50 : Compounding Problems
Severus leaned against the far wall of the office, forcing his face to mold into an expression of unreadable calm beneath which he could hide his near-blinding panic. There was something terribly wrong with the way Horris reacted to the potions, and their time had become dangerously short. It was not even due to him being an Asp… it was his blatant dislike of the Dark Arts. The potions relied on the child accepting the power of Soulshadow, and nothing seemed to make Horris do so. He had tried, of course, but one had to accept it within their very soul; embrace it even, and Horris simply could not force himself. Severus could not risk keeping him on the restraining potions for any further than a few days more (though he could not bring himself to tell his son this), and in a little over a week Voldemort would call the meeting. Horris had improved wonderfully at first, for the first week or so, but as soon as it came time to start administering the third potion he fell into a limbo of sorts. The only other method Severus knew of that did not require a blasted anchor, at this stage, was the one most dark families called the Rite of Passage. 'Bad idea' echoed in his mind, playing over and over with a near-frantic edge. Anything that required an imbecile's help was a terrible idea, and Black was as bad an imbecile as Severus could think of. And, unfortunately, the only Shadowed person he could even remotely entrust his son to.
He could not negate his decision now, of course, but the error of his choice still seemed intent on making sure he knew just how wrong he was. Everything seemed to resonate the echo… the Headmaster's bloody twinkle, the roaring fire, the trilling Phoenix… everything. Each of the contraptions the headmaster retained in his office for the sake of scared children (to ease their nerves) seemed only to put him on edge, as if daring him to act the student and bolt. Merlin, he had not felt this paranoid since he dreamed of his (then unknown) son being called to become Voldemort's heir. The thought of the dream still sent bloody shivers down his spine! The flames flared for the second time, the fire's rich green only reminding him once again of the color his son's eyes had once shone with. The knowledge that the beautiful color would never again flare in his child's eyes Severus could not push out, no matter how painful.
"Headmaster," the werewolf greeted after the mutt had come into the room as well, both thankfully unaware of Severus' presence. Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea. He braced himself for what was to come, wondering if he oughtn't have told Draco to give him a sizable escort for this soon-to-be-unpleasant visit. It was for Horatius however, and if his son's well being meant Severus had to admit his failure to the blasted mutt and the wretched werewolf, all in the presence of the holier-than-thou manipulator-extraordinaire, so be it.
"Sir," the mutt nodded to Albus after his pack-mate, a questioning look on his face.
"Ah, welcome, welcome!" the blasted old coot greeted far too merrily. "Now that we are all here," he added while shooting Severus a quick look," perhaps we ought to get things started. Severus?"
Bloody bad idea.Lucius looked at the bloodied boy, wondering why in hell his master did not simply finish off this blood traitor nuisance. True, the child held far more anger towards Potter than Lucius had previously thought possible of a Gryffindor, but what could he say? His feelings towards this miserable excuse for a wizard mattered not, either way. His orders were to have the kid cleaned and healed before giving him his own orders.
"Get up." He ordered sharply, finally making his presence known. "Move boy, I do not have the time to waste watching you stumble about!" he snapped when the red-haired traitor failed to stand immediately. Without another word he spelled open the gate-like door, walking off briskly. The boy had better know to follow… if not, Lucius could always say he killed him for an attempt at escape. When the boy finally caught up to him, Lucius scowled, his revenge on Arthur Weasley draining before his eyes. Such a shame, really, the boy's head would have made such a nice present for the man…
"Take your clothes off boy." he ordered after pushing him into a small room and locking the door, thoroughly enjoying the look of terror that passed on the boy's features. As if a Malfoy would be so perverted! He was told to heal the child and clean the filthy boy, but the child need not know that. The way his cheeks now seemed to merge with his fiery hair was quite amusing, in any case. Lucius could not help but smirk at the boy's distress. When the boy finally had stripped off all the rags, Lucius carelessly shot a strong jet of water at the pale figure with a flick of his wand, refusing to make this last any longer than need be. He made the water (and dirt) vanish with a swish, looking the form before him over for the injuries he was to heal. He ordered the appropriate potions and salves from a briskly summoned house elf, throwing a brush at the young man without ever removing his sneer.
"If you ever thing me so perverted boy," he warned at last, "I shall remover the offending member of your anatomy… you may be sure if it."
The boy's face shifted from red to green, though a furious blush still tinted the cowering boy's cheeks. Oh, how fun it was to humiliate the blasted Weasleys!
"Well boy, do not just stand there, brush that blasted mop you dare call hair and drink the vials on your left!" He ordered, sitting down in the chair by the door. When the second elf came with the more specialized medicines, he would order it to apply the wretched things on the boy's ailments. Lucius, after all, was far above treating the idiot boy himself. If it was up to him, the boy would be long dead, but he knew better than to disobey his lord. As enjoyable as it was to watch the boy squirm as he obviously fought to keep himself erect on his unused legs (apparently knowing better than to sit without permission); Lucius had far better ways to spend his time.Severus fought the urge to retaliate as the powerful left hook connected with his jaw. He agreed with the mutt, he did deserve to be mauled for allowing this to happen to his son, for allowing Voldemort to do this to his son. Dumbledore wouldn't let Black kill him, he was fairly certain, as Severus' death would not go over well with Horris. Besides this, he had enough Asp healing venom to undo Black's worst, and he had to admit that the pain did posses a reconciling quality of sorts… a feeling he desperately needed. A feeling he knew would go away if he so much as tried to shield himself. And in blunt honesty, Severus needed the feeling above all others at the moment, he needed to feel he had not made Horris do this so that he could save himself instead, that he was not using the boy like that. By Merlin's love, he could not take that feeling much longer, not without it eating him from within… he could already feel it festering, deep inside.
"Sirius! Sirius that's enough!" the werewolf annoyingly called, apparently puling the mutt off him.
"Didn't you hear him Moony?" Black snarled accusingly. "Soulshadow! Soulshadow!"
"You're going to kill him Siri!"
"So!" Black continued, Severus heard the two struggle just to his left as he finally let his legs give way beneath him and slid down the wall. At least he had told them everything he was willing to, he mused sarcastically even as the two wonder-mutts continued to bicker like an old married couple. Lupin was wrong of course, it took far more than a few punches to kill him, but the dizzy pounding in his head did make standing quite inadvisable at the moment. He fingered the vial of healing potion, not truly wanting to cheat away the pain, as if taking it would steal any sense redemption. But, logically, he could not remain on the floor. He drowned the bottle after another moment of contemplation, tasting the metallic liquid glide down his sore throat. The pain on the right side of his face, as always, lessened immediately, fading into minor aches and tingles that would be gone in a minute or two. In this condition he stood, straightening his robes as he watched Black still barking at Lupin.
"Perhaps this was a mistake after all." he finally voiced the still-echoing notion. "As much as I know Horris would benefit from your… experience, I am not about to entrust the care of my son to a person whose self-control threatens to fall well within the negatives."
"You should have thought of that before Harry… Horris," Black spat out the name like he would a curse, "came down with this damned thing!"
"It was not my goal to taint him, Black, quite the opposite."
"If you so much as try to blame him for this Snape-"
"I am most certainly Not." he snapped, whirling around, "Unlike you, I am able to admit fault where I deserve it, and am not above asking for help in an attempt to Fix it."
"Soulshadow can't be fixed Snape, you can't re-brew a child!"
Severus silently collected himself, knowing the yelling would soon undoubtedly turn into a full-fledged brawl if this did not cease.
"Unless you agree to help Black, I see no point in any further conversation." he finally stated calmly, staring at the man as a deep-felt silence overcame the room. He waited a moment, perhaps slightly longer than he ought, and left. It was up to Black now; loath as he was to admit it, and he doubted that questionably present brain of his could analyze things without much time and effort.
"Not in the mood, werewolf." he snapped as the man caught up with him.
"I'm… I'm sorry for-"
"Do not apologize for Black, Lupin, I do believe I have already told you how aggravating I find it."
"Do all Gryffindors apologize so profusely?" he asked irritably, thanking Merlin Horris had dropped that awful habit. "Is there a reason I find myself in your insistent presence? Or have you simply come to agitate me further?"
"I've come to thank you, actually… I know how hard it must have been for you not to give in and yell back…and, and I've come to see if you're all right. Sirius did get a few nasty shots in there…"
"The wonders of Asp Healing venom Lupin," he commented of-handily, "I am fine. You may now go and make sure the mutt does not attempt something rash; if he so much as thinks of hurting Horris as he did upon his former visit, I swear I shall not hesitate to allow the Asps to play. And," he added as an afterthought, "I assure you they know curses even I wish had never existed."
"He won't… and he'll do the right thing today, I promise."
Severus sneered. He had wanted to tell him how he ought not promise what he has no control over, especially where Black is concerned, but he did not.
"I do hope you are right, Lupin." he sighed instead, wishing so much needed not depend on the flee-bitten mutt. Merlin, he felt worn… he had not even noticed.The pitter-patter of his padded feet and the soft clanking of his un-kept nails formed an almost soothing sound in the dark halls. Merlin he wanted to bite Snape in the ass… how could he? How? Claiming he loved the kid, making the kid love him, and then letting this happen! He shook his shaggy head, turning another corner on his way to the room Dumbledore told him Harry was in. He still prided himself on knowing the castle so well, able to reach it in half the time. When he got there, the door was half open, though no lights were on. Still, the moon cast soft shadows, the one by the door appearing strangely bulky.
"So, you have chosen to help after all, have you?" one of the shadows seemed to murmur, shifting eerily.
Sirius barked in the affirmative.
"Quiet fool, you'll wake him!" the 'shadow' sneered in a warning whisper, "change back, Black."
"Sneaking around your own son now Snape?"
"Do not test me Black; you are either here to help, or leave."
Damn the man angered him! Sirius knew why he was needed, of course, seeing as he was probably the only Shadowed person not pledged to the Dark side of magic. And if, as Snape said, the potions were not working; he was his last alternative… unless Snape bullied the kid to take an anchor like most dark families. And that, according to the greaseball, would only serve to aid some new indulgence or another of the resident Dark Lord. Sirius was, for the first time, thankful that his father had actually made him go through and subsequently learn everything about the blasted Rite. Few families used it anymore, most preferring to simply anchor their kids to them… supposedly inspiring loyalty. Not the Blacks. His family was even more into preserving traditions than the Snapes…
"I want to talk to him first." Sirius told Snape, transforming back. "Does he even know about this little idea of yours?"
"I did not feel it wise to ask him when you would probably disagree; his opinion of you is depleted enough."
"Can I talk to him?" he asked again, quite sure Snape had not told the boy for a far different reason.
"His name is Horatius." Snape stated, stepping out of the shadows and checking the hall to be sure they were alone, probably with that aura thing he does as well as his eyes. "Not Potter, not Harold, not 'devil spawn' or any other insult your underdeveloped brain can think up."
"What about Godson?" he pressed, not sure if he would get a better chance… hey, the git let him speak to the kid at least, right, in a roundabout way…
Snape didn't answer. Sirius was going to repeat the question, when a muffled whimper escaped the room behind him and Snape's face constricted in annoyance… or was it worry? When he turned back to see what it was, Harry was restless on his bed, emitting little sounds of distress. He didn't really care if Snape wanted to stop him, not right now. He walked right up to the bed; intent on making sure Harry was all right. He remembered how much comfort Harry found in human touch, so he cautiously leaned over and pushed a few stray hairs out before he began to lightly stroke the silky hair. The boy leaned into his touch as Harry always had, making Sirius almost forget everything that had happened. Until the child sighed contently that is.
"Mmm…Dad?" the boy mumbled, still mostly asleep. The lazy words were enough to make Sirius stop mid-stroke, which in turn seemed to alert the boy that not all was as he thought. "Dad?"
Definitely not what usually happened. Sirius did not even want to think why the kid automatically thought it was the old greaseball… Still, Sirius looked back to where Snape had stood, only to see no hint of the man in the shadows. Typical. When the kid needs him (or when the kid thinks he needs him), the git leaves. Only question; did the kid think it was Snape because he usually does this, or (as Sirius was inclined to suspect) was it nothing but a hopeful inquiry since Snape never does.
"Sirius?" The boy finally asked, having woken and sat up while Sirius scanned the shadows for the illusive old bat. Merlin, Sirius had forgotten how the eyes change. No one could see it in his black orbs, but Harry's eyes bore the mark so vividly it shot chills down his spine. His beautiful eyes… Snape be damned!
"What the hell are you doing here? Does dad know about this?"
Great… Sirius wondered what Snape had done to make the first two sentences out of his godson's mouth be blunt accusations when it came to speaking with him. As if he needed Snape's permission to talk to his godson! Merlin, if not for the fact that he'd have to leave to find the git, Snape would find himself with another black eye… and this time he'd hit him hard enough that no potion could undo the damage.
"Sirius!" the boy called again.
"Does Dad know you're here?"
"By Merlin, he keeps you on a short leash…" Sirius noted, only to find himself at the receiving end of the Snape glare, "yes, Snape knows I'm here." he answered.
"Why are you here?" the boy sighed, relaxing. Sirius pumped 'kill Snape' up several notches on his to do list.
"I thought you'd be glad to see me." Sirius ventured,
"Ha-" he thought better of it, "Horris?"
"You hate me."
"No, no… I could never hate you."
"You're lying. You said so."
"Horris." the boy chastised him,
"Horris, I was too worried about you to think straight… I-"
"Didn't think. I know…" Horris finished sadly, "What's your excuse after that?"
"You were shocked, worried, scared, and left. Dad said you just needed time to deal with it…but you didn't. You never came back. Even when Dumbledore held those blasted Order meetings at the castle you made a point of coming last and leaving first."
"Did Snape tell you that, too?"
"No. I felt it."
"Disruption in the wards… I still can't read auras too well, but I can tell the difference between a regular wizard, a dark wizard, a werewolf and an Animagus just by their impression on the wards." He could read auras? Since when?
"You can feel when anyone enters the wards?"
"Only if I concentrate, but whenever there's a meeting Dumbledore acts off at dinner, not to mention some of the other members, though I hardly bother anymore… no point, really. Now, what's your great excuse?"
"I didn't think you'd want to see me." Didn't think Snape would let me see you, he almost said. "And… and I was afraid."
"I know Dad went off to speak with Remus about you at least twice, at least I've seen him sneaking off to Remus' flat twice when he thought I wasn't there. I think he wanted me to think you came on your own… He almost succeeded this time too. Guess all you needed was for Dumbledore to tell you to come; you didn't have any reservations when he asked, did you?"