Ch 18: Questions
The next time he woke , he was alone again. He was also feeling significantly stronger. Hungry, too. He barely registered absently snapping his fingers at the thought when an elf popped in right before him.
"You called, Master Horatius, sir?"
"I…" oh, why the hell not? He was hungry. Why bother arguing with an elf about who he was? "I'd like something to eat."
"Right away, young master, anything in particular?"
The elf was gone before the last syllable was out of his mouth. He returned within a couple of minutes, holding a tray piled high with a whole slew of different foods. All of his favorites, he noted, from the few dishes without bright silver covers hiding their contents. Had Hermione told them what he liked? Maybe it was her attempt to make sure he ate? Either way, his stomach felt empty enough to consume everything on that tray, even if all the elf brought was that awful porridge he would have scarfed it down without fuss. It could still be poisoned though…
The scents wafting toward him lessened his worry over a possible demise. He looked over the tray for any indicators of magical tampering, assuming the likes of Malfoy and Snape (and whatever Slytherins the two were working with) would feel themselves above crude Muggle methods. Even so, he picked the foods that were less likely to contain poisons or potions. Ones that would not help disguise the taste or smell most such brews produced. Ones that would change texture when any liquid applied to them. Then again, Snape was a potions master… Harry highly doubted he could pick up on a slipped potion that man wanted to keep hidden. With a sigh, he looked over his selection one last time and dug in. The food felt wonderful, and Hermione had been right; besides the few spoons of porridge she had fed him he really could not remember when he had last eaten anything.
A gluttonous portion of food later, or what at least certainly felt like one, Harry finally concentrated on less important things, like the fact that he was long overdue for a shower. Just as he was mentally weighing the odds of a pureblood manor having so Muggle a contraption as a shower, he noticed the far wall of the sunken tub. The wall was done in roughish stone exterior, ending above with a shelf that he somehow knew would work as a waterfall, conveniently a foot or so above his head. Even the thought of it made his aching shoulders relax a fraction. He had promised himself he would keep it short, but the rush of hot water felt absolutely wonderful on his skin. It was as if he had lived in the middle of the Sahara for a month and suddenly found water again. An ocean of it. Despite how strange he was finding washing himself while technically not himself, he could not resist taking a few extra minutes to simply enjoy feeling warm and clean as the waterfall beat against his back. On the off chance he forced Malfoy to endure a cold shower because of using up all the hot water, all the better.
His last thought stopped him cold. He was getting lulled into a false sense of security. That had to be it. He hurried out from under the spray, toweled off quickly and put on the set of clothes some elf (or so he assumed) had laid out for him on the bed. Thankfully, the clothes were sized to fit his altered form. Not quite clothes he would have picked out for himself, but at least they were not green or silver or openly pro-Voldemort as far as he could tell. They were also a little too well-cut to have been anything but custom made.
Clean, dressed and fed, Harry decided it was high time to try and make sense of all this craziness. Maybe if he could just organize everything that had happened since this whole thing started, he could make some sense of things. His memories of what had happened before were still jumbled as hell, but maybe his most recent memories could shed some light on things.
Fact; Snape was here, though he distinctly remembered killing the man. Well, he remembered Dumbledore telling him he had killed the man, and the power burst he had unleashed in order to kill him. Maybe the Death Eater had more tricks up his sleeve and went into hiding? But why show himself now? No one as smart as Voldemort would flaunt such a well-hidden advantage; and the Ammodytus had powers through the nose, if what Dumbledore had told him was true.
Fact; Draco fucking Malfoy had injected him with one of those horrid venoms of his. That was basically the first coherent memory he had since being captured, one he was certain preceded his meeting with Snape. But the ponce did not have any venom that could confuse or induce strange memories. Not that he knew of, anyway. Could the Asps be gaining even more strange powers? And while he distinctly remembered pain, he was almost sure it had happened before Malfoy's injection. Then again, maybe he just could not remember the first pain venom, and what he could remember was the blond bastard undoing his own handiwork. But Hermione was there, too.
Another Fact; Hermione was here. Was she a prisoner? Under Imperius? They had read of cases where those under the curse were so well-spelled they actually believed in what they were doing. Then again, some of those accounts were most likely low-level Voldemort supporters looking for an out after their dear Master's first fall. But maybe? Voldemort or his Ammodytus would certainly have had enough practice to develop the finesse required. She certainly had not been acting as one would under duress. If not Imperius, maybe they just magically brainwashed her? He could think of several potions that could accomplish that if they were made well enough… and despite everything he hated about him, Snape was one of the best brewers of their time. Her presence was a curveball he would have to consider later.
He knew he was in Snape Manor. Not as clear on how he knew this, but for now he was willing to trust his gut. He vaguely remembered being here (well, a different part of the estate) when Snape's now-squib sister had woken his birthright, but beyond fighting and being tortured the whole event was just a haze. Maybe he had hidden in this room at some point? Too much conjecture; he needed to stay with the basics. What about why he looked like he did?
They called him Horatius, he was sure even Hermione was about to call him that before she caught herself. Not Harry, Horatius… Horris? He did not know quite where the shorter form popped in from, but his mind equated the two instantly. Maybe Malfoy had said it while he was only half-conscious?
Either way, every mirror he had looked through since this started assured him this Horris was certainly a Snape. Snape's son, from the way the man had treated him. Now that was a disturbing thought. Though is certainly explained why he was here and not chained up in a dungeon; Snape would never let his Heir return to a bruised and beaten body in some dingy dungeon. Assuming his initial thought that this Horris guy was now walking around in a new Harry Potter suite was right, that is. He doubted they would get bespoke clothing for a mere glamor or transfiguration used to confuse him.
Still, even if that was the case, why lie? Why bring Hermione in to try and sell him on this crazy situation? She would most certainly not help any filthy Snape of her own volition. Any Asp would still hold the advantage over some mysterious spawn of Snape, and could certainly detain him without causing him harm. Unless…
Harry had always known that Malfoy was merely posing as the Alpha; that he was merely the Beta throwing weight around he had no chance of backing up if push came to shove… or if the real Alpha showed up. But if the body he was now in really was Snape's son, and he certainly looked to be right around Malfoy's age…
Maybe the reason Malfoy was walking on egg shells was because this body was what Malfoy had spent all his time pretending to be. Which would mean he could shove without so much as letting Malfoy have the chance to think of pushing.
Alpha and Horris equated in his mind as soon as the thought began to form, just as Horris and Horatius had. These epiphany flashes were getting quite unsettling, but he was in no position to disregard them in any way.
But if that was true, why had he never encountered this Horris before? Why keep their most powerful soldier hidden where he could neither direct nor contribute to the fight?
Yesterday, he might have thought that perhaps the Alpha was flawed; ailing and sickly. He might have assumed that the potion had failed or that the power it was supposed to instill was simply too much and the body was left broken and drained. He had certainly felt as weak as a kitten. Today, though, he felt fine. Maybe not at a hundred percent yet, at least not compared to the normal overflow of Phoenix power he had become used to since his first stop at Snape Manor… but able-bodied and fit nevertheless.
Malfoy had mentioned something about his venoms. The Alpha was able to kill with them… right? He remembered that from somewhere. And a truth serum? Maybe he could-
He froze, looking down at his hands. How were venoms released? How did he tell them apart? The Alpha was supposed to have what; eight or nine? How did he pick 'heal' and not 'kill'? Why the fuck had they let Hermione touch him! What if he had accidently secreted the kill venom in his confusion and-
He could not even think of it.
He quickly threw all other questions out of his mind, trying to remember what else he knew about the Alpha, not overly caring how he knew it.
First thing that popped into his head was 'Viper'. It was quickly equated to the Alpha Asp and Horris. He had heard Asps call each other by animal names… so their Alpha was 'Viper'? He would have imagined it would be Basilisk or Ouroboros, though at least it followed the predictable Slytherin snake theme.
Right on the heels of his mind equating 'Viper' with 'Alpha' came rings of fire and a weird flash of being stuck within a tornado. Malfoy could control the elements, somewhat, though Harry had never really seen the Beta use them too much in battle, relying mostly on conventional wandless magic. If the Beta had elemental abilities, however, the Alpha probably had that too. And since Harry could do much the same due to his Phoenix inheritance, that was probably a power he would not need much time learning to use in this body. Same with wandless magic.
He vaguely heard the outer door open just as another piece of information lit up like a pixie on meth in his brain. The Asps had to obey their Alpha; and not in a 'do it or there will be consequences' kind of way. They were hard wired for it, literally, and the Alpha could weed out insubordination with a thought. Hell, he could even kill any of them just by willing it so. All he had to do was imagine that obnoxious blond not breathing and-
A loud crash of some sort of glass being broken just outside made him jump off the bed and open the door to see what was going on. While he had always preferred his wand or that Staff Dumbledore had given him as a gift once he started seriously fighting for the Order, he figured his wandless magic could serve him in a pinch. That, and he was quite sure he'd heard Hermione yelp something just as the glass shattered.
Malfoy was on the ground, flailing, Hermione was kneeling next to him trying to do Merlin-knew what and he thought he heard a third figure running down the hallway through the still-open outer door.
"You!" Hermione zeroed in on him as soon as she saw his head sticking out of the bedroom. She was up and in his face quicker than he thought possible, and she was royally pissed off.
"You stop this right now, Horris. In all my life I'd never thought you'd do something so vile! What were you thinking! I don't care why and I don't care how, but you stop this right now or I swear-" she stopped herself, blinked and grabbed his shirt again to pull his face down to her level, "Let. Him. Breath. Concentrate on Draco breathing."
He blinked at her. It took him another second and a glance back to where Malfoy was now lying still to comprehend what she was saying.
At the loud gasp, Hermione broke off her offensive, going back to Malfoy's side and checking his pulse and pulling several shards of the vase he apparently knocked down out of his arm. She was decidedly too concerned with the snake's wellbeing, but with the glare she sent his way every couple seconds, Harry decided to not say anything that might provoke her further. By Merlin, she should have grabbed him and helped his escape, not gotten mad. She was certainly not supposed to care about Malfoy and his band of evil Asps.
"That had better have been an accident," she told him flatly, doing an uncannily good impression of McGonagall at her worst. "You better tell me right now that you had no idea this would happen, or by Merlin I'm going to... to…"
"M'fine" Malfoy wheezed out to her, still not quite able to ease his breathing back to normal, "go call off your Weaslette before she scares the Merlin-gotten magic out of everyone."
"But…" the look Hermione sent Harry's way made him flinch.
"He's not going to try and kill me twice in ten minutes, Lea," Malfoy assured her, sparing him a quick glance as if checking if Harry would make a liar of him.
"Fine," Hermione huffed after looking from one of them to the other several more times, as if making sure both understood she would unleash the wrath of hell if either tried anything, "but only because Ginny is probably scared witless by now," she agreed, getting up. "Draco had better be fine when I get back," she added to Harry, poking him in the chest for emphasis before also walking out the door. Leaving him to stare at Malfoy still lying sprawled out on the floor.
"Next time, if you don't mind, think 'dead' instead of 'not breathing'," Malfoy told him after just panting for another few seconds, sounding resigned instead of angry, "not only does it work faster, but it spares me the whole slow asphyxiation experience."
Harry watched him push up slowly, take another deep breath, then magic the vase back together before setting it back on a small round table just next to the door. The cuts from the glass, Harry noticed, had already healed as well. Either the whole world had just gone batshit crazy, or Harry was beyond insane. The whole scene made him yearn for one of those funny Muggle straitjackets and a white padded room.
"You alright?" the Asp's question made Harry's mind screech to a halt. Was he alright? Malfoy was the one who nearly died. "You're paler than a ghost. You had better sit down before you faint on me; Lea will kill me if she comes back to find you passed out. And you just saw her temper."
"This is crazy," he finally managed to voice, agreeing with Malfoy's suggestion and collapsing onto the nearest chair.
"A little, yeah," the blond agreed. He really did not want Malfoy agreeing with him; on anything.
"What's your game, Malfoy?" he demanded after another couple of minutes of just staring at the blonde from across the room. Half his mind was raging at him, demanding he end every Asp here and now, save everyone a hell lot of trouble, then grab Hermione and get them both back to Hogwarts before noon. The other half, strangely, was wincing at the glare Hermione had glared at him. How had they gotten her to get so wrapped up in being on their side he wanted to demand, while that same otherness berated him for using such a low-blow on Malfoy in the first place? Malfoy of all people.
"Can you honestly tell me you'll believe a word I say?" the blond countered, still acting far too at-ease with the entire situation.
"No," Harry all but snorted at the strangeness of the situation, "but aren't I supposed to be able to make you tell me the truth?"
"Are your venoms back?" the thought apparently made the blond sit up and take notice.
"How in hell am I supposed to know?" Harry demanded. Did the Alpha have some venom that would worry him though? Harry could already kill him with a thought, and that didn't seem to faze him. What could a venom possibly do that was worse than that?
"You'd know," Malfoy assured him, "though I should tell Lea to scan for them in case they start growing back."
"You've called her that before."
"What? Lea?" Malfoy asked as if confused by Harry's question. "Yeah, I guess with you here it felt right again. Hadn't really noticed I'd been doing it, though."
Malfoy was acting way too comfortable with this whole thing. It was almost like he was chatting up an old friend, not an enemy prisoner. Hell, he half expected the Slytherin to call an elf and order some alcohol for them to nurse as they chatted. A snippet of memory, of him handing Hermione a drink in a strange room in Hogwarts, tickled his memory… fading just as quickly.
"You're letting your Snape side show, you know," Malfoy told him after letting the silence drag on a bit. When Harry refused to acknowledge the comment he continued, "Back when you were Potter you'd have been throwing fits and trying stupid escape plans instead of biding your time and gathering information."
"Are you trying to piss me off?" he asked,
"That would be quite stupid of me, especially with your earlier demonstration," Malfoy waved his accusation off with a smirk, "just trying to get you to see beyond whatever crap Dumbledore's smeared over your eyes. Have you looked in the mirror?"
"Because the Professor would like nothing better than to pretend Harry Potter was his son? Come now, you can probably think of fifty better ways to accomplish whatever it is you think we're trying to do by making you look like a Snape… without involving the Professor or giving you Asp powers." Then, after giving Harry a long minute to grudgingly agree (not aloud, of course) that there were simpler and faster ways to confuse the hell out of him, the blond sighed and sat back in his chair once more, "Now, why don't you ask me what you really want to know about before Lea comes back and we're both too busy acting properly contrite?"