Snape woke to the silver play of moonlight over his face, and for a moment he lay still, hearing only ominous silence in the room around him. He opened his eyes at last and sat up, to be greeted by possibly the oddest scene he'd witnessed in the last day – Harry Potter leaned against the massive grey wolf, stroking the huge head with a trembling hand. And for an instant, Snape glimpsed the boy behind the mask, heard Potter's almost forgotten Gryffindor compassion in the soft crooning note of Harry's voice as the teen ran his fingers over the welts the silver collar and gloves had left on the werewolf's flesh.
"I'm sorry, Moony," Harry whispered to the wolf as he ruffled the silky fur at the wolf's ears. "More than you will ever understand." His voice trailed off as Snape stirred at last. It was true enough that he felt a certain kinship with Snape – both had betrayed their former allies, and allied themselves with their ex-enemies. Snape had chosen the losing side a long time ago. Harry hoped to change that.
"I didn't believe you capable of brewing the Wolfsbane Potion," Snape commented, interrupting the boy's litany of guilt.
"I was always dismal at Potions . . that hasn't changed. Fortunately, Lucius has either a newfound talent for making potions, or a very expensive contact on the black market. It doesn't matter to me – but he'll have to obtain that potion for two, now."
"Someone was bitten? Tonight?"
"You didn't really think I'd try to pry his teeth open and pour that potion down his throat myself?" Harry laughed softly. "That's what new recruits are for, Severus. So eager to please, and so damn guillible. I was never that naïve, Gryffindor or not. The boy who was bitten tonight saw his brother die at my feet for his refusal to obey my wishes. They were very close . . twins. He learned a very important lesson tonight, and he will not soon forget it."
"What lesson is that? That cruelty, and power, are fitting substitutes for sense? That because you are his superior in magic, and in rank, his life remains dependant on your every whim? That wanton violence is the only way of life?"
Harry snarled, a harsh sound every bit as terrifying as the wolf's own. "They were Slytherins, bred and raised to have no will but Voldemort's, and now mine. Do you know how many less than perfect children are slaughtered at birth by their own parents because they don't live up some pureblood standard of excellence? Those nineteen year old boys knelt at Voldemort's feet only a week ago and pledged their wands and their lives to him. One of them has already paid the ultimate price for his decision; the other will be forever maimed for his loyalty to a madman." Harry paused, shrugged. "I care, Severus, I do. But a year ago I saw Sirius killed in front of my very eyes, because I acted on emotion instead of logic. It was logical to kill the boy, and use his brother to make a further example to the rest of the Death Eaters that I will not tolerate anything less than their utmost devotion. Only a few hours ago you asked me if I could kill Granger or Weasley in cold blood. Now I am utterly certain that if I need to, I could."
"So you killed that boy to prove that you can do so without emotion, as blankly and blindly as the Dark Lord does. Yeah, you proved something, Potter – that you are indeed as arrogant as I once named you, and a murderer besides. Good job."
Harry said nothing. He considered, briefly, torturing the arrogance out of the man; 'Crucio' would sound perfectly delightful when applied to this man. His knuckles turned white as his fist clenched on his wand, and slowly he forced himself to relax. Remus would be returning to human form within the hour. It really wouldn't do to have Snape's carcass be the first thing Moony saw upon his transformation. Harry shoved back his sleeve, lightly traced the edge of his Mark with his thumbnail, watching in amusement as Snape fought back a gasp of sudden pain as his own Mark began to turn onyx. Harry slammed his thumb down the scar, smiling triumphantly as pain flared up his arm, almost soothing in its familiarity. The sight of Snape, clutching frantically at his arm, was further balm to Harry's psyche, and Potter was again sitting tranquilly at Lupin's side when the man rose to his feet, human once more.
"Harry-pup." Remus murmured his own pet name for the boy, a term of address he hadn't used since the boy's infancy. "What have you done?"
"What I wished, for once," Harry returned, viciously. "Your Dumbledore is not quite the holy saint you and the Order have long made him out to be."
"Albus is only a man. You can't blame him for Sirius's death, any more than you can blame yourself. Neither of you knew, and both of you would have done anything to save him. You shouldn't have left, Harry. We could have helped you handle it. Why did turn to . . to Voldemort, instead of to us? Why take the step further into a Darkness that has dominated your life from the moment you were born?"
"Because he, at least, never lied to me." Harry snorted. "It was a dead-on surprise when Dumbledore tried to do away with me – I rather expected it from Voldemort. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't. And come, Remus, Darkness is a bit more than you Gryffindors like to make poor children like me believe. The Dark Arts are perhaps the most potent and basic of spells – it is indescribable, Moony, to have a man, a powerful wizard in his own right, kneeling at your feet as he begs you for the lives of his family. And it is the utmost in power and authority, to deny him the family he pleads for."
"Oh my God." Remus backed away from Harry until his back hit the wall and there was nowhere else to go. His glance flicked to Snape in desperation – help me understand, those eyes beeseeched him, but Snape only shook his head. The Potions master looked at the tableau before him, and couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't only make the situation more violatile. Harry had already proven himself willing and able to kill indiscriminately – one paltry werewolf and the bane of his childhood would prove all too easy to destroy should Potter decide to do so. And so they stayed this way for a long moment – Remus staring at Potter in abject horror, Snape looking at Remus with some sympathy, and Harry surveying them both with a condescending eye.
"My lord." Lucius Malfoy rapped lightly at the door, waiting for Harry's approval before entering the room and almost crawling to Harry's feet. "McGonagall has escaped, my lord, and the female auror with her. His lordship is . . most displeased." The wizard's visible shudder made it quite clear that Voldemort's disapproval extended past the prisoners, and fell onto the Death Eaters who had been so unlucky to let them escape.
"Voldemort's temper tantrums have nothing to do with me. If he wants to scream and throw things and toss around a few 'Crucios' here and there, it's none of my affair." Harry sounded supremely bored.
"Yes, my lord, and I know I should not have bothered you with the news, but . . ." Malfoy hesitated, his eyes on the floor.
"Out with it," Harry growled. "Or get out. Your choice."
"My son was among those who failed to recapture the prisoners last night, and I fear that my master's fury will overwhelm his gracious patience with Draco's inexperience."
"You're afraid Draco going to be executed, hmm?" Harry grinned when Malfoy nodded. "Well, thanks for brightening up my morning so nicely. Too bad the brat didn't screw up a job of mine, but for your sake, you'd best be thankful he's Voldemort's problem, and not mine. Voldemort might be cruel – he might even be evil, though I am certainly in no position to be objective about that. But I am, I assure you, far more creative than he. Draco may survive the morning, if he is careful; I don't know. But know now, Lucius – if he screwed up a plan of mine, he would be dead within the week, and not a moment before. You see, I lived with one very sadistic Muggle for fourteen years, spent two months in Voldemort's dungeons. They say that the best torturers are men who have themselves been subjected to the most horrific cruelties that can befall a man. Unless you'd prefer to have your son delivered to you by mail in tiny pieces, I suggest you leave me in peace for the rest of the morning."
For a moment no one breathed, as Lucius went for the door in as much haste as his subservient posturing allowed. Harry wrinkled his nose in disdain as he watched the Slytherin go before he let out a soft laugh.
"Well, that was entertaining," he said with a smile. And, for a moment awed by the obvious power and regal cruelty in his manner, the other two simply nodded.