Yo! See, it ain't dead! If the fic isn't deleted, then it's not abandoned, no matter how long an update takes-that's my rule. If I choose to abandon a fic, I delete it because I hate it. I've done some editing for the entire fic to far, using that to try to get me back into the mood for this particular story. Honestly, I just hit a major block and had no idea what to do. I still don't, really, but hey, at least it's been updated, right? What's it been, just under three years? Dang. Thank you to all readers so far!

Eyes widening at the words, Harry whipped around, finally noticing a portrait on the far wall that he was sure hadn't been there a moment ago. Or had it? Oddly enough, he really couldn't recall.

The portrait featured a man. He appeared to be fairly tall, had dark hair that fell past his shoulders neatly, pale skin, and grey eyes. He was dressed in elaborate robes of emerald with silver trims, and in his hand, he held a long staff. He stood before a large, dark coloured armchair, in what appeared to be the very same room Harry was in. At the base of the portrait was a brass plate, and upon this, the man's name was inscribed.

'Salazar Slytherin'

Harry blinked and fought to keep his jaw from dropping. "Er, hullo," he greeted somewhat awkwardly.

Salazar smiled slightly, just enough for it to be visible. "I assume this is the first time you have seen a portrait of me?" When Harry nodded mutely, he smiled again, and bowed slightly. "I am, as you have no doubt noticed, Salazar Slytherin. Who might you be, young Speaker?"

"Er, Harry," Harry replied, still quite shocked and awed. "Harry Potter."

"Potter?" Grey eyes trailed over his messy, slightly dirtied appearance, taking in the black hair, and green eyes, and, ah. "A Gryffindor?" Salazar huffed out a soft laugh, unable to believe it. "A Gryffindor Parselmouth. I would never have thought it possible."

Harry had a hard time telling if the portrait man was upset with that or not, and wasn't sure if he wanted to question it. So, because of that, he decided that it was best to just be quiet for now, and let Lord Slytherin speak first.

"Tell me, young Harry. How many years has it been now since my last heir was here?"

"L-last heir? Er, unless you're talking about another heir I don't know about, Vold-er, Tom Riddle graduated around fifty one years ago, I think*."

Salazar frowned slightly, but nodded. "I see. It is almost impossible to sense the passage of time from within a portrait. Now, if I may, what are you doing in here?"

Now that was a good question, and one Harry wasn't quite sure how to answer. What he was doing was, essentially, trying to find a place where he could easily avoid those who had betrayed him, but how could he even explain that? And for that matter, did he even want to?

"Who has betrayed you?" asked Salazar, his tone of voice neutral.

Harry blinked. "Did I say that out loud?"

"You did. Tell me, young Speaker, what you have been dealing with."

"How do you know I've been dealing with something?"

"You are searching for a safe place where you can deliberately avoid others. Others who you claimed betrayed you in some manner. You must surely have a tale or two to tell."

Harry was honestly a little surprised. From everything he had learned or heard about Salazar Slytherin, he had expected the man to be cold and heartless and unforgiving and stern and strict and whatever other words that could be used to describe a not so pleasant person. But he (or the portrait version of him, at least) was actually rather kind. Definitely much nicer than Harry had been expecting him to be.

Maybe it was that kindness, maybe it was that curiosity, maybe it was because of who he was, maybe it was because Harry was just desperate to talk to someone who didn't know him and wouldn't have already judged him based solely on his name or eye colour, but he began to talk.

Harry talked and talked, and told the portrait of Salazar Slytherin everything there was to know about him-from the death of his parents fifteen years ago, to the love letter he had received that morning. And as he talked (read: ranted), Salazar just listened to him in silence.

"You have had it difficult," said Salazar once he had finished speaking. "It seems that you have gone through a great deal throughout your short life, and have had little aid in return. That is unfortunate and saddening, and I now understand why you are searching for a safe place to isolate yourself." He bowed his head slightly. "My study is open to you, young Harry."

Harry blinked. "Oh, th-thank you. I really do appreciate it. I'm sorry to-to intrude."

Salazar smiled slightly. "It is not much of an intrusion when the only one here is confined to paintings. You have a thirst for knowledge, and a desire for peace-my study can give you both of those. All I ask for in return is respect for myself and my belongings. Treat my collection well, and do not remove them from the Chamber. If you agree, then I will tell you where the alternate entrance is, and allow you do as you please in here."

Harry had absolutely no reason to refuse. He hadn't been told very good things about Salazar Slytherin, but so far, he seemed to be perfectly kind, if somewhat formal. And Harry didn't have any desire to disrespect anything in here, be it Salazar himself, or any of his books or anything. So he agreed quickly, honestly feeling kind of...awed by all this.

But since he'd been gone for a while and really needed to show his face soon, Harry just nodded and thanked Salazar when he was pointed to the second entrance, and headed out quickly, concealed under his Invisibility Cloak with the Marauders' Map in hand. This alternate route was a long, uphill path that he was surprised to learn lead to a dead end just down the hall and around a corner from Gryffindor Tower. Weird.


Harry didn't return to the Chamber of Secrets for a week. Ron and Hermione had noticed that he had gone missing, and as a result, had been keeping a closer eye on him over the past few days. But they weren't the only ones. Ginny had been clinging to him as much as she possibly could, and Harry had noticed that Dumbledore himself was watching him more, generally with a smile on his face that Harry really didn't like.

But finally, a week after he had discovered Salazar's study, Harry found the time to go back. He had three free periods today. Ron did too, of course, but as he had already fallen behind on his homework, Hermione was forcing him to use his own free periods to catch up. Since Harry had already completed his homework (other than what wasn't needed immediately), he knew he'd be free to do as he wanted-there was no reason for him to stick with Ron, and if fact, Hermione had actually insisted that he didn't so that Ron could properly concentrate. It was such a perfect excuse.

As it so happened, his plan to return to Salazar's study wasn't the only thing that ended up on his plate that day. When Harry returned to his dorm after breakfast to fetch his bag, a tapping on a nearby window quickly caught his attention. He froze. The gyrfalcon was back. Harry recognized it immediately as the same bird from last time, though why it hadn't come during breakfast he wasn't sure.

Feeling weirdly nervous, he approached the window and opened it. The gyrfalcon settled down on the window sill, examining him in silence, but he allowed Harry to take the letter he had brought with him.

"I...don't have anything for you," said Harry. "Well, unless you like owl treats." The gyrfalcon merely clicked his beak at him before flying off. Yeah, he probably didn't like owl treats. Those things tasted terrible, according to Ron. Harry turned his attention to the letter in his hands, unfolding it, nervousness only growing, though he didn't at all understand why.

'Dearest Harry,

I'm am neither surprised you did not write back, nor upset. I understand that this must be strange for you, and that you are having a difficult time trying to decide whether you trust me or not. I assume you currently do not, and I hardly fault you for it. After all, I am but a stranger who has yet to even tell you his name. No wonder you are having trouble.

I'm sorry that I cannot quell your unease. I feel as if telling you everything will only make you trust me even less. And whether you accept everything I say as truth or lies is another thing altogether. More, I admit I don't even know whether your interest lies in men or women. I took a chance by writing to you, and will not be offended if you reject me for the simple fact that I am a man-one cannot control who they are attracted to, naturally.

But if that is not the case, and you are indeed interested in men, would you be open to learning more about me? I can't say I will or can answer every question you might have for me, but I will certainly answer my best. And if you are accepting of that, then perhaps I can ask you my own questions that you can choose to answer.

I hope to hear back from you, but until then, take care.

Eternally yours,
M'

Yeah, thought Harry, there it was again. Another love letter. ...Could he actually call these love letters though? There weren't any declarations of love in them, right? Were they still love letters if they didn't have that? Harry wasn't sure, but he scanned over the letter again. He was glad that M, whoever he was, didn't seem angry that he hadn't written back, but he had hit the nail on the head. Harry wasn't sure whether he trusted him enough to write back yet or not. That was the biggest issue.

And while it was true Harry wouldn't get to know him any better, and deem his trustworthiness until he wrote back, could he even take what M said as the truth? That had been mentioned in the letter too. Harry liked that these were put down plain as day. It made him feel less paranoid and more sane. It made him feel like M fully understood what the problems were, and didn't really mind them.

But it was just as clear that M wanted him to write back. Telling Harry he could ask him any questions he had (even though an answer wasn't guaranteed) kind of proved that. And if Harry was being honest with himself, he really did have a lot of questions. He was still unsure of this person-this man, but maybe asking those questions and getting what answers he could would help him make a decision in whether he wanted a proper correspondence with M or not.

With that in mind, Harry decided he would write back. How exactly he would word his letter though was another problem in itself. He wasn't used to writing letters in general, let alone answering a love letter. ...Maybe Salazar would have some advice for him?


During his second free period of the day, Harry found himself seated in an armchair in Salazar's study, a leaf of parchment in his hand with a really rough draft of the letter he was planning on sending.

'M,

I'm glad you're not upset that I didn't write back to you right away, and just as glad that you understand why (and it's not because you're a man). There are a lot of people who would do something like this, both to get on my good or bad side, and yes, sometimes it's really hard to know who to trust. And no, I don't trust you yet (How can I?), but you seem to both understand and appreciate that fact, which is honestly really nice compared to what I'm used to. I'm more used to people expecting me to trust them without them giving me any reason to, and those same people not trusting me in return even if I've given them my trust. But you already knew that, didn't you? I think you know a little more about me then you're letting on, though I guess that's because most people already know me, huh?

Maybe it's the Gryffindor in me, but I'm curious. Curious about all this. Curious about you. I do have questions, lots of them, and while I know you're probably not going to answer half of them, I'm going to ask them anyway. Besides, how can I get to know you if I don't, right? And you can ask me questions too. I probably won't answer some of them either though, but you probably already guessed that.

1. What's your name? (I know you said last time you can't tell me, but it doesn't hurt to try!)

2. How old are you?

3. Where were you born?

4. Where did you live growing up?

5. When is your birthday?

6. Do you have any siblings?

7. Who was your Head of House?

8. Do you have a favourite Quidditch team?

9. What's your favourite colour?

10. Where do you work/what's your job?

11. How were you as a student?

12. What was your favourite/least favourite subject?

13. Do you have any tips for non-verbal spell casting?

I feel like that list's kind of long enough for now, isn't it? Those seem like pretty simple questions, so I expect there are only a couple you might not be able to answer. And I know they're simple questions, but I have to start somewhere, don't I? Might as well start with the easy things.

Take care,

Harry'

It had taken him ages to figure out how to close out the letter. M used 'Eternally yours', but there was no way Harry would use the same thing, or anything even similar to that. He didn't even know the guy! His letter seemed really casual in comparison to M's, but Harry didn't know how else to write it without it sounding completely...off. This would have to do.

*I'm shit at math. Using my very poor math skills, I got fifty four years. Did some actual math later and ended up with forty eight, and my buddy got fifty one. I checked my work like the teachers always told me to, and realized where I'd gone wrong, fixed it, and ended up with fifty one. Always check your work! Anyway, I've started on the next chapter-already have M's reply written and everything, so let's hope the next update doesn't end up taking three years. Looking forward to reviews! Laterz!