Author: John Sexton
Genre: Harry Potter Slash
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Chapter Thirty -- The Basilisk's Revenge
Riddle House had never seemed more eerie, nor the vile creature's `Throne Room' never more abominable than on this night. At least that was how it appeared to Salazar Snape, who stood, for the first time unaccompanied by either his father or Draco Malfoy, before the revolting mad-man's dais.
"My Lord," the stunningly handsome sixteen-year-old bowed, as he stepped up towards the elevated platform and dutifully touched the monster's decrepit, black robe to his lips.
The clock in the dark chamber struck the eleventh hour; it was less than thirty minutes since Sals had left Dumbledore's chamber.
The strident chimes exacerbated the emptiness of the room and the sense of abandonment that it drew down onto the youth's spirit, as he faced the Dark warlock that threatened his very existence.
They were alone, in as much as there were no other Death Eaters present, which had been the norm, on the few occasions that the beguiling youth had faced the monster, to date.
"To what do We owe the pleasure of your company, young Salazar?" the serpentine beast hissed his name salaciously.
It was an act that threatened to curdle the boy's blood; he struggled to suppress his body's natural revulsion.
"Master, it has been a week since the death of Horace Slughorn, as you are no doubt aware. But of what you may not be aware, My Lord, is how and why the man died.
"He was murdered, Master, by me; because he threatened to reveal a secret that he claimed would harm you, My Lord. He refused to divulge the details to me, Master; but he convinced me that he was going to make the facts known to your enemies."
Salazar looked up into the foul monster's red slits, that were the mere travesties of what could never pass for eyes on any other creature. He was inviting Voldemort to probe his mind for the details.
It was, of course, a ploy -- a devilish, dangerous diversion -- with one objective, gaining access to the venomous warlock's own mind. Never before had the audacious youth ventured to tempt fate, or test his skills as a Legilimens, so daringly!
But if the risks were great, the potential rewards were infinitely greater. This was the master gambit, the ultimate test, Salazar's greatest gamble to date.
His previous jousts with the monster had been mere games, by comparison. Tonight Salazar Snape was putting his life squarely on the line.
Promptly at eight, the following Sunday morning, Salazar Snape stood before the gargoyle that guarded the staircase to Dumbledore's office.
He addressed the daunting beast in fluent Parseltongue.
"Please inform the headmaster that Salazar Snape requests an audience on a matter of grave consequence."
The boy stood before the silent sentinel for an interminable period before the great staircase rumbled into action. The nimble youth virtually flew up the steps and into the ancient chamber through the already open door, to find the great man sitting behind his desk.
"Good morning, Albus!" the plucky youth greeted the old man cheekily, "I trust you slept well?"
"I trust your impudence is backed-up by a considerably commensurate justification, you young whelp, or I might very well flay your delectable young buttocks!" the ancient warlock parried the boy's bravado.
"I may just let you do that, you dirty old man," the boy continued his high-spirited banter, as he wiggled his eyebrows salaciously.
"But first, I have to tell you that I broke curfew last night, and engaged in what could best be described as `Risky Business!'"
"Enough of the cheeky banter! Cut to the chase, you scamp!"
"Well I dared not say anything to either you or my pater, for fear that you would both prevent me from doing so, but I visited our mutual friend, last night, as soon as I left here!"
"Why am I not surprised?... and..."
"And we were correct! Seven Horcruxes!... well, seven if we're right about Potter! And the best part is that Voldemort has no idea about the ring... either that you have acquired it, or that it has been destroyed. He does not even know that it is missing, and he has entrusted the cup to that bitch, Bellatrix Lestrange.
"Of course she has no idea why her lord and master holds it in such esteem, but she is guarding it as if her life depends on it, as it most surely does. At least that is what Voldemort believes.
"But there's more!" the youth exclaimed excitedly. "The locket is hidden in a cave, Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem is hidden here at Hogwarts, in the Room of Requirement! The cup is in Lestrange's vault at Gringotts! AND we were right about Nagini! AND he has no fucking idea about Potter!... sorry, Sir!"
Albus laughed aloud.
"You are a very naughty boy!" the old man teased the Adonis.
"Now about that spanking and those delicious young buttocks!" the old man grinned wickedly at the lad, with a rejuvenated sparkle in his bright-blue eyes.
Between Draco, Seamus and Albus Dumbledore, Salazar Snape's sexual appetite was well and truly slaked over the week that followed.
With Quidditch training, homework, Dumbledore's Army sessions in the Room of Requirement and a full class schedule, Sals could hardly find time to work on solving the Vanishing Cabinet problem in the other version of the Room of Requirement.
In fact Sals could barely find time to scratch his arse, which was quite itchy these days.
Late night showers with the leprechaun had become a regular thing, and on Thursday night he had even taken Seamus up to Dumbledore's office, where the Irish imp copped it from both ends for close to an hour.
By the time they'd snuck back to Gryffindor, under the guise of Harry Potter's cloak, Sals swore that, if he had held Seamus up by his feet, he would have been able to look down and see the floor through the leprechaun's mouth.
But it was the sessions in the old man's office, with Sals's head buried in the Pensieve and the old warlock's massive appendage buried in Sals's hot arse that really got the stunningly fit lad's juices flowing.
Dumbledore had told him that there were well over one-hundred memories of Tom Riddle being fucked senseless in his cabinet, by over a dozen of the school's professors and almost as many seniors, especially when Riddle had been at his peak.
That, in Sals's humble opinion, was when young Riddle was somewhere between thirteen and fourteen-years-old.
Voldemort may have become a right cunt, but back then he was an arsehole, a glorious, smooth, hairless, firm but pliable arsehole that simply couldn't get enough cock; the bigger and harder the better.
To cap it all off, Tom Riddle had a face to die for. A more beautiful boy had never walked through Hogwarts doors.
Saturday meant another work session with the old man, which had become a regular routine by now. It was the last Saturday in September, and Sals could barely believe that the first month of the school year had passed so quickly.
"Time flies when you're having fun!" he quipped to himself, as he rode the spiral staircase to the headmaster's office.
This night was different, in as much as they began the evening with a riotous bout of carnal gymnastics that lasted the best part of two hours, and no less than four vials from Riddle's memories cabinet.
They all involved the super-sexy thirteen-year-old, with three different teachers and a riotous orgy with half-a-dozen well-endowed seniors, in a quite Bacchanalian incarnation of the Room of Requirement.
Finally Dumbledore and Salazar turned their attention to the business at hand, which was a serious analysis of Horcruxes and how to destroy them.
It was Sals, in fact, who set the topic with his first question.
"Sir, the one issue that we have not discussed yet, is how you destroyed the ring, and how you incurred the injury to your hand."
"Well," the old man blushed, "had I not been quite so arrogant, and given more serious thought to the task at hand, Salazar, I could have avoided this!"
He held up his withered and blackened hand.
"As I have mentioned previously, were it not for the swift action of your father, when I finally returned here from Gaunt's hovel, which is where Voldemort had hidden the ring with his considerable cunning, I might not be here now."
The old man slumped into his chair behind his desk.
"Had I considered the matter more carefully I would have derived a far more cautious approach towards retrieving the Horcrux."
"But, as to how the ring was destroyed..."
Dumbledore paused and withdrew Riddle's diary from his drawer, once again. He dropped it on the desk, then grinned wickedly at the Adonis, daring the boy to anticipate his conclusion.
The handsome youth pondered the matter for some time, before he broke into a shit-eating grin that foreshadowed his solution...
"Well, since we have only one other Horcrux that we know has been destroyed... I would hazard a guess that it might lie in the power of the basilisk."
"Well done, Salazar, I did not doubt you would perceive the solution for yourself."
"So," the boy suggested, "since Harry destroyed the diary with one of the beast's fangs, and he slew the basilisk with the Sword of Gryffindor..."
He paused, as they both looked up at the ancient relic, in its pride of place above them.
"But you had no access to basilisk fangs, so that left the sword, which would be the perfect weapon against the Horcrux in the ring."
The Adonis paused, with a wry smile...
"So... at least for the remaining Founders' trophies... either the sword or a basilisk fang should do the trick... I should think."
The old man needed no words to express his admiration of the boy's keen mind.
"As for Nagini..." Salazar looked up at the sword. "Since it killed the basilisk, and it is now imbued with the beast's own blood, I can think of no better weapon to wield against Voldemort's personal Horcrux."
"Congratulations, Salazar," Dumbledore beamed at his protégé, "I concur completely, My Boy, well done, indeed!"
The next morning, after the usually casual Sunday breakfast, Salazar Snape made his way to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.
He located the hand basin with the snake-embossed tap, then uttered the command, "open," in Parseltongue.
In a matter of seconds the sink dropped out of sight, revealing the wide sewer pipe that descended into the tunnel, which would eventually lead him into the legendary chamber.
But before he could enter the Chamber of Secrets, Sals was confronted by the massive vault that guarded the chamber's entrance.
It had been resealed, forcing the intrepid young wizard to issue another command in Parseltongue.
The huge metallic snakes bent and squirmed their bodies across the face of the vault's door, unlocking the device in the process, until it slowly swung open.
The dark interior was dank and cold and eerie.
"Sphaera lucis," Sals intoned.
A ball of brilliant, white light flew from his outstretched hand; it hovered ahead of him at a considerable distance and height.
The massive chamber was irradiated by the beacon; its vastness overawed the youth. But what captured his immediate attention was the colossal façade of Salazar Slytherin, and the decayed remains of the gigantic serpent that lay by the side of the lake at the end of the room.
Salazar Snape was drawn past the skeletal remains, to stand at the edge of the lake and gaze up in awe at the immense granite likeness of the young wizard's namesake.
The awesome stone edifice was bathed in the brilliant light that hovered above its forehead. The Adonis shivered as he stared at the statue; and it seemed only proper that he should addressed the monolithic structure in their shared tongue...
"Oh Great Slytherin," he hissed, "I may not be your direct descendent, but I am the proud son of a proud Slytherin, and the proud descendent of a proud Paselmouth. I swear, before your grand edifice, that I shall avenge my mother's death at the hands of the monster that dares to defile your lineage and your legacy; and I pledge to restore Slytherin to its proper place in this great school, which you founded. In the name of Mighty Merlin, I swear it!"
The stunning youth then bowed his head, before he turned to face the rugged scales and flesh-pocked skeletal remains of the massive serpentine carcass.
Gone were the haunting, lethal eyes of the beast; withered husks were all that remained of the orbs that were blinded by Fawkes razor-like talons, just before the lethal blow from Godric Gryffindor's sword had rendered the legendary beast harmless.
Sals took a few tentative steps forward, before he gingerly reached into the beast's gaping maw. The serpent still posed a threat, as one false move could see one of its razor-sharp fangs piercing his skin, inflicting a lethal wound to the young warlock.
The boy carefully removed one fang for each of the Founder's Horcruxes, and a fourth for good measure. He secured them in a dragon-hide pouch that he had brought with him for just such a purpose.
With his solemn mission accomplished, Salazar Snape slowly withdrew from the legendary Chamber of Secrets, sealing its massive vault one last time.
Twenty minutes later, Salazar was standing just inside the entrance to the Room of Requirement. He hoped that the castle had understood his request and that it was the correct room.
Sals closed his eyes and held out his hand, as if divining the whereabouts of the fractured soul of the most evil being alive.
He turned himself in a slow circle until he sensed a tug on his Magical core. It was faint, so ephemeral that it barely registered in his senses. But Sals kept his eyes closed and walked in the direction that his inner eye dictated.
Amazingly, he never bumped into anything. He felt like a bat finding his way in the dark, as the sense of the presence of evil grew stronger.
When Sals stopped, and finally opened his eyes, he was confronted by a sight that he recognised immediately from Voldemort's memory; it was a large dusty, disused cupboard that Riddle had marked with a curse from his wand, all those years ago.
Atop the dishevelled wardrobe Sals found a tarnished old tiara that lay beneath a thick layer of dust. He recognised it immediately; it was the lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw that he had seen in Voldemort's memory.
The youth tentatively reached out, this time with his eyes wide open, staring intently at the ancient relic.
His own hand shook as he did so, all the while conscious of the withered limb that Dumbledore bore and would carry to his grave.
It was a testament to the power and the evil that the darkest wizard in history had used to protect one of his earliest Horcruxes, while he was only a boy, no older than Salazar himself.
Sals opened his hand and let it hover over the cursed diadem. He could feel the dark power that imbued the Horcrux with the evil that was at that foul monster's core.
But the handsome youth could detect no curse or charm; no protection or defensive spell seemed to be present.
Emboldened by these observations, the boy gingerly prodded the jewelled headpiece with his index finger.
He gasped and jerked his hand back, as if he had been bitten.
Sals laughed out loud when he realised what he'd just done. But, in all fairness, it was the first time he had come face-to-face with a `live' Horcrux, so to speak, so a certain amount of caution, even trepidation, was surely understandable.
Tentatively, Sals prodded the diadem once more, before he finally grit his teeth, and grasped the cursed relic firmly in his hand, then breathed a profound sigh of relief, when no curse was triggered.
As Sals prepared to leave the Room of Requirement, he secreted the diadem in his book bag, which he had brought with him for just such a purpose, and made his way swiftly to Dumbledore's office.
Sals was bitterly disappointed to encounter Professor McGonagall, just as she alighted the spiral staircase.
She coolly informed him that Dumbledore had just left Hogwarts, for the Ministry of Magic, and would not return until five-thirty that evening.
Salazar was back at the gargoyle, at precisely half-past-five o'clock.
The boy felt a little childish, for being so pedantically and literally punctual. He held his dragon-hide pouch of basilisk fangs in one hand, and his book bag - in which he had concealed the diadem Horcrux - in the other.
He danced impatiently, bouncing from one foot to the other, as he once again beseeched the guardian to grant him access to the headmaster.
When the great staircase began to spiral, Sals raced onto the first step and was on the landing before the massive stone conveyance had stopped spinning.
As the energetic youth raised his hand to rap on the chamber's huge oak door, it swung open slowly, and the highly amused voice of the headmaster welcomed him into his office.
"I gather you have something to show me, Salazar," the old man stated blandly, contrasting the youth's exuberance.
"Ta-daa!" the boy exclaimed, as he dumped the contents of his pouch and bag onto the old man's desk, with a melodramatic flourish.
"Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem!" the old man echoed the youth's enthusiasm, "well done, My Boy, well done."
"What should we use, Sir?" the boy enquired, as he nervously flitted his eyes from the diadem, to the pile of basilisk fangs, then up to the Sword of Gryffindor.
"Well, My Boy," the old man pondered on the issue momentarily, "we know that the sword can achieve the objective. But, while the fang has proven capable as well, that was several years ago, and there is no fresh basilisk blood or venom on any of these specimens, so I suggest we should determine if they have retained their ability."
"Do you mind if I do this, Albus?" the youth beseeched the ancient warlock.
There was no need to explain the youth's fervour to strike his first blow against his Nemesis.
The boy reached into his robes and withdrew a pair of dragon-hide gloves. Then he glanced down at the old man's withered and blackened hand; a wry grin spread across his handsome face.
"Just a precaution, Sir!"
The old man sighed and reflected his own version of the boy's smile.
"Commendable and wise, My Boy, proceed."
Salazar Snape donned his protective gear; then he grasped the diadem Horcrux in his left hand and held it hard against the desktop.
Clutching one of the basilisk fangs in his other hand, he brought its razor-sharp point down onto the widest part of the headdress, where he began to gouge the tooth into the precious metal.
Suddenly the diadem began to vibrate, which startled the youth. He withdrew the point of the fang, momentarily, and looked up at the old man for guidance.
Dumbledore merely nodded to the boy to proceed.
But this time, as Sals brought the point of the fang back down towards the bejewelled Horcrux, it seemed to anticipate the weapon's proximity even before he had made contact.
The Horcrux jerked out of his hand and began to vibrate so violently that it bounced on the hard oak surface of the desk.
"I think a `short, sharp shock' might be the order of the day, Salazar!"
The handsome youth's face shot up to meet his mentor's, and a broad grin flashed across his beautiful countenance, despite the seriousness of the situation.
"Gilbert and Sullivan, Mikado, 1885!" Dumbledore quipped, acknowledging his protégé's reaction.
"Touché, Albus," the boy responded gleefully.
"'Let the punishment fit the crime!'" they chorused, in perfect unison.
With that, the powerful young apprentice grasped the Horcrux firmly, despite its frantic attempts to evade his vice-like grip. Then with a savage determination he plunged the venomous basilisk fang into the centre of the evil fragment of Voldemort's dark soul, condemning it to the void of eternal damnation, where it belonged.
Immediately the Horcrux shuddered and with a blinding flash of light and a deafening scream, the evil spirit burst into the chamber, only to dissipate into the ether, never to be seen again.
Man and boy collapsed back onto their respective chairs and sighed with profound relief.
The beautiful youth was breathless, his carotid arteries were pulsing wildly, and his smooth forehead, the bridge of his cute nose and his freshly shaved upper-lip, were beaded with a fine sweat.
Several minutes passed, before the boy's breathing returned to normal.
Salazar closed his eyes, and exhaled profoundly.
"Rest in peace, Horace," he said in barely a whisper.
When Salazar looked up, the old man was smiling sadly, but affectionately.
They both stayed where they were, in complete silence. Neither wanted nor needed to utter another word.
Time became a thing of little consequence, until the myriad magical devices, scattered throughout the headmaster's chamber, rang out the sixth hour.
"Time, My Boy... I think we should celebrate with a hearty meal!"
With that said, they both made their way out of the chamber and rode the spiral staircase on their way down to the Great Hall.
It was the first Saturday of October, barely a week after destroying the diadem Horcrux, though it seemed like a century ago, to Sals.
He had been working furiously, using every spare moment, to try to get the Vanishing Cabinet working in the Room of Requirement.
As Sals stood impatiently, in front of the cabinet, for what seemed the umpteenth time, he sensed a significant vibration emanating from the magical device.
A broad smile flashed across his face, then the distinct sound of movement, the unmistakable fluttering of wings, could be heard clearly.
The handsome, young warlock flung the door open and was euphoric, when a small canary-like bird flittered out of the cabinet and flew off towards a distant, non-existent window, at the far wall of the magical chamber.
The bird, frantic for freedom, crashed into the mirage, and fell to the floor with a broken neck.
Salazar walked over to the wall, and retrieved the tiny corpse from the dusty floor.
"Alas, little bird, freedom does not come so easily... for any of us!" he lamented to the broken creature.
"Never fear, freedom is at hand... evanesco!" he muttered as he threw the inert carcass into the air, where it promptly vanished.
Sals turned back to the cabinet, and contemplated its fate and that of Hogwarts.
"Our future is upon us," he pondered aloud, "and in a matter of weeks my Little Ice Prince will face his day of reckoning!"
He considered not only Draco Malfoy's imminent destiny, but that of Dumbledore and his own father, who had lamentably sealed his own fate when he vouched to protect the Ice Prince of Slytherin with his life, via the Unbreakable vow.
Another week had passed, since Sals had resolved the issue of the cabinet, and there were now less than three weeks remaining before his bold plan could be executed. That was dependent, of course, on whether he would be able to convince Voldemort of the efficacy of his proposal.
So, then, tonight was the night. Time was a premium and there was still much to do.
As the clock struck eleven, Salazar Snape appeared, at the foot of the dais in Riddle House, and bowed before the fell monster. In keeping with his practice to date, Voldemort had granted his audience in private.
At the tall, handsome youth's side knelt the naked, bloodied and barely conscious Draco Malfoy. The broken spirit of the humiliated youth was obvious, despite his unresponsive and glazed eyes, that stared vacantly ahead, into a void.
Voldemort licked his lips salaciously and salivated at the sight of the tender youth's abused body. The blonde hair was matted with blood and semen, and his left eye was half closed, by a massive contusion that warped his brow. His smooth hairless torso was a shimmer of sweat, and his once flawless, alabaster skin was streaked with blood, welts, bruises, grime and other bodily fluids that attested to his recent abuse.
The vile creature's erection was not detectable; but Sals knew he was sporting one, as Voldemort licked his lips and salivated in voyeuristic delight.
Sals found that fact highly amusing, as the once unimaginably beautiful youth had long ago proudly been in possession of a prodigious weapon of perfect proportions. But the ravages of his insatiable lust for power had left him with a decrepit and vile excuse for a body, that included the withering of his genitalia to that which would have embarrassed a mouse.
Of course, the handsome young Gryffindor took great care to keep his amusement well-hidden from the vile creature that stood before him.
At the same time Salazar took great delight in feeding the monster images of the abuse that he had recently inflicted on the broken youth. He was delighted that Voldemort was so absorbed in his vicarious exploitation of Sals's intense carnal exploits.
When, finally, Sals sensed that Voldemort's cravings had been sated, he decided it was time to execute his plan.
"My Lord, if I may be so bold?"
The foul creature eyed him with an intense curiosity.
"You wish to explain your request for an audience with Us!" the Dark Lord stated, rather than asked.
"I wish to report that I have repaired the Vanishing Cabinet at Hogwarts. It is now possible for anyone to enter Hogwarts undetected, through the brother cabinet in Borgin and Burkes, My Lord."
"You have a plan that you wish Us to consider!" Voldemort again anticipated the bold youth's every move.
Salazar Snape was secretly delighted; he had successfully led the Dark Lord down his maze, while allowing the vile monster to believe that the naïve youth's deepest thoughts were being plundered rather than seeded in the foul creature's own mind.
"If I may be so bold, My Lord."
"Master, this Halloween will be the fifteenth anniversary of that fateful night when Harry Potter survived what should have been his demise.
"Might I propose that this would be the ideal opportunity to avenge that terrible event, by launching a pre-emptive strike against both Potter and Dumbledore, ransacking Hogwarts, killing the old man and sending an unmistakable rallying call to arms to all of your faithful supporters.
"The cabinet could facilitate this, My Lord, by secreting a small party of your most elite Death Eaters into the school, and taking Dumbledore by surprise.
"I can guarantee that this miserable, unworthy creature, beside me, will complete the task that you have assigned to him, or he will die, along with Dumbledore in the process!"
The foul monster peered hard at Sals, and the boy felt the red slits that barely passed as eyes penetrating his deepest thoughts, rooting around his mind, in a ruthless attempt to detect deception, while dancing the dance of death through the impenetrable maze that Salazar had crafted to entrap his wits.
Sals was relieved to determine that the monster was unaware of the discovery of the diadem nor the destruction of his Horcrux.
Another Saturday, another task to perform. There was less than a fortnight left before Halloween, and there was still much to do.
Sals sat amongst the usual suspects at the Gryffindor table, including Draco, Greg and Vincent, who had chosen this morning to share their table rather than sit with the Slytherins.
Seamus had started to get on amicably with the Slytherins, of late. But for some odd reason he was always a little testy when Draco decided to sit at the Gryffindor table, especially at breakfast.
Sals had not been able to explain this behaviour, without resorting to Legilimency, but had decided that it did not warrant the intrusion.
There were no Quidditch matches being played yet, but both Slytherin and Gryffindor had practices scheduled for ten and two respectively.
Sals had already told both Ginny and Hermione, and anyone else who cared to eavesdrop, that he would be busy from four, with Dumbledore, but he did not elaborate.
So it was then, that immediately after Quidditch practice, he was nowhere to be found.
That same afternoon, at approximately four-thirty, Bellatrix Lestrange entered the cavernous and lavish foyer of Gringotts Bank.
She was regarded with hostile suspicion, by the goblin who was attending to her needs, as had become their practice of late, especially with those who had known pure-blood ties to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Security had become particularly tight after the incident at the Ministry in June. However, the goblins were still masters of discretion in their dealings, despite any suspicions they may hold. They were, if nothing else, consummate business practitioners.
"I have come to make a withdrawal from the Lestrange Family vault," the haughty witch announced imperiously, in a high-pitched whine.
"Certainly, Madam Lestrange... you have your key?" the goblin enquired officiously.
"I did not think it necessary, you know who I am!" she snapped.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am--"
Lestrange raised her hand ever so slightly towards the Gringotts official.
"Of course, Madam Lestrange," the goblin bowed his head slightly and smiled most uncharacteristically, "if you will follow me."
He hopped down from his stool behind the counter and called for another goblin.
"Bogrod, the Clankers, if you please."
Bogrod appeared carrying a bag, then they made their way towards the entrance to the subterranean vaults.
After a particularly hair-raising trolley ride at the hands of Griphook, the goblin tram controller, they turned a corner in the deepest and most secure caverns in the bowels of the bank.
There before them was a fearsome dragon, which could only be subdued by the Clankers that Bogrod carried in the bag.
Once they passed the dragon, they had arrived at the Lestrange vault, to which Bogrod provided access, without the use of the missing key.
"I wish to remove the Hufflepuff cup," Bellatrix declared, once they were inside the massive vault.
The ancient cup sat high on a shelf, illuminated by a three-way spotlight.
"In that case, Madam Lestrange," Bogrod declared, "if you would be so good as to step back, I need to disable the Germino and Flagrante Curses."
The old goblin waved his hands to-and-fro, for what seemed like ages, until the cup finally glided down from the shelf, to sit atop an obscene pile of Galleons that could have funded Hogwarts for a year or more.
Lestrange snatched the cup and quickly secreted it into her robes.
"That will be all!" she snapped at the goblins, rudely.
"Should I reinstate the protective spells, Ma'am?"
"No, that won't be necessary!" she replied curtly.
A little before six o'clock, Bellatrix Lestrange Apparated into the laneway behind Honeydukes Sweetshop, in Hogsmeade. She looked around, stealthily, before she opened the door that led down into the basement of the shop.
Once inside the dark room, Bellatrix closed her eyes, concentrated and, in a matter of seconds, in her place stood Salazar Snape.
The handsome youth quickly removed and checked the cup, from within his robes, before he turned and slipped below the trapdoor in the floor of the cellar.
Salazar Snape entered the Great Hall with Draco, Gregory and Vincent in tow, and headed for the Slytherin table, where they sat quietly and ate a hurried meal.
They had arrived late for dinner, and most of the other students had already finished eating and returned to their houses.
Hermione, Ginny, Dean and Neville were some of the few of the remaining Gryffindors, at their own table.
They rose to leave and started heading towards Sals and the Slytherins; but Sals looked up at them and gave a subtle shake of his head in the negative, before continuing what seemed like an intense exchange with the Slytherin trio.
The Gryffindors looked at each other in bemusement, then shrugged their shoulders and headed for the great doors to the chamber.
A short time later, Salazar proudly presented Dumbledore with the Hufflepuff cup, and enthusiastically narrated his daring exploits at Gringotts to the old man.
"I had no idea you were a Metamorphmagus, Salazar!"
"Nor did I until Father began my intensive training regime. He was more surprised than anyone. He knows of none of our ancestors who possessed the trait, Albus."
"Do you find it difficult?"
"At first I did, but now, especially if I am familiar with the subject..." he closed his eyes and, suddenly, a mirror image of the headmaster stood before the old man.
Dumbledore leaned forward and touched his doppelganger's cheek in sheer amazement, before he collapsed back into his chair, shaking his head in profound astonishment.
As Salazar Snape reappeared, the old man sighed...
"That is frightening, but it certainly could come in handy," the ancient warlock laughed, and his bright eyes twinkled excitedly.
They both sighed, and the atmosphere became suddenly tense, as they eyed the Hufflepuff Horcrux that sat innocuously in the centre of the old man's desk.
"I think we should preserve the fangs, Albus. Besides," the handsome youth grinned cheekily, "I would love to know what it feels like to wield the Sword of Gryffindor!"
The headmaster retrieved the sword and presented it to the boy, without comment.
"I think another `short, sharp shock?'" Sals asked rhetorically.
The old man's only reply was a curt nod.
Salazar raised the powerful magical weapon above his head, then brought it down, point first, with a mighty blow that split the cup at its base.
Another shrill cry of pain and anguish pierced the air, as the foul creature's fractured spirit vanished in a flash of light that dissipated into the ether and was no more.
The boy lay the sword across the desk, before he collapsed back into his chair, and breathed a deep and soulful sigh of relief.
"We have one more Horcrux to destroy, Salazar, and we are all but done.
"We know where it is, but I am afraid that this one may prove most difficult and dangerous to retrieve. Voldemort hid this one himself at this location, just as he did the ring, and this was the result!"
He held up his withered hand, which was now blacker and more decrepit than ever.
"With the diadem he foolishly relied of the power and secrecy of the Room of Requirement to provide what he thought was adequate protection. With the cup, he likewise thought it would be safe in the hands of the Goblins.
"But this last site provided little security, for his precious Horcrux, Salazar, save for its rugged terrain. I fear we might well have to face our greatest danger to date, in this final quest."
If you are enjoying this, you might like my other two Nifty stories...
This is a two-chapter Potterverse short story [complete].
This is on-going and I'm updating it as I write Salazar.
All feedback is appreciated via: firstname.lastname@example.org