Chapter Thirteen: Going Back
Upon reflection, nothing that happened after hearing Godric at the door and before finding himself on the receiving end of a face full of freezing cold water should really have surprised Snape. After Gryffindor had forced the door open and strode haughtily into the room, Snape had actually held out a brief moment of hope that he might be able to speak to the man before Slytherin awoke. Naturally, however, the young fool had done just about everything in his power to naively thwart his efforts. Between laughing uproariously at Slytherin's inebriated condition (a laugh which sounded suspiciously Potteresque to Snape's ears) and delivering pious lectures about the inappropriateness of ingesting large amounts of alcohol, Gryffindor had basically found himself much too busy to notice Snape's attempts at communication. Indeed, with the man running circles around the room looking vainly for the Pendants, Snape had only managed a pathetic and croaky, "Bendants ur in by glassrum, stoopud!" before letting his head fall back onto the carpet with an aggravated grunt.
Additionally, as if being utterly ignored by Gryffindor was not bad enough, once finished with his search and satisfied that the Pendants were not present, Godric had proceeded to grab Snape by the ankle and unceremoniously drag him into the bathroom. Even the Potion Master's desperate attempts to try and inform the brainless git that Slytherin was not currently in charge of the body being hauled into the tub were met with a brainless lack of awareness on the part of the younger Founder. When he had forced his mind to stop reeling from the dizziness long enough to insist that, "I'm Snabe, you foo!", the young man had smirked and said, "Yes, Salazar, I know you're a snake," and turned the cold water onto his face.
And so now Snape sat drenched in his own tub, acutely aware that his single chance of outwitting his illustrious ancestor was currently washing down the drain with the glacial water. As Snape suspected would happen, at the first touch of freezing cold water on his skin, Slytherin abruptly awoke and, not surprisingly, took immediate charge of Snape's body. He flew into a sitting position in the tub, choking and sputtering water out of his open mouth. "Dammit!" Slytherin swore as he swiped at his eyes. "What in the hell is going on here?" As he cleared the water from his eyes, Salazar focused on Gryffindor's smug face hovering next to the tub.
"You were completely smashed, you old fool," Godric said, sitting back and folding his arms sanctimoniously.
Salazar sat up further in the tub and looked around, obviously bewildered. Snape could feel his ancestor's mind working furiously, trying to piece together what had happened. As the puzzle suddenly slid into place, Snape could feel complete and utter delight bubbling to the surface of Slytherin's mind. He put his head back and roared with laughter.
Gryffindor sighed and looked up at the ceiling with annoyance. "Yes, I suppose you would find it amusing that you got so drunk you passed out on the floor," he smirked.
Shaking his head, Salazar finally managed to get control of himself, clutching his sides from his fit of hilarity. He wiped the tears from his eyes as he gasped for breath. "You are such a fool, Godric!" he managed between heaving breaths. "That wasn't me, it was Severus!"
Gryffindor sat forward, his arms uncrossing. "What?"
Salazar shook his head and started to rise, dripping wet. "He got me drunk so I'd pass out. I guess he figured he'd be able to tell you where the Pendants were hidden while I was absent," he said, still chuckling.
Gryffindor's face fell.
Stepping out of the tub, Salazar leaned against the wall, still holding his sides. "I bet you didn't even listen to him, did you? He probably told you exactly where they are, too!" He couldn't help another round of laughter and bent over, his eyes closed with the effort. "God, you're an idiot! Thank the gods it was you who found me! Anyone else would have actually stopped and listened, but not you! Oh, no!" Salazar wiped at the tears streaming down his already wet face and shook his head in amusement. "Without Helga you are the most smug, self-satisfied little twerp I have ever met, Godric!" Salazar wagged his finger at the younger man, "And thank god for that, is all I can say! I might have actually been in trouble there otherwise!"
Gryffindor flushed and pressed his lips into a thin angry line, the scarlet blush revealing the depth of his embarrassment and humiliation. "Go straight to the devil, Salazar," he sneered and with the sound of Slytherin's mocking laughter still following him, he turned and stormed from Snape's rooms, his fists clenched at his side.
Snape almost thought the entire thing had been worth it just to see the expression on Potter's face.
Slytherin hummed happily as he fixed his robes in front of the full-length mirror in Snape's bedroom. He was freshly showered and changed and had spent an inordinate amount of time on his hair. With a certain reluctance, Snape had to admit that he had never looked so good.
"That's more like it, son," Salazar said airily. "Take a little pride in your appearance for a change. You're a good looking lad."
Slytherin finished with his collar and stood back to get a full view, turning on the spot to make his robes flare out dramatically. "Hmm," he mused, "I wish I'd thought of making my robes do that while I was here. Very effective."
If Snape had been expecting a furious tirade upon having his plan discovered, he had been very much mistaken. While warning him sternly never to try that again, Salazar had actually seemed very proud of him for thinking of it. He had said it had shown true Slytherin ingenuity and cleverness. He had even gone so far as to tell him that he was proud to have him as a member of his family.
Despite his best efforts, Snape had felt a warm glow at the old Founder's words. Just as quickly, however, he had angrily shoved the warmth away, reminding himself harshly that the man had stolen not only his body, but his pride as well. Besides, he had reasoned, it was highly doubtful that Slytherin would have been quite so agreeable about the whole affair had his plan actually worked. He would probably have had him writhing in mental agony for hours afterward, in fact. Satisfied that he had dealt with any tender feelings towards Slytherin, however brief, Snape had then gone on to dredge up old familiar feelings of loathing and anger and place them firmly at the forefront of his consciousness.
So, now they stood, both of them admiring the reflection in the mirror and Snape almost felt tempted to let a little bit of his emotional shield down again. The consideration turned out to be unnecessary, ironically, as what happened next sent Snape's protective emotional barrier crashing down around him with such ferocity that it left him reeling. The pain that seared through his arm made his stomach turn and his mind freeze in terror.
Slytherin also hissed in pain and pulled up the sleeve of his robe. He looked at his forearm and smiled at the sight of the Dark Mark. He nodded and brushed his hand across it. The pain disappeared instantly. With a flourish of robes, Salazar turned towards the door. "Well, Severus," he said. "I think it's time to meet my one true Heir."
Snape felt himself squirm with panic and he forced himself to try and remain calm, "You can't leave, Salazar," he sputtered, aware that his voice sounded frightened, despite his efforts. "Dumbledore will be watching all the exits in case you try and escape!"
Slytherin laughed again and swept up his copy of Hogwarts: A History from the coffee table. "How long will it be before you know me, son? I am a Founder! I was, in fact, the very wizard who placed the charms upon this school to prevent Apparations. They do not apply to me!"
Before he could offer a rebuttal, Snape felt himself caught up in the familiar feeling of Apparation and watched helplessly as his rooms disappeared around him.
Slytherin Apparated into a forest clearing, the stars above him the only source of light. "Hmm," he smirked, "my Heir obviously has a flare for the dramatic. Not unlike myself in that way, I see."
Snape didn't answer. At the very moment they had appeared within the clearing, he had felt himself become dizzy with terror. So many times he had forced the fear down before Apparating into the presence of the Dark Lord, compelling himself to replace the raw dread and panic with a guarded calm. This time, however, he had no control of his own body, nor his own voice; the very things he used as shields to protect himself. It was clear Slytherin had no idea how purely evil his Heir was and did not understand what they were walking into. He shivered in dread, memories of suffering cruel punishments at Voldemort's hand flashing through his mind. He hugged himself internally, trying to keep from moaning in despair. He knew he was going to die and much to his great shame and humiliation, he felt like crying.
He slowly became aware of Slytherin looking down at him within his own body. He mentally looked up at his ancestor, his eyes wide and frightened. He was shocked at what he saw. Slytherin looked like his heart was breaking as he gazed down at Snape. Before he could mentally pull away, Salazar had reached out and put an internal arm around Snape's shaking shoulders and pulled him close. "I know this is hard, son. I've seen in your mind the things he's done to you, but you have to believe that you're safe with me, Severus," he cooed softly. "This is where I have to be, my boy. As hard as that may be to understand, he's my last true Heir and I must do this."
Snape suddenly stiffened as Slytherin's words hit home. Do what? Was he planning on leaving his body and joining with Voldemort? That would leave him defenceless and at the mercy of the Death Eaters! *Oh, god!* he screamed and grabbed onto Slytherin desperately within his own mind. *Please, don't leave me here!*
For a brief and horrible moment, Snape felt himself stumble backwards into a memory he had long since thrust to the back of his mind. Himself, as a child of eight, being punished by his father. Locked in the dungeons of Snape Manor with no food and no water. And then, apparently, forgotten. His last words screamed to his departing father, "Please, don't leave me here!" Where his parents had gone and what they had been thinking by imprisoning him for that length of time, he never did find out, but for three long weeks he survived on nothing but the condensation gathered on the chains bolted to the stone walls and small rodents. His stomach turned at the memory.
He felt the grip of Slytherin tighten around his shoulders and the man seemed about to say something when the clearing was suddenly flooded by bright torch light.
A low, smirking laugh wound its way around them and Snape recognized the drawling snigger of Lucius Malfoy.
Snape felt Slytherin move away from him internally and collect himself, obviously mentally preparing for the upcoming meeting. Snape, for his part, continued to emotionally cling to Salazar like a life preserver and the old Founder made no attempt to push him away.
"So, he returns," Malfoy sneered as he entered the clearing, pulling his mask off as he did so. He was followed closely by several other torch-bearing members of Voldemort's mob, all of whom elected to keep their masks in place. "The lamb to the slaughter," he continued, stopping in front of Slytherin, obviously unaware of whom he was truly talking to. "You must think our Lord a true fool if you believe he will ever forgive you for this one, Severus."
Salazar put his head back and laughed loudly, a move so un-Snape-like that Malfoy's smile faltered and slid from his face in confusion. He glanced at the other Death Eaters nearby, all of whom were shuffling uncertainly.
Lucius managed a small scoff, though his eyes still looked wary. "I hardly see what you could be finding so amusing at this moment, Severus," he sniffed. "You are revealed for the spy that you are and will now suffer as no man has suffered before. Our Lord will..."
"Oh, shut up," Slytherin said dismissively, waving a hand casually in Malfoy's direction. "Severus was right. You really are the most frightful bore. Silencio."
Malfoy's hand shot to his throat as his voice broke off in mid-sentence. His eyes bulged wide at the realization that he could not make a sound and he lurched towards the other Death Eaters, grabbing his wand as he did so.
Immediately, the men dropped their torches and fumbled awkwardly for their wands. Before any of them could even raise them towards the old Founder, however, he had raised his own hand again and said, "Expelliarmus", nonchalantly, barely stifling a yawn as he did so. All of the wands flew neatly into his hand and he immediately stuffed them into his pocket where they seemed to melt away into his voluminous robes.
The Death Eaters all looked at the man before them, clearly stunned at the display of wandless magic they had just witnessed. Slytherin sighed and examined his nails for a moment before glancing back up at Malfoy. He raised his hand leisurely towards him again and said, "Finite Incantatem". Malfoy jumped back in fear before grabbing his throat again. He continued to take instinctive steps away from the Founder as he tested his voice.
"Take me to my Heir, Mr. Malfoy. I am already bored with having to deal with you," Salazar said, still glancing down occasionally at his nails.
With another quick look at the men surrounding him, Malfoy nodded and turned as if to head back into the forest. "As you wish, Severus," he said. At the last second, however, he abruptly turned back, his robes swirling, and yelled, "Now!" at the other men.
At once, all the men within the clearing seemed to launch themselves towards Slytherin, their hands outstretched. In lieu of their wands, they had evidently opted for the next best alternative; a full Muggle body tackle.
Not even pulling his gaze away from his nails, Slytherin moved his other hand slightly towards the bodies descending on him and said, "avolo recessim", in a blasé tone.
Every man in the clearing looked as though they had each been lifted by a giant hand and tossed backwards. The sounds of screams and breaking branches was all that could be heard for several seconds afterward.
Before Snape could stop himself, he had thrown back his head internally and laughed loudly at the sight of his tormentors arching gracefully through the air and into the forest. Slytherin glanced down at him and allowed a tiny smile to touch his lips.
"Well," Salazar said to Snape, "I think we best go in search of my one true Heir as I don't think these gentlemen will be ready to join us again for a few moments."
Snape's laughter immediately faltered and he stiffened in fear as Slytherin strode into the forest in the direction of the Death Eaters. He felt himself grab onto Slytherin internally and huddle against him. His paralysing fear and sudden need for protection made him feel sick and a sense of self-loathing and humiliation washed over him. He had sworn many years ago that he would never again need anything from anyone. Even Dumbledore had learned to offer his assistance in a circuitous way so as not to offend his Potion Master's need for self-sufficiency. Slytherin's hand gently patted his back, but it did little to comfort him.
Snape could not figure his ancestor out. Salazar seemed determined to be with his Heir, despite everything he had learned about the beast. While professing to want only the best for Hogwarts, Slytherin seemed hell bent on throwing in his lot with a murderer and a madman. Snape had to admit to himself, however, that this alliance would certainly ensure that he would never have to return to his dreaded pendant; something that seemed foremost in Slytherin's mind. The Dark Lord would no doubt welcome his powerful ancestor into the fight with open arms.
Snape tried to console himself by remembering that Slytherin had promised him that he would be safe. If he did plan to join with Voldemort, maybe he would still try to convince him to let Snape return to Hogwarts unharmed. Before the thought had even fully developed in his own mind, however, Snape snorted derisively. He knew perfectly well that that would not be the outcome for him. He actually believed that Salazar's promise had been genuine, but he knew Voldemort. Oh, yes, he knew him well. There was no way he would allow a traitor like Snape to escape his punishment once he had him in his hands. He would make an example of him that no other Death Eater would soon forget. Once Slytherin had abandoned his body, he knew there would be nothing that could save him from the Dark Lord's wrath. Even Slytherin wasn't that eloquent.
Snape noted, with a deep sense of irony and sadness, that his sacrifice for the Order had apparently been for nothing. Not only would Slytherin end up joining Voldemort, thus making him all but invincible, but Snape himself would die at the hands of the Death Eaters. He suddenly felt a tightness in his chest and a misting in his eyes. He truly did not want his life to end this way. He suddenly wanted to live to see his child born. What would they look like? Oh, gods, hopefully they wouldn't get his nose! He wanted to hear another of Dumbledore's silly jokes over a cup of tea and lemon drops. And, dammit, he hadn't even had the opportunity to humiliate Potter about his last abomination of a Potions essay!
*Salazar!* he suddenly gasped. *Please don't do this! It's not too late to turn ba...*
Slytherin patted his head internally. "I'm afraid it is too late, son," he whispered softly.
"Well," a cold voice said from nearby, piercing his heart like an icicle, "If it isn't our lost lamb, returned to the flock." Snape slowly looked up into Voldemort's cold, red eyes and serpentine grin. "Welcome home, Severus Snape."
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