Chapter Fourteen: Dinner with Tommy
The moment of silence that passed between Slytherin and Voldemort as they faced one another for the first time seemed to Snape to be interminable. Then, quite without warning, though perfectly in keeping with his character, Salazar suddenly stepped forward and enveloped the Dark Lord in a giant hug. "Son!" the Founder said happily and squeezed the serpentine beast until his red eyes popped open.
Voldemort had obviously not been expecting this particular reaction from the man he believed to be Snape as he seemed simply too taken aback to immediately react. Indeed, by the time he seemed able to find his voice again, Slytherin had already released him and retreated a step.
"What do you think you're doing, Snape?" Voldemort spat, brushing his silken robes as though they had been contaminated. "Do you beg for a punishment worse than death?" He reached for his wand and pointed it squarely at Snape's chest.
Salazar smiled and shook his head, "Of course, son," he said patiently. "You must be very confused right now," he smiled paternally and raised his hand. "Expelliarmus," he said gently, the kindly expression never leaving his face.
Voldemort's eyes flew open as his wand left his hand and arched over to the tall, dark man before him. In what seemed a split second of understanding, the Dark Lord's mouth opened wordlessly and he stepped back unsteadily, obviously having made the mental connection.
Salazar nodded and pocketed the wand. "That's right, my boy," he smiled. "You undoubtedly heard about Severus releasing me from my Pendant. Well, surprise!" He spread his arms in front of him. "It's me, son!"
Any response that Voldemort might have made to the pronouncement was interrupted by the sound of angry voices rushing into the clearing from several directions. Lucius Malfoy led the pack of battered Death Eaters as they hastened to their Lord's side, all of them having now abandoned their white masks. While each looked decidedly hesitant after their previous encounter with Slytherin, every man seemed prepared to try tackling the tall dark-haired man once again. Snape knew, of course, that this need to protect their Dark Lord stemmed not from an underlying desire to assure his safety, but from their fear of his wrath, should they disappoint him. Accordingly, they all stepped forward en masse, their hands outstretched once again and their expressions grimly resolute.
Voldemort, however, raised his hand to stop them before they were able to take more than a few steps towards the Founder. "Stop!" he commanded. All of the men halted immediately. "Lucius!" Voldemort said harshly, "come here!"
Slowly, Malfoy crept forward, sneering at Snape as he did so, and prostrated himself before his Master. "Yes, my Lord?" he asked in a meek voice.
Voldemort did not look impressed. "Defeated all of you, did he?" he admonished.
Malfoy did not lift his forehead from the ground as he spoke, "My Lord. I cannot explain it. He somehow managed to…"
"Perform wandless magic?" Voldemort finished for him.
Lucius dared to glance up at his Master, "Yes, Lord. But how did you…?"
Voldemort reached out a strong foot and planted it firmly on Malfoy's forehead, sending him into an awkward backwards tumble. "You fool!" Voldemort spat. "Think about it for a moment! You saw with your own eyes Snape release the spirit of the Illustrious Ancestor from his Pendant! Put the two together!"
Malfoy's eyes widened and he looked over to Salazar, his mouth hanging open. "That's Slytherin?" he choked softly, the fear evident in his eyes.
"Yesss!" Voldemort hissed and turned to Salazar, his expression immediately becoming humble. "Forgive us, Great Father," he said, bowing to his ancestor. "We did not know that you had found your way to us. What a glorious day this is!"
Immediately, every man in the clearing, including Malfoy, was bending down and bowing to Slytherin. Snape, who had until now merely watched the proceedings with a numb dread, noticed that many of the Death Eaters were glancing at one another nervously as they went about the business of being subservient before Slytherin.
"We are your most humble servants," Voldemort continued, his eyes glancing back and forth between Salazar and the edge of the clearing nearby.
A huge smile crossed Slytherin's face and he stepped forward. "Now, don't be silly, Tommy!" he said happily. "You don't have to bow to me!" With that, he once again reached out and grabbed his descendant in a bear hug, crushing the man in his powerful arms. He kissed The-Lord-Of-All-That-Is-Most-Horrid-And-Dark on the cheek and tousled his hair.
Snape thought he could actually see the indignant rage seeping through the Dark Lord's pores. If he hadn't been in such imminent danger himself, he would have laughed uproariously at Voldemort's mortification. He could not help but notice how quickly and easily Slytherin seemed to identify a person's humiliation threshold and then immediately dash right over it. The man had a veritable gift. There were times when Snape just couldn't help admiring the old bastard.
When Slytherin finally released him from his iron grip of familial affection, he turned immediately away, thereby missing the warning hiss that Voldemort levelled at his Death Eaters, all of whom were staring, slack jawed, at their Master. Having once been a Death Eater himself, Snape had to wonder which part the other men in the clearing had found most shocking; the hug, kiss and hair tousle or the reference to their Dark Master as 'Tommy'.
Slytherin, meanwhile, had turned to the clearing behind him, his arms outstretched dramatically and his robes flaring. "Well," he said, "I think this calls for a celebration, my boy!" he said. "It's not everyday you get to partake in a family reunion!" With a wave of his slender hand, a long dining table appeared, complete with enough comfortable seats to accommodate every person present. Salazar strode down the length of the table, holding his hand over the white linen table cloth as he walked. As his hand moved over the surface, elaborate plates of succulent, steaming food and mugs of fragrant mead and wine appeared.
When he reached the head of the table, Salazar turned and looked back at the men still crowded at the other end of the clearing, all, save Voldemort, still bowing humbly. With a laugh, he motioned the men forward. "Oh, come, come!" he said happily. "Stop smelling the grass and sit down!"
The Death Eaters all glanced nervously at their Master as they straightened, evidently looking for some sort of direction. With a forced smile of this own, Voldemort motioned with his hand that all the men should sit around the table as instructed. Before joining them himself, however, the Dark Lord snapped his fingers twice and waited while a small man with a shining silver hand appeared from the edge of the clearing and rushed to his Master's side. "I see you were not present to try and defend me with the rest of my loyal servants, Wormtail," he said derisively.
The small man jumped from foot to foot nervously, "I-I'm sorry, Lord. I was busy preparing the evening's entertain..."
With an impatient wave of his hand, Voldemort silenced his servant and indicated the seat at the head of the table opposite to Slytherin. Wormtail quickly bowed and rushed over to pull the padded chair out for his Master. Gracefully, Voldemort settled himself into the chair and folded his hands in front of him. He looked as though he was about to speak when Slytherin suddenly snapped his fingers at Wormtail. "Hey, there! Little man!" he said pleasantly.
Wormtail looked over at Slytherin, somewhat bemused.
"You're the personal assistant to my Heir here, am I right?" he asked him.
Hesitantly, the short man looked to Voldemort for guidance and the Dark Lord nodded his ascent. "Such as he is, yes."
Slytherin nodded, still smiling pleasantly. "Super!" he said, "I wonder if you could do me a little favour, hmmm?"
Wormtail swallowed and looked nervous. "I suppose it depends what it is, sir," he said tentatively.
"Your Master has a book, a very large, old book, in his possession. He has probably had it for some time, in fact, and considers it to be extremely valuable and important. Know the one I mean?"
Snape noted that Voldemort shifted ever so slightly in his seat at the mention of the book and glanced at his assistant.
"I would like you to Apparate to wherever he keeps it and return here with it as quick as you can. Understand?" Salazar continued pleasantly.
Wormtail pressed his lips together in confusion and looked at his Master. "Does he mean the big green leather one that you have locked in your...?"
"Silence!" Voldemort roared as he rounded on Wormtail.
Slytherin laughed. "Now, now, son. I'm not asking for much," he said to Voldemort before turning his attention back to Wormtail. "Now go fetch it. There's a boy."
With a sudden shake of his head, Wormtail faced the Founder and stood his ground obstinately. "I only obey my Master," he said.
Slytherin sighed and raised his hand, "As you wish. Dominatio," he said casually. Wormtail's face went immediately blank and his eyes took on an unnatural gleam.
"As I said, young man, fetch me the book. Now."
Wormtail nodded once and grabbed his wand from within his robes. Voldemort rose from his chair as if intending to grab him, but the smaller man had Apparated before the Dark Lord could catch hold of him. Voldemort slowly turned and looked at Slytherin, his expression cold.
Salazar indicated the seat behind the Dark Lord. "Sit, Tommy," he said pleasantly, "Please."
Voldemort slowly resumed his seat, his eyes never leaving the Founder's face. The other men around the table had obviously picked up on their Master's discomfort and were glancing nervously back and forth between the two men heading the table.
With a sudden, wide smile, Slytherin indicated the feast before them. "Eat! Please, everyone, before it gets cold. It's my own recipe!"
The Death Eaters looked at one another with trepidation, obviously uncertain if they should eat the food before them or not.
As if to alleviate their concerns, Salazar grabbed his silver utensils and dug into the lamb stew with vigour. He slurped the hearty meal down with gusto and smacked his lips happily. "Damm!" he declared. "I do make a fine lamb stew!" Obviously still concerned, but seemingly unwilling to anger the Founder, the Death Eaters slowly lifted their own utensils and began to eat the stew on their plates. The raised eyebrows and nodded approvals suggested to Snape that most of them agreed with Slytherin's opinion of his culinary abilities.
Voldemort, however, declined to eat and simply sat staring at the Founder. Snape knew the moods of the Dark Lord, perhaps better than anyone, and recognized that his demeanour had shifted. Something had transpired between Slytherin and his Heir at the request for the book and now Voldemort seemed to be waiting for the next step to be taken.
As if on cue, Slytherin looked up from his meal and glanced around the table. "So," he said conversationally, "which one of you was supposed to host my spirit?"
Snape felt his breath catch. Another host for Slytherin's spirit? What was he talking about? Clearly Voldemort had intended to share his body with Salazar, had he not?
Several of the men choked on their food and all of them instantly looked to Voldemort. The Dark Lord, for his part, continued to sit silently. Though his eyes glanced occasionally to the edge of the clearing as if searching for something, he otherwise remained staring fixedly at the Founder across the table.
"Well?" Salazar asked again. "Who was it?"
All the men looked at one another nervously.
Slytherin took a long swig of wine before leaning heavily on the table. "Gods, that is good wine!" he said. He looked around the table. "Come on now. You don't want me to Dominatio the whole lot of you, do you? After all, the effects are permanent, which means you'd be obliged to obey me forever." He chuckled. "And, I should warn you, I have a really peculiar sense of humour, boys, so I don't think you want to know the kinds of things I'd have you doing!"
From the middle of the table, a meek looking man slowly raised his hand into the air.
From the end of the table, Snape could see Voldemort's nostril's flare slightly. So, he had intended to release Salazar into someone else, he realized. Suddenly, nothing seemed to make sense and Snape found himself becoming anxiously aware of every nuance of the activities transpiring around him, trying to garner information. He realized, for one thing, that despite Salazar's seemingly casual presentation, his mind was actually working rapidly and he seemed to be carefully measuring his every word and action.
Salazar sat back in his chair and looked at the man who had raised his hand. "Hmmm," he said thoughtfully. "You're descended from me then," he said. The man nodded and glanced at Voldemort frightfully.
"So, what did you do to deserve this fate, my boy?" Slytherin asked him, running his index finger thoughtfully along his chin.
The man shrugged and looked down at his plate. "I wanted to," he said softly. "It would have been an honour."
"Hmm, right," Salazar said slowly.
Slytherin nodded and looked over at Voldemort. "What, not tucking in, Tommy?" he admonished pleasantly. "The stew's great!"
Voldemort continued to stare straight ahead at the Founder, his expression unchanged.
Slytherin nodded again and snapped his finger. "Well, maybe you'd prefer something else, then," he said and the plate of food in front of the Dark Lord vanished into thin air. Salazar then reached into his robes and pulled out his copy of Hogwarts: A History and flipped through it until he found the chapter devoted to the Chamber of Secrets. With a casual flick of his wrist, he sent the book flying gracefully across the table where it landed right in front of Voldemort, still open to the same chapter. "So, why don't you tell me a bit about that then, Tommy," Slytherin said pleasantly, settling back in his seat.
Voldemort shifted almost imperceptibly in his seat and lifted his chin slightly. "What is it you would like to know exactly? It's a book about the history of Hogwarts."
"Indeed," Salazar said reaching for his wine. "Why don't you tell me about the Chamber of Secrets?"
Voldemort swallowed, "I'm not certain what you think I can tell you about it that isn't already written here."
Slytherin swirled the wine in his glass. He watched it as he spoke, glancing only occasionally at Voldemort. "Well, why don't we begin with how you went about building it?"
Snape assumed he must had misunderstood his ancestor and internally shook his head. Several of the Death Eaters also snorted in surprise and looked over at Slytherin, their expressions bewildered.
Voldemort allowed himself a small, derisive laugh. "Excuse me?"
Slytherin slowly put the wine back on the table and sat forward, his expression becoming dark. "I said, how did you go about building it?" he said quietly.
Voldemort shook his head dismissively. "Forgive me, great ancestor," he said, unable to hide the sarcasm in the last two words, "but if you are suggesting that I wrote this chapter of the book, I feel obligated to point out to you that this was written almost three hundred years ago. I indeed have had a long life, but not nearly that long, sir," he chided.
Spreading his hands slowly over the surface of the table on either side of his plate, Slytherin leaned even further forward and hissed at Voldemort. "I did not say that you wrote the chapter, stupid snake!" he hissed, "I said that you built that chamber! I have no doubt that you did use the specifications in that book to design it though, did you not?"
Once again, Voldemort's face became placid. "My understanding, great ancestor, is that you built that chamber before leaving Hogwarts so that you could purge the school of Mudbloods."
The rage that Snape felt rise up through Slytherin's mind and break over him like a hurricane-driven wave, threatened to overwhelm him, so utterly ferocious was the emotion. The old Founder rose to his feet and pointed a long finger at the misshapen monster at the other end of the table. "You!" he bellowed with such rage that the actual ground beneath them shook, "have killed in my name!" he bellowed. He raised his chin and narrowed his eyes at Voldemort, shadows of fury and rage suddenly seeming to obscure his face. "SALAZAR SLYTHERIN DOES NOT KILL CHILDREN!" he roared with such rage that the hair on the Death Eater's heads flew back as though they had been caught in a magical storm. Their eyes flew open and every man around the table grabbed onto it for support as the ground continued to buck beneath them.
Inflamed with magical fury, Slytherin seemed to have grown by several feet as he stood before his Heir, his hand outstretched and a magical wind whipping his hair and robes around him. "I am here to avenge myself upon you, Beast!" he cried. "And anyone who has assisted you! If you have used my name to justify killing, then your day of reckoning has arrived!"
The flood of relief that swept over Snape would almost have been magical itself had it not been interrupted by a huge snake launching itself frantically at Slytherin's neck. The last thing Snape wondered, before feeling the long fangs sink home into his jugular, was what horrible atrocity he had committed in another life to have so firmly turned the gods against him.
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