"You really ought to get some rest… he's been out for two days now." Remus whispered, placing a hand on the man's shoulder, only to feel him tense even more. "You okay?" The other man shook his head.
"It's… hard," He answered dejectedly, "He looks…just like him. He can't be anything but Potter's."
"The real him looks just like you." Remus replied, a sad smile on his face. "Albus had to put some charms on him Severus, he didn't do it to make this any harder on you."
"I know, Lupin. It's just… How does one tell him that his entire life has been little more then a lie?"
"As long as you don't try to slither out of this by tossing him a letter or (Merlin Forbid) letting him read that bloody journal I'm sure you'll do fine." Remus warned, his tone hinting at a possible threat. "He deserves to hear it from you, not from some ink and parchment. Just be patient and remember how you felt when you found out… It'll be even harder on him, much harder."
"He hates me."
"Sorry to disappoint you," Remus countered, barely hearing the cold accusation, "but Harry only hates Voldemort… and perhaps his uncle… You he merely dislikes by default. You have done your best to achieve this, by the way. He thinks you hate him though- you might want to remedy that."
"I don't hate him." The potion master replied, his voice a pained whisper. He couldn't believe that the damn werewolf could take this so lightly… though he wasn't the one who had to tell the boy. He did have to suffer through my episode though… He reminded himself sardonically, and a part of him found that the man's light attitude did help slightly… very, very slightly. Not that Snape would admit this….
"Why are you so damn cheery, werewolf?" Snape snapped suddenly, "This is a serious situation!"
"Well someone has to be… ripping your hair out over it will not help, Severus, neither will sulking about it. Harry-"
"We ought not be discussing this here, Lupin." Severus countered suddenly, earning himself a stifled snort from the canine.
"Sure, so many people eavesdrop on the hospital ward at…" He cast a glance at his watch, "two thirty in the morning."
"…" Oh how Remus hated Snape's glare!
"Fine!" He threw his hands up in defeat, "Your quarters, or mine?"
"Mine are closer…"
"And right next to the kitchens. Even I know how the elves get harassed by midnight moochers." Remus turned a pale shade of pink, "And I could wager that not all of them are students."
"Fine, your quarters it is- lead the way, though I still say you're overreacting…"
"I see you've cleaned…"
"Not all people care to live like pigs, Lupin; perhaps you ought to spend less time with the mutt."
"Leave Sirius out of this… I don't even want to think about what his reaction would be like… you're usually very controlled, he is a short-tempered extrovert."
"Oh Merlin," Severus instantly paled, "he doesn't know…" The same expression crossed his face, being swept beneath his mask only a split second later. The one Remus had seen on him when Snape found out about Harry.
The man, who eternally kept on the emotionless mask of total control, fell unceremoniously into a dark leather chair, his eyes downcast and sullen. Neither moved nor spoke, Remus not daring to disturb the unnatural silence that seemed to encompass the chamber.
"Leave, Lupin." The cold voice felt worse than silver to the werewolf. He could see the gears turning in the potion master's face. He wished the man would do something, anything… instead he simply fell back into his protective shell and kept from Remus any hints that could prove how he was dealing with all of this. "Now!" Remus got up instantly at the sudden strained outburst. Making a mental note to check up on him, he left the man to his troubled thoughts. Remus knew attempting to stay would prove fruitless. He also knew Severus… the man would probably figure out everything by the time he came back. That's just how he was: independent, stubborn, and surprisingly good at divining the truth. Letting Severus cool off and figure this out on his own was the best way- not to mention least hazardous to Remmy's health.
Two hours seemed like a good cool-off period. After several unanswered knocks, Remus let himself into Snape's rooms, a bit worried about the lack of reply. Upon entering the chamber, the werewolf stopped mid-step, his eyes akin to a deer caught in headlights. The man sat where Remus had left him, a now-empty bottle and half-drank shot glass by his side. One would think he had not moved at all if not for the condition of the room. The usually tidy professor sat in the middle of what could be easily mistaken for a battlefield. Parchment, books, glass, cloth, pictures, utensils, and statuettes (torn, broken, or otherwise) lay scattered around the floor. Excluding the chair in which he sat and the small table beside it, every piece of furniture that was not too heavy had been knocked down or broken. Portraits hung tilted or lay leaning on the wall from whence they fell. The elegant tapestries, some of ancient origin, hung charred and frayed.
The sound of shattering glass pulled Remus' attention back to Severus, just in time to see him launch the empty bottle to rejoin the now shattered shot glass. Another crash.
"S…Severus?" The potion master had obviously been oblivious to the extra presence in the room. For once, his face did betray the impact Remus' calm yet fearful voice had on the man. Just as fast, it was gone.
"Lupin… you're early. I did not…expect… you for another hour."
"Are you alright?" Remus asked, ignoring the man's comment.
"Venting, werewolf, ought not be a public spectacle." He replied sarcastically, obviously wanting the intruder to go away.
"This is the second time today you've drunk way too much Severus…"
"For your information, the amount of alcohol I have consumed in my entire life does not add up to anywhere near what the four of you idiots poured down your throats on an average trip to Hogsmeade." He sneered. The man had drunk enough to be so far past drunk that he was actually behaving normally…and that was scary. The worst part was; he was probably right.
The awkward silence returned to the room as Severus organized his thoughts and Remus looked on sympathetically at the man.
"That boy was-"
"Harry." Remus confirmed. The somber mood weighed heavily on both, but Severus' conclusions needed to be correct.
"Now Severus…" Remus started, about to lecture him on his well-known misgivings on the poor child.
"You don't understand." He cut him off, "This isn't about him being the bloody 'Boy-Who-Lived'."
"Then what Snape?" Remus demanded.
"He's my heir." Remus nodded, not really seeing the point. "I was a Death Eater, Lupin; I was in his inner circle- still am…" Remus nodded, now thoughtful. He, like the rest of Albus' group, knew of Snape's spy status. "We all swore him our first born… that makes the boy a bloody Asp!"
"Severus…" Remus tried to calm him, "be reasonable, it's not like Harry would ever turn… who cares if Voldemort thought he'd serve him, he-"
"Asps are not Death Eaters, Werewolf; Aspidis is not just a name!" Snape snapped suddenly, his knuckles turning white from gripping the chair. "It's in their blood damn it! All Death Eater children are promised as Death Eaters; only the firstborn of his best and most trusted servants were to be Asps. He had enough servants; he wanted commanders, people whom he could trust to make major decisions without constantly consulting him… They are not exactly human, either. "
Before Remus could ask Snape continued, his rant taking on a lecture-like quality as the subject swayed ever farther from the fact that his son was one of these… things.
"They were supposed to be given abilities that set them above Wizards- powers that would help them in battle, life, and loyalty. No, he did not tell anyone what they were, even us, but he did dictate that there would be twenty: two leaders and eighteen followers. The point is, Aspidis are not just wayward teens… and no matter what, Harold is an Asp."
"Damn." Remus echoed Snape's earlier declaration gaining a nod from the latter.
"That's one more I have to keep an eye on…"
"How… how many do you know of?"
"I know at least four were killed as babies at the end of Voldemort's reign, the surviving ones are all Hogwarts age- fourth, fifth and sixth. I know of six besides Harold; three Slytherins, two Ravenclaws, and a Gryffindor."
"Thought they'd all be in Slytherin did you? She's actually one of the chasers… doesn't that just ruin your little assumptions about the noble Gryffindors?" He questioned slyly.
"Wormtail already did that Severus." Remus replied dejectedly, "But we are getting off topic…"
"You don't have to worry Remus; I threw out all the hard liquor before I went to the hospital wing." Snape monotoned, pulling Remus back to the present.
"You looked like you were trying to mentally deplete my stores Lupin, just thought I'd save myself from having you raid this place in search of a non-existent stash of booze."
"Oh. I didn't-"
"Don't." Severus cut off the apology, "we have other things to discuss; namely, Harold."
"Will you ever stop that!" Snape raised a brow "Stop calling him Harold."
"That is his name, Lupin, in case you've forgotten."
"Just call him Harry."
"Don't tell me what to call my-" He stopped himself abruptly, "just… I'm calling him Harold." He finished weakly, a far off look where determination resided moments ago. Remus stopped the subject, deciding to bear with the name for now. The man went through a lot; he didn't need Remus to add to his problems.
"How are you going to tell him?"
"Why, Lupin, must it be I that does this? Would it not be better to have him hear this from a person he trusts? You, Albus, someone whom he will assume is not just doing this to spite him?"
"You… you believe he'd think that?"
"He does think I hate him- you said it yourself."
"But… no, it's not a good idea. He will take it better coming from you."
"And how, pray tell, did you come to that conclusion?"
"You really don't know the boy…" Remus mused. "He is a lot like you, you know… he just hates when people keep things from him, never shares his problems unless someone forcefully reels it out of him, a sharp mind and a sharper wit- any of this sound familiar?"
"He does not have a sharp wit!"
"Oh yes he does… he just has Lily's tact and some hard-learned lessons to keep it subdued. You ought to see him when he's really tired or really mad at someone…I sometimes think it's only his looks and modesty that prevented people from figuring out his true parentage."
"Yes, modesty. He never liked being in the spotlight, Severus, just like you, he'd rather stay in the back and blend in with the crowd. He doesn't try to draw attention to himself; he just gets it. He is actually quite shy."
Remus paused, yawning. "Look, we had better get some sleep. We can figure this out tomorrow… Albus wants to see us first thing and it seems important. The moon's in two days, so this really can't wait and I doubt Harry will remain in his present state for long."
"I hope so Remus, I-" He stopped, eyes widening, as his hand instinctively gripped his left forearm. Remus understood exactly what was happening, silently cursing. Severus really had been through way too much as it was, he really didn't need this… "Damn, he's calling."