Forlorn Hope

Appeasing the Gray

51 : Appeasing the Gray

"Damn you Snape." Black snapped as he entered Severus' study, slamming the door behind him.

"Damn yourself, you mangy mutt." He replied in turn, not looking up from his potions text.

"The boy I knew wouldn't have been brainwashed so easily Snape, what-"

"Which should lead you to realize I had tried nothing of the sort." Severus told him emotionlessly again, pretending to have missed the makings of a far more serious accusation. He could not afford to lose his temper with Black now, not if he was to have any hope of helping Horris. Plus, there was the added bonus of his lack of responsiveness positively enraging the mutt, far more than his usual insults… still, knowing what feelings Horris currently held for the man, Severus could not play this game too long. A quick glance at the clock told him Horatius would soon be taking the potion; he would speak with him then. As much as he wished to have Black's freedom to comfort the boy, the mark on his arm radiated far too much Dark energy to see him without the potion.

"Your 'talk' did not fair well, I take it?" Severus asked, once he finished the section of his potions text, finally looking to the previously-ignored man.

"As if you didn't know damn well how it went." Black spat back, sulking and fuming at the same time.

"I shall speak to him then." Severus stated simply, putting the book away and stepping towards the door.

"You'll what?"

"Speak. To. Him." Severus repeated slowly, "Honestly Black, I had not thought prison to digress your vocabulary to such a degree. My condolences to the werewolf; to be straddled with so ineloquent a companion."

"You're asking for a black eye Snape." Black growled.

"Oh, I am certain that would return you to my son's good graces" he brushed the remark aside easily, unaffected in the least.

"As if your 'talk' with him will help things."

"For all our sakes, Black, it better."

"You serious, Snape?"

"Yes." Severus answered in a fully level tone, not lying in the slightest.

"He thought of you as a father once Black, he does not have to mention the fact it is so obvious, and your blunt rejection hurt him far more than even he realizes. You are a selfish, stubborn Gryffindor Black, but he loves you, no matter how much you hurt him. Furthermore," he lectured on, not allowing Black a word in edgewise, "the only way for him to control this blasted Soulshadow involves your help and him trusting you. Seeing as you obviously cannot manage an adequate apology, I am compelled to placate him on your behalf. For his sake. And for your information, Black, if that supposed brain of yours is even capable of understanding this, I have had to do this quite a number of times between your disappearance and the present," he added for good measure. "Now get out of my study."

To his utter surprise, the mutt actually obliged.

"Horatius?" he asked tentatively, not seeing his son anywhere in the room.

"Dad? I'll be out in a minute." his son's voice called to him, the bathroom door soon opening to reveal Horris, still drying his hair. "Hey, dad."

"Horatius." Severus greeted in turn, tilting his head fondly. "You have taken the potion I presume?"

"Yeah Dad, though I didn't expect you for a little while yet… um, are you here because of Sirius? You do know he came, right?"

"Yes, to both, though mostly to relay the purpose of his seemingly spontaneous arrival."

"Dumbledore called him."

"He told you this?" Severus asked, baffled. How stupid was Black?

"Nah, but he didn't deny it either. Besides, I doubt anything less would drag his arse back…"

"You have done as I've requested and stopped trying to spy on the Order meetings, correct?" he asked, eyeing the boy sternly,

"I'm not that good Dad," his son teased in response, "I haven't tried anything since Spring Break."

"But you have been keeping up your Aura studies, yes?"

The boy nodded eagerly,

"Have you discovered any new colors?"

"A few shades, and they're getting more defined now, but no actual colors."

"As expected." Severus nodded approvingly, "I expect you shall be able to see the entire spectrum by this time next year."

"You think so?"

"At this pace, I am sure of it, as long as you do not become lax in your practice." Severus nodded once more, a small smile tugging at his lips. It faded however, and he sobered once more.

"Now about Black…"

"Da-ad…" his son moaned,

"I know better than to expect you to forget his earlier actions Horatius, but if you never forgive him, I fear you may well turn into me."

"There's nothing wrong with you!"

"Do now act the fool Horatius, I am cold and bitter; you know not how often those traits have turned against me."

"But…"

" You are better than this Horatius, by Merlin I refuse to allow you to reduce yourself to such idiocies. What Black did was wrong, I agree wholeheartedly, but you shall never heal if you deny yourself like this."

"Deny myself?"

"Do not raise your eyebrow at me young man; and you know very well what I mean. You are hurting yourself more than you hurt him Horatius, you cannot continue like this anymore. I am not asking you to pretend that what he did never occurred, nor to confide in the man as you once did if you do not feel comfortable doing so; but, you must trust him not to hurt you if he is to help with the Soulshadow."

"I know," the boy practically whispered, "It still hurts though."

"Yes, it always does." Severus agreed. "It will hurt until you are ready to accept what the person in question did and move on."

"I don't think I can, Dad."

"You will, one day, when you are ready."

"I hope so, Dad," Horris sighed, "It hurts most that it took Dumbledore's meddling to get him to come though."

"If he had not cared for you, Horatius," Severus placated, "He would not have sought out your forgiveness."

"But he-"

"Acts before he thinks and is too stubborn to stop half-way. In other words- a Gryffindor." Severus noted in an offhand manor, as he did each time Horris turned his thoughts down this path.

"What is he here to do, exactly?" Horris asked after a short silence.

"An extra alternative I had nearly forgotten of, I must confess. As you seem to have stopped responding to all but the suppressive aspects of the potion, I do believe this may prove our greatest hope at this time."

"Is there an anchor?"

"No. I promised you would not need to be anchored and I mean to keep true to my word. This procedure, the Rite of Passage as it is called, involves a temporary link with someone formally Shadowed, but it lasts only the length of the procedure. The said person has a little control over your emotions while linked, but once it is over the connection severs completely, as if it were never there."

"Sirius is…"

"The Blacks were notorious for Shadow-heirs, child. He was probably younger than yourself when he underwent this as well."

"Younger?" the boy asked incredulously,

"The younger the person, the less power he initially receives and the easier he is to keep under control. Some families do so before the child even receives their Hogwarts letter or on the summer before they attend the school. Suffice to say, Black can answer far more of your questions than I, if you ask him." Severus sighed, watching his son mask his face with his hair. The boy really ought to cut it, Severus noted, as it was already nearly grazing his shoulders. That was past the social norm for young heirs, and as Severus was not anxious to grow his own out further than it was, his son's threatened to fall lower than his own. In 'polite society', of course, this would indicate Horatius to be the head of the house, quite an insult to a man of Severus' age and stature. Still, with all that had been occurring around them, such minute social details seemed quite obsessive and irrelevant for Severus to pay much heed to.

"I had hoped," Severus continued, turning back from his stray musing, "your earlier encounter with Black would flow along such lines, but obviously it has strayed instead into far different territory."

"Maybe I shouldn't have accused him so much…"

"Perhaps you ought not have." Severus agreed gently, "He does care for you Horatius, in his own way, loath as I may be to admit it. The procedure is not without its costs, you must realize, most of which are experienced by the patron party."

"When does he want to do it?"

"It is best done at the Quad-week, but seeing as Voldemort will most likely wish to use this day to anchor you to himself, we shall do it a few days prior, hopefully still allowing you enough time to recover before we must face our beloved Lord…" he finished, sneering our 'beloved'. "This shall be extremely complicated, but this may prove the only solution."

"What do I have to do?"

"For you the preparations are rather simple; rebuild your trust in Black, for it is crucial to put your wholehearted faith in him at a time when things may become…difficult, and you must try to rest as much as possible. You will need all your strength if this is to have any chance of success," Severus told him, standing up. "Now, the potion shall wear off soon, so I had best be on my way, son. I will send Black back shortly, and I expect no further problems from either side."

"Yes sir."

"Lea?" Draco asked, walking right up to the Gryffindor table as if he'd owned the slab. Several of the older boys scowled; most of the younger students too afraid to do anything but force their eyes to stay squarely on their plate. She thought it quite funny, actually, seeing his presence entice such varied responses from those who thought her cowardly to go to the Slytherins (or, more precisely, to Horris and Draco). "A word, if you would, alone…"

"Give me a minute to finish lunch Draco, I'll meet you in the hall outside," she responded, matching his tone.

"Don't take too long," he countered lightly,

"The sooner you let me finish my food, the sooner I'll be done Draco." she replied in turn, taking a small sip of her juice. She didn't miss the questioning look Dean and Angelina sent him, nor his curt refusal to acknowledge them. This, almost by default, translated into something happening to Horatius, and Draco not daring to tell a soul before her. Rightly so, too, or he'd never hear the end of it…

"What's wrong?"

"Dumbledore is plotting again. He's sent someone to help Horris with the… you know… and he won't be allowed any visitors after today until this thing's all done and over with; something about fixing the room's magic flows and a lot of other crud. Not even the Professor will be allowed in. Only some lackey of the Headmaster's who happens to be Shadowed…"

"I don't like it."

"Neither do I, but we can't change it, not now. I guess we'll actually have to put our faith in Dumbledore not to screw us over on this one… Anyway, he wants to see you; the professor already talked to him a bit ago."

"Now?"

"Certainly not tomorrow Lea."

"Right…"

to you I've probably been the most unfair of all. I'm sorry I lied, I'm sorry I screwed everything up so much Lea, I truly am. Hopefully you won't be utterly infuriated while reading this, but if you are I'll understand perfectly. I can't claim to regret my choice though, hopefully you understand that, you know how I hated being the 'Boy-who-lived' after all. Merlin, it feels like a lifetime ago. I doubt I'd even respond to 'Harry' anymore.

Don't take this out on Dad either Lea, please, treat this as my last request if that's what it'll take. It really wasn't his fault I got involved this way; he was actually determined to keep me away at first for my protection, even at the price of his own life. It was my choice not to tell you (with Dumbledore's meddling, but my choice still), so don't blame him for that either. If you hate me, I'll understand, but don't hate him or Draco. Draco cares for you, truly he does, and he didn't know any of this either. Trust him, even if you can no-longer trust in me. He'll protect you, all the Asps will, no matter how I died.

I've never required anything of you, but I do so now. I demand you live Lea, live and enjoy life. When I see you next, decades and decades from now, you are to have long gray (ever-bushy) hair with hundreds of laugh lines accenting your face, and a million stories about your husband, kids, and your life. When your time comes, I want you to do what you always have done for me at Hogwarts; tell me everything I've missed, and transcribe it in my heart as if I had been there myself. As I haven't had much a childhood, I've always known my future would prove bleak. I was either going to die or live a half-life as a bloody icon for the Wizarding World. I actually prefer death. I honestly believe I lived a better life than I could have wished for or even imagined a few years back; with such friends, and Dad, and everything. I'm happier now than I ever remember being, truly. Lea, Hermione, don't waste your tears on me.

Horatius Ferox Sna-

"Horris?"

"Oh, hey Lea." he answered her; finishing quickly and waving a hand to magically dry it before quickly sealing the last of his letters in an envelope. "I thought you'd still be eating…"

"Whom are you writing to?"

"A good friend from before I came here…" he told her, not really lying.

"Mind if I ask why you're writing to this person now?"

"I have a few facts that I need to clarify for her…"

"Do I know these facts?"

"No Lea, but you'll know soon enough, I promise." And when you do, he mused sadly, you'll wish you didn't know at all.

"Does Draco know?"

"Do I look suicidal or stupid?" he asked sweetly, "You know you are always the first to know most things."

"Apparently not before her…" Lea pointed out, causing Horris to have to fight the urge to chuckle.

"Timed letter," he assured her, "I assure you it will not come to her before you."

"Couldn't you just tell me, Horris?"

"No Lea," he insisted, knowing it hurt her but not ready to let her know. "It's too soon. Besides," he added on a lighter note, "I asked you here to talk before I can't see you anymore, not to fight over a silly little letter you'll wish you never saw."

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