Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter…this is probably a good thing.
Okay, so yeah its been about a year since I have updated and a lot of people have been waiting for me to get back to this story. Well I'm back, though for how long remains to be seen as RL is taking up a lot of my energy now what with moving to uni. Don't really have any excuses other than I've been busy and lacking the motivation or inspiration to update the story.
On that note I will be taking some advice from another author and probably cutting my chapter sizes down so that I don't feel so forced into writing a really long chapter and find myself getting fed up with my own story again. Not sure how the updates will be from no on them. Might update chapters as parts and when I have got the whole chapter lump it back together again, so yeah no idea.
The story isn't dead and here is the proof! Be warned this has not been betad so there may be mistakes, if there is a reoccurring mistake please tell me. If it is just a slight misspelling or grammar error I wont be changing it.
Neville and Hermione noticed immediately when the bullying stopped but the hate filled stares continued. Seamus and Dean were terrified enough of their Head of House to avoid them at all cost but Ron remained an angry shadow in the background, though he showed his first bit of common sense and refrained from doing anything.
This did not stop Neville from still feeling nervous and out numbered in his own dorm room and so the trio of friends continued with trying to learn upper year defence and security spells for the inevitable occasion when Ron Weasley decided that McGonagall was no longer a threat.
It was because of this unease that Salazar decided to do a bit more for Harry than he had previously done before by letting him into a few more secrets of Hogwarts Castle, namely the system of secret passages all throughout the school that not even many generations of inquisitive and curious students had ever discovered.
The tunnel that he had led the lost first year through at their initial encounter was one of many throughout the school but the secret to access them was long forgotten. Even the current Headmaster had no idea of their existence so Salazar was confident that it was a safe place for Harry to hide from his tormentors and move about the castle freely without harassment.
"The secret is to know where the doorways should be. I have shown you the most useful to you young snake but remember that there are many more you do not know of. It will be quite possible for you to exit through one of these doorways if you do not keep your final destination in mind. The corridors are much like the stairs in that way, always looking to amuse themselves by leading students slightly astray if they do not pay adequate attention."
Harry walked along beside the carving of the long dead legend in one of said corridors and tried to simultaneously listen to the knowledge while keeping the section of corridor in the shadow of a suit of armour in the left corridor from the library firmly in mind so as not to go astray. All the corridors looked the same as the first with smooth polished stone where there should be rough heavy slabs and an low arched roof. In all the times he had now wondered with the founder in the passageways to memorise the doorways he had not once encountered any stairs though many times he often ended up on a different floor to the one he started on. The small eleven year old tried not to think about the logistics of it. He always felt dizzy when he did.
"When you reach a doorway you are to reach out with your magic as if casting a spell and command it to open. Be warned that the castle may or may not respond to this command as these passage ways are not just open to anyone. I could open them for you if needed but I can not be in two places at once and while I may be able to travel anywhere within these walls it still takes me time to traverse form one place to another."
"C-Can your snakes open them?" enquired Harry. He had been noticing that quite often Salazar sent some of his snakes to trail him everywhere in school. About the only place they ever left him truly alone was when he was in the library with Hermione and Neville. Of course the snakes were all excited about him being a speaker, though Harry himself did not understand why this was so special (could not all wizards talk to snakes? He had never thought to look it up in the library and none of the books on magical creatures he had read had mentioned anything about parseltongue) and could be following him of their own free will but he did not believe for a seconds that they were not reporting back to the founder.
Salazar seemed surprised for a moment before smirking. "So you have noticed young one. Yes I have had a few of my companions keep an eye on you in case my assistance is needed. You have far to many enemies in this school to be all on your own…I would teach you some more advance defensive spells to use against your attackers but I fear even with you studious nature and considerable power for your age that you are not yet ready to learn anything I would teach you.
"To answer you question unfortunately my companions are unable to open the entranceways as I am but they can reach me quickly from anywhere within the castle. Now to continue our original topic, to open a doorways you need to reach out with your magic. This is most easily accomplished by pressing your wand to the correct portion of wall and channelling your magic through it. With practice you should be able to do this without the aid of your wand by just touching the wall with your hand. If you are powerful enough and diligent in your practice it is possible to reach out with your magic without touching the door and open it from several feet away, but you are far from doing that young Harry." Salazar concluded, making sure the boy was listening as he nodded along to the rapid explanation.
They had been walking for a while now and continued to do so in companionable silence. A few minuets later Harry arrived at a dead end only to have the passage open up behind a suit of armour in the corridor near the library. Harry aloud a brief smile of triumph to grace his face at the accomplishment. So far in these journeys he had gotten quite lost a few times while trying to listen to the founder at the same time as keep his destination in mind but this successes showed he was gradually getting better. Salazar too smiled at the boy, aware that a little praise would go a long way to convincing the boy of his abilities and provide motivation to improve them.
"Well done Harry. You are getting better. Meet me by this door way again tomorrow after class and we shall practice opening it with your wand. For now you should probably find your friends in the library. I have no doubt they will be wondering about your divergence from your normal routine and will be looking for you."
"Yes sir." Harry stepped through the door way, watching it close behind him and Salazar fill the wall in its place. The green eyed boy hesitated, the founder was the nicest adult he knew but being a Slytherin he understood the need for secrecy and so was reluctant to ask his next question. "Can I teach Hermione and Neville about the passageways too?" he inquired meekly.
Salazar considered this request for a moment. "I am pleased that you already have allies that you trust so much young Harry but I ask that you do not at this moment. They have a greater amount of protection from animosity than you do despite the young Weasley's recent harassment and so do not need these escapes so badly. To reveal them would be to reveal me and I am not ready for any others but you young speaker to know of my presence yet. Do you understand?"
Harry was disappointed but not surprised by this response. It did however give him hope that in the future, should he continue to attend Hogwarts and Hermione and Neville remained his friends that he would be able to tell them some day. Being a Slytherin he did not care to much about lying to them for the sake of secrecy when it would cause no one any harm, but that did not mean he didn't want to share with them this amazing aspect of the castle. He knew Hermione would be over the moon if she had the opportunity to speak to one of the founding four even if it was the creator of her rival house. She would probably ask a lot more pertinent questions than he did.
"I understand sir. I wont tell them anything."
"Good boy. Now move along."
Harry said his final goodbyes to the ancient carving for the night and hurried to the library. The founder was right to think his friends would be concerned about him missing the beginning of their normal study meet up after lessons and as he quickly walked along and through the high imposing doors of Hogwarts library he tried vary hard to think up a believable the lie. He understood the need to keep secrets, that didn't mean he had any practice in doing so.
Salazar Slytherin watched the young boy hurry off and contemplated. He did not know if the boy was in any way his biological heir as the real Salazar Slytherin had had no children before he left Hogwarts but he was undoubtedly a speaker and a much better character than the last one to pass through these halls fifty years ago. He had never revealed himself to the that heir as he did now to Harry and had found this to be a wise decision when the boy had used his poor, still loyal basilisk for his own nefarious devices and power. Salazar did not for a moment believe the old speaker to be dead as so many else did. He could still feel his presence in these halls and despite his close relationship with the hallowed halls of the ancient castle he could not tell from where it was coming from.
Salazar was sure it was only a matter of time before he came back and when that eventuality happened he would hope young Harry would be fully aware of his chamber and old familiar within so that he may prevent a repeat of the past happening. Now was not the time though. Before anything like that could happen the young Slytherin needed to become stronger and more sure of himself. He still flinched at unexpected sounds and believed himself inadequate.
The founder sighed, depressed by his thoughts. He could understand why the young one had been sorted into his house even though it may not be at times obvious. He understood the importance of power and the games people played, even though he had little of his own to wield. The need to guard yourself against all but your most trusted. More than that he could sense the desperate ambition to be someone, to be acknowledged and accepted, to be great and to prove to his family and himself that they were wrong! If only the boy could see that there was no need to prove this, Salazar lamented.
They were already wrong.
Days past as they were wont to do and before Harry had time to blink it was Thursday again and time for another meeting with Snape. The talks had not been so bad and Harry was no longer deathly afraid of the potions professor but he still did not trust him. He was an adult after all, you never know when they would turn against you. He thought his potion prowess was increasing and that he was definitely no longer bottom of the class but his Head of House still insisted on lessons.
They followed the same routine, Harry barley knocked on the door and Snape would tell him to enter. He would then be lead to the professors privet lab and would be directed as to which potion he was attempting today. So far Harry had avoided any Neville scale catastrophes though he almost failed last session when the professor continued to hound him about his treatment at the hands of Weasley. He hadn't wanted to tell but it had been obvious that the professor had know some of what was going on and had guessed the rest. In the end he had confessed to some mistreatment, feeling ill as he did so. The professor already knew about the Dursley's, though to Harry's delight and bewilderment he had yet to ask anything about them, but to reveal that he was so week as to not even be able to defend himself against a fellow first year sickened him with how vulnerable he felt in that moment. You were never supposed to let people see or know your weakness, he knew this, lest they tear you apart with it but here he had gone admitting to weakness twice to his Head of House. What must the man think of him!
It was for these various reasons that when Harry set to making his potion he once again made sure that his eyes were firmly on his work and not looking the dour man in the eye as he had mistakenly done so a few times before.
Across from the young boy, supposedly marking essays as he normally did the Potions Master permitted himself a sigh of annoyance. He knew harassing the Slytherin for explanations about Weasley's behaviour would be detrimental in his efforts to get the boy to trust him but he didn't realise by how much. The shoulders were hunched again and the green eyes firmly averted from his own. While the boy did not shrug as he did before any response to him was monosyllabic. Snape counted it as a small win that they boy had not reverted to stuttering again as that would be truly annoying but even so he could feel is ire at the youngest male Weasley rising exponentially once again.
He was probably going to make this worse by bringing up the red headed bigot again but he needed to make the boy understand. "I trust that you have noticed the constant harassment suffered by you and your friends by Weasley and his group has stopped in the past few days."
"Yes sir" Harry had noticed and wondered about it but had been having so much fun learning new magic with Hermione and Neville without constantly having to go to the hospital wing and casting finite every few minuets that he had not given it much thought as to how it came about. Harry assumed the red head had just got bored for now and would be back again later. Dudley sometimes acted this way, when he or his friends got an amazing new toy and Harry hunting was no longer the most entertaining thing to do for a few glorious weeks until the hype about the new gadget wore off and it was back to the same old routine.
"This is because they have been punished for their actions against you and your friends" the boy had looked up and at him in shear surprise. Lily's eyes flashed but after a few of these occurrences Severus was able to better ignore the tightening in his chest and cast aside the tide of rising memories. "What they did was bullying and is not permitted at Hogwarts. If he was to start in this tirade again you or your friends are to report it to a teacher, preferably professor McGonagall or I and we shall deal with it. As it is I understand he and his friends have two weeks of detention and have been assigned two essays to complete as well as their normal homework. Do you understand?"
The boy was still looking at him in confusion and wonder. Snape needed for Harry to understand that people who hurt him would be punished if he wished to acquire the boys confidence. To understand that Hogwarts was different from his despicable relatives and that all students had to comply with the rules. Teaching the boy to bite back and defend himself by launching an offensive strike would come later.
"Really sir?" Harry asked, leaning forward across the work table and almost slicing his finger off in the process of cutting the giant slugs into slices.
Snape frowned, "for Merlins sake boy look at what you are doing! I do not wish to put up with your crying and Poppy's lecture if you were to slice yourself in stupidity!"
Harry blushed and once again ducked his head, concentrating on making sure he didn't injure himself. "But in answer to you question, yes the Weasley boy and his followers have really been punished for their treatment of you. If they do not stop they will be punished again. Any student that harms or harasses you shall be punished if you bring it to my attention." The Potions Master continued, then frowned slightly, "of course this does not mean you are to come snivelling to me about every time someone calls you a name or insults you. Preferably you should be able to stand up by yourself against these kind of attacks so that I will not have to waste my time bothering with it."
"Yes sir." Harry wondered why professor Snape felt he needed to say that. He knew that adults didn't appreciate snivelling and it was just likely to get him punished. He wasn't such a cry baby as to come whining to his Head of House about everything. For Merlins sake he was eleven already, not two!
There was silence after that as both got back to their respective work. Minuets past in this manner so it came as some surprise to Harry when professor Snape once again initiated a conversation. The messy haired boy had thought they were done talking for the night and was still trying to wrap his head around someone else being punished for trying to hurt him. The concept was having some trouble fully sinking in.
"I have noticed that you have often been visiting the owlery. Are you sending mail to your relatives? I have yet to see you receive any packages in the Great Hall like the rest of your peers."
Harry hunched his shoulders at the question, debating whether or not to answer. The professor would be livid if he didn't reply but at the same time Uncle Vernon would kill him if he told anyone about the abuse even if they did already see the scars.
He settled on a half answer. "I-I'm not going t-to send m-mail. I-I'm just visiting my owl Hedwig. M-My r-relatives d-d-don't l-like mag-owls much" he amended quickly. Glancing up through his fringe Harry tried to figure out what his Head of House was feeling but all he could see was mild curiosity.
"Hummm, I take it you have a close relationship with your owl?" Snape enquired. He had got more of an admission from that question than he thought and the boys quickly corrected slip let on more than he knew about why his home life was so atrocious. It was also a sign that he had more of the boys trust than he originally hoped. Snape ignored the tightening in his chest that occurred at the thought.
"I-I-I, yes. She's one of my best friends. She's annoyed that I don't use her to deliver messages. I try to tell her its because I have nothing to send but I'm not sure if she gets it even if she is very intelligent. It would be a lot more useful if wizards could talk to owls instead of snakes but I guess it cant be helped." Harry paused for a second before continuing on urgently. He didn't want the professor to think didn't take pride in being in Slytherin after all. "Not that snakes aren't great or anything! They just don't carry the post so…" here the green eyed boy trailed off, aware that his Head of House was now staring at him in great surprise and a little bit of horror. What had he done now?
Severus froze upon hearing the boys babbling. Did he just say what he thought he said? Surely there was some mistake, neither of the Potter seniors had had the ability to speak to snakes. How would their son acquire such a gift? He shivered involuntarily and griped his left forearm, the dark mark burning as it was want to do whenever unwanted memories of his despised master rose to the fore front of his mind. That terrible cutting hiss of the snake language, spitted through pale lips and biting at the air as Nagani rose in command. Ready to strike down whoever had displeased her master.
The Potions Master had absolutely no wish to ever hear that dreaded language again but the boys claimed had to be checked. If he really could speak parseltongue no doubt Harry would be unaware of the stigma attached. The boy was already in the running for the next dark lord just because of his sorting, there was no need for him to go a throw more fuel on the fire by inadvertently revealing a gift the public saw as a sign of a dark wizard just because he felt like conversing with some of the grass snakes round the school. At least not until he could better defend himself at least.
"Potter" the boy looked at him and quickly down again, shoulders hunching. He had obviously picked up on his unease and Severus cursed himself for not having better control of his emotions. "I do not know where you got the misconception but I can assure you the majority of wizards can not talk to snakes."
"T-They cant sir?" Salazar could speak to snakes, though thinking back Harry remembered the founders and his companioning surprise that he could understand them. He should have known then that it wasn't normal. He really was a freak.
"No, in fact it is a very rare gift." Snape could almost sense the disbelief from the boy. "It is a gift Potter! An extremely rare one by the name of parseltongue…however in the last few years parseltongue has come to be seen in a less that favourable light so I caution you to keep this gift a secret. Some may try to harm you because of it."
This alarmed Harry greatly, he would be punished for talking to snakes? But Salazar did it all the time?! "R-Really sir? Why?!" the boy cried out in distress.
Snape sighed. He had hoped not to go into this less the boy himself get ridiculous ideas. "The most famous parselmouth was Salazar Slytherin and he is generally thought of as a dark wizard." Harry was so surprised his head shot up and he looked his Head of House straight in the eye with no thought towards punishment. Salazar was a dark wizard? But he was so nice! He certainly didn't act like a dark wizard, thought Harry.
Snape wondered about the extreme disbelief spread across the face of the young Slytherin. Surly he should have known this, even Potter couldn't be that cut off from the Hogwarts gossip. The reaction was a bit extreme no matter how he looked at it.
Severus paused a moment to see if the boy would voice the reason for his surprise but the eleven year old remained stubbornly silent.
"However the main reason parseltongue is so despised is that the dark lord was also a parselmouth and he used his ability to convince snakes to attack people on many occasions as well as taking the image of a snake as part of his own mark. For this reason parseltongue is often mistaken to be the sign of a dark wizard."
"I'm a dark wizard?" asked Harry in horror. The potion now entirely forgotten. It was only lucky for both Harry and the Potion Master that the ruined concoction remained inert instead of violently exploding as many other potions were wont to do.
Snape scowled at the child, causing him to bow his head slightly once again. "Of course not. Were you not listening to what I was saying? Parseltongue is a gift! It is merely a misconception of the wizarding public that it is a sign of a dark wizard and they are most assuredly mistaken! You are no more a dark wizard Potter than Minerva or the headmaster is! Do not force me to give you lines to get the message through that thick skull of yours." Snape glared at the boy just to make sure he got the message. The boy already had self esteem and image issues, no need to go letting him get ridicules ideas about being the same as his parents murderer. "However, because of these fears it would not be unwise to practice prudence when revealing this gift to others. Keep it to yourself. Do you understand me?"
"Y-Yes sir. I wont tell anyone sir and I'll try not to accidentally speak to any snakes sir."
"It is fine for you to speak to snakes if you wish to Potter. There is no reason for you not to use a gift if you have it. I would advice making sure you are alone beforehand though."
"Y-Yes sir. I-I'll be careful sir. Promise sir."
Severus felt himself relaxing. This is not what he had been expecting when he asked Harry about his owl but at least the boy understood the importance of secrecy. Now that the initial panic and remembered terror had passed the Potions Master found himself to be curious. He had yet to even get the boy to prove his talent though considering how terrified the boy was of lying to adults about anything but his families treatment of him Severus did not doubt it to be true.
However it did present him with a unique opportunity. It always cost him a small fortunes to buy some of the venom needed for classes, not to mention the dangerous and rare venoms needed for his own experimentation. Many times the Potions Master had speculated that it would simply be cheaper to buy the snakes and get a milking licence than the venom from the apothecaries. Now that he had someone who could tell the snakes what was expected of them and not to attack him when it came to milking it would be remise of him to pass it up.
"Potter, seeing as the potion is now ruined," Harry glanced to the cauldron and felt shame burn his checks when he saw the unfortunate mess as the bottom. Was the professor going to punish him? "We will be doing something else to fill in the time before curfew. I will be conjuring a snake and I want you to converse with it as you would normally."
"Umm, okay sir." Harry nervously bit his bottom lip. Wasn't the professor just saying how speaking parseltongue was bad, why would he want to hear it now?
"Serpensortia" Harry jumped from his stool in surprise when a thin black serpent slipped from his professors wand onto the dungeon tiles. Almost immediately it started hissing. Harry took the expectant look on the dour mans face as permission to start hissing back.
"Why have I been brought here? This horrible cold place! I will bite whoever brought me here! They will know pain! Blasted cold!" After that it was a series of angry hissings. Harry blushed slightly when he recognised the sounds as some inventive cussing though none of the words translated well into English.
"Er, hi" the snakes head snapped round to face him and Harry resisted the urge to flinch back. The snake wasn't large and only rose to about half way to his knees but that didn't mean Harry wanted it to bite him.
"You! You speak! But you are not snake! Why am I here!? Did you bring me here? It is cold on this floor. I detest cold!"
"Err sorry. Here you can get on me and I'll warm you up but only if you don't bite me." The snake considered him for a moment but evidently the anger from being conjured onto the cold stone tiles couldn't win out against the prospect of being warm.
"Fine I shall not bite you" and without further delay the snake moved forward, quickly crossing the distance between himself and Harry. The boy held still as the small snake wound its way under his robes, up his leg and onto his back to emerge once again at his shoulder. While this was going on Harry also noticed the Potions Master stand in surprise and alarm. It caused a funny warm feeling to surge through his small frame to realise the man was worried about him.
"My name is Harry, what's yours?"
"I have no name. my existence began from a moment ago when I was brought to this place. Why am I here?!"
"My Head of House wanted to see me speak to you" replied Harry, gesturing to the professor. He was pleased to note that the longer the snake stayed talking to him after it was conjured the less angry it seemed to be.
"Is that all?"
"yes" Harry might have continued to converse with the conjured and bad tempered snake had Snape not decided he had seen enough. He had stood in alarm when it seemed the snake was going to make a move to bite the boy despite him conversing with it only to see the young Slytherin let the snake use him as a climbing post. Did the boy have no concern for his nerves.
While he was certain that the boy had not been lying about his abilities the first hissing syllable had still caused a shiver of fear to race up his spine. To many memories of a much cruller parseltongue and a giant hideous snake coming to mind. The dark lord conversing with his familiar was not something one could forget quickly.
However even as he listened to the boy his analytical mind picked up differences in the speech. Where as the dark lord had almost spat out the words, his hisses cutting through the air as sharp venomous sounds the boys were softer, sliding gently from his tongue to slip through the air. While still strange to his ears it was not an altogether unpleasant sound and soon the unwanted memories slipped to the back of his mind once again as he set his occoulmancy to work.
"That is more than enough Potter, you have proven beyond all doubt that you are indeed a parseltongue. As I said it would be wise of you to be cautious when using this ability to prevent it from being known to the public. However, I may have use for it on occasion in the future. If I require its use I will inform you. Now it is getting late so it would be best for you to return to your dorm."
Finished with his speech Snape waved his wand and with a small finite the snake resting on Harry shoulder disappeared. The boy looked alarmed at his now empty shoulder and green eyes flashed back to the professor in horror and betrayal. The Potions Master raised an eyebrow at this sudden show of emotion before realising the problem. As far as the boy knew he had just killed his new friend. Silently he berated himself for not considering this reaction sooner, he only hoped he could rectify it quickly before Harry lost all trust in him once again.
"Do not look at me like that boy, the snake was conjured and so would have faded soon enough, I merely caused the spell to end prematurely. Conjuration is merely the transfiguration of air particles and even as a first year McGonagall must have imparted to you how no transfiguration can be permanent."
"Yes, sir. The second rule of transfiguration, all changes to an object caused by magic will cease to be when the magic imparted into creating the changes diminishes to below the level of inherent magic in the object."
"Well done, text book explanation. Do try to continue to show this level of competence in your classes. I do not wish to have to tell you again how I will take slacking off in classes."
Harry ducked his head, ashamed that the professor could think he would have forgotten, embarrassed with the unexpected praise from the dour man and slight fear of the alluded punishment should he fail his Head of House.
"Good, now to bed. Dismissed Potter." Snape was pleased to note that this time the boy showed only the slightest of hesitations before moving past him and out the door. His shoulders had still been hunched in preparation for a blow but it was a sure sign that he was slowly getting through the bundle of fears and anxieties to the boy trapped within…that still didn't mean he thought he was the right person for the job no matter what Poppy and Minerva thought but maybe he would not completely fail the boy. Only time would tell.