Chapter Sixteen: Of Prophecies
Without quite realizing what he was doing, Snape skipped along beside Slytherin, swinging on his hand and chuckling happily to himself. The previous hours spent in the company of Voldemort and his cronies had left him giddy and excited. The fates afforded to many of the men by Salazar and the promise of justice still to come for those who had managed to escape his initial barrage, had left Snape feeling happier than he had for a very long time.
Slytherin looked down at his descendant and smiled. "Feeling good, son?" he asked him.
Snape nodded and grinned up at him. "Oh, yes! That was great! Especially turning Malfoy into a spy!" he said excitedly. "That was brilliant! Just brilliant!"
"Well, thank you, my boy," Slytherin said and grinned like a man whose son has just told him he's the best Dad in the world. He strode down the hall of Hogwarts that led to Dumbledore's office and allowed himself a satisfied sigh. He gripped his green leather book tightly to his chest and glanced down at Severus, amused by his descendant's child-like glee.
Snape was about to say something else, when both he and Slytherin were suddenly stopped dead in their tracks. From outside the windows of the castle, they heard desperate screaming rising up from the grounds below. Salazar strode quickly across the hallway and, with a flick of his hand, opened one of the large, stain glass windows. He leaned out into the early morning air and looked down.
Through the dull glow of pre-dawn, Snape and Slytherin could make out a figure on the ground several stories below, jumping up and down and waving their arms frantically. Through the swearing and screaming, Snape was able to recognize the voice of Godric Gryffindor and raised an internal eyebrow. What in the hell was he making so much fuss about down there, he wondered?
And then he saw them. What had at first glance appeared to be mottled grass all around the Founder's feet turned out, in actual fact, to be about two hundred or so brown and green snakes, all of varying size. Despite the fact that they did not appear to be attacking him, Gryffindor was clearly panicking and turning on the spot, waving his hands frantically as he did so. Snape realized that the words leaving his mouth were actually curses and hexes and he evidently seemed to be trying to subdue the serpents magically. Interestingly, however, the curses seemed to be having no effect on the animals whatsoever.
Slytherin casually sat down on the windowsill and looked down as though about to watch a Quidditch match.
Snape felt himself shift uneasily. *Um,* he said carefully, *shouldn't we tell Gryffindor that they are on our side?* he suggested.
Slytherin nodded and looked at his nails. "Oh, definitely," he said and continued to examine his cuticles.
Below them, Gryffindor continued to scream and jump up and down.
As Snape watched, he could see Nagini attempting to get close enough to him to talk to him, but Godric kept panicking and backing away from her, throwing a few curses at the serpent for good measure. Snape felt certain he may burst into laughter again. He had never suspected that Potter could jump so high. Then a thought occurred to him. *Won't he harm them though?* he wondered.
Slytherin sniggered and looked back down at Godric. "No. They're my snakes. The other Founders can't harm them. I bred their species myself over a thousand years ago and they are magically programmed to respond to and obey me." Slytherin chuckled. "I used to occasionally let one 'accidentally' find its way into Godric's bedchamber if he had particularly annoyed me that day."
Both he and Snape shared an exceptionally uproarious laugh and Gryffindor immediately looked up at the window.
As their laughter subsided, Snape could hear Godric screaming up at them. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Salazar?" he bellowed. "Did you bring these things here?"
Slytherin finally stood up and leaned out the window. "Keep your drawers on, Godric!" he called back, his face still sporting a wide grin. "If you'd stop long enough to listen, you'd know they're here to help!"
Gryffindor shook his head, obviously furious. "You know I don't speak parseltongue, old man!" he yelled back.
With a deep and exasperated sigh, Salazar called back, "Not the snakes! Try listening to your host for a second, you great thicky!"
Gryffindor looked as though he was about to respond when his attention was suddenly pulled away and he looked sideways as though unexpectedly hearing another voice nearby. His face immediately flushed red and he glared up at Slytherin. "You complete and utter..."
Slytherin cut him off. "Hey, now!" he admonished. "Don't blame me because you don't listen to your own descendant! Those snakes were ordered to report to Harry Potter because he can speak parseltongue. It's not my fault you're too much of a nit wit to listen to him!"
Godric shook his head with anger and looked down at Nagini who had been watching the exchange with concern. Snape could not hear what was being said, but he could tell that Godric and the snake were now exchanging words. The snake nodded and looked up at Slytherin expectantly.
With a smile Salazar leaned further out the window, "Well," he chuckled, "if you've finished with your ballet practice, Godric, perhaps you could bring Nagini and join me in the Headmaster's office. I have some news you may find interesting," he called down to the younger man.
Slytherin did not wait for Gryffindor's response and pulled away from the window with a satisfied grin. Snape really was starting to like this man.
Slytherin sat in one of the comfortable chairs in front of Dumbledore's desk watching Rowena carefully. She had already been seated when he had entered the room and had barely acknowledged his presence. She seemed strangely withdrawn and introspective as she sat next to him, chewing her lip absently. Salazar was worried about her and wasn't entirely certain what to do. Snape could feel his ancestor's frustration and knew he wanted to reach out and take her hand.
Godric and Nagini had also been waiting in Dumbledore's office when Snape and Salazar had arrived. It seemed that the non-Apparating rule of Hogwarts simply did not apply to Founders, house elves and magical serpents. Godric, seated on his other side, had remained silent on the subject of the snake "attack" and Nagini had settled herself in front of the fire and promptly gone to sleep.
Dumbledore, for his part, was utterly absorbed in Slytherin's green book and was nodding to himself as he flipped through the various pages. He glanced up at the others in the room and sighed. "Well," he finally said and gently closed the volume, letting it rest on his lap. "I'm very pleased for you, Salazar," he smiled over his glasses. "I'm sure this book will set many things right for you."
Salazar nodded and returned the smile gratefully. "Thank you for having enough faith in me to trust that I wouldn't do something else stupid, Albus," he said. "I know I couldn't have retrieved that if you hadn't allowed me to leave here."
Dumbledore nodded and watched Slytherin proudly. "You have single-handily put an enormous dent in our enemy's armour, Salazar. We are truly in your debt."
Slytherin nodded, looked directly at Dumbledore and smiled proudly. "Yes, I guess you are!" he said happily.
Dumbledore gave a small laugh and shook his head. Slytherin turned his full attention to Godric, his tone suddenly conspiratorial. "You should have seen the look on Tommy's face, Godric!" he said excitedly. "I dare say, when he thought he'd be meeting not just Harry Potter one day, but Harry Potter infused with Essence of Gryffindor, I think he probably had to go and change his robes!"
Godric shook his head and could not suppress a reluctant smile. "I'll admit it's good Salazar," he conceded, "but ultimately, I don't know what good it will do. You know I can't stay in Harry's body much longer." He looked back at Salazar. "I won't be with him when he faces Voldemort, as much as I may want to be." The smile slid from his face and his voice betrayed the level of his sadness and disappointment.
Slytherin's eyes still twinkled mischievously, however. "Ah," he said, "but Tommy doesn't know that, does he?"
Godric's smile slowly returned as he watched Slytherin. "This is true," he said slowly.
Salazar sat forward in his seat and looked Godric directly in the eye. "But, you must listen to me, Harry," he said, taking Snape by surprise. This was the first time he had addressed Potter directly since Gryffindor had taken charge of his body. "Voldemort is not stupid, my boy. Anything but. He will very quickly figure out that Godric is not with you." He leaned even closer to the younger Founder. "Harry," he said, all trace of amusement gone from his voice and face, "When you find yourself in the presence of the Dark Lord again, you must not hesitate!"
As Snape watched, he thought he saw the persona of Godric Gryffindor momentarily recede and Harry Potter emerge behind the green eyes. He looked at Slytherin for a long moment and then nodded solemnly. "I understand," he said softly. Then, as quickly as Snape had seen Harry appear, he seemed to once again retreat behind Gryffindor.
Dumbledore watched the exchange with obvious satisfaction. He slowly rose from his desk and looked down at the three Founders before him. "Well, my dear friends," he said warmly. "It feels as though our time together is drawing to a close for now."
The three looked at one another and a sadness seemed to pass between them. They all shared a poignant smile and nodded their heads as though an unspoken understanding had been reached between them.
Snape felt something stick in his throat and he suddenly found it difficult to breath. He knew what was going through his ancestor's mind but unexpectedly did not want to face it.
The three Founders looked up at Dumbledore, their expressions satisfied and accepting.
With another smile, Dumbledore folded his hands in front of him. "We'll meet again this evening then, I think," he said softly. "In the hospital wing."
Without another word, they all rose from their seats. Godric and Rowena filed out of the Headmaster's office without a backwards glance and Snape felt Slytherin's eyes following his beloved out the door. Before leaving himself, however, Slytherin grabbed his book from Dumbledore's desk and turned to face the Headmaster, his eyebrows raised. "By the way, Albus," he said. "What about my snakes? What do you have planned for them?"
Dumbledore sighed and looked over at the sleeping serpent. "Well," he said, "the first thing I need to do is have a little chat with Nagini here once Harry is able to act as translator. I'm sure she can tell me a few things about Tom that we don't know."
Slytherin nodded. "Indeed. I'm sure she can."
Dumbledore sat back down behind his desk and sighed deeply. "But, other than that, I don't know. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few specific jobs that some of them would be good for. Spying on revels and the like that our new spy, Mr. Malfoy, cannot attend, for example."
Snape felt his ancestor hesitate for a moment before replying. "I know that this is really none of my concern, Albus, but may I make a suggestion for those you don't send on spying missions?"
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "Of course you may, Salazar. I would be glad to hear it."
"Despite the fact that the idea may sound unappealing from the perspective of students and their parents," he began, "I think you should take advantage of their Apparating abilities and have most of them guard the school and its grounds."
Dumbledore seemed to consider this for a moment, slowly nodding his head. "Yessss," he said thoughtfully. "You're correct in that it would cause quite a stir amongst the student population, however."
Slytherin nodded and sighed. "I know. But, I think you should consider the alternative. I suspect Tommy was planning on using them in an eventual assault on this school. In fact, I think that he was already using them to watch Hogwarts from the forest. He seemed aware of their ability to Apparate on school grounds," he said, guilt apparent on his face. "Part of how I bred them, I'm afraid. I never intended that they should be used against Hogwarts one day."
Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully. "Well, they would certainly be a fine asset to the security of this school, when one considers it."
Slytherin brightened, "Exactly! There will be no corner unavailable to them. No passage, no drain and no hallway. A sneak attack would be all but impossible upon this school. They could Apparate to you with a warning of intruders before they could even make it to the castle."
With a slow nod of his head, Dumbledore examined Slytherin closely. "May I ask you something, Salazar?" he finally said, his tone careful.
Dumbledore seemed to hesitate before saying anything else, but finally seemed to find the words. "Did you..." he sighed again. "Were you, Salazar, the one to make the prophecy about the downfall of Hogwarts?"
Slytherin stood unmoving before Dumbledore's desk, his face suddenly stony and solemn. He watched the Headmaster for a long while before answering. "Would that make a difference to you, Albus?" he asked softly.
Snape felt something inside his ancestor shift. A dark and bitter sadness rose slowly to the surface of his mind and he felt Slytherin moan internally. Before his eyes, a black whirlpool of memory and emotion slowly churned upward from the deepest part of his consciousness. Without understanding how he knew it, Snape realized he was witnessing the pull of a psychic memory as it was drawn from deep within the old Founder. *My gods,* Snape breathed harshly. *Slytherin is a Seer!*
Dumbledore was still watching the old Founder intently. "It would matter only in how it influenced the things you are doing for us," he responded vaguely.
Slytherin pulled himself up to full height and brought his chin up proudly. "Nothing I have done for this school has been done with anything but the best intentions!" he said defensively.
With a patient smile, Dumbledore sat back in his seat. "I realize that, Salazar," he said softly, "but I think there is something about this prophecy that you have not told me, my friend. And, as the newest member of the Founding Four, I think I ought to hear everything."
Slytherin swallowed hard and looked away from the Headmaster. Snape felt a wave of guilt wash over his ancestor and the man suddenly seemed uncertain as to what to do.
With a sigh, Dumbledore sat forward and crossed his hands on his desk. "Salazar," he said softly, "if it is the fate of this school to fall because of something you have done, I think I can assure you that no one who knows you will hold you responsible. The intentions of your heart cannot be questioned, my friend."
The tears that suddenly stung the old Founders eyes actually made Snape gasp, so filled with bitter regret were they. With a defeated sigh, Slytherin sat heavily in the chair across from the Headmaster. The tears fell freely from his eyes and he made no attempt to wipe them away. "Like most seers," he said softly, "I only had a few visions during my lifetime, but they were, all of them, deeply powerful. The last vision I had was of the fall of Hogwarts." He closed his eyes as though trying to force the images away and it took him a moment to continue. "In the vision, the school burned. Powerful magic had utterly destroyed it. And . . . and I knew . . ." He hesitated again as his throat tightened and he seemed to be having a hard time forcing words out. Instinctively, Snape reached out and wrapped his arms around Salazar's shoulders and pressed his cheek against his chest. Salazar smiled sadly and looked down at him internally. "Thank you, Severus," he whispered and seemed to regain some control of his emotions. "I knew," he said, a bit steadier, "that whatever had destroyed the school was something that I had created."
Dumbledore watched him sadly and finally nodded. "I see," he said softly. "I'm sorry to hear that, Salazar, but we all know if that is true, it was not something you created with that purpose in mind. You are not responsible."
Slytherin nodded and rose from his seat. "Indeed, I thank you, Albus," he managed a weak impression of one of his signature cheerful smiles and pulled his shoulders back. "So, now you know," he said. "I've done all I can to try and neutralize everything I've put out there that might harm this school, whether it be off-spring, large serpents or deadly rumours. I honestly can't think of anything else I might do."
Dumbledore slowly rose from his desk and walked over to stand next to the old Founder. "You have done all you can. I know that," he said with a smile and patted the green book still held tightly to Slytherin's chest. "Now, may I suggest that you go and finish any business you may have before this evening?"
Slytherin straightened and nodded. "Good suggestion," he said with the same strained cheerful tone. With a last nod to Dumbledore, he turned and headed for the office door.
Before he was able to walk through it, however, Dumbledore spoke again, his tone soft and tired. "Salazar, there was one more thing I intended to ask you," he said.
Slytherin closed his eyes briefly and turned slowly back to the Headmaster. "I know," he said. With a sigh, he regarded the old man silently and after what seemed an unbearable amount of time, the old Founder finally began to speak, his voice barely audible and his eyes misted over:
>"One day, friends, just over a thousand years hence, Hogwarts will fall at the hands of Salazar's creation. Down will tumble every stone and down will tumble every brick. Fires will rage and voices will wail. But do not cry and do not grieve, for like the Phoenix, it will rise again. From the ashes and the ruin, our fair school will leave the night behind and rise up to greet the day. So, prepare your spirits and prepare your hands, my friends, for the ground upon which she sits, we will sanctify again."
Snape gasped as his ancestor finished his prophecy. Just over a thousand years hence? Unless he was very much mistaken, Hogwarts had been founded just over a thousand years earlier, had it not?
With a tired sigh, Dumbledore smiled and nodded to Slytherin. "Thank you," he said softly and turned away. Slowly, he made his way across the room and sank into a seat next to the fire.
After watching the Headmaster for a moment, Salazar sighed. "I'm so sorry, Albus," he said and left the office quietly, tears running freely down his cheeks.
After the previous evening, Snape could simply not grasp what he had heard. Could not make it fit with what he had seen in that clearing. Hogwarts was going to fall. And unless he was missing something in the prophecy, it seemed that it was destined to fall soon. Shakily, he reached up and grasped his ancestor's hand, suddenly frightened.
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