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Chapter 25 : Slytherin's Office
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It was only now that Albus noticed Slytherin staring straight back, seeing into Albus’s eyes, into its depths. Albus opened his mouth to speak, and closed it again. There were so many questions in his head, so he couldn’t decide what to say first. Albus instinctively reached for the doorknob. Locked. Slytherin’s lipless mouth curled into a small smile.
“Do you know who I am?”
Albus opened his mouth. It was mostly dry. “You- you look like Salazar Slytherin.”
“That’s because I am.” Silence.
Albus filled himself with courage enough to speak. Just speaking was such a hard thing to do. “How are you… Your portrait’s in the headmaster’s office. Portraits can only be in the headmaster’s office if the person is dead. So you’re a fake or something.” There. A wonderful excuse that Albus could use to stay sane. This was a prank, a trick…
“I am not a fake. The portrait hanging in the headmaster’s office is of my younger brother, who was kind enough to take on my persona. My brother practically worshipped me, and we looked very similar, so he agreed to act like myself whole-heartedly. His portrait actually thinks he is me, but it really isn’t.” Slytherin cleared his throat. “After I left Hogwarts, I detatched myself from my friends forever, and develed deep into dark magic. Eventually, in my later years, I discovered horcruxes, and I made a few,” Slytherin said, gesturing around the room. Albus noticed his surroundings for the first time. Next to him, almost hidden, there were glass cases with pieces of china, like plates, bowls and glasses. Each had a serpentine S engraved on it. At the very end, there was a small, muggle-looking portrait of a woman and child. On the other end of the room, there was a desk. It almost looked like an office. The whole place had dimly lit torches on the wall, giving the place a spooky feeling.
Slytherin cleared his throat, rasping for breath like an old man, and continued his story. “One day, I set out to duel a man. Back then, duels were deadly. I lost. But I stayed alive, due to my horcruxes. I retreated into my old chamber, where I resided for centuries. Rats were my company, and I possessed and killed thousands of them.” This brought Albus back to memory lane. When Uncle Ron talked about his terrifying excursion to the Chamber of Secrets, he mentioned the horror of stepping on skeletons of rats. “One day, another entered my chamber. His name was Tom Riddle.” It took a moment for Albus to remember that his was the original name of Lord Voldemort. “Tom Riddle freed me of my living hell and unleashed the basilisk on the rest of the school. In return, I taught him everything I knew, which was quite a bit. But then he died, leaving me alone. I had returned to my old office, this place, by then. Several years later, another student crossed my path, intrigued since he detected very strong magic around this place.” That must be Lord Zajecfer. Albus wanted to ask Slytherin something, but his knees were shaking.
“Wh-why are you t-telling me this?” Albus stammered. Slytherin cocked his head to the side.
“I suppose it’s because I’ve only talked to two people over the past one hundred years. Also, it doesn’t matter what I tell you, since you’ll be dead soon.” Albus felt his draw drop. That wasn’t what Slytherin said… he said… he said… “That’s right, Mr. Potter. Did you think you got here because of your own cleverness? I’ll give you credit for the potion. But did you really think Lord Zajecfer would be foolish enough to torture someone behind closed doors without putting enough protection charms up first? Or wander around the Hogwarts corridors at night without placing a disillusionment charm on himself? No, we do not underestimate the students of Hogwarts, and especially not Potters.” Albus’s body was frozen, but his brain was churning. He wasn’t brave at all. He was just an ordinary, stupid boy who got himself lured into a trap. What a great hero he was.
“Why did- did you want me?” Albus said, stammering on the last note.
“You’re the son of Harry Potter. Your father killed my student, Lord Voldemort. The best way of dealing with Harry Potter someone he loves. Hopefully he’ll be torn apart with grief. He should be.” Slytherin’s face had a downcast, almost knowing look. “So, since you are your father’s son, we simply laid out a mystery for you. We gave you some information, but not too much.”
“How’d you know we’d succeed?” Albus whispered.
“Because the determination and will of the Potters is undefeatable,” Slytherin said, chuckling. Albus stood straighter. Yes, he must now be undefeatable. “And I was right, wasn’t I? You found us. The rest was simply a matter of circumstance. Create a rockfall so you would come down here alone… later, your parents will find your body underneath one of the rocks outside, with the door you came through conveniently disappeared. I simply want the satisfaction to be the start of England’s third Wizarding war.” What to say? He wanted to keep talking, so he wouldn’t be able to think. He didn’t want to think. Thinking would only produce terrible thoughts.
“Um, well, what’s that spiky ball thing?” Albus asked. In a glass case, above a ledge, there was a ball the size of a bowling ball. It was sleek and grey, with small, thin spikes like needles. A chain extended a few feet down from the center of the ball. Hopefully it would make for interesting conversation.
“Ah, that is my prize. The spikes are filled with venom from my own basilisk. I use it just for display, but it has seen conflict.” Albus was suddenly glad he could think after all. The spikes had basilisk venom. Didn’t his Dad stab Tom Riddle’s diary with a basilisk fang? Wasn’t that what was used? If so, that meant- this spiky ball thing could destroy horcruxes.
But how to get at it? It was up high on a ledge, and Albus couldn’t reach it. And there was no way Slytherin would just stand still as Albus tried to get it down. Then if he got it down, he would have to go into the glass case to get the horcruxes. He assumed the fancy china in there were Slytherin’s horcruxes.
“Um, there’s just one thing you haven’t really explained,” Albus said. He didn’t sound confident at all. “What are the things in the glass cases?”
“Ah, that,” Slytherin said. His eyes were greedily looking at all the china, and then nervously looking back at Albus. “They’re some china I inherited from my pure-blood family, passed down over the generations until it fell into my hands. They hold merely a symbolic meaning.” Albus was sure, based on Slytherin’s flickering eyes, that it had to be the horcruxes. Part of him was alarmed that Slytherin was such a terrible liar, but Slytherin had little human contact for years. He almost felt sorry for the noble Salazar Slytherin, holed up in Hogwarts with few excrusions, out of fear of recognition. The thinning beard was enough to see that Slytherin was now an old, old man, long past his prime. He should have died years ago. But he was here, alive and insane, teaching wizards even more insane than himself.
Slytherin opened his mouth to speak, but Albus was fingering his wand inside his pocket. He needed some spell to take out the spiky ball, and then smash it into all of Slytherin’s horcruxes. Unless Albus took the offensive, there was a possibly he might… Anyway, he needed to take the offensive; that was the point. He had to quit standing here, listening to Slytherin blabbing.
“Albus Severus Potter,” Slytherin whispered. Al froze, mesmerized. “A pity that I have to kill such a clever first year, but… it is necessary.” Slytherin smiled. He was an utter lunatic. That must be what centuries being in a half-alive state did to someone. Slytherin drew his wand, and Albus hastily drew his own. He still needed some sort of charm even though he didn’t know many. But maybe a simple one would do.
“Wingardium Leviosa!” Albus shouted, pointing his wand at the glass case encasing the ball. The ball levitated- and so did the glass surrounding it. Slytherin, seeing what Albus was doing, whirled around and a green curse- the killing curse- soared through the air. Towards Albus. With a scream, Albus jumped out of the way. He slammed into the wall. Albus looked up. When he slammed into the wall, so had the ball. The glass around it was shattered. Yes!
Albus picked up the chain holding the ball- wow; it was heavy- and swung it towards the glass case. SMASH. All the glass shattered and Albus stumbled, sprawling onto the ground. The killing curse speeded past him. Albus rolled in the glass- ouch, it hurt- and missed the stream of curses. It was a miracle none had hit him yet.
Albus swung the chain again. More smashes, more littered china on the ground. It was only now that Albus heard the old, raspy voice screaming in fury. One more swing, and Albus lay, groaning on the ground. He levitated the ball and smashed it onto everything he could find, finishing the job. Now he had to roll, since curses were flying. Thankfully, the deed was done. All the horcruxes were destroyed.
Albus was off the ground, desperately running around, wondering what the hell he should do. And that’s when he saw the green light out of the corner of his eye. While Albus had been destroying and glass was flying everywhere, Albus hardly noticed the killing curse whizzing past. But now that he saw it, he froze. A fatal mistake. The green curse blinded him, and he dtayed motionless. The spell bee-lined to Al’s chest. This was it. This was the end.
The spell, simply a beam of light, knocked the wind out of Albus, and he tobbled backwards. Everything went black. A few moments later- or was it years? - Albus brought one dull thought to his mind: He was dead. He’d been hit by the killing curse. Every bit of him screamed with pain.
Wait, how could he feel pain? Could you feel pain in death? He didn’t know. It’s not like everyone knows what happens when you die. He was pretty sure the ghosts never mentioned pain after death, but he didn’t talk to many ghosts.
He heard footsteps. And wild, insane laughter. Slytherin’s laughter. Could Albus possibly… no. Could he possibly be alive? No. He was definitely hit by the killing curse. But he felt pain, and was aware of his surroundings. He wanted to open his eyes, to make sure he wasn’t dead. But if he was alive… well, then he wanted to pretend he was dead. Slytherin was still alive and dangerous.
But how did Albus survive?
The footsteps came closer. Albus noticed that his wand limply in his hand. By this point, he was quite sure he was alive, even if he didn’t know how. He had to do something. His wand was still in his hand. His wand of elder, phoenix tail feather, and nine and a quarter inches long. His handy, dependable wand. It would not disobey him now.
Albus cracked his eyelids, just enough to see the rough outline of shapes. It took all his effort for his eyes not to twitch. Don't blink. Don't blink. The fuzzy shape of Salazar Slytherin stood a few feet away from Albus. Al's hand was covered from the sight of Slytherin. That was good, for his hands were sweating, and his knuckles were white from gripping his wand so hard. He had to do it. Now. Slytherin was bending over-
"Petrificus Totalus!" Albus shouted, raising his arm up in a split second. Yelling the spell gave him confidence, and his pronunciation was flawless. That was a first. Slytherin's eyes widened in shock, as his body froze and toppled over onto the ground. Albus shakily stood up. He was right. Slytherin thought Albus was dead, so he didn't have his guard up. Thus, Slytherin was immobilized.
Albus basked in his victory, awed at his own brilliance. He had beaten Slytherin! He... he succeeded! All he had to do was move the rocks, his dad was right outside, and he was free! His journey would not end in this dismal place. The terror and fear washed off his bodies in waves. Each muscle let go of their tension. His heart pumped slower, back to its normal speed. Al looked at Slytherin proudly.
Wait a minute. That wasn't right. He read in his spellbook that when Petrificus Totalus was cast, the eyes could move. But Slytherin's were unmoving. The eyes were blank and unmoving. Dead. What was going on? Surely Albus must be wrong, since he'd only cast a basic body-bind, nothing powerful. Slytherin's eyes might look dead, but how was Albus supposed to know what a dead man's eyes looked like? He'd never seen a dead body.
Well, there was really only one way to find out. Albus, feeling quite awkward, bent down and touched Slytherin's neck. It was growing cold. Surely there must be a pulse somewhere? Albus never learned about how to find a pulse, but he knew you could find it somewhere on the victim's neck. Albus's fingers pressed down on various points. Nothing. Albus put his hand on Slytherin's chest. There was no heartbeat. None. Slytherin... Slytherin was dead.
The realization hit Albus like an icy cold blast. Slytherin was dead. Al was... a murderer. He didn't mean to be a murderer, but that didn't change a thing. Albus was a murderer. He began to shake. No, no, it couldn't be true. Slytherin couldn't be dead. Standing was an exertion. Albus needed water. Water was what he needed. And most of all, he needed to lie down.
Before he could, Albus's body slammed into the wall behind him, and he crumbled to the ground. Silence followed, encasing his unconscious mind.
Much of the plot has been altered since I first had the idea for an Albus Potter fanfic, but this part has barely wavered. It's weird to finally submit this.
I have absolutely nothing against Slytherin house, and I belief for most of his life, Slytherin was a good man. At school, under Gryffindor's influence, he prospered and was not evil at all. In my head canon it was after he left Hogwarts when he spiraled downwards into insanity.
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