Author: John Sexton
Genre: Harry Potter Slash
Love your feedback via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please donate, to keep Nifty alive!
Chapter Thirty-Five -- Resurrection of The Chosen One
"Where is Draco Malfoy?" rasped Voldemort impatiently.
The Dark Lord scanned the Eastern sky. The approaching dawn was waxing fast. Voldemort's troops should have been in place by now, in the tunnels and the Room of Requirement, secreted in the bowels of Hogwarts. The blonde Slytherin was due to report on their status. They were expected to be ready to attack at first light.
"I do not know, My Lord," replied Nott senior, "there has been no sign of his emergence from Hogsmeade or Hogwarts, Master."
Voldemort scowled at his new lieutenant, who cringed and drew a step back from his fell master.
"What, then, of your wayward son and that incompetent fool Pettigrew?"
"Nothing, My Lord, no-one has had contact with either of them since late yesterday."
"Then post lookouts at every exit, We want to know the minute that Malfoy is sighted. Send Gibbon back to Knockturn, now. We want an update on the status of the Vanishing Cabinet."
"Yes, Master... at once, My Lord."
Voldemort began to pace more frantically. It was in moments such as this that he was prone to hex anybody who incurred his wrath.
"Sals! Welcome, lad."
Salazar Snape recognised the voice. But he was currently blinded by the light that engulfed him.
"Albus? Is that you?" the boy asked.
The handsome youth's eyes grew accustomed to the glare, and he perceived the answer for himself, as the ancient warlock gradually came into view.
The old man was ethereal, white as snow and radiant.
As the young wizard took in his surroundings, he was impressed by the crystalline columns that reminded him of Kings Cross station. They rose majestically into the iridescent ether above them.
"I see you were successful," the old man sighed.
The boy followed Dumbledore's line of sight, until he saw a pathetic, naked lifeform, laying in a foetal position, under an unearthly depiction of what appeared to be a railway platform bench. The animal seemed barely human, almost deformed, and it was shivering, but not from cold.
The misshapen creature reminded Salazar of the beast that he had seen, when he had peered accidentally into Peter Pettigrew's equally grotesque mind, back at Spinner's End. The same creature, no bigger than an infant, being nursed and fed by Pettigrew; the same vile deformity being dropped into the cauldron, to which Wormtail had added Harry Potter's blood, dripping from a knife...
"Is that what I think it is, Albus?"
"And what would that be, Sals?"
"The fragmented soul from Harry Potter's scar? The penultimate Horcrux?"
The old man smiled sadly, but his eyes still twinkled. They emoted pride in the youth's perceptiveness.
"Indeed, my boy. It has met its fate, as must we all."
"And what is its fate exactly, Albus? What is OUR fate?"
"Ah," sighed the old man more profoundly. "It's fate is what it is, Salazar. Mine is in the stars, and yours is yet to be written!"
"Do you mean?... I mean..."
The ancient wizard smiled kindly.
"Yes, lad, there is still much to be done."
As the sun's first rays crested above the forest canopy, a shrill cry pierced the heavy morning air. It was quickly followed by another, then another.
Voldemort and his cohorts glanced up towards the source of the cries, which seemed to emanate directly from the sun itself. The sunrise blinded them momentarily and obscured the three staked corpses that still stood atop the hill on the Western edge of the Forbidden Forest.
Three majestic birds emerged from the blinding light to hover over the three stakes.
Voldemort recognised the brilliant plumage of the bird that flapped its broad wings over Potter's corpse. It was Fawkes, Dumbledore's legendary phoenix. Its jubilant cry was a clarion call of victory that troubled The Dark Lord, despite the newfound weapon in his possession.
The other two birds were an eagle owl and a snowy owl. Both of their cries were equally jubilant.
The owls flew down to hover on either side of the phoenix.
As they gradually fluttered down towards Voldemort, he gazed upward and realised that Potter's naked corpse was no longer on the bloodied stake that stood between the still gored and naked corpses of the Snapes.
The sun seemed to intensify quite suddenly above the birds. Voldemort raised his scrawny hand, to shield his eyes, then lowered his gaze. To the Dark Lord's utter amazement, as he squinted the blood-red slits of his crimson orbs, to refocus his vision, Harry Potter emerged from the blinding glare to stand before him!
Fawkes, Sinbad and Hedwig emitted their final clarion calls of victory. The near-blinding sunlight reflected off the birds' brilliantly smooth wings. The fleet feathered trio hovered over Potter's head and shoulders in an arch of light, before flying off towards the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower, leaving Harry Potter to face his Nemesis.
Up on the tower Seamus and Dean could hardly believe their eyes. The Irish Gryffindor refocussed his magnifying charm in utter disbelief.
"D'ye see dat!?" Seamus screamed, "fook me dead, Dean, did ya see dat, man!? I dun believe me fookin' eyes! Harry's alive! I dun fookin' believe it! I DUN FOOKIN' BELIEVE IT! HARRY'S ALIVE!!"
"Yeah, Seamus, I see it. Quick! Go alert McGonagall. I'll stay here and keep watch!"
Voldemort eyed his archenemy with trepidation and disbelief. The youth was clad in his Gryffindor robes, sans spectacles, and -- upon closer inspection -- minus his infamous scar!
"Hullo, Tom!" Potter quipped menacingly, "surprised to see me?"
The Dark Lord drew his newly acquired Elder Wand from within his robes, but did not raise it. He noticed that the boy appeared to be unarmed.
"Confused, Tom?" the youth teased with an upbeat lilt. "Well let me explain."
Before Potter could continue, Voldemort raised the Elder Wand and pointed it directly at the Boy-Who-Lived.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" The Dark Lord shrieked; but the Elder Wand gave no response.
Potter raised his right arm, and the Elder Wand flew from Voldemort's grip directly into the youth's outstretched hand.
Voldemort shook in anger and utter disbelief. He reached into his robe, once again, and this time he drew Malfoy's wand in aggression. But Potter merely flicked the Elder Wand, and the Slytherin's wand disintegrated in The Dark Lord's hand.
"You cannot kill me, Tom. Why do you think I came to you so willingly last night?"
Voldemort looked both confused and furious. He sneered at the youth disdainfully, then reared his head in anger and wandlessly hurled a fireball at him.
The boy casually flicked the Elder Wand and waved the attack away. He nodded towards the wand and smiled cheekily.
"This wand could never harm me, Tom, because it is mine... it answers only to me!"
"That is not possible!" Tom Riddle rebuffed Potter's claim angrily.
"Salazar Snape took the wand from Dumbledore... his father killed Dumbledore, and I have killed them both, THE ELDER WAND IS MINE!"
"Wrong again, Tom!"
Harry Potter casually turned his back on Voldemort, then faced the hill. He raised the Elder Wand towards the two corpses still skewered on the bloodied stakes.
Voldemort made no attempt to take advantage of the opportunity to attack Potter again. The Dark Lord was transfixed by the youth's actions.
The-Boy-Who-Lived aimed the Elder Wand at the pitiful corpse of Salazar Snape.
"Finite!" he barely whispered.
The lifeless young wizard's body immediately morphed into the naked corpse of the former Slytherin, Theodore Nott.
Voldemort was both speechless and incredulous.
Turning towards the body of his former Potions master, Potter repeated the spell, whereupon the lifeless torso morphed into the distended and bloated corpse of the traitorous former Gryffindor, Peter Pettigrew.
"Where are the Snapes?" screamed Riddle.
"Here!" cried Severus Snape, as he Apparated to stand to Potter's right. He was dressed in his professorial robes and armed with his wand.
"And here!" cried Potter, who suddenly morphed into the Potions Master's handsome son.
"But... who?... how?... what?..." Riddle gasped and sputtered in utter disbelief.
In answer to The Dark Lord's exasperated lament, Draco Malfoy Apparated between the two Snapes. He sneered at Riddle, then turned and smiled at Salazar Snape.
"Allow me to present my protégé, my co-conspirator and my lover!" the handsome Gryffindor quipped.
He turned and pecked the blonde on his lips. Both boys turned back and grinned at Riddle again.
"Enough of the niceties, Tom," Salazar Snape taunted the evil monster, "time for some cold hard truths."
"Firstly," the younger Snape explained, "when you attempted to wield the Elder Wand against Harry Potter, you were killing part of yourself, Tom. That scar was your own last Horcrux, that you created the night my mother died."
The look on Riddle's face was one of complete confusion and incredulity.
"That's right, Tom, Lily Evans is my mother. What she, and only she, knew was that James Potter was not my father. My real father is Severus Snape. My mother protected both me and my father by hiding my true identity with powerful magic. So when you attempted to kill Harry Potter with the Elder Wand, this morning, you were attacking the wand's rightful owner.
"I disarmed Albus Dumbledore on the Astronomy Tower, BEFORE my father killed him. The wand is mine. We, Draco and I, gave it to you, in order that you would attack me with the only weapon that would protect me while destroying your own Horcrux!
"As the Muggle me would say: `Sucked in, Tom!' By the way, your invasion army was led to their deaths this morning by your own cadre of witless, Slytherin Death-Eater-protégés! They will be forever entombed in the bowels of Hogwarts castle."
Salazar reached into his Gryffindor robes and withdrew a dragon-hide satchel, which he upended and hurled at Riddle's feet. The contents splayed across the ground.
"Dumbledore and I had already located and destroyed all of your inanimate Horcruxes, Tom. The scar was more or less a formality."
Riddle screamed upon recognition of his destroyed Horcruxes. He arched his skeletal torso and reared up his arms, to hurl another wandless spell at his tormentor.
"Enough!" cried Salazar Snape.
He flicked the Elder Wand at Riddle, who was immediately bound and frozen, in situ, by Snape's own wordless variant of Petrificus Totalus.
"Time to account for your innumerable offences against Wizards and Muggles of all ages, Tom. But before I despatch you to your doom, we have one final surprise."
To Salazar's left, Neville Longbottom Apparated, wielding the Sword of Gryffindor. The lanky ,young lion strode past Riddle and brought the blade down heavily against the protective sphere that encased The Dark Lord's ultimate Horcrux, Nagini.
The blow shattered the globe and decapitated the deadly serpent in one foul swoop. The creature screamed in agony, and the last Horcruxed fragment of Tom Riddle's black soul dissipated into the ether with a blinding flash of light and a rueful wail.
Salazar Snape raised the Elder Wand, one last time.
"Avada Kedavra!" he intoned and directed the green flash directly at Riddle's black heart.
The monster erupted into a cloud of dark, acrid fumes that drifted up into the early dawn. The foul plume wafted out across the Southern sky and dissipated over Hogwarts Great Black Lake.
At that moment, the doors to the main entrance of Hogwarts burst open. The students and staff, led by the Aurors and senior members of the Order of the Phoenix, surged out onto the grounds and charged towards what remained of Voldemort's Death Eaters and supporters.
Upon witnessing this, Voldemort's horde turned and ran into the Forbidden Forest, only to be cut down by the legion of Centaurs and Giants who were waiting in ambush.
As the victorious witches and wizards halted their pursuit of the fleeing remnants of Voldemort's forces, Salazar turned towards Draco and his father and embraced them in a bone-crushing three-way hug. No words were necessary, and the only sounds emitted by the trio were a chorus of deep relieved sighs.
Salazar released his father and his lover, then turned to Neville and embraced him firmly and briefly. He gave the lanky Gryffindor a broad grin and a nod of tacit acknowledgement.
Walking over to where the stinking carcass of the foul monster's familiar lay, still oozing viscous liquids from its severed head, Sals pointed the Elder Wand at the massive torso of the beast.
"Evanesco!" he intoned bitterly in Parseltongue.
A blinding, violet flash of light, burst from the wand. The serpent's decapitated body dissipated in a burst of radiant fire. Then Salazar dispatched the beast's head with the same command. Its toxic vapours followed those of the torso. They drifted aimlessly across the lake, to suffer the same fate as the stinking fumes that had emanated from its master.
Sals then pointed his wand towards the ground and used the same command to obliterate each of the five destroyed Horcruxes, which lay scattered at his feet. With each spell that the angry young warlock cast, he felt more and more liberated, as he banished the pestilential and evil devices to the scrap-heap of history.
Finally the handsome youth face the hill, towards the three stakes that still stood starkly stained with his own blood and the fetid corpses of Nott and Pettigrew.
Using the snake language once again, Sals dispatched the two traitor's bodies to their ultimate fate, using the `incendio' spell. The torso's burst into flame.
Though it was a crude and ruthless course of action, Salazar considered it a fitting fate for two such pitiless and faithless fiends.
Aiming the wand one last time in aggression, Sals cast `incendio' at his own stake. The catharsis, of watching his own blood-stained instrument of death burst into flame, was the ultimate purgative act, in a saga that had dominated his young life for as long as he could remember.
The handsome young warlock released one final emotive sigh, before he turned back towards his father and Draco. With a wordless flick of the Elder Wand at each of their left arms, the two Slytherins felt a tingle across their skin.
They both bared their forearms, to reveal the complete erasure of the cursed Dark Mark, that had once sullied their flesh.
All three embraced once more, as Sals whispered in Severus's ear for several seconds, despite having long transcended the need for verbal communication with his mentor.
Severus looked slightly surprised, before he smiled sadly at his son and nodded in acquiescence.
The stunning youth gripped Draco's hand and the two young lovers Apparated from the battle field in silence.
Severus looked at Neville and secreted a wry smile at the young man, before cupping the nape of his neck fondly.
"Well done, Neville!" the normally terrifying Slytherin congratulated the stunned Gryffindor.
"Thank you, Headmaster," the youth replied, as he adopted a proud stance and gripped the hilt of the legendary Sword of Gryffindor resolutely.
The boy shook his head and broke into a broad smile.
"Who'd have thought!" he mumbled almost to himself.
"Indeed," Severus replied laconically, as the senior members of the Order of the Phoenix, led by McGonagall and Shacklebolt, approached from the Northern edge of the forest.
"Where're Harry and Sals?" cried Molly Weasley, Ginny and Hermione in near unison.
"Exactly what happened here, Severus?" Minerva enquired grimly, as she stared incredulously at the gruesome sight of the burning and barely recognisable torsos, still skewered on the two stakes on the hill above them.
"There is much to tell, Minerva, Molly, girls," Severus replied sombrely, "but this is neither the time nor the place," he added, as the crowd began to draw closer.
"Suffice to say, they are safe. I suggest that we all return to the Great Hall. It has been a long an exhausting morning. When everyone has eaten, I will address the entire community, and begin the debriefing.
"In the meantime, if Minerva, the Weasleys, Remus, Miss Granger, Miss Lovegood, Messrs Longbottom and Finnegan would care to join me in my office, we have much to discuss.
Less than fifteen minutes later, the group - which now included Dean Thomas - was assembled outside Professor Snape's office.
As soon as they entered the chamber, Ginny and Hermione rushed over to Salazar, who was standing in front of his father's desk.
Severus was seated behind his desk and Draco was standing to the side.
The girls embraced Sals in a bone crushing hug, but soon regained some of their composure and eased beck to stand in front of him. The rest of the group restrained themselves, uttered a chorus of congratulations, then waited for Sals to address them.
"Where's Harry?" Hermione enquired anxiously, echoing the group's tacit concerns.
"Let's all take a seat," Sals replied.
The powerful young wizard waved his hand, and a comfortable chair appeared behind each individual.
When they were all thankfully but anxiously seated, Sals took a deep breath.
"Okay, this is not going to be easy, but I have to start by begging your indulgence and patience. This is going to be difficult to swallow..."
The tension in the air was palpable, and Hermione and Ginny gripped each other's hands in anxious solidarity.
"Harry Potter does not exist!"
This dramatic statement was met with a collective gasp, followed by incredulous silence, save for the whirring and ticking of the numerous magical devices spread across the chamber, and the ripple of dissonant chatter emanating from the Headmasters' portraits that graced the chamber's walls.
Before proceeding further, Sals turned to his father. By unspoken agreement, Sals waved his hands and the array of Headmaster's portraits fell silent, disturbed only by the occasional rumbling of snoring and snorting from the now slumbering portraitures.
"Potter did exist, for a time, but only in your minds. The-Boy-Who-Lived, Harry James Potter was a fiction. He was created to deceive..."
A ripple of dissent and confusion began to rise among Salazar's audience; but he held up his hands, imploring their forbearance...
"Okay, stay with me here," he pleaded, "this is going to be bloody hard to digest!"
The handsome young warlock closed his eyes and his torso began to shrink, by nearly a foot, until the familiar persona of Harry James Potter stood before the stunned witnesses.
A cacophony of gasps and protests of disbelief filled the room, until Molly Weasley promptly fainted.
As her family rushed to her aid, Salazar waved his hand in her direction. His intervention revived her instantly, but it failed to relieve her anxiety and angry incredulity.
The powerful young warlock morphed back into Salazar Snape. He smiled sheepishly.
"Believe me, this was not MY deception! I knew nothing of this until five weeks after the Department of Mysteries fiasco, last June. I kid you not, no one was more surprised than me... well, with the possible exception of my father!"
Sals paused briefly, then fired an equally sheepish grin at Severus.
"This deception was Lily Evan's. It was, and still is, benign. She did it to protect me and my father. AND... it is almost certainly the only reason that any of us - Dad, me and all of you - are alive today!"
Salazar paused and took a deep breath. Paradoxically everyone else in the room mirrored his reaction to the tension in the chamber.
"So..." he resumed with renewed confidence... "let's begin with a few explanations...
"First of all, I'm a Metamorphmagus. But that is only an ability that I have recently been able to exercise. I can change into Harry Potter with ease, at will, now. But the Harry Potter you knew was the result of my mother's powerful spells and potions that she ingested while I was still in the womb.
"Why did she do that? ... You may well ask. What none of you knew - even those of you who were at Hogwarts with my mother, James Potter and Severus Snape -- was that Lily and Severus were lovers."
That revelation caused some overt surprise from Minerva, Remus and Arthur and Molly Weasley. Severus bore their reactions stoically, as one would expect from an accomplished double agent.
Salazar pushed on, regardless...
"But, when my father turned to the Dark Side, my mother was devastated. Enter James Potter, ever the opportunist and egotist that he was..." Sals barely kept the contempt from his voice...
"He swept Lily off her feet, catching her on the rebound -- to coin a muggle expression. James convinced Lily to marry him, thinking he was responsible for her pregnancy.
"Lily had little choice but to take advantage of the deception, in order to protect both me and my father, whom she still loved deeply. It was a love, I must add, which was mutual, despite my father's poor choices.
"That, then, is the origin of the deception, and the creation of my alter ego."
The young warlock drew breath, to let his revelations sink in. The ensuing silence was uncomfortable, to say the least, more so for the audience than for the ever stoic headmaster and his wily son. The quiet continued, as they waited for Salazar to elucidate.
"Now many of you, if not most, will be aware that I have experienced several occurrences of `Wild Magic' over the years, particularly one infamous event involving my aunt's sister-in-law, back at the beginning of my third year at Hogwarts.
"What you could not know is that this was actually the result of my innate magic struggling to overcome the effects of the spells that my mother had placed on me to mask my true identity.
"This all came to a head, last June, after the ministry fiasco and the stress of the death of Sirius. After repeated provocations from my Uncle Vernon, my `wild magic' exploded in a tragic event that dramatically altered the trajectory of my life.
"I lost control of my innate magic, which resulted in Vernon Dursley's death. I quickly discovered that I was dead meat in both the Wizard and Muggle worlds. So I took the only available option and fled to the one place I thought I had anonymity... Muggle London.
"My naiveté brought me to the brink of death. The only thing that saved me was my mother's intervention. It was to prove to be the last time that she was able to make contact with either Dad or me. She guided Dad to me through a series of dreams, and led him to find me when I was only moments from death.
"That was in the early hours of my sixteenth birthday. Through a series of potions and spells - conjured by two of the greatest Potions geniuses since Merlin himself, my Mum and Dad - the magic that Mum had devised to protect me was finally reversed.
"By late that same evening Harry James Potter had ceased to exist. What emerged was what you see today, the true reflection of my parentage. You cannot begin to imagine the impact that this had upon me.
"Not only had I undergone a massive physical transformation, but I had finally learned the truth about my father, the man who had created and re-created me with the help of my mother. Within a matter of hours I came to realise the duel advantage that this had afforded me..."
Salazar drew another deep breath. He paused once more to let everyone digest what he had just revealed. He was met with stunned silence.
"I know... that's a lot to take in..." He paused again... "for the second time in my life, my mother's intervention and ingenuity had granted me anonymity. She had originally saved me by hiding my true identity from the Wizarding World. Then, ironically, by removing that mask sixteen years later, she had repeated the process by affording me another identity... my true self. Not only that, with my magical core no longer restrained, I now had the tools and the power to defeat the monster that had seduced my father, killed my mother and scarred me for life!
"So I ask you... given that opportunity... what would you have done?"
Again the stunning young warlock let that all sink in. There was a collective sigh, profound and almost unfathomable, that pervaded the room.
"Now, I know that many of you must be thinking: `That's all well and good, but why did you lie to me? How could you deceive me?' But I put it to you, that you are looking at the issue backwards!"
There were stunned looks on many of those seated before Salazar. He let them ponder the issue momentarily. Then he smiled and continued...
"The fact is that you had already been deceived for the previous sixteen years! We were all deceived... INCLUDING ME! INCLUDING MY FATHER! INCLUDING VOLDEMORT!"
Salazar smiled at them individually, before proceeding.
"Consider my identity as Harry James Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived! ... you have NEVER REALLY known me, not as `Harry,' Never JUST HARRY!".
"You knew more about The-Boy-Who-Lived than I did, even before you had met me! Think about that! Stop to consider that almost everything I discovered about myself, the day that Hagrid found me, was part of a monstrous lie, a nightmare, a grotesque fantasy! One that you had all so willingly bought into.
"None of you..." Sals paused to regather his thoughts... "NO... make that ALL OF YOU... every last one of you... THOUGHT you knew Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived. But that was never me! You never knew ME... Harry... just Harry.
"I never owned myself! I was the possession of the Wizarding masses, the pin-up-boy. I was fodder for the likes of Rita Skeeter, Witch Weekly and that abominable fraud Gilderoy Lockhart! I was even a pawn for that wily old manipulator, Dumbledore!
"I hated the name, Harry Potter, I hated being The-Boy-Who-Lived. So, imagine, if you will, what I felt when I discovered the truth about my mother and my father... my REAL FATHER!
"Last July, when I finally realised that I NEVER WAS Harry Potter, that my mother had created the most powerful illusion imaginable, I felt suddenly free.
"I was the son of a Half-Blood. From day one I was Salazar Snape!"
Suddenly a wicked, cheeky grin morphed Salazar's handsome face.
"Did any of you ever wonder why the Sorting Hat took so long to place me in Gryffindor, back in first year? The hat wanted to put me in Slytherin that first time around; my father is and always was a Slytherin. I am the son of a true Slytherin!"
This clearly took everyone by surprise, none more so than Minerva, who was visibly shaken by the revelation. All of them were stunned... with the exception of Draco and Severus.
Salazar actually laughed out loud at their reaction, as he contemplated the sardonicism of his next statement...
"There is a wicked irony in all of this. When I returned to Hogwarts this year, as the son of the head of Slytherin, I had every intention of plotting my revenge against Voldemort from within Slytherin house!
"Admittedly, I did have some apprehension about the efficacy of the house system as it stood, and I had some genuine ambivalence towards being sorted into Slytherin. But I did believe that my best chance of success would stem from being a Slytherin.
"The irony was that, this time, the hat went the other way. I was furious with the decision, of course, having planned everything around Slytherin. But in discussions with the hat, later that night, it finally convinced me that Gryffindor would afford me the best path to success.
"So, anyway... that aside... you can never even begin to imagine how fervently and rapidly I embraced my true identity, this year. Not only was I free... free to shake off the shackles and expectations of being The-Boy-Who-Lived. I was my own master from that point on.
"The one and only thing of which I was not free, still, was Voldemort!
"My one and only chance of survival was to kill him; and my only hope of succeeding in that endeavour was to keep the truth from him... AT ALL COSTS!
"I had just been given the perfect weapon to outsmart and betray Voldemort, so I embraced it. Thus I could risk no margin for error, and I decided that no individual other than my father would, or could, know.
"If you feel betrayed by me, just stop and think how I felt, when I learned the truth. My mother did what she did to protect me and my father. I did what I did to protect YOU. Sometimes we are forced to do terrible things to protect the ones we love."
Tears were now flowing freely from Molly, Ginny and Hermione, while McGonagall and more than a few of the men were sniffling discretely.
"Ironically, on my first appearance at Diagon Alley, as Salazar Snape, free of the shackles and prejudices of Hogwarts and Wizardry in general - not to mention the expectations of being The-Boy-Who-Lived -- I met Draco Malfoy.
"But engaging him without the prejudices and expectations that had so profoundly influenced out first encounter, five years earlier, I discovered, before the day was done, that I had met my soulmate...
"Ironic, eh? Go figure..." Salazar chirped playfully.
He reached out his hand, to grip the blonde, and they exchanged a sweet, chaste kiss, which quickly broke the tension in the room. Sals looked at Minerva. He smiled at her, careful to avoid his action being seen as smug.
The old witch returned his smile gracefully, supplementing it with a subtle nod of acquiescence.
However, the handsome youth avoided even the briefest of eye contact with Seamus. He could sense the roiling hurt, anger and frustration emanating from the wily leprechaun. He would have to deal with him later.
"Of course," Sals continued, "the hat was quickly onto the truth of the matter and the crafty magical entity wasted no time in convincing me that I should let Draco in on the secret."
"Yeah, well that went down like a lame thestral!" Draco quipped, and the atmosphere in the room was eased by gentle laughter.
"I remember that!" cried Hermione. She laughed playfully. "That must have been the first Monday night back at school." She squinted at Draco. "You were really pissed with Salazar the next morning."
Draco flushed and poked his tongue at her playfully.
"Trust you to notice!" he teased.
The mood lightened considerably after that; it had been the first time anyone other than Salazar had spoken.
"Yeah, well it was necessary, if we were ever going to have any chance of controlling Slytherin and deceiving Voldemort," Sals commented, "Draco was the key to both, and his life was on the line already, in more ways than one, by that stage."
Those observations seemed to have been accepted by the group, quite readily in fact, which took Sals and Draco by surprise. Salazar had thought that being honest with Draco, while keeping Harry Potter's closest friends in the dark, would be the most difficult revelation of this meeting.
Buoyed by this, he pushed on...
"There's one last explanation I want to make, which I hope will make it easier to accept what has transpired since June: While everything I said and did as Salazar Snape was carefully crafted to keep my secret, at no time did I tell any of you a direct lie!"
He paused and smiled at the looks of incredulous astonishment that crossed the room.
"Every deception that I created was one of omission, which was simply aided by your own assumptions, based on what you already thought you knew about me, and more specifically, what you thought you knew about Harry Potter.
"A few examples might help. When I was explaining my background to people, and I said I'd never gone to another wizard school, and that I'd been tutored privately, or that my dad and I had just lost my mother, or that she'd been killed by Voldemort, it was all true.
"Whenever I referred to Harry Potter in the third person, I was being true to myself. The legend... fantasy... call it what you will, had always been alien to me. But since realising I was never really Harry Potter in the first place, I always thought of HIM and spoke about him in the third person, EVEN WHEN TALKING TO DAD IN PRIVATE.
"When I met all of you for the first time, I had already been living as Salazar Snape for over six months, even though, to you, I'd been Harry Potter barely five weeks earlier. You see Dad and I had spent six months on Dragonera, training and honing my magical and defensive skills, thanks to a Time Turner that we'd managed to steal from the ministry!
"So, by the time any of you had met me, I had only ever thought of myself as Sals for all that time. To me Harry Potter is, and always was, another person altogether."
"By the way, we deliberately managed to ensure that we were observed at Gringotts, last Easter, as insurance against any suspicion arising that I might be Harry Potter. A fortunate bonus from that episode was the faux pas that Harry made in Dad's Potions class, that so incurred Dad's wrath. That was completely genuine and totally beyond our control. In fact we never learned of it until our return to Hogwarts as father and son!
"Then there was my appearance at that meeting of the D.A. ... Dad was Polyjuiced as me, and I'd morphed myself into Harry.
"My interactions, as Harry, with those of you that were there, while deceptive, were never-the-less genuine. The only lie was the perception that I had allowed to develop that suggested that Harry Potter had lost his magic and effectively become a squib.
"So... there you have it!... almost," Salazar looked suddenly awkward.
"Until this meeting, there was only one individual who was aware of my true identity... with the exception of Dad and Draco, of course."
Everyone looked perplexed.
"Needless to say, I could have solved the problem by simply obliviating the only surviving witness to my transformation on the battlefield this morning. I chose not to do that to Dean for two reasons: Firstly, he deserves better; Secondly, Dad, Draco and I agreed that, as Harry's closest friends and confidants, you all deserve to know the truth.
"Now, I'm sure you all realise that there are still individuals in both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds who would do Harry harm. In their eyes Harry Potter is a murderer. No matter what evidence was presented to them, they would still chose to convict. You need no further proof of that than last year's fiasco over the Dementor attack in Little Whinging.
"To obliviate you all now would be a totally insane move, given what I've just said and done here today. Instead, I'm going to leave you with the knowledge that I've imparted to you.
"However, I am going to cast a binding spell that will prevent you from revealing what you have learned, to anyone else, via any and all means possible, including Legilimency and any other form of potion, spell or incantation.
"It is an Unbreakable spell of sorts, but it requires no participation on your part. Of course it will prevent you from discussing this issue, even amongst yourselves.
"If any of you would prefer that I remove the knowledge that you have received this morning, I will, of course, oblige."
Sals paused and waited for a response. When none came, he simply waved his hand and smiled.
"Good, that's done then. From this point forward, Harry Potter is a squib who has disappeared somewhere in the wilds of Muggle London!"
At the same time that the meeting was being held up in Headmaster Severus Snape's office, the starving students and staff of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, were assembled in the Great Hall for a well-earned breakfast.
The massive chamber was abuzz with near delirious euphoria that rivalled even the most enthusiastic Welcoming Feast.
Conspicuously absent from the staff table were Professors Amycus and Alecto Carrow, who had been appointed by Pius Thicknesse to displace Minerva McGonagall as Deputy and replace the late Horace Slughorn. Rumour had it that the Carrows had been arrested and taken to Azkaban.
Also absent were all those attending the meeting in the headmaster's office.
As the celebratory breakfast drew to a close, the buzz of excitement subsided, when Headmaster Snape and reinstated Deputy McGonagall entered the Great Hall. Silence fell as the headmaster stood at the lectern to address the assembly.
"In light of recent events, I am pleased to see that this morning's breakfast was a feast of sorts," the headmaster declared.
The response was a thunderous cheer from the staff and student body.
The headmaster opened his arms and declared, "let the remainder of the day be one of a well-earned rest and relaxation!
"This evening will be celebrated with a proper feast, a Welcoming Feast, if you will, and the guest of honour will be the hero of the day, Gryffindor's very own Salazar Snape!"
The Gryffindor table erupted in a riotous applause, as Severus turned towards his deputy, and Head of Gryffindor, Minerva McGonagall. The two shared a warm smile, and joined the rest of the school in the festivity.
If you are enjoying this, you might like my other Nifty story...
This is a two-chapter Potterverse short story [complete] which can be read as a prequel to this Potterfic.
All feedback is appreciated and don't forget to donate.