Forlorn Hope

Ammodytus

6: The Ammodytus

"Ouch! Watch it!"

"Well, if you would just enlarge this damn thing I wouldn't be stepping on your toes Harry!"

"Enlarging such cloaks damages them Ron… honestly, do you read at all?"

"Shhh."

"You sure you know where you're going?"

"No."

"What you're looking for?"

"No…"

"Then why by Merlin are we even down here, after curfew, wandering aimlessly with Filch on the lookout for our blood?"

"You didn't have to come, Ron… actually, I remember telling you not to come."

"Suuuuuure… blame the friend who wants to help…"

"Ron, I'm sure he didn't mean it like that, but you did practically force him to bring you along."

"So?" Hermione rolled her eyes… Ron could be so thick sometimes!

"Shh, I think I found it."

"Found what?"

"The compartment… 'Behind closed doors, beyond the eyes, beneath their ears the potion lies.'… it fits. See, the map said to pull the left ear of the middle mermaid down."

"What about the 'behind closed doors, beyond their eyes' bit?" As if in answer, the two outer mermaids slid forward, allowing the middle one the split down the middle and reveal the door behind her.

"Have you figured out the password, Harry? The rhyme said you only get one try…"

"I solemnly swear I am up to no good." Harry replied, smiling at Hermione, "That's their trick right?"

"Then why isn't it working?" Ron asked quickly. Harry repeated the phrase, this time pointing the tip of his wand at the eyes that were etched into the makeshift door. The soft rumbling, courtesy of some strong silencing spells, returned once more, and the door was pulled right into the surrounding stone wall.

The room was cold and dusty. Endless books seemed to line the walls, and in disorderly stacks on shelves and tables along the walls. Cauldrons, burners, jars of ingredients and vials filled with different fluids lay scattered on the huge desk towards the far corner of the room. Each of the vials, some broken, some intact, was labeled as a student's potion sample would be. For Hermione, this was heaven… for Ron, this was a bore, until he noticed the trunks full of prank equipment. For Harry, this felt like home. Here, he could literally feel his father's presence, Sirius' presence, Remus'… It was sort of like going back to a long-forgotten time where the fear of Voldemort did not consume people, where his name was unknown and the Dark was but a distant threat. A time where kids could be kids- pull pranks, goof off, worry about little more than homework and friends. A time where children did not have to grow up early, did not have to see brutal murders and killings as sadistic idiots tortured innocent people in order to feel more powerful They did not have to be famous before they left the crib, and have everyone who loved them ripped away. A moment later, Harry pulled out of his thoughts, wishing would not change what he was, what he was subjected to. He once again attempted to look for the potion, now he had a good idea about what it did… the Animagus potion… he needed as many secrets as he could get, the ability to transform would be a great advantage indeed. Picking up a small box, he found seven vials filled with a deep purple liquid.

"Herm… when did you say this potion could go bad?"

"Hundred years. It becomes most effective the closer to fifty it is, but after one hundred it becomes useless… and poisonous."

"How about twenty-five?"

"That would certainly help speed up the transformation… newly brewed potion takes years to transform the body, but a twenty year potion… we could be done before school let out for Christmas!"

"Animagi under a year? Where do we sign up?" Ron asked, tearing his nose out of an old Quidditch book that was now a collector's item.

"Right here." Harry answered, tossing him one of the vials.

"I read that we need to physically prepare though… something about fasting."

"You can't eat anything that came from animals for a week- meat, eggs, dairy, etc… The book said to start it on a Monday, not eating anything after you wake up on Friday, not sleeping all night and drinking the potion before going to sleep Saturday after dark."

"You actually remembered that, Harry?" Hermione asked in disbelief.

"I read and reread my books at the Dursleys… not much else to do there but chores, and those haven't been occupying me as long as they used to, I think I'm growing immune to their brand of torture… I actually don't mind the work any more."

"Now that is sad, my friend… when you stop whining about chores."

"So, are we going to do this?"

"Well, I'm doing it either way… I need to be able to change in case Voldie tries to catch me again."

"Don't even say such a thing!"

"And don't call him that!"

"You know he will Herm, I am at the top of his hit list… I wonder who's first, Dumbledore, or me."

"Very funny." She answered dryly, "But the skill will help you. We are doing this illegally, I presume?"

"And… you… you're alright with that?"

"Yes Ron… if we register it will not help Harry, You-Know-Who has spies in the ministry you know."

"If she's alright with it, and will not keep telling us how we'll get expelled, then I'll do it… for Harry."

"Thanks Ron, I really didn't want to do this alone."

"Anytime mate, anytime." Harry smiled what felt like his first true smile in ages.

"Besides, without my help, you two would get expelled." Hermione added, smiling fondly. Each of them exited the room with a dose held firmly in their hands, each wondering what would become of them in the months ahead. Harry barely had time to fall onto his pillow before he was asleep, hoping the dark images would not infiltrate his mind.

Snape had apparated only moments ago, the darkened forest giving him as many chills as ever. Even the inner circle did not go into Voldemort's hideout, wherever that was. Not that he wanted to go there… no thank you… this was bad enough. The large bonfire was raging as always, keeping the forest creatures away while shedding a bloodthirsty light onto the death masks they all wore. Severus had a theory that the flickering flames made Voldemort look more menacing. Enhancing his blood stained eyes and darkening his concealed features.

"Now, my servants…" His cold, terrifying voice cut the air, "You are my most trusted, the inner circle, and the death core." Yes, most trusted… if he only knew… "Some of you," His eyes flickered towards Lucius, "have served me stupendously. Others," his eyes rested just to the left of Severus, too close, "have yet to earn my acceptance, and a few…" his eyes now rested on Snape's right, way too close, "have failed me." Not good… not good at all. Severus was glad they wore the masks, even with them he could tell some of the people were scared out of their wits. "Lucius and select others have heirs that can soon be presented into my ranks. The rest of you…" He let the statement trail off, though everyone knew what would happen next. "Marriot!" He suddenly called, stepping towards a man almost opposite Severus.

"Y-y-yess Master?" Wrong answer. Severus mused, with a hint of remorse idiots never learn.

"Why do you not have an heir to present to me? Did not all my Death Eaters vow their firstborns into my service?" He'd best think of something… quickly. "Must I remind you of my vision? Of the Aspidis?" No… how could we forget? I pity you, Draco, and the other Asps. What you will have to go through…

"F-fo-forgive me my lord… I " Too late. It was a pity to see him die like this, not that Severus wasn't sweating under his own mask… he didn't have an heir either. The Dark Lord continued, walking to each of them with a demand for an explanation. None gave any.

"And what of you, Severus? I would have thought you would have served me better. Did you not have a wife, Severus?" Damn. Bad memories, bad memories… damn.

"Yes Master," His ever silky voice tried to calm the creature,

"Then why are you heirless, my servant?" Damn him… he's enjoying this! Not that it surprised him…

"I…do have an heir, My Lord…" his voice countered respectfully, he knew how to survive the questions. No stuttering, no showing fear, just humility. Wimps did not satisfy the Dark Lord.

"That so, Severus?" He asked mockingly, "then why has he not been shown before me?"

"I know him not, My Lord." Where the hell did my lying ability go? This is the sorriest excuse I've…

"You don't know him? How would this be, Severus?"

"When my wife found out what I was… when she discovered the mark, she fled." Oh yeah, this is really substandard for me… when did I stoop to such petty lies? "My unborn child with her."

"And all this time you did not see fit to find it?"

"I was preoccupied with serving you, My Lord." That's more like it; let's see if I can still save my worthless hide.

"And after my downfall?" Ouch! Not good…

"It no longer mattered to me, My Lord. What good is a new servant without a master?"

"Did you truly think I was gone, Severus?" Yes, and I was bloody happy!

"No Master, but until I could find you…"

"Find this heir now, Severus… I want to see the youngest Snape by your side. I want all my Aspidis by my side."

"I shall try, My Master… " Here we go. Almost as if on cue, terrible pain filled Severus. He knew he could not fulfill the order, there was no child, his wife was barren, and he had the tests to prove it. She had died years before Voldemort's downfall, but there was a rumor that Severus had wed some other girl… started by Merlin knows who…

At least he was alive. He vaguely heard Voldemort questioning another, allowing Malfoy to finish the torture… or was that Goyle? Not that he cared. Pain was pain after all, little did it matter whose wand it came from -- not now anyway. It felt like days had gone by, but at least it was over. Thank Merlin it was over. Severus slowly got up, standing on shaky legs as he prepared to apparate back into the dark forest and take the seemingly endless walk towards Hogwarts. Thankfully, tomorrow would be two back-to-back classes of Gryffindor and Slytherin. Oh joy… even if it isn't Potter's class. Yes, they would be losing points like never before, strange, how calming such a practice could prove, strange indeed. A weary smile spread across his face, a sorry excuse for his usual smirk, but, at present, it was all he could muster with the energy he had. All he could now think of was his nice, soft bed and the special potion that would alleviate the after effects of the damned curse.

"You please me, Ammodytus…" The icy voice of his 'master' spoke calmly, his tone unusually cheery… not that you could ever call his voice cheery. Why the hell did he use that name? He had not been called that since… since, no matter. He was suddenly aware of the childish figure standing by his side, hood drawn, seeming unusually unafraid of Voldemort's cold hand on his shoulder. "Your son is most intriguing." He continued, casting a quick glance to the boy who Severus figured to be in his mid to late teens, "he shall serve me well." The boy dropped his hood, stopping whatever stray thoughts lingered in the Potion Master's mind.

"Are you alright, Father?" The boy asked innocently, concern tincturing his eyes… bright, green eyes. The one little question froze Severus. The boy before him indeed looked like his son. His black hair was pulled back into a ponytail, the fire from the pit sparking dark red highlights. His elegant, Snape-ish brows arched slightly with the prolonged concern, his gaze never faltering. "Father?" The boy repeated, a subtle concern now lingering in his voice.

"Answer him, Severus…" Voldemort pressed, annoyance prominently displayed on his face. Back to Severus, ay? No matter, his old nickname only frightened him now, anyway. He was glad to be rid of it.

"Fine." Snape assured the boy, not daring to anger the Dark Lord, though for the life of him he could not say what he had planned. 'Son' suddenly seemed like a word not meant for his lips to carry, as if he would kill the boy with the mere muttering of it.

"You are happy, aren't you Father?" The child's voice broke his thoughts again, something in his tone warning him to agree. Apparently, Snape's little thoughts on who this boy actually was made him miss Voldemort's question.

"Thrilled." He answered, keeping enough sarcasm in his voice to be able to pull the argument either way.

"I am glad you agree Ammodytus, your son will make a great heir… and for fathering him your position with me shall be undoubtedly raised even higher than your previous standing."

"Thank you, My Lord." Snape forced out of himself, suddenly feeling like he wanted to yank the boy away and never bring him back. He tried to shake the feeling off to no avail, pondering briefly on its nature. The scene suddenly faded, a bright green light filling his vision.

"Father!" The boy screamed, the voice piercing Severus' ears and chilling him to the bone.

Severus shot strait up in bed, his so- the boy's cry still echoing in his head.

"Damn nightmares." He grumbled, shaking off the notion and mentally cursing himself for dreaming it. It was a incredibly vivid dream, but a dream nevertheless. Most likely invoked by the last meeting. Snape rationalized, pouring himself a small shot of the whiskey he kept at his bedside. Sometimes the best potions were not magical at all. Bottoms up. Seeing the flashing five on his bedside clock, Snape wormed out of his silken sheets, slowly preparing to see the Headmaster. No doubt, the old wizard would find the details of last night simply fascinating. Either way the issue would have to be addressed and the sooner he got this over with the sooner he could forget. The details of the blasted dream were already slipping away, the only thing remaining embedded in his mind being the boy's eerily familiar face and that blood-chilling cry. "Just a dream." He hastily repeated, shaking his head to try to dislodge the image.

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