Snacks and Letters - Part 97

Authors: [info]sionna_raven and [info]valkyriekat
Title: Snacks and Letters - Part 97
Word Count 5053


I don't want to waste time. I just want to feel victorious over the two madmen of the age. Then, Sirius and I may be madmen as well. In a far different way.

I sweep out of the door after Sirius. Regulus is whistling as if happy to be on an adventure, not falling silent at our discovery of his talent. I can hear Sirius threatening to close the locket. I can tell he's joking, and so can Reg.

Down the non-spiral stairs, and finally the gargoyle jumps back into place.

“Potter told you-” I address Sirius, but I stop for Regulus to hiss lightly. I smile and continue. “He told you more about the Chamber, more detailed than what the old bastard told me, I assume.”

“He told me everything, and it's not that much, he's not always terribly observant under pressure. Bit better now he's a trained Auror.”

“Remedial Potions,” I mutter to myself as we walk, Sirius heading for the third floor. Moaning Myrtle

hasn't flooded it for once. She must be so happy, being allowed to be miserable for so long. I don't feel badly about the Occlumency lessons beyond minor loathing at dear Harry's excursion into the shared Pensieve. And it's supposed to be okay for Sirius to adore him.

This isn't the time. I quicken my pace to keep up with Sirius. He's telling me exactly where Harry found the serpent symbol etched into the copper tap. Sirius bangs the girls' bathroom door open and walks boldly to where the 'frozen' faucet is, the one that never worked. There's a loud sniff.

Moaning Myrtle seems to have noticed us. “You're not girls! Why are you coming to upset me? What do you want?” She stops. “Headmaster! I'm sorry. Go ahead. I'll just cry in my cubicle while you find something to maim you down there.” She sniffs some more and goes back in her toilet. Regulus sniggers.

Harry looked at it and used his imagination to think it moved, to give it an order,” Sirius informs me.

I walk over to look at the tiny serpent. It doesn't seem like much to go on, but I put a locomotion spell on the little snake, to make it appear to writhe and coil.

Tell it to...” I begin to ask Regulus.

XSSXSSTHSTHSSSS” Regulus says so softly that it is a crooning noise. Yes, Reg can talk to tinsel snakes, for the frozen tap with the serpent begins to both spin and glow eerily. The sink jerked and then moved smoothly down and in, leaving a gap open, a man-sized hole.

“It's a safe and slimy ride. Harry said he just let the ride take him deep below the school, below the lake, that everything would be green and ghostly.”

I actually laugh hard. He nearly described the first impression of the Slytherin common room. If Harry Potter could get in, Sirius must have been in my old dormitory once. If only to nick my books and leave belching powder on my every flavour beans. But he wasn't. Or was he? I'll ask him another time. I elbow Sirius and nod at the hole.

“You want me to go first?” Sirius laughs, shaking his head like the shaggy hair is fur. “Sllllytherin!”

“You want to show off, don't you? Your chance is passing you by... Gryffffindor!”

“Will you two stop bickering! Drop me if you have to!” Regulus snaps.

I climb on and stick my legs in the chute. Sirius and Regulus sound the same, about showoff Slytherins being as possible as cunning Gryffindors. I don't care. I spot myself in a mirror opposite. Hair more askew than usual, glittering eyes...I let myself go.

It's a drop and then a bump at each of the filthy curved corners, pungent with a smell like rotten fish and discarded snakeskin. Of course I know the latter, don't I? I'm dreading the end. I'm sure some things beyond rats or voles have been breeding in the space between human visitations. Not another Basilisk, I am sure of that. They are only born every two hundred years. And Regulus could..I stop thinking as I hit the ground with a thud and a crackle.

Underneath me is all slime and bones...with no meat or innards left. But the smell is near that of the Cave. I get to my feet, having slid knee
s first into a stone wall.

It's so pleasant here. You must join me!” I call through the hole where I can see a hint of light but no direct line.

I get out of the way. I can hear thuds as Sirius bumps his way down to me.

He and Regulus arrive, Reg looking thrilled. “Be a better example of your House, Reg,” I chide him. He acts fifteen and blows a raspberry. Some things never change. We scramble over broken rocks. Regulus nearly smashes on a protruding rock and Sirius slips his hand around the locket. Finally we seem rid of the rocks. Regulus answers after a long fit of Sirius and I clambering over rocks, grunting and cursing. The cave-in ends and we come to a wall.

There are two entwined stone serpents with large inlaid emerald eyes that seem to glitter and glow. Regulus will help open that for us.

Slytherin means greatness, and I am the greatest gas act of the age,” Regulus titters. “Is that entrance? Has to I mean wow. Why couldn't Salazar Slytherin have put those for an entrance to the Common Room instead of the blank stone wall?” He's speaking earnestly through the smothering hand.

Had to be more subtle when out in the open.” I answer and turn to Sirius who is smothering his laughter with a broad hand.

You two are such snakes. Come on, Reggie. Open it up. I want to put a space between me and that smell. Unless something that smells worse awaits.” Sirius grins a wide grin.

Something worse awaits, you can bet on it. Regulus, please?” I ask tartly.

XSSXSSTHSTHSSSS,” he repeats, Sirius no longer covering him. It must mean open. I'm curious but I hold out my arm to block the brothers.

Be careful. Wands out, locket away. Regulus! Can you hear through the closed locket? If you can't hear...” I begin.

I can hear just fine. Magnified, Mum must have put a charm on it. But I don't want to miss anything!

I'll let you out, little runt, when we're sure not to break you on more piles of broken rock or run into unfriendly powers.Sirius closes the locket and slips him behind the neck of his robes. Regulus can no longer protest.

We step through the parted wall-serpents, which
has slid aside smoothly as ice, emerald eyes gleaming. I feel the touch of Salazar's powers. It gives me pleasant chill, and I walk through first, with Sirius trying to get ahead. This is not as much his concern as mine. And adventure to him, but to me it also means potion ingredients, harnessing formerly irretrievable properties and powers, dark or otherwise. He wants the latter, too, just doesn't mention it.

My eyes scan the place we have stepped to.

Tall stone pillars the shape of serpents with downward glancing heads stand one after the other on each side of a long stone chamber. The top of it lost in darkness. The dark green gloom obscures a lot of the upper area, so that it is harder to see these emerald eyes glancing down at us, as if Transfigured.

They seem to move on their pillars.

That is definitely a twitch of a tail. Before I have said anything Sirius has acted. He flings out the locket, opens it and yells at it. “Regulus! The stone serpents...stop them!”

Regulus lets out more of his incomprehensible snakelike noise. I try stunning one when I notice that they aren't stopping. It works. There must be a trick. One after the other, Sirius and I speaking back to back, we cry “Protego!” at them- neither of us gets far, there are eight of them and we have dealt with three. Sirius got two. I use the Impediment Jinx on another to no effect. “Finite Incantatem!” I spit at the five left and they all become docile and lay slackly on the cold stone floor.

They must have once been real snakes, to act like that. Are all you Slytherins so friendly as Salazar?”

You're in the house if not in the House,” I sneer at him. We thank Regulus, who liked my pun, and return him to the supposed safety under Sirius' collar. Sirius just shakes his head. Then he freezes. I turn to look at what he has spotted.

The body of the Basilisk.

I hurry to it, sizing the length at twenty to twenty five feet. I conjure specimen jars and phials and flagons and petri dishes with covers. Samples... something worthwhile from this trip. Not that a little danger did something for me. It's good to harness and surpass fear. It's very productive. I brought the dragonhide gloves and bag.

It's mostly bone. It is on its back, the jaws widely spaced in its death. I siphon off the small, nearly invisible samples of venom. So rare, it's like it glows in my pocket in its rarity. A touch of what is left of the meat which is giving off a putrid sick-sweet smell. The hardened blood of the eye! Oh what a good day this is. The glands that held the venom seem long gone- but there is a black, hardened, thick paste that might house it.

Finally I am done gouging at the massive wreck of a serpent whose life was ruined far more by Tom Riddle than Ginny or Harry Potter's. I hear a sound of scorn behind me.


I thought we came down here to discover secrets not to ravage a cadaver.

“Sev really, aren't you done yet? This is disgusting. Let's vanish the thing and find out, if Slytherin's legacy consists of more than rotten meat.”

It's strange, but I really want to discover the secrets of this chamber. I want to find proof that Reggie was right about the most amazing magic just waiting down here. Waiting for those who dare to understand. The Founders' true legacy, not the petty Dark stuff Voldemort was after. Severus has finally finished scraping dried blood and disgusting body parts.

“Dark Arts oddball, “ I say chuckling. He swirls around to shoot me a deadly glare, then smirks.

“Moronic mutt, you have no idea what can be achieved with these rare samples.” His eyes glitter with sheer joy and enthusiasm like a child's who has entered Honeydukes for the first time.

“Do whatever you want with it, but please, let's get rid of the remains. This dead old snake stinks.”

We tackle the huge cadaver together and carry on casting Vanishing and Cleaning spells on puddles of poisonous Basilisk blood as we approach the big stone head at the end of the chamber. I get the feeling all the snake figures and ornaments we pass follow us with their eyes. They watch our steps warily, with apprehension rather than hostility.

The face of Salazar Slytherin can't be called a piece of fine art, roughly carved and chunky. Not the noble face of a wise and learned sorcerer I'm afraid, but appearances can deceive as we know from the portrait several floors above. Regulus is wiggling in his locket frame. I hold him up to see face to face with his idol. The little one starts hissing and the dark stone eyes suddenly become alive. In answer to Regulus' respectful greeting, I assume it was a greeting, a soft hissing fills our ears and minds. It's entrancing and demanding at the same time. Regulus hisses back and so it goes, back and forth. Short hisses which might be orders, lengthy explanations, hesitant, calming, wary. Severus and I stand there, unable to understand what they are talking about, getting impatient. There's a pause in the Parseltongue conversation and Severus beats me at getting in between.

“Reg, I understand that this must be highly interesting to you, but would you mind to keep us informed what's going on?”

“Sorry Sev, he has a lot of questions. He wants to know who we are and what we want.”

“He's not the only one who has questions.” A sure sign Severus is nervous. He gets snappy. “Who or what is he, Regulus?”

Regulus starts hissing again and the head seems to agree to what he says. It's hard to judge by the tone of the voices alone.

“Severus, Sirius, may I introduce you to the portrait of Salazar Slytherin, Founder of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, One of the Mighty Four? That's what he is. He calls himself the Keeper of the Chamber.”

He pauses and Severus inclines his head to pay his respect.

“Severus Snape, Headmaster of Hogwarts, Member of Slytherin House.”

I follow suit. There's no point to forgetting our manners.

“Sirius Black, Defence against the Dark Arts teacher, Gryffindor.”

More Parseltongue, Reggie seems to object to something. I turn the locket to me. He seems hesitant to translate.

“He.... asks... he wants to know, if …. you are of true magic blood....”

That bloody nonsense again. Severus tries to look untouched. How dare this stone portrait reject him, insult him? Severus is more Slytherin than all those pure- blooded arseholes who are my cousins and a thousand times more than the last miserable descendant of Slytherin's own blood-line.

“Tell him we're here! And if that's not proof enough we're real wizards, we can show him magic with our wands.”

I have drawn my wand. Severus looks alarmed and Reggie's eyes are wide open. He swallows.

“Tell him what I've said! Now!”

A moment of silence and then the chamber is filled with a roaring sound which must be the snake version of.... laughter.

Reggie starts giggling as he listens to the next hissed answer.

“He says you certainly are of Godric's lot. Don't worry he trusts his own magic that bewitched the Sorting Hat. ….. You see those who came before us.... there were quite a few, all claimed to be his heirs. They came for his gold and asked for weapons to destroy their enemies. He gave them what they asked for. The last and greatest disappointment was the Dark …. Voldemort. He destroyed the guardian of the school and he almost destroyed the school itself. He won't give away his secrets again without a test.”

“We are ready to take your test, Salazar Slytherin.” Severus voice is clear and determined and still there is this small trace of a smirk on his lips. Ready to take on the challenge? Any time.

“He will ask you three questions and if you answer them right, the secrets of the chamber are yours.”

We look at each other and nod.

“Why have you come to this place?”

Another exchange of looks and the answer is clear.

“We've come to learn magic.”

“What has been your guide on the way?”

We both smirk, “A cunning mind and a daring heart.”

What is at the foundations of Hogwarts?”

There's not a moment's hesitation at that one.

“Hogwarts was built on real friendship.”

It's a bit like we're landed in one of Regulus' old tales.

Nothing could have prepared us for what happens next. The room vibrates and fills with a buzzing sound. What I thought were solid stone walls, mouldy, cold and wet, become transparent. Yards and yards of cabinets filled with books, scrolls of parchment and even Egyptian papyri behind green glass doors. No, not glass, glass can't break the light as these doors do, making rainbow coloured rays dance over the stone floor. They are made of thin-cut emeralds, engraved with serpents, ruby inlays for eyes. We are dazzled, speechless, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Like boys in Honeydukes? Honeydukes, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Fortescue's, all at once. Like the moment when your wand chooses you, the moment you see Hogwarts' lighted windows from the lake for the first time .....

“The usual procedure, Sirius?” Severus tries to sound composed, but he is as excited as I am.

“At your signal.”

We each turn to one wall of cabinets and at Severus' nod, we start casting Detection and Revealing spells. The head gives us an amused hiss. No disrespect meant, old chap, but we need to make sure that the snake handles won't bite us.

There's powerful magic all over the place, but no traps. Some books are in chains like the ones in the Restricted Section of the library, but fewer than you'd expect. I remember Grandpa Arcturus said 'in most cases it's not the spell itself that is Dark, it's the mind of the wizard that makes it'. James said that was a cheap excuse for being allowed to use Dark Arts. I decided to trust his judgement. He knew; the Potters were a decent family unlike mine, Gryffindors for generations. If he was here, he probably had suggested to burn the whole library. “There's has never been anything good coming from Slytherin”

I don't want to destroy it. “We've come to learn magic.”

“It's safe. I think we can now have a closer look.”

“Severus, Sirius, you know you are idiots, don't you? Why should he try to curse those who have come to learn from him?”, comes Regulus' voice from the locket.

Severus laughs. “Other than you, Reg, we are alive and we fancy staying so. Let's get a rough overview. There's no way we can really see what is here in one day or even months.” His voice is trembling with excitement. “Sirius, have you ever seen.....?”

“No, I haven't, Sev....” I'm as excited as he is and pull at the handle right in front of me. The rolls of parchment rustle as if each wants to be the first to be read. I curse myself for having been to lazy to study the ancient languages. Much of this stuff is in letters I can't even identify properly. I put them back. Severus can deal with them. This one's in Old English; I can deal with that, an instruction how to build a castle over night. We're not in need of a castle right now. Conjure a mist to hide a whole army; a draught to make you speak in every human tongue – reading every language would come more handy; the incantation to open a way into the land of the dead – no thanks.

“Sirius! You've got to see this!”

Severus is holding a parchment decorated with red, green and golden pictures of dragons and hounds and plants. The text looks like a bird has jumped into the ink well and run up and down.

“Sev,.... errr... you know Ogham is not my strong point.”

“ Cad Goddeu!” The words sound familiar, but I raise my eyebrows waiting for an explanation I can understand. Severus shakes his head and sighs. “The Battle of the Trees, you have heard of that?”

Regulus squeals. Oh yes, I have heard of that. Regulus loved those stories. He even called the stuffed dragon he had at five-years-old Gwydeon.

“I know the story, you can get a decent translation in every Muggle book shop.”

“Not the story, you imbecile. It's the incantation! The spell Gwydeon used to raise the trees! The exact words he spoke! Written down by an eye witness.”

“You were lucky that Voldemort was more interested in murderous beasts than true learning. It had not been funny, if he had made the Forbidden Forest attack Hogwarts two years ago.”

Severus' face has turned dead serious. “We have been very lucky that he had never understood the true powers of this chamber, very lucky indeed.”

“Have you found anything useful? I mean not just battle spells?”

Severus starts grinning. “I have indeed. Something you will be most interested in.”

He hands me a Latin scroll and twinkles. The Useless Brew, I have searched for this so long, not to brew it, to know that it exists. I skim the list of ingredients, moonstone, two drops of the venom of a Gaboon viper, three tomato seeds, juice from deadly nightshade, hemlock, one pound of strawberries, three crushed oyster shells, rose oil...... nine scales of a basilisk......???

I grin at Sev.

“Now I know why you collected all that gruesome stuff. …. Wait! You've found the recipe in the book? Why didn't you tell me?”

Severus shrugs. “Must have forgotten about it.” Bloody smirking bastard!

I put the scroll back into the cabinet. There's a heavy volume on Mind Magic, obviously put together by Slytherin himself. I take it out and let my fingers trace the entwined snakes on the cover.

“Sev, here's something for you. Occlumency and Legilimency. “

I'm about to pass it over when I see a few loose pages stick out. They are covered with the tiniest scrawl I've ever seen. It's extremely hard to decipher.

.... been wandering through the deepest forests..... many days... haven't met the Incapables.... came through a small passage into a glen. ….Godric seems to like the place. … easy to defend... Rowena and Helga... decided to stay.... Merpeople in the lake.... friendly perhaps.... have to stay wary...”

There's no doubt what that is. I hand it over to Severus. He should read it first. The real story of the founding of Hogwarts. If this was the only secret in the chamber, it was worth it. Severus is holding Salazar Slytherin diary with trembling hands.

“Severus....,” I say quietly. “I have students for detention in about half an hour. Do you mind, if I leave you alone?”

He looks up as if he only remembers now that I am here at all. His hands are still clutching the pages.

I take the locket from my neck and put it in his hands.

“You may need Regulus' assistance, if you stay.”

He nods. “You will need my assistance to get out of here. Don't you remember that Fawkes flew them out last time?”

I had almost forgotten about that. There must be another way to leave, must have been in the past, but we don't have time to search for it.

“Can you carry me up? Back to Myrtle's bathroom?”

The confident smile again, so sure about his magic abilities.

“Put a Levitating Charm on yourself.”

I do and he grabs me around my waist. “Hold on to me!”

We land softly on the tiled floor. Myrtle moans in her cubicle.

“I'll be in my office later. Next time you get only toast and tea, before flying.”

“Yes Headmaster. Send my brother, when you're back. “

I watch him slowly hover down the pipe again. Back to the chamber and the secrets within.


Once again down below, I find my path barred to the books and other magic. I know within where I placed the most magical of all magic writings, and I quickly pull Regulus' locket and hold him out to speak with the animated stone Salazar Slytherin.

There is yet another outbreak of hissing,

“He says you can not pass unless you are pure,” Regulus informs me. “I told him you are a half blood. He said no entrance. I reminded him who you are, Headmaster and former Head of Slytherin. I told him you were one hundred percent shrewd, and to watch his step. He seemed to accept the answer.”

The walls melt.

What was transparent before has become transparent again. My hands jitter slightly, my chest thunders. All this knowledge... and how to apply it?

I find myself hugging the enticing volume of Salazar Slytherin's tightly. I let go and open it to the first page.

Regulus starts hissing again, spitting here and there, quite as excited as when he went through those snow drifts that gave him such delight, I imagine. He acts very strangely for a portrait, not condemned to repeat the same things over and over, but a personality with variations like the former Headmasters and Headmistresses. I don't have time to think of the mystery of it, he and Salazar have stopped their snake imitations, and Regulus relays more.

“You can't take any magic in text or object, but for one. And Salazar has to approve it.”

I was waiting to be told I could take nothing. I grimace and read the first sheet. Miniature, tiny words are all over sheets stuck into the book, a notebook full of spells and mind magic and many variations of it. The different degrees of protecting the contents of the mind, how to throw up false images, how to distract and ensnare. I close my eyes with something near reverence – I seem to have always known that this very special and somewhat obscure talent was invented by the first Slytherin Hogwarts ever knew.

But the smaller, cramped words are yet more exciting.

I look for somewhere to sit or lean against while I read. I'm burning with curiosity. There's a stone ledge which will do, about chair height. I sit and pore over these precious notes.

Time passes but am I aware of it? Scarcely. Regulus humming to himself irritates me. No better than Parseltongue and far less meaning. I look back to the words that occur everywhere in the “document.”

We mustn't be hasty ... Godric's strategy is so forward ... the trees whisper like the snakes, and I can't yet decipher them … the arrow of the centaur driven deeply in Rowena's thigh, Helga says no blame is to be laid with the Centaurs … healing spells should not be used in haste … gentle mind magic to soothe her as we discuss treatment.”

He loves his friends. You can see it in the words. The founders were united. What made it go wrong? I riffle through the pages, then back, then a few further. I read:

I remember forever the burial site of my wife and two sons … never want anyone to suffer as I did when the Muggles came with the aid of the so-called Muggle-borns to rid themselves of the resident freak witch and her kin, after she refused to hex their enemies, rule the rain and return youth and vigor … her husband a great dark sorcerer must be killed before he influences our young...

What about the lives of my family? What if Muggles influenced our own young? That was my idea behind a school. A place for our own. Clever Rowena. She knows I choose words carefully and what I mean. I am always thinking of my boys. What of my young, broken, dead wife? Even of what they did to the cat?”

I can't read more- I had thought there was something personal in the blood nonsense. It's not nonsense. He wanted to remain friends, I open the book's notes at a crack and snag a few words.

I want what they want, can they not allow me to add my own voice? They are the very best of people, my sisters and my brother founders. Rowena ever with the question 'Why?' on her lips. Helgs's kind, lined face full of the sorrows of others. Godric, straight-backed and proud and always laughing .. I do not want to let them down. I must be cunning.”

My back aches. I have been in one position for too long. Focused on one work too long. I put the book aside. I won't take this one. I want something that I know less about, with more magic per square inch.

A difficult task to find, even here. More magic... what could it be?

My eyes scan the piles and I take in the volumes, scrolls, eyes land on a small, dark brown leather volume that seems worn and not very long. It has four words on it I immediately appreciate and I snatch it up.

Creating Your Own Spells is spelled out in spiky silver writing.

beneath that:

For Advanced Learners

Bliss. I open the page and spot motion. Wand movements. Instructions on the greatest potency. Careful instructions on creating incantations of subtle elegance. This is my book.

I show it to Regulus and he whistles. “Right up your alley,” he says.

I am ready to leave the rest behind me, I will not be enticed by another book or by some instrument. I turn my back without regret. I am the happiest, most powerful wizard in the world. I can always break outside the constrains of the book, if it has any.

I look at Salazar's roughly hewn rock face. Walking in front of him I make my request.“May I take this book?” I ask. The mass of rock shifts and I see him nod, then hiss more softly than the other times. Regulus is rolling his eyes. “'Even half-bloods can have taste,' is what he said,” Reg informs me.

Thank you,” I say with sour sarcasm. But I have the book. I feel like a Muggle three year old on a ferris wheel!

I walk past the remnants of the basilisk, barely a trace of it on the floor, just powdered bone and no trace of blood. When Sirius uses Vanishing Charms and other cleaning charms he does it properly. He doesn't take half measures. Are we as different as all that? Hard to tell any more.

My mind is on fire with the possibilities of this book. What will Sirius make of it, I wonder. I won't be parading this book about. He will be the only other person to see it. I smile slightly at a past Christmas at Hogwarts when Potter was young. “Unless a mad axe-man is waiting to slaughter the first into the Entrance Hall...” Minerva speaking to Trelawney. If a mad axe-man overcomes me the book of course would go to Sirius. I should update my will.

I'm walking with my head bowed and not looking ahead, thinking of the book, of Sirius, of what Sirius will do with this book that I will share with him. This lasts for a fair number of yards. Then I collide with something large.


October 2013

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