Chapter Seventeen: Truths
Slytherin seemed too preoccupied to notice how upset his descendant was as he hurried from the Headmaster's office and out into the empty hallway beyond. He looked up and down the corridors as if searching for something and finally sighed in frustration when he seemed unable to locate it.
Snape, consciously pulling himself from his own distraught thoughts, looked up at his ancestor and noticed his irritation. He immediately recognized what was troubling him, however, as he had certainly gotten to know the man well enough by now to know where his mind always eventually led. *I have a feeling that Rowena went to the kitchens, Salazar,* he offered.
The old Founder looked down at Snape and raised his eyebrow. "Now, how would you know that, my boy?" he asked.
Snape shrugged. "I heard her stomach rumbling at one point during the meeting with Albus and, if I'm not mistaken, I believe she likely feels responsible for Helena's good health at the moment. And, of course, it's too early for breakfast in the Great Hall."
Slytherin nodded and looked impressed. "A true spy," he said and headed immediately towards the hallway that led down to the kitchens. "Obviously good at piecing things together." Slytherin nodded thoughtfully. "Good," he said, more to himself than to Snape.
Luckily, Rowena had been moving slowly and Salazar caught up to her long before she reached the kitchens. With a little burst of speed, he hurried up behind her just as she was passing a large open window overlooking the greenhouses.
"Rowena!" he panted and stepped in front of her, his expression warm and open.
Rowena stopped abruptly and looked up at him. "Oh, Salazar," she said a bit distantly and immediately looked out the window. "Hello."
Slytherin's brow creased in concern and he put a hand on her upper arm. "Are you alright, my dear?" he said softly. "You seem so far away."
She finally looked back at him and the expression on her face made Snape's heart miss a beat. She looked utterly crestfallen. Before she could bring herself to speak, tears suddenly welled up in her eyes and began to slide down her cheeks.
Salazar immediately placed his book on the nearby windowsill and stepped forward to wrap her in a warm embrace. "There, there, my dear," he soothed. "What is it? What's happened?"
Rowena grabbed onto her fellow Founder and, between sobs, choked out fractured sentences of response. "Didn't listen to her… Ruined her life… Never make it better now!"
Salazar patted her back and leaned his head on hers. "What are talking about, dearest? Who didn't you listen to?"
"Helena," she sobbed into Slytherin's robes. "I stopped listening to her after she said she'd be willing to have a child. I just tuned her out! By the time I paid attention again, she had been screaming for hours for me to hear her and she was utterly devastated! Oh, gods, Salazar! What have I done?"
*Ahhh,* thought Snape. This was becoming a familiar theme today. He thought about Gryffindor not listening to Potter when Nagini was attempting to speak to him and came to a somewhat startling conclusion. The Founders could only hear their descendants when they consciously chose to. If they did not want to hear them, their voices were simply silenced. *Well, * Snape thought, *That would certainly explain her current state of angst. She obviously didn't listen to what Helena had to say about her seducing Salazar with the intention of getting pregnant.*
Slytherin looked annoyed and glanced down at Snape. "That's enough, Severus," he admonished. "That's really not very helpful right now."
Rowena pulled away and looked up at Slytherin. "Your descendant?" she asked, wiping tears away from her face. "What did he say about me?"
Slytherin shook his head and tried to pull her back to him. "Nothing, my dear. He was just being a pest."
Snape straightened, suddenly indignant. *Pest?! Well, I like that!*
Rowena resisted him and kept him from pulling her back into an embrace. "Did he say that I'm a terrible person for not listening to her? Because if he did, then he's right, Salazar!" she said and the tears started again. "I've ruined her life!"
With a sigh, Salazar reached out and rubbed her arm comfortingly. "It's done now, love. There's no point in causing yourself so much grief. And I'm certain that you have not ruined her life, dearest."
Snape snorted. Yes, indeed. It was all very well and fine for him to be cavalier about things since it would be Snape himself and Helena who would be left to pick up the pieces.
With another deep sigh, Slytherin looked pointedly down at Snape. "Severus…" he said warningly.
Snape harrumphed and crossed his arms indignantly.
"I wish we could talk about this privately," Salazar said to Helena with a sigh. "Now my descendant's gotten all hot and bothered about things again."
Helena continued to wipe tears from her face. "I wish I'd followed your lead and kept Helena present. You didn't silence Severus."
Slytherin shrugged, his expression a little guilty. "Well," he said sheepishly, "I did prevent him from forming actual words for a while there." He immediately straightened, however, and looked defiant as though explaining his actions to a parent. "But he was swearing at me at the time!"
For some strange reason Snape actually felt a pang of guilt for having sworn at Salazar and had to harshly remind himself that the man had been stealing his body at the time. The fact that he was 'stealing' it so he could kick Voldemort's backside was entirely beside the point. How was he supposed to have known that? Yes, he soothed himself, swearing had definitely been in order. Snape didn't notice that he was chewing his nails guiltily.
Rowena was still looking at Salazar with watery eyes. "You didn't actually stop listening to him, though, did you? Even if he was saying things you didn't necessarily want to hear. Right?"
With a sigh, Slytherin stepped forward and pulled her back into an embrace. "What's done is done, my dearest," he said softly. "I know your heart, Rowena, and it is a good one. We have all been guilty of arrogance since Helga died and we will all have to try and live with the consequences of it. My advice is to try and do what you can to lessen her distress and then try and prepare yourself for this evening."
Rowena looked up at him and watched him for a long moment. "Why do you love me, Salazar?" she asked softly. "I've never given you anything but grief."
Salazar smiled softly at her and stroked her cheek. "My dear," he breathed, "you simply couldn't be more wrong." He pulled her back to him and rested his cheek on the top of her head. "You have brought me nothing but the purest and most divine happiness."
Snape hoped that he would live long enough to one day experience for himself something that even came close to the pure and radiant love that ran through every facet of his ancestor's being as he held his one, true beloved.
As Slytherin made his way through the maze of passages that led to his secret chamber beneath the potions classroom, Snape could tell that his ancestor's mind was still back with Rowena Ravenclaw. They had parted with a lingering kiss, agreeing to set their affairs in order before meeting again in the hospital wing later in the evening.
When they reached the heavy wooden door that led to the inner sanctuary of Slytherin's personal chamber, the old Founder lifted his hand and ran it down the centre of it in a straight line. With a low rumble, it opened and swung inwards on its ancient hinges. As Salazar stepped into the room, torches set about the room came magically to life and cast a warm, orange light throughout the room.
The room was unchanged since they had seen it last and Snape's eyes fell immediately to the three pendants sitting silently on Salazar's black desk. With a tired sigh, Slytherin stepped into the room, the door closing automatically behind him, and set the green book on the desk next to the pendants.
He straightened and did a slow circle in the middle of the room, looking at everything surrounding him. Comfortable furniture, books, scrolls, personal items; everything was visually examined. "This is all yours, Severus," he finally said softly.
It took a moment for Snape to register what his ancestor had said. "What?" he asked.
Salazar slowly sank into the leather chair behind his desk and leaned back, weariness evident on his face. "When I leave here, I want you to use this chamber as your own personal space. I know that you already have your own living quarters, but, believe me, this chamber is very different from that. It has secrets that you cannot possibly begin to imagine."
Snape gaped up at Slytherin, his eyes wide with amazement.
Salazar looked down at him and smiled softly. "I won't be needing it anymore, son. I want you to use it and enjoy it. You've earned it."
Slowly, Snape allowed himself to look at the room in a new light. As though it was his. His own personal space. *Oh, yes*, he thought.
"But," Slytherin said, raising his eyebrow.
*Ah,* Snape thought, *here it comes. Nothing is free.*
Slytherin suddenly stood up and walked briskly across the room and stopped before the wall of shelves that held the jars of various floating dead things. With a wave of his hand, the shelves suddenly moved aside to reveal a dark corridor beyond, so long that the end could not be seen, even with the torch light of the main chamber burning brightly. A delicate and magical mist seemed to float inches above the slate floor and a sound that reminded Snape of tiny bells and breaking icicles could be heard far away down the passage.
Snape gasped, his curiosity suddenly piqued. The air within the corridor crackled with ancient magic and he could feel his pulse quicken with excitement.
"Wouldn't you just love to know what's down there, Severus?" Salazar asked, his voice suddenly rough. "You could never imagine!"
Snape nodded, his eyes wide.
"Well," Slytherin said mischievously, "I'm not going to tell you!" With another wave of his hand, the shelves pulled closed again and the corridor disappeared. Snape felt a tug of disappointment in his chest and sighed in frustration. He looked up at his ancestor. *What do you want me to do?* he asked, resigned.
Salazar clapped his hands together and returned to the desk with a flourish. "Excellent!" he said excitedly and sat back down in the leather chair. He reached out and pulled the green, leather-bound book to him.
"There are two things I would ask of you," he said, his mood sobering somewhat as he looked at the book's cover. "The first thing I want you to do, my son, is listen," he said as he ran a hand down the ancient, leather tome.
*Listen?* Snape asked. *Listen to what?*
Salazar sighed and closed his eyes heavily. He opened them again after a long moment with what seemed a concerted effort and slowly opened the cover of the book to the first page. "I want you to listen, Severus," he breathed softly, "to the true and unadulterated story of Salazar Slytherin."
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