Chapter Eighteen: Salazar Slytherin
Slytherin looked steadily at the book in front of him, apprehension and nervousness evident on his tired face. Slowly, he opened the cover to reveal the pages within. He fanned through them with a sigh and allowed them to fall back into place again.
As the pages whisked by, Snape noticed that they were all different; different sizes, different paper, different ink, different hand-writing. It took him no time at all to piece together what he was looking at. These were the missing pages from the books they had been looking at that morning in the library. The missing history of Salazar Slytherin.
Snape's mind tried to work out what he was seeing, but couldn't piece it together. *Why?* he finally breathed. *Why were they removed?*
With another tired sigh, Salazar ran his hand over the first page of the book. It appeared to be an entry out of a diary and Snape guessed it was his ancestor's. "Because," the old Founder said sadly, "in order to use me and my name as a rallying point for their cause, it was first necessary for them to erase all evidence of my true beliefs and writings."
Snape's mind continued to work through what he was hearing. *Who?* he finally asked. *What cause? Do you mean Voldemort?*
Slytherin gave a tired laugh. "No," he said. "He was just one of a long line to use me in that way."
*Then who?* Snape persisted. *Who would do this to your memory?*
Salazar shook his head and looked up. "Can you think of no one?" he asked tiredly. "How about the first wizards to target Muggles for elimination?" he said softly.
Something inside Snape shifted and he suddenly understood what his ancestor was saying. *The first Pure Bloods,* he said softly, his insides churning uncomfortably.
Slytherin nodded slowly, his chest heavy with emotion. "Indeed. The first of the 'Pure Bloods'," he spat the words out with venom, "needed a symbolic leader to attach their cause to and lend it legitimacy. More importantly, however, they needed someone who could not question their name being used in such a way, but was still controversial enough to be believable. I was the logical choice."
Snape shook his head and looked back down at the book. *Butóbut, why didn't they just destroy all this evidence?*
Salazar finally allowed himself a satisfied grin. "Because I am a paranoid creature by nature, my boy!" he said proudly.
With a nod, Snape looked up at him. *You made your writings indestructible!* he said, obviously impressed.
"Indeed, yes!" he said with a smug sigh. "With a magic too powerful and ancient for any modern wizard to undo," he looked up for a moment. "Well, except Albus maybe."
Snape nodded thoughtfully. *So, they had to remove all your writings and put them in one place and hope they would never be found.*
"Where their safe keeping would be entrusted to the leader of the moment, yes."
*And then rewrite history as they needed,* Snape continued, his mind racing with the new information. Snape suddenly looked up at Salazar, understanding dawning in his eyes. *That's why Voldemort wanted you dead!* he said suddenly. *He found out where the pendants were and realized that you were the one person who could seriously damage the Pure Blood cause. You knew the truth!*
With a smile, Salazar looked down at him, obviously proud. "That's right, son. I knew the truth about myself, as it were. It would definitely take the steam out of things if it was discovered that the "founder" of the movement, well, wasn't. Indeed, that he abhorred it."
Thoughtfully, Snape looked back down at the book before him. *But,* he said slowly, *why you?*
Slytherin sighed heavily and slumped forward onto the desk. "Because, as I said, I was the logical choice, my boy," he said sadly. "I already had a reputation for arrogance andóand," he hesitated and looked down at his ancestor. "And I did have some ideas that, at best, would be considered archaic by today's standards. I gave them all the ground work they needed to use me as their symbolic head. Unfortunately for them, however, my ideas never went as far as they needed them to in order to warrant what they wanted to do, so they recreated me, so to speak."
Snape hesitated, almost afraid to hear anymore. *What sort of ideas did you have?* he asked softly.
Slytherin shook his head. "Too many." He looked back up at Snape. "And this is where you come in, son." He began to randomly flip through the pages again. "The second thing I need from you is for you to write my history. My true history. Warts and all."
Snape looked down at the book and felt a sudden excitement at the prospect being presented to him.
"I warn you, however," Salazar said, "that you will undoubtedly find some of the things you find out about me utterly offensive. The one thing that I can assure you of, though, is that I never, never advocated, suggested or endorsed in way the killing of others. Never!"
Snape glanced up at his ancestor and caught his internal emotions. Slytherin felt desperate for Snape to understand him and not judge him. "Severus," he said softly, "as you read this book, it is important to me that you remember me as I am now. I do not believe the things I did back then. Will you keep that in mind as you read, son?"
Snape nodded up at his ancestor, his eyes wide. Without understanding why, he suddenly felt like hugging his ancestor, but resisted the temptation. Instead he quickly looked back down at the book. *Do you want me to begin right at the beginning of your life?* he asked instead.
Slytherin nodded. "Oh, yes," he answered softly. "It's all here. My personal diary is the first entry in the book."
Snape allowed himself a furtive glance at the shelves hiding the secret passage. *Does that passage have anything to do with what I'll find in here, Salazar?* he asked hesitantly. Something about that hallway made him shiver down to the depths of his soul.
With a tilt of his head, Slytherin also looked at the shelves and a small smile crept onto his face. "Oh, yes, dear boy," he breathed. "It most certainly does. And before your book is complete, you will have taken a little walk down there yourself, I'm sure." The smile suddenly slipped from his face and he looked back down at his descendant. "You, however, will undoubtedly be stronger than I was when you discover what lies at its end."
Snape bit his lip, his heart rate increasing slightly. *What's down there?*
Slytherin smiled and shook his head. "It's best that you don't know until you've read everything. It's important that you understand everything first."
With a frustrated sigh, Snape nodded and looked away. *If you insist,* he offered and Salazar nodded happily. Another thought struck Snape then and he looked back up at the Founder. "After I'm finished with the book, do you want me to return all the pages to their original sources?"
With a sigh, Slytherin sat back in his chair and ran his hand through his hair. He regarded the green book for a long moment and then slowly shook his head. "No," he finally said. "I don't think so. The fact that the pieces were removed and placed in this volume has, in itself, become a part of history. Best leave it as it is for future scholars to interpret how they will."
Snape nodded and looked back up at Slytherin. *So, are you going to tell me now?* he asked.
Salazar raised a questioning eyebrow in response. "Tell you what?"
With a sigh, Snape folded his arms and titled his head to the side, his own eyebrow rising. *You said you were going to tell me the story of your life.*
"But," Slytherin said pointing to the book, "it's all in the ..."
Snape shook his head adamantly. *I want to hear it from you!* he smiled mischievously.
With a sigh, Salazar sat back and laced his fingers behind his head. "You are a pest, aren't you?"
Snape didn't reply, merely sat waiting, a look of expectation on his face.
Finally, Salazar gave a small chuckle. "Alright, Severus. I'll give you the condensed version since you'll read all the details for yourself soon enough."
Snape smiled and settled in for a listen.
Slytherin leaned forward again and placed his elbows on the table. As he spoke, his eyes never left the book before him. "Listen closely, Severus, for I shall not be repeating anything. The quick and dirty version of the life of Salazar Slytherin," he said. With a sigh, he seemed to steel himself for the telling, his brow furrowed in concentration. "I was born over a thousand years ago, the exact time, date and location are unimportant and you can look them up for yourself, into a family that would be considered by today's standards as very middle class."
Snape's eyebrows shot up in surprise. He had expected to hear that Slytherin was the son of a nobleman, even a king.
Slytherin continued without pause, either unaware of or unconcerned with Snape's response. "My father, like his father before him and his father before him, prepared and sold potions," he glanced with a smile down at Snape who beamed in return, obviously pleased. "He was a well-respected member of the Traditionalist sect of the magical society."
*Traditionalist?* Snape asked, his brows furrowed.
Salazar nodded slowly, his face betraying signs of discomfort. "Indeed," he said softly. "The Traditionalists were a segment of society that wanted things to return to the old ways. They wanted the world to operate the way it had many years before and were not happy about the direction things were going."
*What old ways?*
With a long sigh, Salazar closed his eyes and forced himself to remain calm. "Now, Severus," he said slowly. "What I am about to tell you is something that not many modern day witches or wizards know for the simple reason that history is written by the winners and we did not win the war that was eventually fought with the Progressives. For the sake of peace, it was decided that our beliefs would not be discussed."
Snape sat forward, his eyes wide with anticipation.
Slytherin looked him directly in the eye. "The Traditionalists were a group of wizards whose aim it was to return the world to a time when Muggles regarded us as Gods and worshipped us accordingly."
Snape sat back with a start. Something that had been sitting at the back of his mind, suddenly leapt to the fore. *Oh, by the love of Merlin,* he breathed.
Slytherin watched him evenly, waiting for him to make the connections himself.
*Greek gods...Roman gods...* he said softly. *Not myth...us!*
Salazar nodded slowly. "That's right, my boy. The ancient mythology created by the Greeks and the Romans was basically how ancient Muggles explained our strange abilities and seeming invincibility. They believed we were immortal and all-powerful and that we resided in a mystical land far away."
Snape jumped to his feet, breathing hard. *Here!* he said. *It's here! I saw the Roman construction of the hallways outside this chamber when we first came down here! Only, the Muggle Romans never occupied this part of Britain. Hogwarts is built on the place where the magical ancients used to live!*
Slytherin nodded slowly. "When they weren't off playing with the Muggles, that is," he said with a shake of his head. "There was a relatively small number of witches and wizards back then, so they formed a community far away from the populated world where they could live in peace. Some chose to become involved more closely with the Muggles and took an active interest in them, others didn't."
Snape shook his head. *And those that got involved were eventually worshipped as gods.*
Slytherin nodded again.
Snape slowly looked down at the floor and gulped noticeably. *Then that means that Hogwarts was essentially built on...*
"Mount Olympus, that's right."
Snape slowly sank back down, shaking his head. *This is unbelievable...*
With a sigh, Salazar nodded. "But, alas, all good things must come to an end. Muggles advanced, religion advanced and eventually we were pushed aside. Cast off the throne. Science replaced magic and we were sent packing, as it were."
With a nod of understanding, Snape looked back up at him. *Let me guess,* he said softly. *Over the years that followed, some magical people chose to retreat into hiding and others wished for a return to the old ways.*
With another nod, Slytherin smiled. "You definitely take after my family!" he said proudly. "Just too clever!"
Snape looked up at him, his expression serious. *But,* he said carefully, *in order for things to return to the way they had been...*
"It would have been necessary to force the Muggles back into a state of ignorance, yes."
Snape chewed his lip and looked away from his ancestor, suddenly unable to look at him directly.
The silence lingered between them for a moment and then finally Slytherin reached out to his descendant and placed his hand on his shoulder. "I told you that you probably wouldn't like what you heard about me, son," he said softly.
Snape shook his head and looked back at him. *It's not that, Salazar,* he said earnestly. *It just sounds so much likeólike...*
Snape nodded and looked back at him, his expression earnest and sad. *That's why they used your name then?*
Slytherin nodded sadly. "Indeed. I told you I was a logical choice. I grew up in a household where these sorts of ideas, ideas about the superiority of our kind, were regular meal-time conversation. I spent most of my life espousing them, I am ashamed to admit. As you will see in my writings."
A thought occurred to him and he looked back up at Slytherin. *But you didn't die with these beliefs. I can feel that. What happened to change you?*
Quite unexpectedly, Salazar threw his head back and laughed uproariously. He shook his head with obvious mirth and amusement and looked back down at Snape. "What do you think happened to me?" he grinned.
Snape returned the smile. *Rowena Ravenclaw?* he asked mischievously.
Salazar nodded with obvious amusement and shook his head. "I knew my beliefs were forbidden after the war, but I still continued to cling to them, even after I helped found Hogwarts. Secretly writing about them, always trying to influence the others to start a fifth house to put the Muggleborns in. Ridiculous stuff." He shook his head.
Slytherin grew serious and looked back down at the book. "She refused to marry me because of those barbaric beliefs. At the time, I was furious over it. I even left Hogwarts for a time when she first turned me down. But I eventually saw the light," he shut his eyes for a moment, a wave of sadness passing over him. "It was too late by then, of course," he whispered. "We were both elderly by the time I changed my views and near the end of our lives." He let his head drop to his chest and he sighed deeply.
Snape remained silent out of respect for his ancestor's silent regrets and took the opportunity to think about everything he had heard. It would take him so long to digest all the information he had been presented with that he suspected this little project he'd been entrusted with would likely take him many years to complete. Once finished, however, he had no doubt whatsoever that it would turn the wizarding world upside down. The Pure Bloods would be scrambling, regardless of where the war was at.
Slytherin seemed to come out of his reverie and looked down at Snape. He smiled sadly. "It's time for me to go, Severus," he said quietly.
Startled, Snape looked back up at Salazar. *What?* he said.
"I have to return, " Slytherin said again. "My time here has come to an end, son."
Something in Snape's throat caught and he felt his heart rate increase. His hands began to tremble slightly and his breathing became quicker. *I see,* the calmness of his voice did not betray the sudden panic he could feel rising within him. *It's still early, though, isn't it? You don't have to be in the hospital wing until this evening,* he said reasonably.
Slytherin slowly rose from his leather chair, grabbed his silver pendant from the desk top, and made his way to the large, comfortable sofa in front of the fireplace. "It's time to wrap things up," he said and sank into the couch with a sigh.
Snape felt the panic welling up inside him now. The desperate thought of the emptiness that would be left in his ancestor's wake was greater than he had anticipated. *Maybe you could stay for a while,* he said, aware that the alarm was beginning to show in his voice. *You could help me with the book. It is yours, after all.*
With a tired smile, Slytherin pulled Snape onto his lap and shook his head. "The longer we occupy the body of a descendant, the more separate the two spirits become. We are almost completely separate now, Severus. Soon, I won't be physically able to leave and you will eventually be pushed out completely. Lost in oblivion."
Completely separate? Snape thought. What was that supposed to mean? They had always been separate spirits. Though, now that he thought about it, there had been a feeling slowly coming over him that the presence of Slytherin was becoming somehow less ephemeral and more solid and permanent, somehow. He had just assumed that it was due to him becoming more familiar with the old Founder's presence. Perhaps it was more than that, though.
Snape mentally looked back up at Slytherin and gasped. His heart seemed to momentarily stop and his hands abruptly began to shake like leaves on a wind-blown tree. Salazar was smiling down at him. Not the fuzzy, mental presence that had always been his ancestor, but Salazar Slytherin himself and the man was breathtaking. His long silver hair and bright green eyes positively glowed and the long face with its straight nose and high cheekbones shone with ancient power. Snape was speechless and stared, open-mouthed, at his ancestor.
Slytherin patted him on the back. "You're finally ready to see me, Severus. I'm glad," he said softly. "You've always been able to look and not see. I'm happy you were able before we had to part company."
Snape shook his head, still speechless. Good gods the man had to be tall if Snape himself was looking up at him, even while sitting on his lap. Wait a moment. Why was he sitting on his lap? Had he completely lost his mind? Since when did Severus Snape go around sitting on anybody's lap, much less Slytherin's?
Snape suddenly leapt up and stood before Salazar, confusion evident on his face. What was the old Founder playing at here, he wondered? He wanted to move away from him but knew that by sharing the same body he could only mentally separate himself so much from the presence of his ancestor.
With a sad smile, Slytherin rose slowly from the sofa and stood before Snape. He mentally looked down at him and put his hand on his shoulder.
Snape gasped again. The man must have been a giant in his lifetime! How long had he been looking up at Salazar now without even being aware of what he was doing? Snape himself was over six feet. Slytherin must have been at least . . .
Something inside Snape suddenly went cold and he felt his breath catch in his throat. Time seemed to halt around him and he could hear the sound of his own blood rushing past his ears. His breathing quickened and he felt sweat prickling at his neck. Slowly, he brought one trembling hand up in front of his face and gasped, his eyes wide with horror. *Oh, gods,* he breathed. *No.*
Salazar knelt down in front of Snape and gently took his trembling hand in his. The small hand disappeared inside the larger one and Slytherin smiled comfortingly at his descendant. "You don't have to be afraid anymore, Severus," he said gently and motioned with his chin to a spot over Snape's shoulder.
Slowly, his knees trembling so badly they threatened to give way beneath him, Snape turned to look behind him. A large, magical mirror hung on the opposite wall, reflecting back the secret room and Snape gasped at what he saw there. He was a child, no older than eight years. His black hair was long and straggly and his face pale and sad. His dark eyes looked haunted and frightened and his slight form seemed too skinny to possibly be healthy. Behind him, Salazar was crouching down, smiling sadly and still holding his descendant's hand.
Snape felt his knees finally give way and he leaned hard against Slytherin for support. With a flourish, Salazar rose and pulled Snape up with him. He cradled him gently in his arms and sat back down on the sofa. He looked down at Snape, clearly worried, as his descendant stared straight ahead, obviously dazed.
"It's going to be alright, Severus," he said soothingly and lifted him into a hug. Snape's cheek fell against his ancestor's chest and he suddenly began to gasp for air, full panic setting in.
Slytherin rubbed his back patiently and waited for it to pass. He spoke softly as Snape struggled to regain control. "It's o.k., Severus," he said softly. "These things happen sometimes. Most of you did grow up, you know. You developed an adult body, adult intellect, even an adult defence system. Very effective one, I might add," he said with a small chuckle. The smile slid from his face. "Unfortunately, a very important part of you, the part right at the very core of your being, didn't have a chance to grow up properly," he said softly. He hugged Snape closer and rested his cheek on the top of his head. "That very important part of you, Severus, never left that dungeon. It's still there, son," he whispered.
Snape gasped at Slytherin's words. Slytherin was right and Snape suddenly knew it. His spirit had been trapped all these years, alone in a dungeon, crying to get out. Everything else had just been coping. Layers and layers of protection and coping. Throwing himself into his potions, he was so good at them! No one could criticize that! How wonderfully distracting. Becoming a Death Eater. Nothing could touch you if you were evil and frightening, could it? Then being a spy. How brave and noble! No one locked up heroes, did they? But, none of it was true. He was locked up. Always had been. That voice deep inside that surfaced only when he slept, when he couldn't control it and silence it. The desperate, screaming child's voice that called and begged and pleaded inside him. Slytherin had not been telling him all this time that he was childish, he had been telling him that he was a child.
Snape pressed his eyes shut and shoved his fist in his mouth, trying not to cry. Within seconds, however, he had lost the brief battle and began to wail in Slytherin's arms.
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