Chapter Eight: A Snake in the Grass
By the time they had reached the dungeons, Snape had given up trying to figure out where Slytherin was taking them. If the Founders could sense the location of their individual pendants, then where could Salazar possibly be going with them? Obviously he couldn't hide them. To destroy them perhaps?
He felt his ancestor shake his head in frustration. "My dear boy, I thought you had more smarts than that," he said. "I said that Dumbledore couldn't hide them. I most certainly can! And no one, not even I, can destroy them as long as their owner's live. Only Helga's pendant could be destroyed now and I have no desire to do that."
Much to Snape's surprise, Slytherin stopped in front of his own classroom and opened the door with a flourish. The Founder entered and looked around the room with interest. "Hmm. Not much different than when I taught here."
*This was Slytherin's classroom?* Snape thought in awe. All these years, he had been teaching in the very room that the Founder of his House had taught in. For some reason, it had not occurred to him before now to wonder what the man had taught in his day. Had he also been a Potions Master?
Slytherin smirked as he crossed the room towards Snape's desk. "Among other things. I taught many useful subjects. Most of them, apparently, quite illegal now."
*Ah,* Snape thought. *Dark Arts.*
Slytherin stepped behind Snape's large, black desk, which presided ominously over the classroom, and looked down at the surface, still scattered with student papers that Snape had been marking. "The four of us would select a group of students and teach them everything we thought they needed to know. We would not teach one another's students."
Snape internally nodded. Of course, he thought. That was how the four Houses had begun. As separate entities. No wonder integration had always been so difficult amongst them. The Houses were never intended to be cooperative.
Salazar reached inside his pocket and pulled his serpentine pendant out and looked down at the desk. With one swift motion of his hand, he cleared the surface of the student papers. Gently, he grasped the pendant and ran it over the surface of the black desk, muttering another incantation that Snape did not recognize.
As Salazar stepped back, Snape's desk suddenly sank into the floor and silently disappeared into the darkness below. Snape could just faintly make out a set of stone steps descending from the edge of the opening. He could not believe that he had spent over twenty years sitting at this desk, never once suspecting that it led to some secret chamber. Immediately, Snape thought about the Chamber of Secrets and wondered if Slytherin had made two of them.
Salazar hissed with displeasure as he grabbed a torch from the wall behind him and began to make his way down the stairs. "Please don't remind me of that. One dead Mudblood and a stiff cat." He shook his head, "Disappointing. Very disappointing, indeed."
The spiral stairs twisted down into the darkness for what seemed like ages until it finally deposited them in a long, arched hallway. The workmanship of the stone walls suggested to Snape that this particular part of the castle had been constructed a very long time ago. Corbel vaulting at the end of the passageway suggested that it had likely been constructed during the Roman occupation of England. Snape found this fact interesting since they had never actually occupied Scotland, the country where Hogwarts resided.
Snape felt something stir in the mind of Slytherin at his musings, but could not put his finger on what it was. It passed without a further inkling, however, and he let it go without comment.
The passageway seemed to wind and swerve in many different directions before breaking off into separate tunnels. Slytherin steered them through the maze without a second thought, obviously very familiar with the passages. Snape wondered if anyone else actually knew about them.
"No, dear boy," Slytherin responded. "Just me. These were my personal chambers." Snape assumed by that he did not mean his living quarters.
"Right again," Salazar smiled as he manoeuvred them through a particularly complicated set of turns and twists. "We all had our own spaces in which to work undisturbed. Their locations were not known to the others though I suspect that Rowena had some sort of tower that only appeared when she requested it. I'm certain when I was returning to the castle one evening that I saw a large copper-coloured eagle fly from a tower I'd never noticed before."
Snape's mind perked up at this. A large eagle? Were the Founders Anamagi as well?
Slytherin sniffed in irritation, "Of course we were. There's nothing witches and wizards can do today that we could not do better!" he said indignantly. He finally gave a small half-shrug, however, and said, "Mind you, we can't change anymore, since we're no longer in our own bodies."
A large wooden door appeared out of the gloom of the dimly lit passage before them and Salazar halted. He once again lifted his pendant, still clutched firmly in his hand, and held it against the door. Another muttered incantation brought a low rumbling from beneath them and the sound of a thousand locks being clicked open somewhere behind the door. With a moan, the heavy door slowly swung back into the room beyond and Slytherin strode forward confidently. As soon as his foot hit the floor of the chamber, several torches sprang to life on the walls and dimly lit the interior of the space.
The room was somehow exactly what Snape had expected. A dark but luxurious area lay before him, decorated with lush greens and muted silvers. Overstuffed furniture competed for space with desks, bookshelves and work surfaces. One wall was devoted exclusively to the sorts of grotesque jars of pickled creatures that usually adorned Snape's own office. These, however, had been tinted to hide the contents and were mostly concealed behind soft tapestries. Snape could only imagine what sort of things Slytherin had "worked" on in this chamber.
Slytherin evidently decided against enlightening him and instead moved to the middle of the large room. He turned on the spot, taking in every detail of the space around him. "Hasn't changed a bit," he marvelled. "Not even any dust."
With a reminiscing sigh, Salazar moved to a large black desk, a practical duplicate to the one Snape himself sat behind in his classroom somewhere above them. Without ceremony or comment, Slytherin reached into his pocket, produced the Pendants of Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, and dumped them on the shiny black surface. When placing his own pendant on the desk, however, he used decidedly more care, turning the serpent so that its emerald eye winked up at him in the torch light. He gave a little smile at the sight of it and tuned back to the door.
Snape could not help but wonder what had been accomplished by hiding the pendants in Slytherin's personal chamber. If the Founders could sense the location of their own pendants, then would they not simply find their own way down here?
"You weren't listening as usual, my boy," Salazar chided, the smile still playing across his lips. "When we created our private chambers, we all agreed to a binding spell that would prevent us from ever finding one another's spaces. To ensure privacy. Once inside this chamber, I disappear from existence, along with everything I am carrying."
Snape felt himself sigh. This old Founder was certainly worthy of the title, "Original Slytherin". Wily did not do him justice as a descriptor.
With another flourishing wave of his long-fingered hand, Slytherin opened the chamber door and strode through it, his chin high and determined. "Now that we are free of the meddlings of Dumbledore, we have a few things we need to do, my boy."
Snape hardly bothered to wonder what "things" Slytherin was planning on doing with his body. With the Pendant of Slytherin now effectively out of the reach of Dumbledore, he knew his time upon the Earth was nearing an end. Not that this feeling was unfamiliar to him, mind you. He had felt for many years now that his role as spy would eventually lead to his early demise, but he had never envisioned someone walking off with his body at the end of it.
Though he had spent his entire life loathing everything about it, Snape was suddenly beginning to reassess how he felt about his own body now that someone was about to relinquish him of it. Yes, his nose was pretty large, but it definitely went with the rest of the face, didn't it? And why had he not fixed his teeth a long time ago? The repairing spell was so simple and the resulting pearly whites were really quite impressive, if he did say so himself. He didn't even want to think about the hair. Just because his father had constantly referred to it as 'greasy horse hair', didn't mean it actually was. He wondered how many middle-aged balding men would give their left arms for his head of thick, glossy black hair. Why had he proven the old bastard right by refusing to take care of it properly? And his voice. A woman he had known once (and effectively driven off with a nasty remark) had actually described it as being what silk would sound like if it could talk. *Dammit!* he screamed internally. *I don't want to lose my body!*
Slytherin was silent and did not respond to Snape's sudden burst of frantic desperation. Instead, he leisurely negotiated his way back through the maze-like passages, humming softly to himself as he went. "To the library first, I think," he said calmly. "There's something I need to check. If I'm right, and I know I am, the day of reckoning has arrived for many."
Snape felt an alarm bell go off in his conscious. Reckoning? Reckoning for what?
Salazar clenched his fist, anger suddenly coursing through him. "Some have wronged me, Severus. Wronged me quite severely. And severely is how they will pay."
Who will pay, Snape thought desperately?
Slytherin grinned, "People very close to you, my dear boy. It is time for those responsible to be held accountable and I don't think they'll like what's coming." He shook his head fiercely, his nostrils flaring with anger. "No, I don't think they shall like it at all."
Snape swallowed unconsciously. He was not the only one in danger. He had to warn Dumbledore. But, how?
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