Title: Hearts and Hourglasses (35.6/36)
Author name: Yen
Author email: y_no_m@yahoo.com
Category: Action/Adventure
Keywords: Harry Draco Founders Death Eaters
Spoilers: All The Books
Rating: G Rating
Summary: History comes to life in this story -- literally. While waiting in Dumbledore's office, Harry notices the Sorting Hat glowing. He puts it on, and the memories of the Founders suddenly appear in Dumbledore's office, courtesy of a spell cast in the distant past. Curious to see what has become of the school they started a millennium ago, the Founders take on the guise of visiting professors. When, through a debt of honor, Slytherin is compelled to assist the newly-restored Lord Voldemort, it remains to be seen how the past will truly influence the future.... ~edited from Seldes Katne's review
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's thanks:
Foremost to Seldes Katne and Calis-chan, both of whom I adore. To Mark for the long correspondence. To Ayla Pascal, thank you for digging out my story ^^. To Chibigreenwizardmon, Grania the fire witch, Tarawyn and someone who didn't leave a name for their reviews.

Tarawyn said, "My major concern in the story right now is with the other three founders and their Houses...exactly what can they do?" --- There is nothing they can do. It hasn't been mentioned outright in the story, only suggested but Salazar is disappointed with the way Hogwarts turned out. For one thing, the Dark Arts are no longer taught at the school and when he tried to conduct a Dark Arts session, he wound up arrested and was handed over to the Dementors. It became clear to him that not only could he not properly educate his students, his kind (Dark wizards and witches) had been forced to conform to the ideals and standards set by Light wizards.

Salazar required a place where his kind would not have to follow the dictates of the Ministry of Magic. So, he sought out Hierthent, which had been the bastion of the Dark wizarding society a thousand years ago. And when the opportunity to remove his house from Hogwarts presented itself, he took it.

Author's note: In this chapter, we find out that Salazar used to breed Thestrals. Harry finds out what Snape meant about the Stone having been used to lure out Voldemort, who is trying again to recruit Salazar. And the Founders are reunited.

Reminder: Godric's alias is Godfrey Gloucester. Salazar's is Sextus Scaevola. Rowena's is Rachel Regius. Helga's is Hannah Hawthorn. Rowena cast a spell so that everyone who hears them will hear them referring to each other by their aliases, but to their own ears, they hear each other's real names. It's a complicated spell.

Hearts and Hourglasses
Chapter 35 - Part Six
Plots Within Plots

The stallion was furious. Red nostrils flaring, it charged the circle of wizards surrounding it. Stunning spells burst from wand tips. Instinctively, the horse reared back, barely avoiding the white bursts of light.

"Careful! We don't want to kill it!" Too many stunning spells would cause serious injury and even death to a Thestral, and this one, Salazar could see, was exhausted. Foamy saliva dripped from the edges of its mouth. Its brown eyes had blackened with anger and fear. Its wings were clipped, and it was too exhausted to turn invisible. The few survivors of its herd were scattered throughout the open spaces in Hierthent and trapped as it was.

Salazar didn't wait to witness the fate of the stallion. He withdrew from the noisy throng watching the useless and brutal spectacle and drew his cloak closer around him to ward off the biting night chill as he went away from the heat of the torches held aloft and casting light on the desperate Thestral and its determined hunters.

He doubted it would be captured alive and chose not to return to his room. Salazar knew he wouldn't be able to sleep that night, not with its dying screams ringing in his ears. Tomorrow, Hierthent's gardeners and fruit growers would no longer need to worry about the Thestral pests.

Such spirit... Salazar couldn't help but favor the horses. Thestrals, he knew, couldn't be domesticated, remaining as free as the wild wind they cherished. Of all the winged horse breeds, they were the only ones considered too unruly for the saddle.

The castle stone felt cool as always to his touch. Salazar pressed his hands on the balustrade, bracing most of his body weight on it as he raised and tilted his head back. The sky was cloudless tonight, and the stars seemed to be within his reach.

The breeze that blew constantly on Hierthent's tallest tower strengthened, turning into a gale, which whipped back Salazar's thick robes and drew back the hood shrouding his face. The eighteen-year-old laughed, throwing his amusement into the wind.

"Am I what you expected?" He whispered, addressing the unseen gods watching him. He heard no answer to his query though it seemed he received one when the wind's power dropped abruptly. Its roar died down, and Salazar heard a plaintive whicker behind him.

Salazar hadn't seen nor heard them as he emerged on the top of the tower. They had been behind him, and he had been too engrossed in his own thoughts to check his surroundings.

A black colt on wobbly limbs stared at Salazar with wary helpless eyes. Behind, dead and growing cold was its mother.

The young wizard decided to take care of it. He ignored the warnings and protests of the master of stables and kept the foundling in the most secluded stall. He borrowed a nursing mare to suckle it. It thrived on surrogate milk and under Salazar's watchful care. He was determined to be the first to breed and tame a Thestral.

Day by day, he visited the colt, which quickly came to recognize him. In the paddock, which held mares and their foals, the sole shimmering black caught most people's eyes. Salazar felt keen pride whenever the youngster raced toward him with a glad whicker as a greeting.

However, despite the care and attention it received, it fell very ill in its fourth month. It became listless; staying still or hobbling along while its fellows ran. It grew thin and refused to eat. Salazar, at great expense, had the most renowned breeder, Lord Carrington, come to Hierthent to examine it, but to no avail. After two weeks, it died.

A thousand years later...

It is still here... Salazar was pleased yet somber as he stood on the invisible floor of the large empty paddock, which once held a herd of rare Thestrals. Before, when he had resided at Hierthent, he captured and bred the rare black horses and had kept them in a stable high up on the citadel's tallest tower. Like the equestrian beasts, the stable was also invisible though initially it hadn't been. It had become so because of the steeds themselves.

A sad smile curved Salazar's lips as he remembered the trouble the horses had caused in Hierthent. Led by wild and unpredictable stallions, the Thestral herds preferred to graze in the gardens and fruit tree grooves planted in many of the fortress' atriums. One day, the apples were ready to be harvested; that night, they were gone.

There had been countless attempts to capture the Thestrals; most ended in failure, while the small percentage of successes always ended in the death of the winged horses.

I thought they would have had this place torn down, Salazar mused. He turned his head slowly, seeing through the walls the moon whose gentle glow lightly traced the faint clouds in the dark horizon. It was a most familiar sight to him.

Salazar frowned. He lifted his hand and rested it on a post he couldn't see but could feel that the wood was rough underneath and that an invisible layer of dust had coated his fingers. Disturbed, the particles swirled upwards and tickled his nostrils. He sneezed.

"Bless you," said someone in an uncertain absent-minded voice. Salazar glanced back to find Draco walking towards him slowly. The boy's eyes were fixed on the inperceivable hay-strewn stone floor. His feet making its way gingerly as though wary that the next step would be empty air.

Salazar smiled. He was about to reassure Draco when an arm stuck through the open door. It waved; Salazar was certain that whoever it belonged to was shouting Draco's name. He wasn't surprised when Lupin's head appeared, followed quickly by the rest of his body.

"Draco," the wizard breathed out with relief. He overtook the boy and clamped his hands down on Draco's shoulders.

"Release me."

"No, I will not. I swear I nearly had a heart attack when you disappeared like that."

"I told you I was only following him," Draco said defensively.

"And I ordered you to come back," said Lupin sternly. "You deliberately disobeyed me, and I had to leave the rest of the class behind-"

"What are you going to do about it? Punish me?" Draco cut in, his eyes shrewd. Lupin frowned at him, perturbed by this challenge to his authority.

But he remained firm. "You may be the Head of Hierthent;" he told Draco softly, "however, you are still my student and thus in my care and responsibility. If you ever do something like that again - jumping off a tower-"

"I wasn't jump-"

"I will report you to your parents," Lupin finished stonily.

Salazar was amused when the boy paled, but Lupin remained serious. He herded the reluctant Draco towards the door, telling him they had better go reassure his friends that they hadn't been smashed to bits on the far ground below. Before they left, Lupin gave Salazar a rather accusing stare.

***

An early Monday morning found Harry Potter bleary-eyed and exhausted from lack of sleep caused, not by the burden of homework for which the school was infamous, but by worry.

"Why aren't they doing anything?" Harry wondered aloud while stabbing holes into the centers of his sunny side-up eggs.

"Who are they, Harry?" Ron asked.

Hermione answered for him. "The Ministry, of course."

Ron frowned. "What about the Ministry?"

Harry placed down his fork. "Isn't it a crime to kidnap students from their school?"

"Of course," said Ron, then he shrugged. "But since Fudge was in on it, he's probably busy making it all blow away."

"Yes," agreed Harry, "but even the Minister of Magic can't excuse the removal of House Slytherin from Hogwarts. ... It's too clear that Voldemort must be behind it."

The arrival of the day's owlpost interrupted their discussion. Harry grabbed Hermione's copy of the Daily Prophet while she paid the paperowl. On the front cover was the shimmering transparent old ghost with the headline, "Exclusive: Slytherin Wanted His Students to Leave Hogwarts!"

Daily Prophet's own Hector Hickory interviewed Lord Trenzel of the Thirteen, a magical coalition formerly rumored but now proven to have been the caretakers of Hierthent.

When asked of the Hogwarts students who had been taken to Hierthent by living portkey serpents, Lord Trenzel answered, "Those serpents were created by my former student, Salazar Slytherin. He had intended for his students to be transferred to Hierthent."

"You have to be kidding," muttered Ron.

"It might be true," Hermione digressed.

"He's just making up an excuse," Ron said.

"Ron, you know what Harry told us about what happened down there. That Serpent had been created by Salazar Slytherin."

"Just because that thing belonged to him doesn't have to mean the reason he made it was so that his Slytherins could have a school bus," Ron said.

Hermione frowned at him. "Why are you defending Salazar Slytherin all of the sudden?"

"I'm not defending him," Ron said with another shrug. "You know me, Hermione. I just like taking the opposite side in a issue with you."

"Ron means he enjoys arguing with you, Hermione," Harry deduced, turning to the page where the story continued. "Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore as requested that the coalition return Slytherin House to its rightful place," Harry began reciting from the article before his friends could respond to his comment. "However, Lucius Malfoy, one of the newly appointed members of the Thirteen, has refused to comply, stating that since Salazar Slytherin had in the first place intended to transfer his house from Hogwarts to Hierthent, it should remain where it is currently, at Hierthent. Also, he remarks there is no reason why the Slytherins will not receive the same (or a better) quality of education they had had enjoyed at Hogwarts."

"Hey," Harry exclaimed. "It says Lupin is one of the teachers appointed to handle the Slytherins' curriculum... I guess they're really serious about keeping the Slyths over there."

"Cool...," said Ron slowly, "-and smart. Dumbledore has nothing against Lupin, and it means he would know everything that goes on over there."

"Snape's over there as well," Hermione reminded.

Harry frowned thoughtfully. His brow remained furrowed for the rest of the morning and even during lunch. He finished his meal quickly and excused himself from Ron and Hermione on the pretense of having to retrieve his Herbology book from his dormitory. On the way to Gryffindor Tower, he detoured and made his way to the Headmaster's Office instead. There was something he needed Dumbledore to explain. Something Snape had told him before he and the rest of House Slytherin had been taken away.

The stone was bait, Potter. It was meant to draw Voldemort out into the open.

If that is true... then I shouldn't have gone after it.

But finding Dumbledore, or more specifically, getting into his office was harder than Harry had expected. He went through the list of all the wizarding and Muggle confectioneries he knew, and still, the gargoyle statue in front of him remained as it were with nary a blink nor a flicker of movement.

Maybe Dumbledore stopped using sweets for his passwords..., thought Harry he stood eye to eye with the gargoyle. He could almost swear it was smirking at him. He scowled at it, and much to his surprise it scowled back.

Harry backed away automatically, his eyes wide and fixed on the gargoyle's stone features. He didn't miss the instant its face returned to its original frozen impassivity. There was no further change afterwards despite Harry's many attempts to illicit another reaction from it. He even stuck his tongue out at it.

Okay. That was childish. Harry pulled his tongue back in, and pressing his knuckles against his chin, stared thoughtfully at the gargoyle. He remembered what Rowena had told him, Ron and Hermione about Animation, Comprehension and Speech Magic.

One of the main purposes of Animation Magic and a necessary aspect, is to make inanimate objects serve us. Unless they understand us, they cannot fulfill their purpose, Rowena had said.

So... this thing must be under Animation and Comprehension magic. It may not have Speech magic, but even if it cannot talk, it can still think and understand what I say to it.

Which meant it was possible to persuade it to let him through to see Dumbledore.

"I need to see the Headmaster." The gargoyle remained motionless.

"It's important." There was a subtle change on the gargoyle's face, and Harry exhaled with exasperation after interpreting that look.

"Look, I'm sorry if you get that excuse all the time, but I have to talk to Dumbledore. He's the only one who can explain something that has really been bugging me. It's about the Philosopher's Stone." Recognition seemed to glint in stone eyes, and Harry was quick to exploit the gargoyle's supposed interest.

"You see, Snape told me that it had actually been a trap for Voldemort." Harry's voice lowered to whisper on the Dark Lord's name, and there was no mistaking the alarm he saw pass across the gargoyle's face. It was the same alarm he'd seen many times
on people's faces at just the mention of Voldemort.

"I can't believe you're scared of-" Harry's reproach was cut off. From behind it came the sound of descending footsteps. Harry stepped backwards just as the gargoyle jumped aside, letting McGonagall pass into the hallway.

"Harry?" She was surprised to see him. "Why are you here?"

"I have to talk to the Headmaster about something, Professor," Harry said politely.

McGonagall frowned. "What is this something?"

Harry hesitated. "It's something about the Philosopher's Stone."

"The Philosopher's Stone has been destroyed and is no longer anyone's concern."

"I know, Professor. This is about when the stone was hidden in Hogwarts." Seeing as McGonagall wasn't going to let him see Dumbledore until she was convinced that he had excellent reason to see him, Harry decided to tell her what he had learned.

"Professor Snape told me that the stone was supposed to be the bait in a trap to capture Voldemort."

In this case, honesty was the correct policy, for, after several long seconds, McGonagall ushered Harry up the spiral staircase.

***

Salazar was startled when he was informed that he would be teaching History of Magic. He protested, saying that his field of expertise was Sources, not history. Several sets of questioning eyes greeted this excuse, and he was abruptly reminded that Sources was no longer a subject taught at Hogwarts (much to his disapproval).

Sources was the study of objects imbued with magic. When he had queried Dumbledore as to why Sources was no longer taught, the other had explained that the subject was found to be too broad in scope. Sources lessons were repeated in the first-level subjects of Astronomy, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions. Sources related second-level subjects included Ancient Runes, Arithmancy and Care for Magical Creatures. All three third-level subjects, in one way or another, were devoted to specific Sources. This interrelation amongst most of the subjects led to the recommendation that Sources as a separate course was unnecessary, and it was removed from the school's curriculum in the 19th century.

He was also informed discreetly that the teaching of Sources was considered hazardous. Sources included the analyzing of not only naturally occurring Sources such as various herbs, animal parts and mineral deposits, but also artificially created Sources such as broomsticks, Time-Turners and wands. Those three apparently were the most popular Sources to be fiddled with. Hogwarts students majoring in Sources were inclined to manufacture their own broomsticks, for example. This had led to numerous broom mishaps as the makers were not as skilled at the craft of charming a broom to fly properly as they had assumed they were.

As for homemade or in this case schoolmade wands, Ollivanders, the only reputable wandmaker in the country, issued a complaint at the Ministry of Magic that Hogwarts was encouraging its students to make their own wands. Such practice should never be attempted by anyone other than by adepts of the trade as assembling a wand in an improper manner could result in the amateur wandmaker blowing himself up.

And lastly, making a home-made Time-Turner was quite simply very dangerous, which was why Salazar caused his first batch
of Slytherin students great concern when they arrived at the History of Magic classroom and found Professor Scaevola already seated at his desk and tinkering with what seemed to be a dismantled Time-Turner.

It was a while before he appeared to notice them. When half of the time allotted for the lesson had passed away quietly, he lifted his head and smiling said, "Do you know of the Wizard Silencio who lived one and a half millenium ago?"

Several seventh-year Slytherins glanced at each other before looking back at him, shaking their heads. Salazar stood up and walked to the door, gesturing for his students to follow him. He was out and halfway down the hallway before any of them got out of their chairs.

"Master Silencio, as his name suggest, rarely spoke," Professor Scaevola began. Behind, his class jogged to catch up, skidding when their teacher suddenly turned left at the next intersection into a corridor which led to the high archway entrance of a gallery.

"He was a scholar, a tactician and an excellent listener. The last quality, combined with his habit of not speaking unless spoken to, endeared him to the powerful and influential of that time, and hardly only to them." Salazar finally stopped at a pedestal bearing the bust of a placid-looking man.

Salazar raised his hand, hesitating ever so slightly when the action reminded him of his old teacher. Lord Trenzel had taught him what he was now about to tell his students.

"Master Silencio was the chief financier of Hierthent's construction," said Salazar, lowering his hand after a moment. "He provided nearly half of the fortress' cost in bullion and was one of the first Thirteen."

"Was he Head?" asked someone. Salazar noted the speaker, a black-haired boy with hard staring eyes.

"No, he wasn't though he was the first choice," he answered. "Master Silencio refused the honor and recommended Wizard Brevarius instead. The latter became the first Head of the Thirteen."

"Why did he refuse?" queried the boy further.

"Because he did not want it," said Salazar patiently.

The boy frowned and then said, "Why?" as though he didn't understand the idea of anyone not wishing to be the Head of the Thirteen.

Salazar's lips quirked upwards. He could see it clearly. Eagerness. The need to prove one's self. Direction. Hunger. ...A lone wolf. Once an opportunity for leadership presented itself...

He felt a pang of worry for Draco.

"Why?" the boy repeated. "You said he spent a fortune and that they wanted him to be Head."

"Yes."

"Then he should have been Head. Why should he help build Hierthent if he didn't want to rule it?" The lad was so insistent, his housemates' faces were filled with wary admiration. The boy opened his mouth to continue his argument when he was startled into abruptly closing it for the professor had smiled at him unreservedly.

"I did not say Master Silencio did not wish to rule the Thirteen and Hierthent, and I assure you he did desire to rule and did so extensively," Salazar said lightly as the antagonistic youth stared at him uncertainly. "Unfortunately, there is no more time left for me to explain; however, I am curious as to your comprehension of Master Silencio's decision. You may guess at his reasons or you could research in the library. I believe Master Brevarius left a diary. A roll of parchment for your reports will suffice to be submitted next meeting."

***

McGonagall left as soon as she had whispered something into Dumbledore's ear. Harry had little doubt as to what she had told the Headmaster whose usually twinkling blue eyes were somber as he gestured for Harry to seat himself.

"Tell me what Professor Snape told you, Harry."

Harry took a second before saying, "He told me the Philosopher's Stone was bait." He frowned. "He also said that Voldemort was Nicholas Flamel's apprentice and that he had already drank the Elixir of Life.... He also told me about its side-effects.".

"Professor Snape must have been uncharacteristically talkative," commented Dumbledore softly. Harry stared at him, his brows knitting at the small smile curving the wizard's lips.

"... It's true, isn't it?"

"What's true, Harry?"

"What Professor Snape said."

There seemed to be a tiny wary light in Dumbledore's eyes that may have been uncertainty, but in the next moment it was gone, leaving Harry to believe its appearance had been created by his imagination.

Dumbledore's eyes were steady. "Yes, it is true, Harry."

He swallowed. "T-then, I shouldn't have gone after-"

Dumbledore had lifted his hand. "No, Harry. You had to go. You, Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger had to do what was done."

"But I ruined everything!" Suddenly, it was clear to Harry. The little doubts he had pushed away into the back corners of his mind unwound themselves and made clear the reasons for their being.

That day...

"I don't know how you found out about the Stone, but rest assured, no one can possibly steal it, it's too well protected," Professor McGonagall had said after they had told her that someone was going to steal the Stone.

The enchantment she had cast to protect the Stone had been a life-scale chess set which had to be defeated in order to pass. It was difficult but not impossible. Ron had beaten the game, and surely it wasn't half as good at safeguarding the Stone as a vault deep beneath Diagon Alley, which required a Gringotts goblin to open it.

Yet, Vault 713 had been broken into. Hagrid knew about the break-in. Professor McGonagall would have also known about the break-in. Harry couldn't believe that his House Head had the ego to assume her enchantment was unsurpassable when the goblins' had failed against Voldemort.

She must have expected it to be broken, thought Harry, staring off into space and quite unaware of Dumbledore's watchful regard.

And Snape... On Halloween, as soon as Quirrel had given the warning of the troll he had let loose in the school, the Potions Master had immediately gone off to the third-floor corridor to head Quirrel off. Yet, when Dumbledore had been lured away from Hogwarts, there was no sign of Snape in the third-floor corridor that night when he should have been about...

But... Quirrel did say that Snape tried to keep him from getting the Stone. So why, when it was very obvious that Quirrel was going to go after the Stone... where was Snape then? ... With Dumbledore?

"I will explain," Dumbledore said gently. "Do you remember when I told you that Lord Voldemort couldn't be killed because he wasn't truly alive?"

Harry nodded slowly. Dumbledore continued in a slow steady tone as though concerned that Harry wouldn't be able to take in his words in a faster rate.

"When Professor Quirrel returned from the Black Forest a changed man, I decided that would be prudent to remove the Stone from Gringotts and into Hogwarts for safe-keeping. You know Hagrid retrieved it on your birthday, and on the same day, its vault had been broken into.

"Even then, I suspected Professor Quirrel. I told no one. Not Professor McGonagall nor Professor Snape, who unsurprisingly shared similar notions about Quirrel. Severus does have an instinct for that sort of thing. He informed me that Quirrel might have come into contact with Lord Voldemort and that it was likely he was the one who had broken into Gringotts.

"I gave Severus leave to pursue his suspicions, and as I had feared, he ascertained that Professor Quirrel had indeed come into contact with Lord Voldemort."

"How did Professor Snape know?" Harry ventured to ask. His throat felt very dry.

"I do not know, Harry. I never asked him."

"You trust him that much?"

"Yes, I trust him completely."

Harry wanted to ask Dumbledore why he could trust Snape so much, but then he decided that that story could wait.

"What did he do?" Harry was startled when Dumbledore let out a chuckle.

"Ah, Harry. You will undoubtedly find this very hard to believe, but the unvarnished truth is most often what we do not expect." Dumbledore paused dramatically. Harry swore he could hear a drum roll.

"Severus pretended to be Quirrel's rival," said Dumbledore rather cheekily.

"... What?"

"Severus pretended to compete with Quirrel as to who would acquire the Stone for Lord Voldemort first."

"... No."

"It's true, Harry."

"But..."

"It is difficult to understand; however, it was most clever of Severus to come up with such a ploy. And." Dumbledore became solemn abruptly. "With the Dark Lord returned and the Death Eaters active once again, it was very fortunate that Severus did what he did."

"... Because since Voldemort shared Quirrel's body then... he would have known that Snape had tried to stop him if he had tried to stop him. ... If he had tried to stop Voldemort from getting the Stone then, he would be in very deep trouble now, because he is a Death Eater."

Dumbledore beamed as Harry worked it out. "He- Professor Snape- When he was in the forest with Quirrel..." He fought to remember.

"Have you found out how to get past that beast of Hagrid's yet?"

"B-b-but Severus, I-"

"You don't want me as your enemy, Quirrel."

"I-I don't know what you-"

"You know perfectly well what I mean."

Then, an owl hooted.

"- your little bit of hocus-pocus. I'm waiting."

"B-but I d-d-don't-"

"Very well. We'll have another little chat soon, when you've had time to think things over and decided where your loyalties lie."

Harry choked, "I thought Snape was trying to get Quirrel to tell him how to defeat the troll and get pass Fluffy."

"He was pretending," said Dumbledore, then he added in a bemused tone, "Now, Harry, you do not need a specific spell to defeat a troll."

"... Oh yeah...," said Harry weakly, remembering. Dumbledore tutted, "Both you and Severus overestimated trolls." That the Potions Master erred as well made Harry feel a little better.

"So...," Harry said finally, "all of that was to get Voldemort into the trap door?"

"Quite."

"Then, why did Snape stop Quirrel on Halloween?"

"The preparations for the Stone's protection hadn't been completed at that time."

Harry blinked. "... The Mirror..."

"Yes, Harry. The Mirror of Erised hadn't arrived here yet. It was the most necessary element."

"Why?"

At this, Dumbledore hesitated, but Harry didn't notice. Another more urgent question burst from his lips.

"Did you know all along Voldemort was in Quirrel's body?" Harry demanded.

"No, we hadn't, Harry," Dumbledore said firmly, and Harry breathed easier. He had been aghast by the idea of Dumbledore allowing Quirrel to teach at Hogwarts knowing that Voldemort was with Quirrel.

"When- when did you know that Voldemort was with-" Harry broke off with realization. "The unicorns!"

"Correct, Harry. Once we knew someone was drinking unicorn blood, we knew that Lord Voldemort had taken a host."

"... That owl from the Ministry?"

Dumbledore looked apologetic, and Harry, troubled, said, "Did you know we would have gone after Quirrel?"

"We had the feeling you three would."

"We?

"I and your professors, Harry."

"Hagrid?"

"No, he didn't know. Hagrid always has the good intentions at heart, but he cannot keep a secret," said Dumbledore without malice. Harry had to agree with that.

"Why didn't you stop us?"

Again, that rueful look. "It is not wise to trample determination especially when it inspires such bravery as you and your friends have shown. You three had just cause for your actions." said Dumbledore, his eyes steady on Harry's.

"We could have been killed."

"I know."

"You would have let us die?"

"No," Dumbledore said with such quiet force that Harry felt his resentment drain away.

"We were watching you. At the moment that any of you were in mortal peril, we would have come. Professor Sprout was ready when the Devil's Snare caught you; however, Miss Granger drove it away. Professor Flitwick had thought you three wouldn't get pass his enchantment. He was wrong. We were all enthralled by Mr. Weasley's excellent chessplay and aghast when the white queen knocked him to floor. As soon as you and Miss Granger left, we attended to him, made certain there was nothing serious before leaving him for Miss Granger to find."

Harry remembered a conversation he, Ron and Hermione had after the Stone incident. About how Dumbledore may have planned it all along for him to come face to face with Voldemort.

"He knew already - he just said, 'Harry's gone after him, hasn't he?' and hurtled off to the third floor," said Hermione.

"D'you think he meant you to do it?" said Ron. "Sending you your father's cloak and everything?"

"Well," Hermione exploded, "if he did - I mean to say - that's terrible - you could have been killed."

"No, it isn't," Harry had said thoughtfully. "He's a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don't think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It's almost like though I had the right to face Voldemort if I could..."

"I still don't understand," he blurted out. "You gave me my father's cloak twice. What you've been telling me now is that you wanted Voldemort to get the Stone, but back then, you were also encouraging me to stop him."

Dumbledore nodded. His familiar benign smile returned, but this time, it turned Harry' stomach. He had always felt that the Headmaster was using him and his friends, and he hadn't mind. Not really mind. It had been an adventure mostly, scary, terrifying and wonderful. In the end, everything had always turned out all right.

Until Cedric died.

Now... if it had been possible to get rid of Voldemort once and for all four years ago, that should have been done. He should have been destroyed then.

Anger must have shown on his face for Dumbledore sighed, "Harry, if Lord Voldemort had used the Stone four years ago, it would only have meant the he had regained his power four years earlier.

"... What do you mean? I thought you wanted him to get the Stone so that he could finally be killed."

Dumbledore peered at him. "You thought I would have killed him?"

"... Yes..."

Dumbledore sighed again. "I do not kill," he stated quietly.

"But you can stop him," said Harry. Dumbledore couldn't quite meet his eyes when he said that, and Harry had the impression that continuing this line of conversation would have him being asked to leave.

"... If you didn't intend to kill Voldemort, why lead him to the Stone?"

Cerulean eyes returned his stare. "Because I promised Nicholas I would give Tom Riddle a second chance," Dumbledore said softly. "He loved the boy dearly as though he was his own."

"How could you make a promise like that," said Harry with disbelief. Voldemort was certainly no longer a boy, and even as a boy, he was a terrible person.

Dumbledore closed his eyes and rubbed his brow. "Understand, Harry. Nicholas would have given the Stone to him had I not intervened. This was before you were born, before your parents were born. Lord Voldemort was still Mr. Thomas Marvolo Riddle, the most intelligent and capable apprentice in Nicholas' tutelage. He charmed my dearest friends." He suddenly let out a short laugh. "Charmed is an understatement. They were seduced. They could think no wrong of him. He was the finest young wizard they had ever met, and how blessed they were to know and have him living under their roof.

Harry hesitated. "It sounds like they are under a spell or a potion. Imperius?"

"No. Unfortunately, there was no spell. They truly loved him. ... Blindingly loved him. It was all I could do to convince Nicholas that the Stone was better off in my possession.

"Harry, when you first defeated Voldemort, reducing him into a shade to haunt the darkest forests, Nicholas came to me and asked for the Stone back. He intended to find the ruined Dark Lord and restore him with the Stone's power. They were convinced he was the hope of our kind.

"I refused; however, my old friend wasn't deterred. He would use his and Perenelle's supply of the Elixir instead. I knew, that short of forcing Nicholas to give up their Elixir, I had to convince them that Voldemort was unworthy of their loyalty and affection."

"... Why are they so stubborn about Voldemort? A lot of people must have told them what he had done."

"Yes; however, he had also done good things."

Harry's eyebrow went up at that. "Like what?" he queried in a dubious tone.

Dumbledore's humor returned. "Let us just say that most of the current generation of Slytherins owe a great deal to Lord Voldemort."

Harry waited for him to elaborate, but that was all Dumbledore said.

"Sir?"

"You said that Professor Snape had spoken to you about the Stone. He did mention about its side effects?"

"... Yes, he did. Are you saying... that Voldemort-" Harry suddenly had a very odd image of Voldemort in a Muggle doctor's garb and surrounded by a multitude of mothers with their babies. "... He found a cure to the Elixir?"

Dumbledore nodded once and slowly.

"That's why they like Voldemort?" said Harry in a tone that clearly said he considered this an indequate reason to like him. "They're just grateful; they don't really like him."

"Gratitude is an integral part of love and liking," said Dumbledore factually. "You cannot find any genuine loving relationship or friendship which doesn't include gratitude, and the Flamels were not only grateful to Mr. Riddle. They were very fond of him." He sighed wearily. "Too fond of him."

"... Why did they decide not to let him have the Stone?"

"When they witness with their own eyes how quickly he abandoned his follower to die. When they heard him order Professor Quirrel to kill you for the Stone. When he said he had murdered your parents. They didn't even need to see what the Mirror of Erised would show of his deepest desires to finally decide that their Thomas- Voldemort- should never have the Stone.

"And that it was better off for all concerned that it be destroyed."

***

None of the essays was satisfactory. Salazar let the last parchment roll up before placing it carefully on the stack on the left side of his table. It and nine others formed a pyramid. Planting his elbows on the desk, he formed a second pyramid with his fingers and leaned forward, resting his forehead against it.

Ironically, he had been given Jiswell's study for his office. It was a spacious elegantly furnished room with rich polished panels of beech and heavy furniture made of oak. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. It wasn't the fine interior, which gave Salazar qualms about inhabiting the room. By all accounts, the former wizarding lord had left Hierthent with his peers, but Salazar couldn't shake off the uneasy feeling that Jiswell's ghost was still haunting this place.

Moments later, he left and began wandering aimlessly in the hallways. He had nothing else to do. His classes for the day were through, not that he was fully loaded with teaching assignments. As the History of Magic professor, he had seven batches of students to teach, each level requiring three one-hour sessions in a week, which meant Salazar had only three classes per day.

I handled thrice that number, thought Salazar, remembering the classes at Hogwarts. When they had first begun teaching, there had been only three main subjects: Spells, Potions and Beastiary. The four of them each taught Spells. Salazar's Spell classes were referred to as Sources. Rowena's specialty was mental magic. Godric was keen on transfigurations. Helga wasn't spells-inclined, her main interests being in potions and plants; however, she still came up with the Hawthorn Charm. It was a singular enchantment, which was activated by the combination of a spoken spell with a natural Source. It had been and still was the most powerful protection spell.

Aside from teaching Spells, the girls had also taught Potions, which then had included the currently separate course of Herbology while he and Godric had shared Beastiary.

There also hadn't been seven levels of study then. Youngsters came to study at their parent's request and left at the same's leave. There were a few who stayed longer than most, and these they had groomed as possible future Hogwarts teachers. School affairs had been casual especially in Salazar's case. Not that he had been lax or ineffective in educating young wizards and witches as Helga often claimed.

Salazar found himself wondering how they were. No doubt Rowena would be worried. Godric as well though he would also be thinking Salazar had planned all this to get away from them and cause trouble while Helga would be furious as she always was when she thought he was up to something. Those two were often justified in their suspicions.

It had only been six days since the Serpent his real self had created had brought him and his house to Hierthent. A thousand years ago, it had also been Salazar Slytherin's intention to move his students from Hogwarts. Something changed his mind or prevented him from doing so. Or someone.

With a sigh he could barely hear himself, Salazar continued on his way, still walking without a destination. Though he was letting his feet lead the rest of him he knew exactly where he was. He would never be lost in Hierthent.

They must have done something to me, thought Salazar. He meant that the previous Thirteen had done something to the real Salazar Slytherin.

"If you don't stop me, I will destroy Hogwarts. I will kill all your precious students. I will burn this castle to the ground."

Clearly, he was insane, driven mad. Had he been tortured beyond sanity? Possibly though Salazar thought it was unlikely.

Salazar had been prepared, toughened, readied by daily doses of the Crucio. Lord Trenzel had made certain that the curse was quite useless against his protege even at young age.

But perhaps... a mental enchantment? Salazar ended up in front of a large painting, only mildly surprised that his feet had led him to it.

It was a landscape of blues and wheat gold, a sight very familiar to him. It was a rendering of Ravenclaw Manor by one of the finest magician artists in their time, Cabaren Masta. His specialty had been working spells into paint.

The painting had been commissioned by Lord Trenzel. To capture the land's very essence, Masta had spent several years camped at a small hillock just outside the boundaries of the estate. Shortly after the painting had been finished, Lord Regius Ravenclaw, Rowena's father, was killed while out in a hunt.

Salazar lifted his hand slowly and touched the frame. The wood was warm despite the chilly undercurrent, which flowed constantly in Hierthent's corridors.

Would it still work? Salazar mused.

When Ravenclaw was alive, the protection spells around his property were too strong to break, and the Light Lord himself too powerful to defeat in an outright battle. The supreme master of mind enchantments and transfigurations, Ravenclaw was a practical joker at heart. He once literally had run rings around the Thirteen by conjuring gigantic dark grey smoke rings to circle Hierthent, making the white fortress look like the striped tail of an ancient raccoon.

The Dark Society was, of course, infuriated. Tirades were useless against Ravenclaw, who teased the Thirteen of being too serious. Indeed, nothing he ever did to them was serious. A global love potion in the castle's water supply, annual snow storms in the middle of June (they never figured out how he did that), the proper wyvern which was the Thirteen's beast of heraldry replaced by a chattering beaver in every crest, banner and seal throughout the land.

The Kilton Lords, Salazar knew, admired the Light wizard, but they were in the minority. Most Dark wizards took offense at Ravenclaw's pranks, and the Light Lord had been slated to be rid off expediently and permanently.

Salazar was twenty-eight years old when his old teacher summoned him to his study and showed him the Masta's finished painting.

"Do you know this place, Salazar?" queried Trenzel.

Salazar recognized it quickly. "Ravenclaw Manor," he said, wondering what this was all about.

Lord Trenzel told him to touch the painting's frame, and Salazar was surprised to find it warm.

"Look at it, Salazar. Stare into it," murmured Trenzel. Salazar did as told and gazed at the painting. Its sky was a still deep blue; not a single cloud driven across it by a wind that caused tall stalks of wheat to sway to and fro. On the right middle section was a forest extending to the horizon. Each tree was drawn with such exquisite detail that a closer examination revealed a deeper darker layer of trees just as skillfully rendered. The forest was unlike the mansion on the left, which was so blurred Salazar could barely make out its facade.

Finding the house uninteresting, he returned his attention to the forest and as before, marveled. It seemed so real. The gnarled bark, the trembling leaf-ladened branches. He could almost hear the rustling wind...

And all of a sudden, he was there.

Unlike his real and then younger self who had gaped at the trees suddenly made real, Salazar wasn't surprised to find himself in the forest depicted in the painting.

It was still here. Like the invisible stable high up on Hierthent's tallest tower, the forest was still here. Salazar turned slowly, raising his head to see a sky wreathed by branches bereft of leaves. Unlike then, it was autumn now.

Regardless that a thick carpet of leaves covered the forest floor and despite the fact that the land had changed in a thousand years, Salazar recognized the clearing where Regius Ravenclaw had died.

Masta was a genius. His rendition of the forest that stood on Ravenclaw land was of such detail and clarity that the forest in his painting was the actual forest. Salazar was in the forest, which was miles and miles away from Hierthent, but at the same time, he remained as he had left himself, standing still in front of the painting and staring unblinkingly into it. In the painting, he could not go any further than the forest, and while he was inside it, he couldn't look away from the painting for he was in it as well. He couldn't escape from Hierthent this way.

Trenzel had this painting made in order to personally certify that Ravenclaw was dead. He had brought along his student to witness a wild boar attacking the Light wizard. Ravenclaw had somehow lost his mount and with it, all of his hunting accouterment, but he still had his wand. Yet, strangely, his spells had no effect on the beast.

Half a year later, Salazar was assigned to lead a Penta of Dark wizards on a raid on Ravenclaw manor. He had been specifically ordered to steal the late lord's spellbook.

***

Harry decided not to tell Ron and Hermione. The Stone was an old and moot subject. It had been destroyed, and it didn't matter now whether his friends knew that the Stone had actually been bait to lure out Voldemort. Harry didn't want them to feel as troubled and uncertain as he felt now, obsessing about whether they should or should not have gone after Quirrel. Dumbledore had assured him that what he had done- confronting Voldemort- had been the right thing to do, but... for now, Harry regretted having gone down the trap door.

That wasn't the only thing he wished he hadn't done.

***

Late in the evening, Salazar was strolling across the main lawn towards a secluded grove, which appeared to be standing precariously on a protrusion of the main mass of rock upon which Hierthent rested.

Peter, as a rodent, had given him a note from Voldemort, requesting him to come at midnight to the meeting place the Dark Lord had chosen.

It was a good a choice for a rendezvous. The grove was one of the scant few places in Hierthent, which were unmonitored by the Mirror Room. Salazar wondered if Voldemort knew about the surveillance or if he just liked the view. Two trees abutted the edge, a gap of a dozen feet between them. Standing between them and six paces back, one beheld a perfect marriage of sky and land. The horizon was low and faint; far below, beautiful Mother Earth slumbered, a misty coverlet of clouds over her. Above, a black dome of shimmering stars and a bright almost full moon. It was a sight of infinity gentled by the framing webbed branches above, stolid rough trees at the corners and what appears to be a mere single step separating the viewer from oblivion.

Within the circle of trees, Salazar waited, basking in cool moonlight. His eyes closed, he could still see its silver glow through his eyelids.

That was how Voldemort found him at midnight, a large pale coiled serpent lazing in the lovely light.

Salazar sleepily opened one eye at him.

"I hope you do not mind if we communicate in Parseltongue," he hissed softly. Salazar didn't want to risk their conversation being overheard and understood.

"No, not at all," Voldemort answered back fluently. He received a nod of approval from Salazar, who found himself warming to the other wizard despite the fact that Voldemort was a very dangerous individual who definitely couldn't be trusted. Parselmouths were extremely rare, and Salazar simply found it enjoyable to talk to another in the serpent language though this conversation was hardly for pleasure.

"Have you decided, my Lord Slytherin?" Voldemort was certainly not one for idle chit chat as he had immediately mentioned the subject of whether or not Salazar would work for him.

"I have thought about it," hedged Salazar. Voldemort narrowed his eyes at him.

Salazar lifted his eyes skyward. "If you desire to have someone to work for you, you should at least make the proposal attractive," he berated lightly, his tail twitching in irritation. He couldn't stand pushy people.

Voldemort's expression turned thoughtful. "... Persuade you, you mean?"

"Yes. Honestly, my dear Lord Voldemort, I see no reason why I should assist you in subduegating the whole world when I could achieve such a troublesome feat on my own."

"Ah... I do know, Sir," Voldemort hissed graciously. "However, I also know you have no desire to be like Master Brevarius."

Salazar lifted his head, tilting it curiously. "What do you know about Master Brevarius?"

"Quite a bit. I read his diary."

"And what do you think of him?"

Salazar caught the glint of teeth before Voldemort hid his smile and said, "He was nothing more than a figurehead. It was his chief advisor, Master Silencio, who wielded true power. A powerless king with a powerful minister is a common occurrence."

"Are you suggesting I would be a powerless king?" Salazar queried.

"No, you would be a very powerful leader, Lord Slytherin; however, you would be thrice as powerful behind the throne without having to deal with the troubles- assassination attempts, coup de ta-s, Ides of Marches- that overambition always brings." Voldemort sounded grudging.

Salazar smiled, and a few moments later, he had turned back into his human form.

"At least you are still alive," Salazar reminded him. "Caesar was stabbed forty times."

"I was in purgatory for fourteen years," Voldemort suddenly hissed bitterly. In the next instant, he looked startled, taken aback by his own words.

Salazar remained silent as Voldemort recovered his composure. The other wizard chuckled mirthlessly. "How strange...," he muttered, his eyes glinting with a wary light as they flick towards Salazar. "I feel as though I can trust you with my innermost secrets."

"I am a good listener," said Salazar simply.

"Like Master Silencio."

"Yes. I can even make the claim I am his heir."

"You are descended from him?"

"No, he didn't have any children, but he taught Master Rubric who succeeded him. Master Rubric in turn taught Master Morrice who had an apprentice who became Master Cestus who had a son named Caradoc, who had several wives the second of which bore him a daughter named Mina who married a bard from the mainland. They had a son who-"

"Enough!" Voldemort waved his hand impatiently.

"You are not being a good listener," Salazar scolded lightly. "I was almost finished. They had a son who- Voldemort glared at him- went to work as a stableboy at Farthington Manor. The lord of the estate took a great liking to the boy. Since he didn't have sons of his own, he adopted Mina's son and deeded Farthington Manor to him. Three generations passed. Farthington Manor was--" You said you were almost finished.... --added to the Thirteen's holdings, and the current lord sent his son Trenzel to Hierthent to serve as apprentice to Lord Hasslebern, who was then Head of the coalition."

Salazar paused for two moments before finally finishing. "Lord Trenzel later succeeded Lady Ilias as Head of the Thirteen, and he was my teacher."

Voldemort didn't look impressed.

"You are not a good listener," Salazar told him.

However, he was still having a pleasant time. Voldemort was one of those focused individuals who knew absolutely what they wanted in life, what to do to get what they wanted, and they would do it.

He had ambition, direction and initiative, the requirements of greatness. Most wizards, Salazar knew, possessed one or two but rarely all three. A scant few of his students had promise. Most either knew what they wanted and how to get it but didn't go after it or knew what they wanted and would have gone after it had they known how to get it.

"It is getting too late," Voldemort said, looking in the direction of the fortress' gates. He looked back at Salazar. "Have you decided to work for me?" he asked again.

Now, if only he could be a little less blunt, thought Salazar. Though not actually a requirement for greatness, Salazar had always considered charm a quality as important as the other three.

He was startled when Voldemort said, "It would be an insult to your intelligence."

"... Pardon?"

"If I attempt to charm you into working for me," said Voldemort mockingly. "Charm is only a tool to trick people who are more powerful to do a service for you." Voldemort's shoulders rolled back carelessly. "I haven't had to be charming for a very long time."

It was Salazar's turn to glare at him. "A charming personality is also necessary in swaying those who are your equal," he said, folding his arms slowly. "Are you saying that I am beneath you...?"

"Everyone else is beneath me," declared Voldemort.

Salazar made a face. "And I thought I have quite an ego," he said dryly.

Voldemort smiled. Salazar froze at what he said next. "You seem to forget you are not really Salazar Slytherin. Your alias... what was it- Ah yes. Sextus Scaevola, which means the eldest and left-handed. An appropriate name for an unwanted first-born son. That was quite a story you told Avery and the others. Very creative." Voldemort made a slow appreciative nod.

"I am certain you know that fathers do not have to be charming to their sons," he added cunningly.

Salazar laughed. "Avery told you?"

"Wormtail."

"Do you mind?"

"Not at all. I considered it a compliment actually, and it was a particularly useful pretense, especially for you. I hear Avery quakes whenever you talk to him."

"Not because of me, because of you. He fears you."

"He isn't the only one." Voldemort sounded very pleased, and Salazar decided not to comment.

The issue of whether he would serve Voldemort or not was left unresolved. The other wizard didn't insist further that night which was fortunate. It would only have served to alienate Salazar. He disliked impatience, and each time Voldemort had brought up the subject, Salazar was strongly reminded of the time Jiswell Rathal had tried to intimidate him into working for him. That incident was one of the reasons why he had chosen to withdraw from the Thirteen.

It was two hours after midnight by the time he returned to his room. After washing his face in the adjoining bathroom and changing his clothes, Salazar went to bed. But before he could fall asleep, there came a rapping sound.

He sat up, looking at the glass-paneled balcony doors, which seemed to have been the source of the sound. As he got out of bed, there was another rap tap on the glass. There was no one there.

"Salazar, unlock the doors," he heard Godric's voice say. Startled, he hesitated, and Godric added impatiently, "Stop gawking. You shouldn't be surprised- Rowena, tell Helga she can't go off looking for Voldemort."

"Helga," said Rowena's fine voice promptly, "Godric says you cannot go after Voldemort."

"What are you two? His guardian angels?" muttered Helga.

A chuckle escaped from Salazar who was struggling not to grin.

"It's not funny, Salazar," complained the unseen Godric, who sounded frazzled.

"He had to wrestle Helga away from Voldemort," informed Rowena helpfully.

"I was winning," added Helga dryly.

"You kicked me in the shin!"

"You're lucky I didn't kick somewhere else."

"Oh... look. His face is turning red again, Helga."

"He does blush very easily, doesn't he, Rowena?"

"Yes, it's a very endearing quality."

"Salazar, open this door now!"

"I've never seen Salazar blush," said Helga conversationally as Salazar unlocked the doors. They swung in forcibly, and Salazar felt Godric brush past him speedily.

"I've only seen him blush once," said Rowena, sounding regretful.

"I didn't want them to come along," Godric groused. Salazar followed the sound of his voice and watched the other wizard became visible. Godric's embarrassment was vividly clear. Salazar grinned, but his amusement died somewhat when he saw the crystal hanging from a cord around Godric's neck. It was the Crysalis, which contained their memories and Fawkes' feathers.

Godric noticed Salazar staring at it. "I used it to locate you," he explained, fingering the crystal. It glowed crimson at his touch.

"We could no longer just sit by, doing nothing but wait for a message from you," said Helga, no longer invisible as she strolled by Godric and sat down in an armchair.

"We were very worried, Salazar," Rowena said softly. Salazar turned to find her standing behind him. Her hood was raised, shrouding her face in shadows. Slowly, Salazar lifted his hand and drew back the cowl. His heart twinged with pain when he saw that the skin around her eyes and beneath her nostrils was slightly raw. She had cried recently.

I am sorry. The words were on the tip of his tongue, but she read them in his mind before he could even think to say them. A finger barred his lips before he could say anything.

"I know," Rowena whispered, her voice breaking. She breathed in sharply and repeated, "I know," this time firmly.

She kissed him very briefly. Salazar had only time to realize what Rowena was doing before she pulled away, lowering her hand from his face. She walked past him and Godric to stand beside Helga, who was staring murderously at Salazar.

An uncomfortable silence fell, broken only when Godric coughed. "How are your students?" he asked solicitously.

"They are adjusting quite well," answered Salazar, feeling as though he was at an inquisition, which was what it was. "You shouldn't be too concerned about my students. They had been prepared for the transfer."

"What?" said Helga sharply.

"I had said I wished to remove my house from Hogwarts."

"That was when you thought your Slytherins were being discriminated against," said Helga impatiently. "We allowed your Dark Arts sessions-"

"You seemed to have forgotten I was arrested for teaching Black Magic," Salazar interrupted coldly. Helga had no reply to that.

Godric shook his head. "Salazar... how could you just- your house has been at Hogwarts for a thousand years, you can't simply separate-"

"I just had, haven't I? You shouldn't be surprised, Godric. Hogwarts was no longer beneficial for my Slytherins. Defense Against Dark Arts without the teaching of the Dark Arts... Muggle Studies?"

"If this is about Muggle-borns," Helga began heatedly. She was cut short when she found herself staring at the tip of Salazar's wand.

"Salazar!" Godric shouted. He stepped in between them, striking at Salazar's hand. The wand fell to the floor with a clatter before Godric kicked it away.

It rolled noisily to corner as Godric grabbed Salazar by the shoulders. "What do you think are you doing?! Get a hold of yourself!"

"Leave me alone, Godric."

Godric froze at the fanatical gleam in Salazar's eyes. His hands shook as he released Salazar. He stepped back.

"Salazar, there is something wrong with you," he whispered, his eyes frantic with worry. "They must have done something to you. Voldemort-"

"Voldemort has done nothing to me," Salazar said lightly, his eyes sliding from Godric's pale features to Helga who had stood up. Her face was unreadable, her stance loose and prepared if he should attack her.

Salazar shook his head, exhaling. "You shouldn't even be here." He closed his eyes, deciding it would be advantageous not to see their faces. "You do not know. You must not know, because you are here, attempting to reform me as always."

"What are you babbling about, Salazar?" Helga said sharply.

He opened his eyes and stared at her. "I killed them," he said simply.

"We already know you murdered the Thirteen, Salazar!"

"They are not the only ones I killed, Helga. You look surprise. Who else you are no doubt wondering. You, the real Helga Hufflepuff anyway, had been very upset. Little wonder since you had family amongst the Thirteen."

"What?" said Godric, his eyes widening. Rowena looked towards Helga with a startled expression. Helga's mouth tightened.

Salazar smiled humorlessly. "But do not be concerned. I have no grudge against you, half-light half-dark witch despite the quite high level of antagonism between us. Instead, I greatly respect for you. You have always only wish to obliterate me, never once attempt to change my nature as Godric here is wont to do."

He regarded Godric next, anticipating the increased surprise in the other wizard's face when Salazar looked at him with great fondness.

"Eventhough... still... you believe I am or at least will be a good person."

"Salazar-"

"Shh. Don't interrupt, Godric, please. Helga should know what you know as to why you were so upset that you would demand that I leave Hogwarts after discovering I had killed the Thirteen. Why would you- he- be upset when he hated them for the death of his parents? Tell her, Godric."

"Godric, what is he talking about?" Helga asked slowly, looking the most uncertain Salazar had ever seen her.

"Godric?" said Salazar expectantly.

"... It wasn't you, Salazar."

Salazar chuckled. "See? He has such belief in me."

"Quiet, Salazar," muttered Godric.

"I will if you tell her who else I killed that night."

Godric looked helpless. "... He killed the Muggle-borns, Helga, but it wasn't him!" he insisted. "I remember. They had stolen Lord Ravenclaw's spellbook and must have learned the Imperius Curse. They used the curse on Salazar and forced him to kill the Muggle-borns at Hogwarts. He hadn't killed the Thirteen yet, but after we had cured him of Imperius, he went after them-"

"And used Avada Kedavra on very single one of them." Salazar raised his eyes ceilingward. "Which is why today every Dark wizard and witch believes I made Avada Kedavra, which is actually Godric's creation."

Helga sat back down.

"It makes sense, doesn't it?" murmured Salazar. Godric glared at him then forced himself to relax. "It isn't your fault," he told Salazar softly. "It wasn't his fault. I know how powerful Lord Ravenclaw's spells are, and Imperius must be impossible to fight."

Salazar just smiled at him, still fondly. Godric turned puzzled again.

"Godric, you do not know Imperius," he said gently. Salazar looked over to Rowena who had remained silent all throughout. "You haven't told them, Rowena."

Helga heaved a sigh. "Now, what is he talking about?" she muttered, throwing her hands up. It was clear she was at her limit with receiving shocking revelations.

"It isn't important, Salazar," said Rowena.

"Why don't you let them decide?"

"Why must you always insist you are evil?"

"Why do you and Godric always insist I am not?"

"Because you are not, and the majority always rules."

"It's not a majority. It's a tie. Helga thinks the same about me as I do."

"No, she doesn't."

"Yes, she does."

"Let her decide. Helga, I'm evil, aren't I?"

"You are stark raving mad!"

They stayed at Hierthent that night. While Salazar and Godric went to house their mounts at the stable above, Helga bustled off with Rowena accompanying her to prepare rooms for the three of them. Helga knew her way around Hierthent.

"It's good to see you again, old fellow," Salazar murmured into the stallion's ear as he rubbed down one of its wings with a gunny sack. It let out a pleased whicker in reply.

"Salazar, is there anything for them to eat here?" asked Godric, who was leading one of the mares into a stall. He bumped into a post as Salazar answered, "You will just have to conjure something for them to eat, Godric. This place hasn't been used since I left Hierthent."

"Very well." Godric eased himself out of the occupied stall and looked around for a trough. Soon, he had levitated two of them close to the horses and was filling them with food and water. The mares approached him quickly.

"All right. All right- Be patient!" Salazar chuckled. The two mares had sandwitched Godric between the broad sides of their bodies. The stallion neighed as amused as Salazar as the other wizard struggled to escape.

"A little help would be appreciated, Salazar."

"I'm certain you can get out of this one on your own."

Godric threw up his hands and tucked his wand back into his pocket before getting down on his hands and knees to crawl out instead.

Salazar lead the stallion to the troughs as Godric clambered to his feet, brushing invisible dust, dirt and straw from his robes.

"Salazar, what was it that Rowena hadn't told me and Helga?" Godric asked as they made their way down the tower.

"Why don't you ask her, Godric?"

"I am asking you."

Salazar paused by a narrow window. Slats open into the tower's curtain wall every few steps, allowing moonshine to light the way of whomever was traversing the long spiral staircase within.

He sat down on the sill, glancing to Godric several steps behind and above him. He smiled when he saw that Godric was steeling himself in preparation for whatever Salazar was about to tell him.

It was a wise precaution.

"The Imperius Curse," began Salazar dreamily, his eyes, half-closing, "was Regius Ravenclaw's answer to the Cruciatus Curse." He knew, even without looking, what the expression was on Godric's face.

"It is a very pleasant curse to be under in, Godric. He was very clever, Rowena's father. Utilizing pleasure instead of pain to bend another's will..." Salazar shook his head, slowly, his voice filled with admiration. "It is a curse far more effective than Crucio will ever be. Ingenious. I- I am referring my real self but also including myself as I am now- we would indeed have been very susceptible to the Imperius Curse when it was used to command us into killing all those Muggle-borns a thousand years ago. The casters hadn't even had to do much persuading to achieve such a goal. You know of our dislike of Muggle-borns."

Salazar gave Godric a half-smile. "Do you see now, my Light wizard friend? I wouldn't have mind killing them."

To be continued.

Notes on the Imperius Curse:

1. GoF p. 231 - It was the most wonderful feeling. Harry felt a floating sensation as every thought and worry in his head was wiped gently away, leaving nothing but a vague, untraceable happiness. He stood there feeling immensely relaxed, only dimly aware of everyone watching him.

2. GoF p. 661 - And Harry felt, for the third time in his life, the sensation that his mind had been wiped of all thought.... Ah, it was bliss, not think, it was as though he was floating, dreaming...

Also - portions from my correspondence with Mark. If you're interested in Salazar, you might like to read it. Mark, I do hope you don't mind that I had posted them. Your feedback has helped me concretized certain aspects of Salazar Slytherin's personality.

Helga said, "They are not only Slytherins. They are Hogwarts students. I do not care if you get yourself petrified by a Basilisk, but your Slytherins are just as important to me as my Hufflepuffs. I would never send them away for something you did. Bring them back, Salazar!"

The Dark wizard hesitated at this, and in the same moment, there came a soft creaking sound.

I like the fact that Salazar doesn't answer the question as to whether he will return his students to Hogwarts or not.

He is the sort who prefers to mislead rather than lie outright which is hard to do with yes and no questions. However, he is still a very convincing liar especially when he thinks he can get away with it.

You also have Salazar working his own little plans whatever they may be (he always seems to surprise me in one way or another with what he does).

Salazar is a wild card, and the other Founders know that all too well. It isn't that you cannot depend on him to save the day, you just might not like the way he saves the day.