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Chapter 14 : Parseltongue
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“Can I try?” he asked timidly.
Lily glanced at him and her eyes narrowed. Then she turned back to the locket and continued her fruitless efforts. Severus sighed. Where was Sirius? What was taking him so long? Perhaps, Severus thought, he could take advantage of the situation to try and make things right again.
“Lily,” he said heavily, “I’m really sorry.”
She bit her lip, but otherwise had no reaction. It was as thought she hadn’t heard him at all. He decided to give up for the time being and focused on the locket. It was definitely a Horcrux. But how to open it? Who might know how to open it?
A few minutes later, Severus hadn’t had any breakthroughs and Sirius had come down from upstairs. His eyes were reddened and stared tiredly ahead. Severus felt mildly uncomfortable as he realized that Sirius had been crying. Lily jumped up and gathered his into an embrace, which he at first tried to reject and then surrendered to completely. Severus twiddled his thumbs awkwardly as Lily murmured comforting words. Finally, they pulled apart. Lily put a comforting hand on Sirius’s shoulder as he roughly rubbed at his eyes.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said gruffly, nodding his head toward the door. He then tossed his mother’s wand back to Kreacher. “Give this back to her once we leave.”
The elf bowed low and stalked out of the room, muttering angrily to himself.
“Any ideas on the locket?” Sirius asked.
Lily frowned and shrugged, but Severus had suddenly thought of something—of someone who would know how to open it.
“I know where we have to go,” he said, and Lily and Sirius whipped their heads around to stare at him.
“Really?” Sirius said skeptically.
“Yes,” he insisted. “Just trust me on this.”
No sooner had the words left his mouth than he wished he could take them back. Lily’s eyes became vicious slits and Sirius stiffened dangerously. Severus braced himself.
“Trust you?” Sirius cried. “Why the hell would we trust you at this point?”
“Please,” he begged. “You want to destroy the Horcrux? This is the only way.”
Lily groaned, obviously not pleased that Severus held the key to killing Voldemort. “Well?”
“We have to talk to the owner of the locket,” Severus said slowly.
“You mean Voldemort?” Sirius let out a bark of cold laughter. “Yes, how about you go up to him and ask him to open it for you? It’s a great plan. What could possibly go wrong?”
“No, not him,” Severus said impatiently. “Salazar Slytherin.”
“He’s dead,” Lily said bluntly.
“I know he is. But that doesn’t mean he can’t help us with this.”
Lily and Sirius exchanged a glance, and finally their curiosity conquered their pride.
“So, what’s the plan?”
* * *
They were able to get inside without running into anyone and therefore hadn’t had to explain themselves yet. Lily was still unsure about this, but it was the only hope at this point. She didn’t have a choice.
The three of them went into the common room on the heels of a couple third-years. Lily had never been there before, but she wasn’t surprised at the furnishing of the Slytherin common room. It was dark with green accents here and there. The students in the room looked up at Lily, Severus and Sirius in surprise.
Severus cleared his throat. “Please evacuate the common room. Now.”
There was a moment of quiet and then the whispering recommenced. Suddenly, there was a sound as loud as a gunshot. Lily reeled around to see Sirius with his wand drawn.
“Get out of here,” he ordered. “Right now.”
Without the slightest hesitation, the Slytherins scrambled out of the common room.
“And stay out,” Sirius added as the door closed behind the last of them. Then he turned to Severus. “Okay, where’s this portrait?”
Severus gestured toward an empty picture-frame on one wall of the room. The three gathered around it.
“He’s not here,” Lily stated, looking over at Severus. “Is this even a portrait of Slytherin?”
“Yes, of course it is,” he said quickly. “He rarely shows up here. But I’ve seen him at least twice.” He stepped up to the painting. “Slytherin, Your Greatness—”
Sirius snorted indignantly.
“—will you do us the honor of visiting Hogwarts and appearing to us?”
“What the hell kind of Death Eater crap was that?” Sirius asked, nearly snarling.
“It’s the only way,” Severus explained. Barely a moment later, a regal-looking man with long, dark hair and beard assumed his position in the center of the portrait.
“You called?” he said, looking rather bored.
“Yes,” Lily said, stepping in front of Severus. “We have a question for you.”
Sytherin sighed and waved his hand. “Very well, then. Go on.”
Lily pulled the locket out of her pocket and was cut off before she could get a single word out.
“Where did you find that?” he demanded.
“That’s irrelevant,” she said firmly. “We need to know how to open it.”
Slytherin raised his eyebrows and remained silent.
Lily groaned quietly. “It’s really important.”
“Too important to tell me, the locket’s original owner?”
She exchanged a glance with Sirius. He looked at her and gave a meaningful nod toward Severus. She caught on to his silent message and grabbed Severus’s arm. He yanked it away, startled.
“Show him,” Lily hissed.
Severus hesitated and then slowly rolled up his left sleeve, revealing the Dark Mark. Then he raised his forearm and presented it to Slytherin, who looked on appraisingly.
“Well, well,” he said. “A Death Eater. Is this supposed to impress me or scare me into compliance?”
Lily was taken aback. “I thought you—”
“You thought I’d be proud of my last living descent and his work. I can see why you would assume that.”
Slytherin appeared to give it some thought. “I support his ideals, perhaps, but not his methods. My house already has a bad enough reputation.”
Lily felt defeated for a moment, but then she had a sudden idea.
“He’s not actually a Death Eater, though. Not anymore. And we’re not doing anything to help Voldemort—”
Slytherin’s eyes widened when she said the name.
“—in fact, we’re trying to… to kill him.”
Sirius threw his hands up in clear frustration and disbelief. “Go and tell him everything, why don’t you…”
Slytherin looked around at the three of them, with unreadable, dark eyes. Finally, he spoke. “‘Open’ in Parseltongue.”
Lily’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? That’s how to open it?”
Slytherin stared back at her for such a long time that it seemed he was a normal Muggle painting. Then he nodded once, barely noticeably.
“Could you… could you do it for us?” Sirius asked hopefully.
Slytherin smirked and slowly shook his head back and forth.
Lily crossed her arms impatiently. “Why not?”
He smirked still more aggravatingly and waved them off with one pompous flick of his hand. Sirius muttered something incredibly rude as the three of them turned away, but Slytherin didn’t seem to hear it. They were at the exit of the common room when Slytherin spoke again.
“Merely out of curiosity,” he called, causing them to turn around to face him again, “are you all Gryffindors?”
“Does it matter?” Lily snapped.
“Lousy bigot,” Sirius muttered, turning away again.
“I was in Slytherin,” Severus said quietly, earning a fierce glare from both his companions, but an approving nod from Slytherin himself. Sirius grabbed his arm, making him wince in apparent pain, and dragged him toward the exit. The two of them went out of the common room first, and Lily was about to leave herself when the voice from the portrait stopped her.
“You’re a Gryffindor, aren’t you?”
She turned around and met eyes with Slytherin. He looked so smug that a little bit of anger erupted in the pit of her stomach.
“I was a Gryffindor, yes,” she answered.
“I knew it,” he said in a tone of pure self-assuredness. Lily shook her head and began to climb through the passage.
“Wait,” she called out, turning for the last time. “What do you mean you knew—?”
The portrait was empty. She frowned and left the common room, entering a mob of Slytherins just outside in the corridors. She spotted Sirius and Severus across the hall and she made her way to them, fighting against the traffic flow. The students grumbled in annoyance as they returned to their common room.
Lily, Sirius and Severus now turned their efforts into getting out of the castle without any trouble. But they’d only just made it out of the dungeons, when a Slytherin prefect came around the corner, Dumbledore just behind him. The headmaster paused at the sight of them and shook his head.
“I should’ve known it would be you three. Any particular reason why you kicked all the Slytherins out of their common room?” he asked.
The prefect crossed his arms expectantly and tapped his foot. Lily almost laughed at the sight. “We had to talk to someone.”
Dumbledore looked confused and dismissed the prefect who reluctantly left. “To whom and what about?”
“The portrait of Slytherin about how to open the locket.”
“Ah, clever…” he praised. “And did he cooperate?”
“Eventually. Do you perchance know anyone who can speak Parseltongue?”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “Only Voldemort.”
“We’ll figure something out,” Sirius said confidently.
“Good to see you all together,” Dumbledore noted, and then nodded to Severus. “And alive, I might add.”
Severus smiled apologetically and looked down at the stone floor. “Thanks for that,” he mumbled.
“I’m not the one who rescued you from the cave and what horrors I imagine lie within,” he said dismissively. “And one more thing before you’re on your way…” He pulled a note from the folds of his robes. “Apparently, Remus has been trying to contact you for a week or two, and he seems a little concerned with your sudden disappearance.”
Sirius took the note and read it over, wincing periodically. “Seems more than a little concerned. Seems to think we’ve been killed!”
Lily bit her lip guiltily. “Tell him to come to Hogsmeade. Maybe he’ll be interested in helping.”
Dumbledore nodded, his eyes twinkling. “Will you be staying there for a while?”
“I think so,” she replied, glancing around to the others who voiced no complaints. They left the castle and walked down to Hogsmeade. At the Three Broomsticks, they each got a room and then went down into the bar for a round of Butterbeers.
“Any ideas?” Lily asked, pulling out the locket and laying it on the table.
“I do have one…” Sirius said hesitantly, glancing around at the few people in the pub.
Lily urged him on his eager green eyes. He leaned in closer over the table and she followed his lead. Severus also leaned in a bit, but neither of them made room to accommodate him so he sat back in his chair, left out.
“Well, I was thinking,” Sirius began in a conspiratorially low voice, “we can’t very well find a person who speaks Parseltongue to open the locket for us, right?”
Lily frowned in disappointment. “Yeah, that’s the problem.”
“But we don’t have to use a person…” He seemed to want her to guess his plan, but she was short on patience.
“Just cut to the chase.”
He opened his mouth, about to launch into his explanation, when Severus gasped suddenly. The two of them whipped their heads around to stare at him. His eyes were wide and his face pale and he was clutching his left arm… It was all too familiar to Lily.
“Don’t react to it!” she hissed. “There’re other people here!”
The others in question were giving them suspicious glances. Severus nodded, a strained expression on his face.
“I have to go,” he whispered, an unmistakable look of fear in his eyes.
“Wait, wait,” Sirius said loudly. “What is going on here? Is his…” he lowered his voice again, “…his Mark burning?”
Lily nodded, imploring him with her eyes to stop talking.
“But he said he had to go. Why does he have to go?”
“Sirius, be quiet!”
“I’m a spy for the Order,” Severus said tiredly, standing up from the table. “I really have to go. Right now. See you.” He hurried out of the Three Broomsticks. Sirius looked back to Lily, with an incredulous expression on his face. Then he slammed a couple Galleons on the table and yanked Lily out of the pub.
“You knew this?” he asked, still pulling her by the wrist down the street and garnering quite a few looks from passersby. She eventually twisted free.
“Will you ever be able to control yourself?” she asked, rubbing her wrist.
“Probably not,” he said quickly. “But that’s not the point! The point is, why didn’t you tell me?”
“It never came up,” she said defensively.
“You didn’t consider it important enough to mention?” He was advancing toward her again, but she held her ground, too accustomed to Sirius to let him intimidate her.
“You don’t have to be so dramatic about it.”
He threw his hands up in the air and Lily wished he could see himself. It would really prove a point. “Dramatic? Well, excuse me if I’m being dramatic! But I don’t think you realize that as we speak Snivelly is off telling Voldemort everything we’ve been doing for the past month.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “The last time he went he came back with a Horcrux. The diary.”
“It must’ve been a decoy!”
“You were there when we destroyed it! It was a real Horcrux!”
“How can you be so sure it was Voldemort’s?”
“Whose else would it be?” she cried in exasperation.
“I just don’t think we should trust him so easily. He betrayed you once already, who’s to say he’s incapable of doing it again?”
“Dumbledore trusts him.” A weak response, but all she could manage.
“Well, good for him, but I don’t.”
Lily sighed. “I know what he did, okay? But he’s valuable. If he comes back from every one of these little meetings with a Horcrux, Voldemort will be dead before we know it.”
“We’re only keeping him around because he’s valuable, right?” Sirius asked, seeming as though he’d be alright with that.
“I do hope you’re not talking about me…” said a familiar voice coming from the mouth of the alleyway. Lily hadn’t even noticed that one of the passersby had stopped there for their last couple exchanges.
“Remus,” Sirius laughed, pulling his friend into a brotherly hug. “Long time, no see.”
Remus raised his eyebrows. “I’ve been trying to contact you,” he said, taking a few steps past him to hug Lily, “so you’re not going to put this one on me.”
“Fair enough,” Lily said. “Sorry for falling off the face of the earth like that.”
“No kidding. What have you two been up to? I heard a mention of Voldemort and I could’ve sworn you said something about a Horcrux…”
Lily exchanged a glance with Sirius. “Well,” she began, “it’s a fairly long story.”
“The Three Broomsticks?” Remus suggested, nodding toward the pub.
Sirius chuckled. “I think this occasion calls for the Hog’s Head…”
* * *
A couple hours and at least four rounds of firewhiskey later, the story had been sufficiently told, with Lily and Sirius taking turns. Remus was understandably overwhelmed and Lily’s own head felt cloudy. But that may have been from the alcohol. The bartender, Aberforth, Dumbledore’s brother and fellow Order member, was the only other person in the pub and pretended to not be listening.
But when Lily took out Slytherin’s locket, Aberforth stopped cleaning and hovered only a couple feet away from their booth. “This is the latest Horcrux,” she said softly. She glanced at Aberforth, who looked away and resuming ‘cleaning.’ Smiling, she continued. “The third one we’ve found.”
“And there are six?” Remus inquired.
“There are six,” Sirius answered. “Half of them have been found, and two of those already destroyed.”
“So this one is… still alive?”
“Alive? That’s an interesting way to put it, Moony,” Sirius said.
Remus flushed. “Well, you call it ‘killing,’ so I don’t know…”
“But to answer your question,” Lily cut in, “yes, it’s still alive.”
The three of them looked down at the locket on the table. The air was suddenly cold, as if there was a draft.
“Why haven’t you killed it yet?” Remus asked, finally breaking the silence.
“We were getting around to it,” Sirius replied, “but there was a slight complication. It has to be opened first and to do so, we need a Parselmouth.”
“Hmm,” Remus said, leaning back in the booth. “Wish I could be of more help.”
“It’s quite alright because, as I was telling Lily a couple hours ago, I’ve figured it out.”
Lily started. She’d completely forgotten.
Sirius placed the locket on the stone floor and, grinning, looked over at Aberforth. “Want to see a little show, mate?”
Aberforth looked skeptical, but then nodded. Sirius promptly conjured a snake that fell to the dirty floor of the pub. Lily pulled her feet up onto the chair and watched warily.
“Imperio,” Sirius said. The snake went rigid. It hissed, its tongue flicking and its eyes fixed on the locket. Abruptly, the pendant sprung open. Lily jumped and Sirius vanished the snake.
“Will you do the honors, Moony?” he invited.
Remus looked flustered, but he took out his wand. He was about to conjure the Fiendfyre, when the room went dark; the candles had gone out. Lily tensed up and saw her friends stiffen as well. A mass of dark smoke began to rise from the opened locket, swirling and spiraling upward to the ceiling.
“Do it!” Sirius yelled. “Fiendfyre! Now!” There was an edge of panic to his voice. Remus was staring at the smoke, wide-eyed and rendered incapable. The smoke was beginning to form into a horrifyingly familiar face—the one whom they were seeking to kill—when a burst of orange flames shot from Sirius’s wand, engulfing the locket. The smoke dissipated, and the room lightened once more. The locket lay on the ground now with a large crater in its surface. It was dead.
“Three down, three to go,” Sirius breathed. “You can get the next one, Moony.”
Remus seemed unable to move, his wand still clutched in his hand.
Lily frowned. “You said I could get the next one.”
Sirius’s eyes darkened. “Oh. Right. Sorry.”
Lily muttered something to the effect of “it’s okay,” and picked up the killed Horcrux. She slipped it into her pocket. Aberforth was staring at them with wide, blue eyes. He was so still that she temporarily wondered if he had had a stroke. But then he blinked, but a hand to his heart briefly and turned away, shaking his head. She then turned to Remus who looked just as shell-shocked.
“Welcome to the hunt, Remus.”
A/N: If you have been wondering about Remus, here’s your answer! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the part with Slytherin’s portrait because I’m not exactly sure what I was going for with that and want to know how it came across. Thanks for reading!
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