the people who she knew had not been there at break… could any of them be Asps? Could one be sitting right next to her, snoring? Merlin did she hate not knowing who had been the fruit of You-Know-Who's cruel intentions.

The Monday after Ginny's musing during history, something odd happened at breakfast. An owl dropped a short note in front of Hermione, and about two milliseconds later she was sweeping out the hall. Naturally, Ginny figured she'd follow. She caught a glimpse of her turning a distant corner once she was out of the Great hall, having waited a bit not to alert too much suspicion, grateful that the corridors were long and straight in this part of the castle. When she finally turned the corner herself however, an arm pulled her back, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.

"Not this time Ginny."

"Merlin you scared me Dean… Look, I've got to catch up to Hermione… it's important."

"Which is exactly why she can't have you suddenly showing up or trying to eavesdrop…"

"I don't think you understand Dean…"

"I do…" He said flatly, tapping behind his left ear.

"Meaning?"

"Hermione didn't show you huh? Here." He pulled on her hand, letting it feel the area he had just been tapping.

"What the hell is that?" She demanded, moving his head to actually see the weird scar she had felt when he let go of her hand.

"That's our symbol… according to Voldemort it stands for our infinity…an infinity of power, loyalty and superiority he calls it. The last one is quite definitely bull, but that's what it stands for, anyway." Dean told her off handedly, to her utter horror. "I'm surprised she didn't tell you."

"Y…you…you… you're…you…you're…" Ginny tried to accuse him, shaking as she felt her back press against a wall.

"An Asp." Dean cut off her stutter gently. She pulled away when he tried to touch her hand again, her mind running wild with thoughts of what venoms he might use on her. "Come on Gin, you've known me for four years…"

"No." No she hadn't. How many of her other friends had been lying to her all this time?

"Look at you, ready to bolt… and only a few minutes ago it would have been me you'd run to. You weren't like this when you found out Professor Lupin was a Werewolf Ginny… he's a dark creature, he kept it form everyone, just as we Asps have…"

"He was cursed." She whispered so low she doubted he'd hear her. The professor isn't dark; he has a disease.

"And we chose this, is that it?" Dean suddenly growled, apparently having heard her loud and clear. "Funny, I don't remember telling mum I'd like to be one of Voldemort's little experiments… then again, we all have such control over being born. Merlin, no wonder Lea refused to tell you any names! What now Ginny, going to run off and tell the Great Hall I ought to be dumped in Azkaban?"

"N...no." She answered him at last, pressing herself even more into the wall.

"You should go." He sighed after another moment, his voice level again as he seemed to lose his anger. "I'm sorry I yelled Ginny." He added, softly, "We're all on edge because, because of something you've no more control over than I had being what I am… I shouldn't have blown up at you."

"It's okay…" She found herself saying, suddenly feeling quite worried about him. He didn't look so scary now, without the anger in his eyes, if anything he looked gaunt and tired. "I… I hope it works out."

"If anyone can make it better, it's Hermione." He answered her, a halfhearted smile gracing his face.

"It…it's about Snape, isn't it? Your problem? That's why he's not back yet…"

"He just came back, actually, Lea's with him now."

"Oh. What's wrong with him?"

"Not my place Ginny…" he answered, shaking his head, "Don't pester Lea over it either, okay?"

"I thought only Slytherins call her Lea…" Ginny noted, feeling like she needed to change the subject.

He actually smiled again, "The Asps do too… it's more of a status than a nickname."

"A status huh?" she asked skeptically.

"You really don't get it, do you? You still think Horris is using her…" He commented, reiterating the total Gryffindor view on Hermione's situation. "Let me tell you what I can't in our commons… now she doesn't know this, but I don't think there is one Asp who'd think twice before sacrificing anything and everything to protect her. If Horris is our liege and Draco our prince, she is definitely our queen. And everyone knows it but Horris and herself. She knows when to back off and give Horris some space, but if she tells us to do something that doesn't directly go against Horris, you could bet your ass we'll do it nine times out of ten."

"You're kidding." she told him flatly,

"Nope. She doesn't know how much power she holds, but that doesn't change the fact that she does. Think about it Ginny, how many people do you know that can bring the little sister of the two biggest pranksters Hogwarts has ever known into the Slytherin commons without any opposition?"

"…"

"You shouldn't be here Lea."

"Of course I should." she countered gently, making herself comfortable as she surveyed the room the Headmaster had allowed Horris to stay in. "You're stuck with me, Mr. Snape, whether you like it or not." she added playfully.

"It's not safe Lea, I'm not safe." Horris insisted dejectedly.

"That's never stopped me before Horris," she told him honestly. "If it did, I'd have never given you time to squeeze a word in edgewise before running off." Harry might be a magnet for danger, but she felt just as drawn to it as it seemed to be drawn to Harry…which might partially explain her attraction to him. "I trust you Horris." she told him flatly, "and honestly, you're too powerful to be ever considered harmless."

He snorted, "Thanks, I think…"

"Don't worry, I've been found quite hard to be rid of."

"I'll remember that." he smiled, nodding. "Anything happen while I was gone?"

"You got all the homework, right?" she asked pointy, already thinking up something nasty to do to Draco if the blonde hadn't delivered the assignments. The O.W.L.s were almost here, after all. He couldn't afford not to study!

"I meant outside of school Lea." he assured her, unknowingly saving Draco's sorry behind. "Draco told me how the Asps are and some important events… politically important events."

"Your tired of it." she noted sadly, "Aren't you?"

"Just tired of having to make decisions that could cost lives…"

"No one's died." she assured him, only to see a shadow fall on his face,

"No one's died yet."

"Don't think like that Horris… please."

"I have to; that's the problem."

"Horris-"

"Listen Lea, I know you want what everyone else wants, and believe me, you're doing a far better job than they are, but all of you must realize everything is not fine… All of you want to make sure I don't lose it again, and I hope I don't, but keeping things from me that might upset me won't help in the long run."

"Listen, Horris, we-"

"No. You listen." he shot back, almost threateningly. "Voldemort is planning something big Lea, I think he's moving his plans up and I can't afford to have gaps in my knowledge, not now."

"I'm upsetting you." she said, standing up. Maybe he was right, maybe he needed to be left alone a little.

"Lea," he sighed, sounding far softer now, "you're not upsetting me, Voldemort is. I'm sorry."

"Not your fault…"

"The Asps make me frenzy, did you know that? Dad said it's all the Dark magic in them…" he whispered in response, "the magic I forced into them… even Dad puts me on edge if I don't take the potions." he admitted.

"You didn't 'force' it on anyone… each of them had as much a choice as you did. Just because that choice amounted to nothing, doesn't mean you of all people made that so."

"Still, I can't so much as touch my wand Lea, can't even pretend to use it anymore, and at the last meeting, I needed a double dose and I felt half dead, half-frenzied the entire time. Dad won't let me go to another one without a triple, I know it, and if I take it I'll probably be less than useless."

"You're never useless."

"You've never seen me under the effects of the potion…" he countered wryly. "Believe me, I'm totally useless."

"Horris… maybe we should change the subject…" she offered uncertainly, "something light perhaps?"

"Safe and meaningless you mean." he noted, "Are you scared Lea?"

"Worried about you," she confessed, looking him over, "not scared."

"Everyone else is… even dad to some degree…"

"Scared for you, not of you." she assured.

"I'm officially a walking time bomb now Lea, a dark creature who doesn't even know when he'll blow up and destroy everything around himself… you should be scared Lea, by Merlin I know I am."

"Draco!" Lea demanded, bursting into the Slytherin commons, making most of the occupants jump half out of their respective skins. The blonde's head peeked out of his room, cautiously, only to be unceremoniously pulled out and into Horris' room by his ear.

"Damn it Lea, that hurts!" he complained, only to have his earlobe twisted further and yanked down again.

"It's supposed to." she acknowledged flatly, finally releasing the now-red lobe. "What in hell happened?"

"I warned you…" he tried to remind her, to no avail.

"You never said it was that bad… and why in Merlin's name didn't you tell me Voldemort was up to something?"

"When is he not up to something?" Draco asked dryly, "Besides, it's not as bad as it seems."

"Not as bad as it seems!" she snapped the words back in his face, "I've never seen him so… so helpless, so depressed and so… so… Damnit Draco, even Christmas wasn't this bad!"

"Christmas he could fight."

"What?"

"He could fight Voldemort's onslaught, but no one can control a Soulshadow frenzy…"

"I know that, but you didn't hear him."

"He's not as bad as he seems." the boy repeated once more, "the potion the Professor gives him helps keep everything in control, but when it wears off the suppressed emotions flow more than they normally would have… they need to drain or they'd destroy him. Horris needs the potion to function Lea, but he can't be on it all the time, not without serious repercussions. Both the frenzy and the potion refute his control, the control he is so attached to, the control he needs. You know how important that is to him…"

"Essential." she confirmed sadly. "Still, I can't believe how broken he looked… self-loathing almost."

"Black magic." He told her, "He hates it with a passion, and can't forgive himself for falling under it like this, not being able to overpower it."

"He can't stay like this Draco," she insisted, "it's killing him! There has to be a way to fight it."

"There is…are. That's what he's worried about."

"One way," Draco explained, seeing the puzzled look on her face, "is the one his father is putting him through, while the other is what Horris fears Voldemort will insist on. The first takes months, years even, but gives the person most of their previous control back, even over the frenzy. That's the reason Dark families used to use Soulshadow to make more powerful heirs… that's why those potions the Professor used were developed at all."

"And the second?"

"Nearly instantanious, but it requires an anchor."

"And this is bad because?"

"The anchor can force his will on the other person. Voldemort had a dangerous glint in his eyes last time Lea… we think he might want to insist on Horris being anchored to him."

"Thus being able to control Horris." She finished, sighing heavily,

"And with him, the Asps." he added, nodding. "And since it would take months before Horris could use Dark magic if he chose not to have an anchor, Voldemort's insistence would not only seem valid in the eyes of Death Eater, any challenge would prove deadly."

"Did Voldemort set the next meeting?"

"No, but we all know when it'll be if he wants to anchor Horris… the link has to be made a month after the first frenzy."

"A calendar month?" she asked skeptically, knowing magic rarely followed man-made timetables.

"No, the 29th day standard."

"A Quad-week." she nodded, her suspicion confirmed, "it falls mid-May then."

"Yeah. It can be done a few days before or after the actual Quad-week, but that's when it's most potent."

"So no meetings till then?"

"Not for a few weeks, no. Thankfully, Horris is too dangerous to Voldemort right now, too sensitive to Dark magic. Voldemort doesn't want to risk himself or his Death Eaters."

"At least a little good news then."

"Yeah," he deadpanned, "great."

"So what do we do about Horris?"

"Keep him as close to you as possible… that's the plan anyway."

"Huh?" Lea asked, confused by his simple reply.

"He needs to say away from Dark magic… that's us Asps, his father, a few other Slytherins … and that insufferable Defense teacher; Professor McWhirr. He can stand us if he took the potion, but it's far from pleasant for him, and we have to be careful on what we do. You, on the other hand, not only possess the girlie emotional support instinct to help him, you also help the Dark magic drain out."

"I do?"

"Soulshadow needs Dark magic to feed off of, but it tries to suck it out of exterior sources whenever possible rather than the individual so that it can use the internal supply to frenzy. If no exterior source is available though, it slowly eats away at its own stores, thus lowering that person's Dark magic levels. Out of his friends, you're the purest in that respect so the less time he spends with us and the more with you, the sooner he'll heal."

"But you can't get rid of Soulshadow Draco!" she protested, having heard him say so, as well as having read it in any book that mentioned Soulshadow.

"Not entirely, no." he nodded, "Once you don't have enough magic to frenzy though, you can learn to control it and slowly start using the Dark arts again. Once you can actually incite and stop a frenzy yourself, it becomes an asset rather than a curse… for dark wizards anyway. Another reason why Dark families used to force it on their heirs… the few that became Shadowed had an unbeatable dueling tool in their back pocket…"

"How long will it take?"

"For the Dark magic to drain? Usually about two months, minimum, though the professor says that it'll take another week or so with the potions if we, the Asps that is, stay as far away from him as possible… After that, he has to wait for the Deathfrenzy before Dumbledore will actually allow him back in class."

"Deathfrenzy!" she half-screamed.

"Not what it sounds like." he assured her, feeling as if he'd be repeating that phrase all night. "It's only called that because it's the Soulshadow's last try to frenzy… after that, if the person can stop him or herself, Soulshadow is considered dead and they're considered just 'Shadowed'."

"I never read about that…" she admitted,

"The ministry doesn't care to make a distinction, if it knows there is a distinction at all. If you want to know about Dark magic, you need to go to one of the Dark family libraries… or their vaults, as the case may be. I'm sure Horris wouldn't mind bringing you along some time, the Snape library is world renowned in our circles you know, even bigger than the Malfoy one by thirty-five books and two scrolls."

"He offered." She told him, pausing to process his last sentence. "You keep count?" she asked skeptically, though she simply shook her head at his serious nod. "Figures.." She added, her mind pulling her back to the topic of the 'Deathfrenzy'. "What… what if he doesn't stop it himself?"

"He will." Draco assured her, "but when people can't fight it off in an hour or so the Soulshadow regenerates and they have to wait to drain the Dark magic all over again." he grimaced. "He'll fight it off though, I promise."

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