Chapter IX - Slytherin's Manuscript
Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin had chosen the most magical spot on the entire island to build their school. Those were lands impregnated with ancient spells from Celtic wizards and witches, and maybe from others of previous eras. Salazar had been enthusiastic about the prospect of gathering the magical children in one castle and teaching them to develop their powers. Up to this time, with rare exceptions, wizards and witches had lived isolated, which had turned them into an easy target to persecution by Muggles. It had been getting harder and harder to survive in the Muggle world, and the school, besides its pedagogical aspects, also worked to create a wizarding community.
The beginning of Slytherin's Manuscript described that historical moment of the building of Hogwarts. As Harry and Severus unveiled its contents, yet more doubts and questions would arise. Since the translation process was slow and tiresome, often they would interrupt it, in order to simply... speculate.
"You think they burned wizards then?" Harry asked.
"Well, according to the references we have found, Hogwarts was founded around 960 A.D. We know that by 1230 the Church began an institutionalised persecution of witchcraft, since that was the time the Inquisition was created. But in all likelihood the persecution before then, more diffuse, was even worse, since everyone would claim for themselves the right to apply the law in their own realms as they saw fit. The ordeal - by fire, water or even ice - was common practice before the Church outlawed it in 1215."
"So it's understandable if Salazar wanted the segregation from the Muggles. If he didn't trust them. The Muggle-borns would be able to tell their parents about the localisation of Hogwarts and its secrets. Hogwarts would have been vulnerable."
"Exactly." Snape snorted. "What I would like to know is what Godric had to say against that!"
"Would Dumbledore have a Manuscript or a Journal of Godric's?"
"He has never told me anything about it. Anyway, I don't think he would tell me. Shall we translate another segment?"
In the next segment, Salazar told that the four founders had decided to place protective spells even before the building of the castle. Salazar had opted for the 'Seven Vipers Ritual'.
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"I am not sure. He might be referring to an Egyptian ritual in which the wizard swallows vipers..."
"It could also be some Indian ritual. If he were a Muggle, we would have said he couldn't be familiar with Indian rites, having lived in the European Middle Ages, but as one of the four most powerful wizards of his time, he might have travelled the world and learned several foreign rites."
"And the spell he created with that ritual protects Hogwarts to this day?"
"If the Dark Lord hasn't found a way to reverse it..."
"Voldemort has had access to the Manuscript?"
"Indubitably." Snape assumed a pensive expression. "He must have taken it from the Chamber of Secrets himself, when he was only Tom Riddle."
"Then he must have had enough time to translate it, so he already knows what we're only now finding out. Luckily, Salazar apparently didn't know the spells the other founders used!"
The following Wednesday, after many lines about the castle construction, they got to the part describing when Salazar built the Chamber of Secrets as his private office. Salazar had stored all his magical instruments in there and, in order to guard the place, had taken his... Basilisk, which answered to him alone - since he was the only Parselmouth on the entire island.
"Ah-hah!" Snape exclaimed. "I knew there was something off in that story!"
"Office? Basilisk? Wasn't it the other way around? So the Chamber of Secrets wasn't built to imprison the Basilisk, but it was the Basilisk that was brought here to guard the Chamber?"
"I have always thought that place must have had some use. No one would have built such a complex chamber like the one you described just to make a cage out of it."
"Could all that story about the 'Heir of Slytherin' be nothing but a lie? You think Voldemort might have taken advantage of the legends so he could pose as the Heir?"
"I don't know, Harry. I can only deduce that all those legends about the Basilisk being left there to destroy Muggles are sheer balderdash. When Salazar left Hogwarts, he probably took his magical instruments with him, but left the Basilisk behind. Perhaps he didn't have any other place to put it, or perhaps he had intended to come back for it later but never got around to it..."
"And Voldemort managed to enter the Chamber not because he was the Heir of Slytherin, but because he could speak Parseltongue. Just like me."
"Precisely. Unless you are also a Heir of Slytherin..."
"Er. If I recall correctly, Dumbledore said Tom Riddle was the only Heir of Slytherin."
"And how can he be so sure? The wizarding families have intermixed so much in the last thousand years. There might be several heirs of Slytherin scattered throughout the world. Let's translate another segment, Harry."
In the next lines, Salazar told that, in the fens where he had come from, there had been in recent years many persecutions of wizards and witches by Muggles, and that a friend of his had been submitted to a ordeal by water, which consisted of tying a person's right hand and left foot together and throwing him in the water; if the person drowned, he would be considered innocent since the water hadn't rejected him.
Harry made a grimace. "That's a joke, right?"
Salazar's friend had vanished. Salazar didn't know if he had managed to get rid of the ropes and swim away, or if he had in fact drowned. Others had been submitted to the ordeal by fire: they had had to carry red-hot irons.
"That's horrible! I don't reckon even the Death Eaters are that cruel."
"Don't be so sure," said Snape, sombrely.
"Sev... did you... kill Muggles when you were a Death Eater?"
Snape stood up and turned his back to Harry, noticeably upset. "Do you really want to know, Harry? Are you sure you are prepared to hear the answer? If I tell you I did, that I killed many Muggles, that I killed old men and innocent children, how will you feel about me?"
"I... I don't know."
"Then leave. I don't want to see you again."
Harry tried to think of something to say, but couldn't find anything. With downcast eyes, he walked to the door and left the office.
He didn't know where to go. He wanted a spot where he could be alone and cry, and cry a lot. He ran up the stairs and went out, toward the lake. He sat down on a mound and, hugging his knees, rested his head on them.
Severus Snape paced in circles in his office, crestfallen. He had waited for that question for so long that he had begun to think it would never come at all... Such stupidity. He should have known the ghosts of the past would never leave him. In fact, he still lived amidst them, throughout every day of his life. But, by some inane delusion, he had hoped they would have stayed away from his relationship with Harry.
Harry was a wizard of the Light. Fated to become the most powerful of his time. Severus had been a fool to think that he could establish some kind of connection to the boy.
That very evening, Harry went back to the dungeons. He found Snape in the Potions room, stirring a cauldron.
"What are you doing here, Potter?"
Harry felt a chill at hearing the older wizard returning to the old formal, disdainful mode of addressing him. "I've come to apologise."
"For asking that question."
"Have you found an answer to the question I have put to you?"
"If you tell me you did, that you killed Muggles or wizards under Voldemort's orders, I'm going to feel awful, really awful. For all the people you killed. For those people's families. For everyone that had loved them. And also for you. Because, at any rate, it was something terrible and it can never be undone. There's no going back. But I'm not going to stop trusting you. Because you've never tried to deceive me. You've never said you were a... good... person."
"So I'm not a good person."
"You are." Harry stared at him. "But you've never said you were."
"I am a mass murderer and I am a good person?"
"You've made mistakes, but you regret them now and... you're paying your debts, by working for the Order."
"What if I told you that I'm still forced to do those terrible things, in the name of my working for the Order?"
"I... know you're trying to do what's best. After all, it's a war, isn't it? And in a war... someone has to do what you do. It would be naïve to think wars could be won with flowers or sherbet lemons, wouldn't it? I'm sorry, I should have understood this already, and I should respect your... secrets."
Snape let out the breath he had been holding. "All right. I accept your apology. As for your answer, no, I've never killed anyone myself, but how many haven't I killed indirectly, by serving the Dark Lord? And how many deaths have I witnessed, both as a Death Eater and a spy? Without lifting a finger to stop them? Deep down, it's irrelevant if I have killed, if I was nothing but a passive witness or an indirect instrument to those deaths."
"Don't torture yourself like this..."
"I am simply acknowledging the facts. Now leave me alone so I can finish this potion."
"Albus, I didn't believe he would be able to kill the Dark Lord, you know. Since the first moment I saw him... I hated him. It wasn't just because of his resemblance to James, no. It was just too much... All that magical potential, and completely Gryffindor. Even more than you, Albus."
"More than me, is that it? In his third year he didn't kill Sirius Black, despite all the hatred he felt for the one he thought to be the traitor to his parents. And he didn't kill Pettigrew when he learned he in fact had been the traitor. Remus and Sirius would have killed Pettigrew. I wouldn't have, but I might have let them do it, depending on the circumstances. But Harry did no such thing... Why have you changed your mind now, Severus?"
"It's not that I have changed my mind. I simply don't know anymore. In the past two years he has changed so much. At first he was confused, rebellious. Now he is starting to scare me."
"I think he is better now than last year. He is learning to communicate. As strangely as it seems, to communicate with you."
"It's frightening. Sometimes I think... he is somewhat like me."
"Ah, absolutely. You've finally realised it. There is a lot in common between the two of you. But there are also many differences."
"How do you plan to make him kill the Dark Lord?"
"I thought you didn't believe in the prophecy."
"You know I despise Divination. I have always considered it insanity to drop the responsibility for the wizarding world in the hands of a child because of an obscure prophecy. But you seem to believe it, so I would like to know your plans."
"There might be another way, Severus."
"Like what you did with Grindelwald? Corner the enemy until he's trapped in checkmate? Force him into self-annihilation?"
"Unfortunately, we still don't have feasible ways to do that, or to know if that will be possible. We must continue to arm ourselves, in every viable way."
In the final part of the Manuscript, Salazar described an altar he had erected in a crypt inside the Chamber of Secrets. He had made it the size of an Egyptian sarcophagus, and added obelisks; one black, facing North, and the other white, facing South. In a retable over the altar, he had placed many mystical ornaments. By each side of the altar, a candelabra. In the centre, the Grail.
"By Merlin, Sev, what is this guy talking about? Is there all this stuff in that filthy chamber?"
"I don't know. You were the one who went down there, not me..."
"Sev, we've got to go there right now!"
"Easy, Harry. If those things are still there, they have been there for almost a thousand years and they won't vanish from one week to the next. And if they aren't there anymore..."
"I can't believe it, you are so cold."
"That's not it. It's just that... I don't want to raise false hopes. Salazar must have taken everything of importance with him. And even if he didn't, Tom Riddle has already been there, remember?"
"We should prepare this excursion carefully. What if we get down to the Chamber next Saturday? In the morning. Tell no one what we have found out, understood? I mean no one, and that should include Mr Weasley and Miss Granger. Let me think... Wear your cloak, naturally. And bring your broom."