Happy Holidays (Christmas, Solstice, Chanukah, New Year's, etc.) to everyone, and enjoy!
Disclaimers in Pt. 1. Dialogue in this part is copyright © 2002, Trudy A. Goold.
"Sugar Quill," Snape said, as he reached the gargoyle that guarded the stairs to Dumbledore's office. It moved aside to let him enter, and he hurried up the stairs.
Dumbledore was reading a letter as Snape flung open the door to his office, and he glanced up with a quizzical expression as the Potions master stepped inside. "Is something wrong, Severus?" he inquired calmly.
Snape gritted his teeth. He held an immense respect for Dumbledore, both as a wizard and as a person, but the man had an unfortunate habit of acting... almost frivolous, even under the most serious circumstances. "There hasn't been another attack, if that's what you're wondering," Snape declared.
"In that case, do sit down, Severus. Would you care for a sherbert lemon? Perhaps a cup of tea?" Dumbledore said, before Snape could continue.
He glowered at the headmaster in irritation, but sat obediently in one of Dumbledore's visitor chairs. "No thank you, Albus. Now, if you would let me explain?"
"That idiot Lockhart--"
"Severus," Dumbledore said, his tone a warning.
"You know perfectly well that I'm right, Albus. He's useless as a teacher," Snape declared firmly.
"You are, as always, entitled to your own opinion, Severus. Nonetheless, I do ask that you refrain from making disparaging comments concerning other members of the staff. Now, do go on."
Snape gritted his teeth again. "Lockhart held the first duelling lesson today," he declared grimly. "Most of the second-years showed up, as well as several students from other years."
"Ah," Dumbledore interrupted. "I presume, then, that young Harry was there?"
Crossing his arms over his chest, Snape glared at the headmaster again. Dumbledore was well aware of the reasons for his dislike of the Potter boy, but that didn't stop him from attempting to persuade Snape to go easier on the boy. Not that he'd 'go easy' on Potter even if he did like him - the boy wouldn't learn anything that way - but he had no intentions whatsoever of changing his attitude. Potter had never given him any reason to believe that he was different from his father and the other Marauders.
"Yes, Potter was there," Snape replied, his tone still grim. "And we have something of a problem on our hands now."
"The boy's a Parselmouth, Albus. Malfoy conjured a snake when Lockhart attempted to show them how to invoke the Shielding Charm, and Potter spoke to it before I could banish it. Ordered it not to attack another student, I believe, but that wasn't necessarily what the other children saw. They're going to be thinking that he's Slytherin's Heir now."
Dumbledore frowned, obviously surprised by the news. "You're sure he actually spoke Parseltongue, Severus?"
"There's no doubt of it," Snape answered. "The snake was set to attack Finch-Fletchley - it was enraged after Lockhart blasted it," he added. Let that idiot try to talk his way out of that! Dumbledore wouldn't stand for a student being threatened... "Potter stepped up to it and hissed, and it responded instantly. He wasn't just trying to redirect its attention; it calmed down and backed away from Finch-Fletchley. That's the point at which I managed to banish it, but..." He shrugged, and Dumbledore nodded in understanding.
"You're right, Severus, that could be a problem. If the students think that he's the Heir of Slytherin... Harry could be in for some difficult times this year."
Snape didn't particularly care if the other students shunned Potter - his arrogance needed muting, and it could prove to be a valuable lesson for the boy. The opinions of the wizarding world were more subject to gossip and manipulation than those of the Muggles. Best Potter learn as soon as possible that fame could be a two-edged sword, and that the rest of the world would be only too happy to shun him if they found out that their saviour was only human.
His main concern was that some of the students, believing Potter to be Slytherin's Heir, might end up attacking him. That would be a serious danger.
And the idea that Potter, of all people, was Slytherin's Heir... it was ludicrous.
That thought did, however, remind him of something he'd been wondering about since he'd left the Great Hall. "Albus... there's never been a Parselmouth in Potter's family. How did he end up with the ability?"
Dumbledore frowned again. "I'm not certain. The best guess I can make is that when Voldemort's attack on Harry was reflected back at him, Harry ended up with some of Voldemort's abilities. Either that, or they are connected somehow through the curse scar."
Snape felt a shiver of fear go through him at that thought. As any wizard knew, magical connections often went both ways. And if Potter was that closely connected to Voldemort... who knew what else could happen?
"I sincerely hope that it is the former that is correct," he said, his tone still grim.
"As do I, Severus, as do I," the headmaster replied. "Nevertheless, that still leaves us with the problem of the students' perceptions of this event. Perhaps if we made it clear that we do not believe Harry is responsible for--"
Snape shook his head. "That won't work, Albus. None of the students will listen to us if we attempt to convince them that they are wrong. And it may well teach Potter a valuable lesson."
Dumbledore sighed. "He's not his father or Sirius Black, Severus. You are doing both him and yourself a disservice by regarding him as though he was."
Snape stood up; he had no desire to listen to any more of Dumbledore's attempts to convince him about Potter. He'd done his duty: he'd informed Dumbledore of the events in the Great Hall and the fact that Potter was a Parselmouth, and that was all he needed to do. "You'll have to excuse me, Albus; I have some work to do." Before Dumbledore could say anything else, he stalked out the door.
As he walked along the corridor back to the dungeons, however, his thoughts were pulled back to the events in the Great Hall, and Dumbledore's theories as to how Potter had gained his ability to speak Parseltongue; which in turn led to thoughts of Voldemort - Tom Marvolo Riddle, Slytherin's Heir - and the matter of the Chamber of Secrets. Voldemort had never had children; which meant that the only way the Chamber of Secrets could have been opened again was by his influence.
Which meant that somehow, Voldemort had a hold over one of the students at the school. Well, one of the students or Lockhart, but Snape doubted the latter. If there was one thing that he actually respected Voldemort for - the only thing he respected the Dark Lord for - it was his insistence upon competence. And Lockhart wasn't acting - he really was that incompetent.
So, in order to stop the attacks, he would have to figure out which student Voldemort was using. It would not be easy, but he was confident that he'd find a way.