Chapter 1: Prologue
Night fell on Hogwarts, a startling reminder that time continued even after everything that had come to pass in the weeks and months before. The triumphant but grieving heroes had retired to the common rooms following the battle that ended the reign of the Dark Lord Voldemort. The dead were resting on transfigured cots in classrooms, awaiting more permanent quarters.
The castle itself was wounded. Stones that had been placed centuries before lay in rubble. Rooms lay smoldering from fiendfyre. Floors were stained with dark magic, and blood. Still, some areas seemed untouched.
The gargoyle that guarded the passage to the headmaster's office was still in place, and no worse for the wear. Indeed, it seemed to have learned a new trick, evidenced by its choosing to stand and bow low, spreading its stone wings to honor the figure who stood before it wearing a long dark blue cloak. It was a woman, more shadow than form.
The gargoyle stepped aside and the wall behind it split open, and the woman moved onto the stairs which took her not up, to the headmasters’ office, but down, to a chamber that no one had seen in over a hundred years. It was a large round room with four doors set into the walls. Apart from the circle where the stairs moved down through it, the cieling was enchanted in the same way that the great hall was, and so moonlight streamed down on the room and made galaxies of the dust that blew in the air and seemed to swirl around the woman as she stepped in.
She pulled back the hood of her cloak, revealing long dark hair and a pale face. Soon she began to speak.
"Speak to me of the Hogwarts Four," she said boldly," those legendary witches and wizards who, with but magic and dreaming, forged for the world a caldron. Such a grand tool is a cauldron. In its depths one may scry or brew, know or create, at will. It can hold fire even hotter and grander than the most enduring hearth, or heart. Many a man has stared into one and seen a future worth striving for, for glory can be brewed, and love, and truth. Yes, the Hogwarts Four created for the world a cauldron in the shape of a castle, and to it, and to those born with gifts that could make the flowers bloom and the stars fall, they dedicated their lives.
Speak to me of the Hogwarts Four, those tired souls who wanted nothing more than rest for hearts heavy with the ashes of children killed by cowards. Those strong ones who mourned for those who'd lacked the chance to learn, and longed for a place to make them safe, speak to me of them.
Speak to me of four friends, who became four legends. Speak, old friends, of us.
Our castle lies around us in ruins; the victim of old enmity come to final fruition. Our treasures lie burned and wasted, that this battle may be called 'won' as a loyal son of Hogwarts ends the long poisoned Slytherin line.
If ever there was a time when these stones have wanted for our renewed presence, for the light of what was lost when conflict and cowardice came to us, it is now.
I, in life Rowena Ravenclaw, come to remember truths lost to legend, that the castle's true foundation may be repaired, and the stones given the fulfillment that we taught them to hope for. Our legacy shall again know life."
"Always were quite the wordsmith, Rowena, were you not ?" another woman answered as she rode the stairs down into the room, removing the black hood she'd worn. "I will speak to you of those four. They planted roots so deep in earth made fertile by the blood of those who lived and died here before they came. Nourished by all that is most needed by things that grow, they sprouted a tree that gave safety, nourishment, and shelter all the days that it stood. Believe, My Heart, that it shall stand again."
She reached up and brushed the red hair from her pleasantly rounded face before taking Rowena's hands and finishing, " I, In life Helga Hufflepuff, Come to renew ties which must be made twixt past and present, that the castle's true foundation may be repaired, and the stones not left in longing. Our legacy shall never again abandon life."
A bald man of average height stepped out of one the doors set into the room's wall and the pair dropped hands and stepped back from each other so that they could turn and face him. A forest green cloak that seemed suitable for traveling hung about his shoulders. He raised his head and looked them both in the eyes before beginning his speech.
"I will not speak last. Long have those who bore my name been forced to suffer, in part due to my legacy. What selflessness I display in refusing to have the last word, can only serve to cancel the selfishness which bade me take certain actions both proceeding and following my departure from here."
There was a moment when it seemed as though he might turn and walk back into the room and leave the two women once again but his grey eyes shined with determination, visible even in the moonlight and he continued ,"It pains me to see my once home brought so low. For all that I left it, I have loved this school. That love was as deep as blood and bone, and soul, so deep that it flowed down my line. Even now I still love this bloodstained heap of torn tapestries, ashes, and broken glass.
I loved the years I spent here, amidst my students. They were cunning and sly, and destined for all manners of greatness. I still mark their progress with pride, though it seems that in recent years our old hat has made its feelings about our parting known in some of its choices. I've noticed an abundance of lost boys wandering about in my dungeons. Even our school's loyal son, as you dubbed him, Rowena, was nearly selected for my house because he was adrift in the newness of our world, and had such a need to belong, to show himself to be worthy."
He looked at Helga, his eyes lingering oddly on hers, his hands fidgeting at his side until she reached up and brushed the hair from her eyes in what the other two recalled now had been a nervous tick of hers. Salazar broke eye contact finally, and addressed both women.
"I will speak to you of those four. They came with ambition, those naïve witches and wizards, all lost in their own ways. They hid their lostness, and thought it gone. They were fools. It was never far from them and in the end it returned, like a scorned lover damaging new joys to punish for past slights.
I, in life Salazar Slytherin, come to achieve the goals that brought us together all of those years ago, to create a light so bright that none would be lost in the darkness, and to protect those most like us, that the castle's true foundations may be repaired, and that those blasted rocks may again serve our purpose."
A scoff drew their eyes to a man who seemed to have appeared from nowhere. He was large and imposing in his deep scarlet cloak, the hood pulled back to show narrowed green eyes framed by thick red hair.
"Will the pair of you hear him speak?" he began angrily, " As though he has any right, after what he did! As though we should count ourselves honored!"
He rolled his eyes and continued sarcastically as he strode up to them stopping a few feet away from the women so that they stood at the midpoint between him and Slytherin.
"Salazar Slytherin will speak of us? Oh the rapture, the joy, and wonderment! What right do we have, we blood traitors and fools, what right to even stand in the presence of Salazar Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts four? What goodness has bought this chance?”
"Godric, be a dear and do something about that bile streaming from your mouth, it is most unhelpful," Helga scolded him, " not to mention redundant."
"Indeed, the lady speaks truth," Rowena added, " three cannot reconcile four. Either you will speak of us and we shall work towards reconciliation or we can part for another thousand years or so and leave the school to heal slowly without our aid or crumble as it may. Perhaps once your towers have fallen and his dungeons have filled in you can stand on equal ground once more."
"Has death sucked the honey from thy breath at last, Rowena?" Godric replied with a touch of regret, " Alright then. I'll speak of those four fools. They were brave and they took what they knew, and what they hoped could be, and made more than a school; more than a friendship. When all of them got older and a little more selfish, and a little more blind, they stood to lose all that they had made. Stupid and stubborn they held onto riches that no one was ever meant to hold, and they broke under the effort and their differences. Two died alone and all died wanting, and lingered wanting still for what was never rightly theirs in the first place."
"Are you saying that we should abandon our attempt?" Salazar asked, stepping closer to the women between him and Godric. Gryffindor's eyes widened slightly even as he mirrored the step, so that they now stood at the four corners of a square, " Stop chasing what was never meant for us? I tell you as one who knows, there is no peace down that road."
"Nor down any road," Godric countered, " for I say not that we should give into fate, but that every moment of unity betwixt us is one snatched from the control of our stars. We must protect them with knowledge that without effort and courage, all shall fail.
I, in life Godric Gryffindor, come to renew our first courage and rebuild all that we strove for and lost; that the castle's true foundation may be repaired, and the stones stand in readiness with all the honor of the champions who shall rise to defend them. "
Above them in the headmaster's office, the burned sorting hat began to glow, a spark of life rekindled that matched another spark somewhere within the stone labyrinth of Hogwarts. Elsewhere in the castle the Ravenclaw ghost felt an odd surge of hope. A mother weeping in loss knew a moment's peace, as did a sister, and brothers. A woman contemplating borrowed memories let her worries stop for a time. A man with a lightning bolt scar found his nightmares soothed, his heart eased. Warriors became students again as sleep descended on the school.
As its founders prepared to begin, the castle itself, the stones and wards and enchantments, prepared her loyal daughters and sons for the work of rebuilding.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
The four of them stood looking at each other for a moment before Helga spoke.
“Oh Salazar,” she breathed, the words rushing from her like a sob. She reached pale hands up and touched his face, as she stepped towards him. Rowena reached up pressed Helga’s hand onto his face even as she pressed her nose and mouth into the soft roundness of Helga’s cheek. Helga turned, giving her a light kiss before turning and brushing her lips against Salazar’s as he bent to offer one of his own to Rowena.
Godric stood a step apart from them, torn between joy at the sight of his lovers together again and pain as he found himself uncertain of his welcome. Then Helga came over and kissed him soundly, and he felt Rowena smile against his face, and he felt a hand too large to belong to either of them take his. Pulling back from them, he looked up and met Salazar’s eyes.
“Shall we snatch a moment from the control of our stars?” Salazar asked, and the women shifted to allow him to come close. He pressed against both of their sides and wrapped his arms around them. Godric laughed before swooping down to claim his mouth in a kiss as fierce as the argument that had parted them.
“It wasn’t right without you,” Rowena whispered.
It was early morning. Two women lay in bed, covered only by sheets. They faced away from each other on opposite sides and the space between them was emptier than the spaces between stars. Across the castle, a man sat in a tower. His feet dangled over the edge and his pain darkened eyes traced the beaten down path from the castle’s main entrance to its gates. The three left behind had lain together the night before. There had been three in a bed made for four. There had been loss, blame, and anger in a bed made for warmth and love. Then there was shame, and none of them could look at the others because deep down they all blamed themselves most of all. I didn’t…I wasn’t… I never…. The thoughts fell into rhythm with the beating of their hearts.
“You could have come with me,” Salazar replied, “Could have followed later.”
“And lose my life’s work in addition to my heart? Neither of you would see sense. Why trade a homebound fool for a traveling one? ” she shot in return, pulling away, “I can’t regret remaining here.”
Salazar reached out and grabbed her arm to stop her from moving further away. His eyes narrowed. “Of course not. Did you wait a whole day before jumping into the arms of some other man?” he said, softly but edged with pain and anger.
“ Your daughter is so lovely, he must have been a pretty thing. Likely a bit dim though, she certainly did not inherit her mother’s wit; choosing to haunt our halls and scare first years for an age.”
Rowena stared at him for a long moment before replying, “Never insult my daughter. I lived for her, and did much that was less honorable than that to spare her harm. She does not need your judgment.“ she pulled her arm through Salazar’s fingers which were still less solid than they appeared. She shook her head as if to clear it, continuing, “I cannot do this tonight. This old broken wonder will have to wait until dawn.”
“The castle can bear another night’s wait,” Godric grumbled, vaguely reassuring.
Rowena looked into his eyes and shook her head slowly before gesturing in a circle with her right hand, indicating the four of them, then pressing her hand to her chest, on the left side. Then she turned and walked to her door which opened before her at the whisper of “wit beyond measure” and closed behind her without a touch.
“…Is a witches safety,” Rowena said when the door had closed. She’d spelled her door and those of her lovers to use sets of passwords to keep various combinations of lovers, acquaintances and intruders out. One phrase to open but only to the owner if the room was empty, and many answering phrases to allow or keep out company. That day, she’d used the one which gave her time alone.
She pressed her palm to the space beneath her belly and swore quietly under her breath. Closing her eyes she sunk to the floor with her back to the door.
In the bottom of her wardrobe lay a box of un-used rags, stained by use in months past when they’d received her monthly issue. They’d gone unused for the second month, and she was late for a third. She’d been sick just an hour before after eating a breakfast that hadn’t tasted quite right. There was no denying the truth.
She had to tell them, but how could she? Salazar and Godric had been fighting more and more over the past weeks. Would the tensions grow? Would this only give them a new battle ground? What child could blossom under that stress? Helga would help to shield her child from it but what if the four of them parted? Where might Helga’s loyalty take her?
Rowena’s hand began to glow where it rested above the growing child . She let a single thought direct the shape of the magic that desperation had amassed in her.
The light flashed, and then… nothing.
Helga smiled, a small, warm, lovely thing, like bread, and spring, and skin, before sighing, “My brave Love, you’ve never changed. Not even now.”
“Haven’t I? Is there any point in this if none of us have changed?” Godric replied. “ Salazar, we all had children. Why should you begrudge her that? Why hold her alone in contempt for sins we all committed?”
“She bore that bastard scarcely a year after I left,” Salazar hissed, then he reigned in his temper and continued, “I know my numbers, my physiology, and most of all her. She did not love so easily, our Rowena, and she was so distant before I left, always off and claiming to be alone with her studies.”
“You think that she strayed,” Helga clarified.
“She would never! How dare you call her honor into question!” Godric scolded.
“Can you say how else she fell pregnant so soon after we parted?” he shot back. “ The girl was born too late to be one of ours.”
“Can you say how the stars burn? How young witches bloom from lines without magic like mandrakes from moor grass? Can you say how my heart can hold you all, and not burst with the weight of it? There is much that I cannot say and much that Rowena can answer if you will refrain from accusing her while she is resting.” Helga answered.
“I need to understand this before I can trust in our union.” Salazar said, with calm that masked desperation.
“Do you think that you’re the only one with questions? With reservations?” Helga asked him before turning to Godric. “Do you think that you own the weariness here? Is all anger and bitterness yours? I love you both and her and everything that we had before and can have again, but do not mistake my freely given love for ignorance or naiveté . Never do that.”
Her hands , strong and gentle, squeezed their shoulders before she released them and turned to walk to her door.
“A loyal heart” opened the door which, like Rowena’s before it, closed behind her.
The two men stood in the room for a time before both looked to the curved stairs. Godric turned away, moving towards his own door. The rushing joy of their reunion was gone and in its place, the echoes of their unresolved conflicts seemed too loud to cross, too solid to allow them to touch again.
“I… I’ve missed you, Salazar.”
The moonlight drifted through his hair and through his face too, a jarring reminder that age and death had come and gone like seasons, like love for the young.
“That is not enough,” Salazar replied, wishing that it were, but smelling the smoke on the air, the death and fear that lingered.
“It is true, all the same,” Godric whispered in response before telling his door, “Courage protects” and walking inside.
Salazar did not go to his room that night. He wandered up the spiral staircase and out into the corridor, past the gargoyle who bowed for him and down through the school. He floated, a phantom, above the rubble, the broken things laying scattered, the remains of death eaters, of their allies, forgotten in the heat of battle and the rush of victory that followed. He drifted silently but with purpose, moving towards the chamber where his sole heir lay dead.
They had placed the body on a table unceremoniously; an arm left dangling over the side, robes mussed left to rest as they might. Salazar forced Tom Riddle’s hand to his sides and straightened his robes. He closed the still gaping eyes and, content that he’d done right by this distant descendent, allowed his mind to wander.
He touched his face, cool and serpentine, and pictured this strand of his line; their faces appearing in his mind. Where had they gone astray?
Acantha, was his daughter; born to a woman called Tamsin who’d treated him well and aided his work. She hissed nonsense words to a wooden toy snake as she rolled and scooted around on the mat, set in the patch of sunlight from the window of his study. At his desk he worked to settle the last of her mother’s affairs. The girl had her mother’s hair, and it shown in the warm sun. Salazar felt a moments longing for that good and kind woman. Then Acantha seemed to raise up and float over to plop down on desk in front of him, staining her legs and diaper with ink from his parchment as she reached for him.
He pulled a length of soft linen from the air and wrapped her in it as he pulled the girl to his chest and let her babble on, unsure whether it had been her magic or his that had propelled her. Occasionally he whispered down to her, stories of Hogwarts, of mermaids and the shine of sunlight on newly constructed wards. She smiled and practiced the sounds of the words. After some time, the child whispered, “papa” in English, and repeated it in parse tongue. She burrowed her face into his robes and made token efforts to escape the cocoon of linen before falling suddenly asleep.
She was his talented and brilliant daughter. His heart felt sore as he thought of two other women, talented and brilliant, who would never lay eyes on little Acantha. She named for a nymph loved by the god, Apollo. Born to two who could at best be described as friends, her mother had felt that the love of a god of wisdom and beauty might make up for a lack in Acantha’s day to day experience. She’d had little faith in his ability to open his heart to their second child, and with reason. It had taken him ages to develop any sort of connection to their first, all those years before.
He’d spent the rest of the afternoon composing a letter to Acantha’s older brother in his mind, providing a warm space for her nap, and wondering if his life would be devoid of goodness and kindness when she was grown.
One day she would stand at the gates and look on Hogwarts for herself. Her brother at her side, she would, as had he, decide that the school was not ready to house an heir of Slytherin. When she did, it was not for lack of love.
She loved the school on sight. She saw in the school everything that her father had spoken of. She saw the towers piercing the sky and felt the magic in the air. It called to her as though it knew her; she knew that it did, because her father had helped to make it, because there was life within those walls beyond that of its residents.
She knew that the book inside bore her name, but she could not move to open the gate and stride in. She’d heard the sadness in his voice alongside the wonder. She was young, barely twelve, but she knew that there were things that her father hid from her. She could not walk in and see what had driven him out, could not rest easy where he might not be welcome, could not break his heart with innocent words revealing wounding truths about how the castle had changed. So she and her brother walked away, but she whispered the school’s name to herself again and again, and vowed to keep it safe from afar.
He could see no fault his children. So where had they gone wrong, those heirs of his? A question for another time he supposed. For the moment, he simply drew the remnants of his power, the magic the lingered around Riddle’s body, the gifts that had long been bound to Slytherin blood, and offered them up to the school itself,. Then he settled in to watch over his last heir for one more night, content that his line could bring no more harm to this place where he’d been happiest.
Floors above him in the headmasters office, the spark that had kindled in the sorting hat grew and changed as it was granted a new task and prepared to receive more.
Shortly before dawn, Salazar made his way back to their Common room. The sunrise would wake the castle and he’d no desire to make his presence known. Besides, the time had come to get his answers.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
In her room, up in the tower, Helga Hufflepuff sat on her bed and drew strength from the light of the swiftly rising sun as it filled her room through the enchanted ceiling. She thought about ghosts, and little girls. She thought about the secrets that a broken heart will hide, and the lies that we leave behind us.
She opened her eyes and looked over to her wardrobe, a lovely old affair made from a tree with dark wood that she’d found in the forest, on a long walk in the early hours. She reached out, and found it cool and stable beneath her hand. The magic of the castle had held it together beyond its time.
She felt a kinship with it for a moment before opening it and finding a small box inside of it, filled with several large brown seeds, cushioned by dried flower petals. She poured the lot onto her desk before enlarging the box and opening a small latch in the interior base. Inside the secret compartment were treasures from before Salazar had left. Three interlocking rings that formed a single smooth band, a lock of hair, a pressed flower. She’d missed these things.
They’d been set around the room, loving reminders, until the day she’d realized Rowena was with child, and known that their time as lovers was done, and gone like winter when the spring buds bloom. Rowena hadn’t come to bed with her and Godric since that last awful time, and the child hadn’t been far enough along to be Godric’s from that encounter. Certainly not far enough along for Salazar. There had been one answer, and it didn’t make sense, but it hurt. The hurt of it had settled into the spaces that divided the remaining Hogwarts three, making them harder cross, even with words.
Helga could hear Godric’s voice as he spoke the password to her room, “A loyal heart.” she was sitting on her bed trying not to cry.
He entered, angry and hurt, his hands clasping and unclasping as he tried to keep a hold on the power rising in response to his emotions.
“Shut her out,” he demanded.
Helga did as he ordered, knowing that he’d never speak his peace if she didn’t.
“A Loyal heart must sometimes set aside knowledge,” she said in the direction of the door. Godric paced in front of it three times before beginning.
“How could she!” He shouted. “ And to think that I worried for her! ‘poor dear‘, I thought ‘she’s scarcely spoken a word to us since he left, perhaps we should go to her’. Well it seems as though she’s found some comfort after all.”
“Godric,” Helga tried, but to no avail.
“How could she go off and find someone else when she had us? I love her, Helga. You love her.”
“That isn’t enough and besides how would she know? We’ve none of us even kissed in weeks. We don’t talk anymore, not about anything but the students unless we’re asking if the others have heard from Salazar. Maybe she’s right to move on,” She replied, her head in her hands as the tears came at last.
He came and sat on the bed beside her, pulling her hands away and kissing her through her tears when she looked up at him.
She knew the taste of his mouth, and it was comforting. It brought back a thousand memories of them. Memorties of sunlit afternoons stolen from stacks of grading and a picnic at the edge of the lake blurred into the feel of Rowena’s hands on her shoulder, her hip, the heat of Salazar’s mouth on her neck, her thigh….
She pulled away and wept harder.
“We can be together without them,” Godric whispered into her ear.
Helga took long deep breaths and found the strength the stop crying before she turned to face him again and replied, “ No, we can‘t .”
He put his arms around her, and for a time they sat in silence, the rough edge left behind when he’d removed Salazar’s ring from his own interlocking set pressing uncomfortably into her arm.
“Helga,” Godric called through her closed door, “ Are you ready to talk with us?”
Helga rose and approached the door, which opened in response to her intent, and she walked out into their old common room.
“Where shall we start?” she asked, gliding up to join the other three who stood around the unlit fireplace. Rowena was facing Godric and Salazar, who were side by side. Helga moved to Rowena’s side.
Salazar opened his mouth to reply, but Rowena cut him off, saying “ The muggleborn question and why Salazar left. Let’s talk about why we broke down before discussing what happened after.”
Salazar’s eyes narrowed in her direction but he nodded before replying, “ I did not feel that muggleborns should be allowed in. They were not born to our world, and they had no reason to remain in it after leaving here. One of our goals in building the school was to unite the wizarding population into a community. What would any of them have to gain in leaving their established lives in the muggle world for the handful of homes and rudimentary market place forming beside Hogwarts?”
“Hogwarts would be their reason. The ties that they would make to their fellow students, the love of knowledge, and the sight of that market place growing and becoming a thriving area of business,” Helga replied.
“For some that might be enough, but not for all. Better to invest in students who would stay and continue old ties than to take chances. Recall that before I left, we still selected students once every three or four years. Why chance delaying the entry of a talented student with definite ties to our world to let in one who may leave it and take up a muggle life, and use magic for petty chores,” He argued in response.
“Why should we bother with this re-hashing of the argument. You took on twice the number of students the rest of us would accept even before we began getting former students to teach ,” Godric said, drawing attention to his bored face. “ Why did you leave? It was the same old argument and every year your concerns were being addressed as the school grew and the town with it.”
“Not all of them, not the most important, our safety, and that of the school,” Salazar argued, turning to face Godric.
“Those children were not a danger!” Godric asserted in return, “If anything they were more of a danger untrained.”
“They would have told! They would have sold our secrets! I couldn’t wait around and lose everything when they turned on us,” Salazar shouted.
“Don’t yell,” Rowena scolded,, “ please. I can’t take the yelling again.”
“Why don’t you go and hide with your books, or your lover. It worked so well last time,” Salazar shot in return.
“Just like the rest of this fight,” Helga pointed out, “ I can tell you how this ends. One by one you’ll leave. Even if you stay, you’ll leave. And once the school is taken care of I’ll go too, because I’ll love you all too much to only be with one, and because just like you, I lack the strength alone to reach out and try to bring you all back to me. So I’ll call the promises I made to us ’kept’ because there there will be no ‘us’ anymore. This time there’ll be no children and marriage. There will be no finding love in another’s arms, no hearts coming back after their winters, just another forever spent wishing we’d been better. So let’s be better. Salazar, you said you felt as though you were going to lose everything. You worried about losing us?”
Salazar gaped at her, but he searched his heart for an answer.
“Constantly,” he said, softly.
“Why?” Godric asked, “before we began fighting over the muggle-born issue more often, things had been going well.”
“I recall.” Salazar replied. “The village was growing and every year more students were able to take on teaching roles. The students we turned away were fewer each year. I could foresee the time when our purpose would be served.”
Godric’s brow wrinkled in confusion for a moment before, finally, he saw.
“And with our purpose served, why should we stay together?” Godric realized, following Salazar’s reasoning, “We’d all worked wonders on our own before. Salazar!”
Rowena and Helga understood as well, and, each in her own way, despaired at how much she’d failed to see all those years ago.
“Can you deny it?” he shot back, “ We were champions each in our own rights before Hogwarts was even a dream. What could have stopped us from continuing once it was fully realized. Besides, you all carried on fine without me. You had your muggle-born brats and each other.”
“We had nothing,” Gryffindor roared. A look from Rowena made him take a moment to calm himself before continuing. “ I had nothing. Alone, I could not be enough for you, Helga, and Rowena, I was so angry… What did I have? A home without its heart, a task worth doing, but that reminded me constantly of what I‘d lost; these riches were mine to claim.”
Helga spoke up turning first to Godric, “ I’m sorry that I made you feel as though you lacked something. Being with you made me long for what we’d had. You must know how I felt. It hurt you as much as it did me to have only a piece of what we’d lost.”
To Salazar she said, “ As for you, can you fault us for surviving? You left us one choice, my dear. You’ll have to forgive us for taking it. If you’d stayed, if the argument had never begun, love would have held us together. Love was a thing greater than any of us could have found or forged alone. Salazar, why can you not understand that we loved you?
Salazar turned his face away from them, as though the words themselves had wounded him.
“I was not a good man,” Salazar answered, his voice low but without shame. “I created the chamber.”
Godric stormed into their commons with angry words on his lips. Salazar was a fool, and a prejudiced one. How dare he pardon one of Godric’s students from punishment.? The child had cursed another student for criticizing the school. The fact that the student who’d been injured had come to them from a muggle family did not improve the situation.
He stormed over to Rowena’s door and snapped, “wit beyond measure”.
The door opened to reveal Rowena and Helga, kissing lazily on the bed. Books lay open but forgotten, off to the side. Rowena’s hand moved to brush against a place at Helga’s side that made her laugh, breaking the kiss but exposing her neck to Rowena’s attentions.
Godric watched for a moment before starting his rant anew.
“Salazar has no respect for-”
“Godric,” Helga sighed, “we are rather busy at this instant. Would you care to inform us of his wrongs in another four hours or so, after you’ve repeated the argument for the third time since we woke this morning?”
Rowena moved from the bed and walked over to share the lingering taste of Helga’s mouth and skin with him before adding, “ You’ve lessened a punishment that I had set before. I thought that we’d agreed that they are all our students, regardless of who teaches or selects them.”
“Do you not see what he’s doing?” Godric said, pulling away from her. “The prejudice that his judgments have shown recently is undeniable!”
“And we will discuss it, if the two of you ever calm down enough to do so without shouting,” Helga replied, “Put him out of your mind and come along. We all have classes to teach and then detentions to oversee. They’re helping us renovate that corridor on the third floor, yes?”
The conversation turned to the practical matters of running the school, and all three rode up the moving stair case and walked down the hall as they spoke. None of them noticed Salazar who’d watched them leave from behind a pillar near the entrance to their chamber. None of them saw the downward curve of his lips, or the emptiness in his eyes as it occurred to him for the first time how complete a picture they made without him.
He strode down the hall and down through the castle to the dungeons. There was an unfinished wall at the farthest reaches of them, a damp square of soil about fifteen feet high. He whispered, “open” in the language of snakes, and the soil and stones moved of their own accord forming a long, downward slopping hall.
At the end of the hall was a stone circle bearing the Hogwarts crest, and he spoke to it, in English.
“Where love lives.”
The circle split into four and revealed the chamber he’d been making as a gift to his lovers. He sat and stared at the escape he’d made. He’d dreamt as he’d worked of enchanting the ceiling alongside them, of creating a home here, where their children could live, away from the noise of the castle. He’d hoped to have a place for their heirs to reside and inherit, so that their children might always have a piece of what they’d created that was theirs alone.
There was no reason to believe that this place could not be all of that. Still, in the back of his mind, a new picture began to take shape. What sort of gift might he leave for them, if they were in fact complete without him? What gift might leave them a picture of his heart?
Months later, he would fetch a chicken egg from the market just beyond the wards of the school. The toad, he found in the forest.
“Do you regret it?” Rowena asked, “Leaving that beast here for your heirs to play with?”
“How can I? That beast, in death, helped to end the war. In life, it gave comfort to those of my line for several generations without harm,” Salazar replied, “Do I regret that a girl died? Of course. Do I regret leaving at all? I don’t know that I do. Just as you , I have particular reasons to be glad of what happened after I left. Perhaps I regret not returning, but then… by the time I thought I might, there was nothing to go back to.”
“It would have been good to see you again.” Rowena sighed, some tension leaving her face as she felt years of longing meet with new understanding in the deepest part of her soul. “I would have loved to sleep in your arms a final time.”
Salazar stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her forehead.
“Tell me about Helena,” he requested, gently. Rowena tensed, but did not pull away.
“No,” she answered, just as gently. “ I need to speak with her first.”
“Just as well,” Helga said, reminding the two that they were not alone, “ For I have amends and inquiries of my own to make. Why didn‘t you come to me and Rowena ? We made you our vows, you had every reason to trust in them.”
“Did I?” he asked, “ Godric sought you out after our arguments. When was left for me to come to you with worries? We had responsibilities, I had work of my own. How could I disturb what peace was left to you, and make more of a nuisance of myself when I already feared that you’d see more cost than benefit in our affair?”
“You stopped speaking to us,” Helga continued, “ I waited for you to come to me, but you never did. I was wrong too, for not seeking you out, but I thought that you needed time more than my comfort.”
“I never meant to hold them away from you,” Godric told him, seeing again how he’d hurt his beloved.
“You never could have, if we’d all tried harder,” Rowena answered. She shifted to make room for Helga in the space created by Salazar‘s arms. Helga completed them by pulling Godric into place. “ not if we’d pushed past those parts of us that feared, and trusted in our ability to defy fate.”
They stood together for a long time, soaking in the joy of what could be again. They did not know that above them in the headmasters’ office, the sorting hats burns were being healed. They did not know that in a deep place in the earth a chamber was changing shape, returning to its former glory, and then some. Guided by a magic older than time, the walls went smooth and then sprouted shelves and desks and rooms, furnished in soft fabrics preserved and hidden by the castle in years past. Enchantments wove themselves into the walls to encourage restfulness and well being. Drawn by some strange magic, Slytherin’s locket came and settled itself into a drawer in one of the desks in one of the rooms. It had once born enchantments that made the picture always show the strongest desire of its wearer’s heart. The horcrux had destroyed that old magic but now it was back and waiting. Gryffindor’s sword too found its way to the chamber, replaced in the goblin’s stores by gold equal to it’s worth from the vault of Gryffindor’s last heir, who’d never claimed it, or even known that it was there.
The founders did not feel the castle itself grow in strength and use that strength to begin to restore the damaged wards, the spells for which had long been lost. If they had, they would have been well pleased. Perhaps if they had no one would have turned to Rowena with questions in their eyes.
Godric did though, and so did Helga. They looked at her and she knew that the time had come to reveal the secrets that she’d taken with her to the grave.
She pulled away from their embrace. “I must go and speak with my Helena. When I return, I will answer your questions. Know that I will not regret the choices that I made in regards to her. You cannot ask that of me. Know also that my choices were made out of love, and let that carry some weight in how you judge them.”
Pulling the hood of her cloak over her head, she turned then, and moved to walk towards the stairs. The others, wary now of what she might reveal, let her go.
As she reached the stairs, Salazar called out to her, “ You know of the chamber and its monster and still you embrace me. What wrong could be deemed less forgivable than that?”
Rowena did not turn. She bowed her head and continued on her way.
Chapter 4: chapter 3
When the stairs had stopped moving, showing that Rowena had reached the corridor, Godric turned to Helga and Salazar.
“Shall we wait here, or venture above? Perhaps we should see what can be done for that old hat of mine.”
“A fine task, and worthy of much attention,” Helga agreed, “Salazar, will you come with us?”
He wavered for an instant before nodding his answer, and the three took the winding stairs to the top, drifting through the wall that hid them. None of them noticed the wide eyes of one Ronald Bilius Weasley as they boarded the moving stairs up to the headmasters’ office.
He paused for an instant before shaking his head and continuing on his way, content that there were mysteries in the castle that no one need explore until the place was less battle scarred.
Across the castle, up on the roof of Ravenclaw tower, Rowena took a deep breath before calling out, “Helena! Daughter mine!”
Helena came as though carried by swift winds; a pale specter floating above the rooftop beside her mother.
“Mother!” Helena cried. “ I thought I would linger a thousand lifetimes and never see you again. Mother, forgive me please. I-”
“I forgave you the instant you left, my dearest. I only regret that I did you harm in my desire for your return. It is better than you can ever know to see you again,” Rowena replied, taking her daughter into her arms, “Helena. I need for you to know something.”
“What is it Helga?” Rowena sighed. She hadn’t been feeling well at all and she longed for a cup of tea and some rest, but Helga had come to her looking stunned and demanding that she come and see something in the Head’s office. Her shift as acting Headmistress was not due to begin for another hour, but Helga had so rarely spoken to her over non-school matters in the past years that Rowena knew that whatever had her in such a state might be more important than her rest.
“Rowena! In the book of future students! You must see! Godric will be in an awful state when he learns… but then, he’s been gathering things as if he means to leave so perhaps-”
“Helga, What has happened?” Rowena asked as at last they rounded the corner to the office. The gargoyle stepped aside at the sight of Helga, and soon the two were riding up the stairs to the office. It looked much as it would in the future with small changes, more bookshelves and fewer personal items. The founders had lived in rooms near their respective houses for years, and left the office as a shared space.
Out on the desk was the book where an enchanted quill recorded the names of magical children who would be eligible for Hogwarts. Their names appeared as they were given.
Rowena looked down at the pages that lay open on the desk. Instantly she saw the name that had caused all of the alarm. Between Davis Eckhart and Siward Black was the name “Zephyrus Slytherin”.
Salazar had a son.
“Helena,” The name came unbidden to her mouth as she longed fiercely and suddenly for her daughter. Where was she?
“I’m certain that she’s fine Rowena, but do you see? What will we tell Godric?”
“Tell him what you please, or don’t tell him at all. He may leave before the child reaches the proper age and spare us the trouble. Now, I must attend to my own child. She is accustomed to seeing me before I begin my shift ,” Rowena said before striding from the office in search of her young daughter.
Helena needed to know, she decided as she searched. She’d kept the truth from her for the whole of her young life, and that was horrible enough without adding this. The time when she could protect her from the truth was done.
She found her in the library. It was the second place that she looked, after the common room that bore her name. Helena sat at a table by a window, her long dark hair draping over her shoulders as she read. Rowena came up and wordlessly pulled her to her feet and embraced her. The third year student who’d been helping her with her studies bowed her head in respect before standing and moving to another part of the library to do research of her own.
Helena was six years old; a bright, lovely thing with a stubborn streak that had sent men and women several times her age running away in frustration. Whatever she did, she did wholeheartedly, and her most recent project was to be as clever as one of her mother’s students.
“Mother! Are you well?” Helena asked, squirming in her mother’s tight hold.
“Helena, there’s something you must know. you-”
Rowena stopped at the sound of one of her students asking the librarian a question. This was not the place for something so personal; not the time either, with her shift starting soon.
“What must I know?”Helena insisted.
Rowena closed her eyes and then opened them again, kneeling so that she could look her daughter in the eyes as she substituted a truth that she could share for one that must wait.
“You must know that I love you above all things, above books and cleverness even, and that as long as you are my daughter, that cannot change and Hogwarts will be a home to you.”
“I know that,” she affirmed, feeling the weight of the words even if some of their meaning escaped her, “ I love you too. I have a question about the Greeks. Why-”
She answered her curious daughter, then she had her tea and worked her shift. In the years to come, Helena would leave, running off with the diadem, a way at last to be cleverer than the woman Rowena had taught the most; Rowena herself. Godric would leave, and finally Helga, both heading off to form families, to love again.
A sickness would come like a cold wind, stealing Rowena’s breath even as she waited for word of her wayward child. Through all of this, the woman who’d helped to form a school to guard and deliver truth and wisdom to her students would keep her secrets; would continue finding reasons to let the truth wait.
It might be said that she held her peace.
She would disagree.
“I know of your love and my home. you‘ve made certain of that.”
Rowena smiled at the sound of that truth that had so well covered another for all those years.
“What you know is true, but your knowledge on both subjects is incomplete. There are things that I hid from you for all your life. It is long past time that you were allowed to know the name of your father.”
“Why should it matter now?” Helena asked, “ His bones and mine are dust.” She walked off of the roof, hovering as though standing on some non-existent floor, her arms crossed, her eyes lowered in sadness even as her mouth tightened in defiance.
“He is here, as I am.”
“How is this possible?” Helena asked, taking a moment to look at her mother with assessing eyes, “ You are no ghost. You have too much color, too much seeming life for that. Who is he that he should come back as well?”
Helena stopped to give her mother time to answer, and Rowena struggled to find words. In the end there was only the truth.
“This castle and we who built it are connected in a particular way. Your father was one of the founders of this school, and we were all called back to help it rebuild after the battle that occurred here. I don’t know how to tell you only the part that applies to you, so bear with me as I tell you that we four loved each other not only as family, but in all the ways a heart may open to another,” Rowena began, and continued.
When the story was done, she stopped and watched her daughter’s face. Helena’s eyes were wide and her mouth opened and was covered by a hand as the repercussions of Rowena’s choices were made evident. Her eyes narrowed.
“How could you? All those years.”
“Helena, please understand-”
“What am I to understand? That my mother could lie to me for my entire life? That she could lie to everyone she claims to have loved? That I had a father who never knew what he was to me?” Helena began to slide down through the roof, back into the castle.
“I don’t know what you are, but how dare you mar my mother’s memory in this fashion. You have no right.” She floated back up and Rowena stood making their eyes level. “As a beloved daughter of the Ravenclaw line, and of Hogwarts through that line, I banish you, foolish, lying revenant, from this place of safety.”
Rowena hurt inside to hear those words. She hurt more than she ever had in life, but she pushed past it to say, “ And as your mother, and a mother of Hogwarts, I will not go. I am who I have claimed to be, and in time, I hope that you will forgive me. I have loved you from your first breath. Carry that with you whether you forgive me or not.”
Helena froze, struggling under the weight of what she’d heard. The warmth of her mother’s forgiveness and the pain of her betrayal warred in her but in the end she felt only a great sadness. How much had been denied to her? How much of her life now made a painful sort of sense?
Rowena watched, longing to comfort her but knowing that there was nothing left for her to do but tell the truth, just one more time. Helena floated away, off to another part of the castle. Rowena stared out over the grounds, turning to see the forest, to stare across the towers and courtyards of Hogwarts
“Were you so unhappy with the life that I made for you?” she asked as though Helena still sat at her side. Then she stood and moved to return to the founders’ common room when suddenly she felt a pull from the headmasters’ office. She let herself be summoned there, eager to know what needed her presence so desperately.
Godric was tired. He’d spent a rare peaceful afternoon with Salazar. Godric had sat with him while he worked on a potion. They’d talked about an idea of Salazar’s to combine a potion with a semi-intelligent spell to let the school itself fight off an invading enemy. He’d occasionally slowed his brilliant lover’s speech with a kiss or a touch and a fond look. Salazar had, on occasion, reached out and taken his hand as he spoke. It had been a good time, but their fight had lingered at the edges. It hid in the vague descriptions of a potential enemy. It hid in the way that Helga peered in on them from time to time and in the way that Rowena avoided them; both fearing an argument.
It occurred to him, as he sat in the commons, that this place of halting peace where they found themselves was untenable. They were breaking down. Must the school fall with them?
With a crook of his finger and a wordless spell he summoned his hat from a hook in the corner. The running of the school was a simple enough matter. In time, students of theirs would know enough to teach and to make advances of their own. The sorting was different. Early on, they’d tried to make due without separating the students, but there had been so many that students that it had been problematic to offer them all the attention that they needed. The younger students needed a single person to whom they could go . The older students needed time and individual attention.
The practice of sorting had solved those problems. How would sorting outlast them? How could they insure that their houses would continue to be open to those students with traits that they favored?
Godric was not a man who favored libraries. He liked his information to come from experience, from a person or at the end of some grand quest. He was, however, a learned man, and one with limited time. He placed the hat upon his head and walked towards the stairs. He needed options and, as Rowena was fond of noting, a library was often full of them.
Godric stared at his old hat. Just a day before he had watched it burn from the place beyond life. How was it now as new and whole as the day that he’d bought it, down in the small marketplace that became Hogsmeade Village?
Behind him, Salazar and Helga were attempting to wake the portraits. Each one slept as though enchanted.
“They will not wake, Godric, not even to head a founder’s words,” Helga called to Godric, “Has the hat been more alert?”
“I have not yet attempted to wake it,” Godric replied, before turning to the hat and calling out, “ Old friend, you’re looking well. Would you care to give the name of your restorer?”
The hat awoke, the dents of its eyes going deeper and the tear from which it spoke, which now seemed quite a bit more intentional, opened as it responded.
“I have given those names for many a year, and will do so for many more. Whatever else I do depends, as always, on you.”
“What else might you do?” Salazar asked, drawing nearer and standing beside Godric.
“Four must know,” The hat replied. “Rowena Ravenclaw, the castle bids you come.”
A moment later, Rowena stood in the doorway. She came and stood beside Godric, as Helga moved to her side. At last the four stood together and the sorting hat could show them what their work was bringing into being.
“I was made,” the hat began, “by you four of great power, the same four as those who shaped these stones. I am, through that, bound to the stones, and to you. You gave me power to sort and choose, and through your actions the castle has given me a new choice to make. Three of four lines have ended and the remaining heir, one Zacharius Smith of Hufflepuff, fled Hogwarts in its time of need.
One among you has offered the magic held by his line to the castle. It, desiring that no magical power should be lost to the world, has given to me the power to choose from those of his house children who would use those gifts for the good of this school and the world it sought to create. Salazar, with what you have given, I will make you new heirs who will uphold the best of your legacy even as your line is left to perish.
This I would do for you, Godric, and you Rowena, if only you would choose to give those powers of your line into the castle’s keeping. Helga, it is for you to decide if you heir is worthy of those gifts that he enjoys. He cannot keep them if you deem him unworthy. If you do, in time new heirs shall bear your legacy as well.
Unto those chosen, the castle will gift many things in exchange for what it asks. Know that and go. Continue the work that you have begun, for every moment of harmony between you strengthens all that is bound to you, and preserves your legacy.”
The four nodded and, with whispered thanks, made their way back down to their common room.
Upon reaching it they paused. What could that say of this? The giving of their gifts to the school was a matter for each of them to consider on their own. In the end, Salazar chose their course.
“Rowena,” he asked, “Have you spoken to your daughter?”
“I have,” Rowena responded. “ and now she knows the truth.”
She took a deep breath before announcing, “ A child began growing within me before you left, Salazar. I realized it just weeks before that night.”
“How could that child be Helena?” Helga asked, confusion dulling other emotions, “That was nearly a year before she was born.”
Salazar and Godric looked to Rowena expectantly, sharing Helga’s uncertainty.
“We were unstable. Any day, any fight, might shatter the world we’d made for ourselves here. I feared for the child that might enter that,” Rowena replied. “ I will never know the truth of the magic I cast over her in that moment. I just thought ‘not now’ and there was light. I’d begun to show, and the swell of her never left, but the child did not grow. Our joinings after that day were so infrequent…”
Salazar’s eyes widened as the truth began to settle in his mind. Still he asked, “ How long had the child been growing before…?”
“Two or three months,” Rowena replied, “I know her to be yours, Salazar. Shortly after her birth I used a potion to determine if she might be Godric’s. She was not. When I caught her hissing at the snake in a portrait years later, there was no other answer. I hid the knowledge from her and everyone else. Already the students whispered foul things about the ‘dark wizard’ Slytherin, who’d turned his back on the school. I could not let her grow up as the bastard child of a oath breaker.”
“How dare you keep that from us? From me?!” Salazar cried, “ if I’d known… It might have changed things.”
“Would it?” Rowena cried in return. “ You did not stay for me, or for Helga. Who’s to say that a daughter, perhaps not even yours, would have held you here? We’d never talked about expanding our family beyond casting the spells to avoid it.”
Godric’s voice sounded strangely hollow as he joined the conversation again, saying softly in a variation of his usual gruff tone, “I always thought that we would. We were so happy. How could we not share that happiness? I’d thought we would talk about it when the school needed less of our time.”
“I’d hoped as well,” Salazar replied, distantly and more to himself than to any of them. “ My first born, and I never even laid eyes on her; Zephyrus and Acantha’s half sister. And how can I fault you? I left a monster to destroy what we built. My final heir would have seen this place burn. You raised a child without a father’s help. The worst that can be said is that you lied. You lied to protect her from me.”
“From us,” Helga corrected, “It wasn’t only the students who whispered foul things after you left, Salazar. I apologize but the fact remains. We were never whole without you. It is an easy task to blame someone you never need face.”
Salazar shook his head, as if to clear it, then asked another question.
“The story that she told the Potter boy, about your diadem…?”
“She always wanted to be my cleverest student,” Rowena replied, “ She’d seen me offer students the use of the diadem time and time again, to aid them in pursuits that might help the castle or the village below. I denied her that, as I’d denied others, hoping that pressure would help her flourish. She grew tired of comparisons being drawn between us and she took the diadem and fled.
I hid what she’d done, because I loved her and I could not destroy her home by branding her a thief here. Soon after she left, I grew ill.
We chose a headmaster, and I let you, Godric and Helga, think of him as my deputy, but my health dimmed by the day. In time, I would send a suitor of Helena’s to seek her out and bring her to me. It pleased me that he was from Slytherin house, for I knew something of Slytherin stubbornness and I did not have long left to wait.
I outlived her by three weeks, all spent in bed, being tended by the house elves. I did not know her to be a ghost until I awoke in the place beyond life, where all is known, and can be seen.”
Her story told, she stood firm. She watched as they worked to understand what she’d done. She knew that she’d done wrong. They’d deserved a chance to love Helena as what she’d been; another product of the love that had defined their young lives almost as much as the building of the school. Salazar might have made the same choices, but he’d deserved the chance to make them. Hindsight had done its work, but she hoped that they could see why she’d made the choices that she had.
She was startled by the touch of a hand. It was Godric’s as he reached out and embraced her.
“I loved you,” he said fiercely into her hair, “When I realized that you were with child so soon after… and you never sought us out after everything, I thought that your love had proved a fickle thing. I love you still, in spite of all, and I am never more pleased to have been wrong. You love us.”
Rowena pressed herself into his body and he tightened his hold. A warmth like life enveloped her, but she could not be whole with only one of them. She turned to Helga.
“I wish,” Helga told her, “that you could have trusted me. I could never have hurt you, or Salazar. Why should you fear for Helena?”
“There are so many ways to hurt while loving,” Rowena mused in response. “We’ve managed quite a few. I never doubted that you could love her, but if she knew, I would have needed for you to defend him, to forgive him, to welcome him back to see her. I should have given you the chance, but she was my daughter, and all I could see was her well-being.”
Helga hesitated for a moment before moving to hold her from behind, just as tightly as Godric held her.
No one could know the true cost of Rowena’s lie. Would the four of them have stayed together? Would their children have been different? In the end, Helga had gone on to a happy enough life, with a husband and children whom she’d loved and received love from in return. She could not persist in anger, knowing what Rowena had lost.
“I would stand with you as the world ended in fire,” Helga said into her back, “ I cannot say that I forgive you all, but know that I love you that much at least.”
Salazar approached them and reached a hand up to touch Rowena’s face.
“Greek names, all of them,” he said, “ though Zephyrus and Acantha were named by their mothers.”
“A precious thing that could destroy a thriving state if fought over, and the name of my favorite teacher, ‘Helena’ seemed perfect. You always did love a clever sentimentalist,” Rowena replied, her tone lingered on the odd edge between pain and humor. Helga smiled sadly behind her.
“Truly, I always did. I’d like to meet our daughter, and I’d like for you to tell me more about her. There will be time for that because I cannot walk away from you again,” Salazar said, his voice nearly breaking. “ Forgiveness will come with time. If only you would love me, each day by my side might be penance enough for sins so dire.”
Rowena pulled gently away from the arms enveloping her and wrapped her arms around Salazar.
“I steal from you riches greater than any prize ever envied, and in punishment, you grant give me a gift just as rare,” Rowena whispered.
“I could say the same,” Salazar countered.
Salazar pulled away then, slowly and took her hand. Looking up at Helga and Godric, he met each of their eyes in turn, and knew that the four of them could bear the weight of what had been lost.
The work was not finished. The founders lay on conjured mats in the long hall, gazing up at the night sky. There was no roof above their heads, the ceiling had been more than they could manage in a day, even with volunteers and stone working wizards and witches from across the region. There were walls though, with space for doors and windows. There were fireplaces.
This hall was their starting place. It was the first set of walls to go up, done by tired souls over many long days of work. Foundations had been laid for other parts, for corridors, towers, the beginnings of dungeons; but this was the first part of their creation to truly reach toward the sky.
This hall was their indulgence. The hills that they’d chosen were defensible but left little room for the castle to sprawl outward as it grew, making those towers and dungeons an early spotted necessity.
The hall had no adjoining towers. It traded them for outward expansion. It was wide and flat and could hold many more students than they could teach by themselves. Here was their hope that the school would grow beyond them in time.
Rowena sat up, smiling at the stars. She was too excited to sleep. It had begun!
Godric sat up too, proclaiming, “ Shall we stop feigning sleep now? We are, none of us, particularly skilled at it.”
“I was not feigning anything,” Salazar sighed, “Why should I? We are the only ones here tonight.”
The others were gathered down beyond the wards, in a group of tents and around fires.
“We may continue to be for many nights to come,” Helga noted, moving to her knees and then to stand, “ I cannot bring myself to leave this place at the moment.”
She walked over to the fireplace set into the wall and lit it. It was not a cold night, but there was still a slight chill in the air. The fire was a comfort with its warmth and its restlessness which mirrored her own. She felt out of sorts, strangely nervous in this loved place among new friends, and Rowena, whom she’d known for many years.
She looked back to where her friend sat, lovely and joyful in the moonlight as she moved to sit beside Godric where they began a conversation about something to do with the wards. Salazar lay, listening silently with a fond quirk of his mouth showing his own pleasure in the moment.
Rowena, Helga thought, was so fair, that surely one of their new friends would lose his heart to her, if not both. How would it happen? Would she and Godric lock eyes as they enchanted the glass for the windows? Would Salazar note the skill behind her spells, the quiet power of her voice as she directed stoneworkers or students? Would either of them see her for herself, for the loving way she held her scrolls, for her joy? Would she love either in return?
“Helga,” Salazar called out, “ I cannot bear these two nattering on. Care to join me for a walk down by the lake ? We may find the ternelis plants for the potion we discussed. ”
“An unmatched honor,” Helga teased gently, but she smiled and walked towards him and took his hand in hers. With her other hand she reached down and squeezed Rowena’s hand in parting. She ignored the fluttering of her heart which grew as Godric absently reached up and took her hand in the same gesture before letting his rest atop Rowena‘s.
For a moment all four paused , clumsily fighting not to be seen looking at each other, then Helga caught Salazar’s eyes with her own and she whispered, “To the lake then.”
After they’d left the unfinished hall, Salazar turned to Helga, “What troubles you on this happy night? Our school has made its start.”
“Worries for a future that may never be. I am not usually one to fret. You’ll have to forgive me,” She replied.
“You’ve done no harm. Please know that I would hear you if you would speak of it, “ Salazar told her, “or of anything. Would you tell me more about this plant that we seek? I‘m curious about its other properties”
And she did, and about other plants as well. An hour later , she was telling him a story about a type of grey flower that bloomed near places where mermaids dwelled, when Rowena approached.
“Might they be better named ‘Maids’ eyes?”
“They call them ’Nymphs Eyes’” she explained, “ because mermaids where once thought to be water nymphs. They - Rowena, have you need of something?”
Rowena shook her head, “Just the knowledge that you are safe. You were gone overlong.”
“Was I?” Helga asked. “ Salazar and I were talking. I must have neglected to notice the time.”
“I’ll leave you to talk, and take my rest,” Salazar said, and moved back towards the hall.
“You needn’t flee, “ Helga assured, feeling sad that their conversation was ending.
“Godric will be worried. I shall tell him that you linger here,” he replied and continued on.
There was a strange tension in the air as he left, and it did not leave with him. Loath to speak of it, Helga turned to her friend and sighed warmly, “ We’ll begin work on the roof tomorrow I think, and perhaps begin a tower as well. Our dream grows like a weed.”
“It does,” Rowena agreed grinning, “ have you though more on the sort of students you will want?”
“Magical ones will do,” Helga replied. “ What else can we know of them? Have you planned you first lesson?
“A thousand times, and a thousand more before I can teach it,” Rowena answered with a laugh on her voice, “ I can only hope that I teach as well as your mother did. She was wonderful.”
“She was.” Helga smiled . “ Helena Hufflepuff was going to teach us every spell and plant she could find . She loved like you do, like your father did; by granting knowledge. No less than your mother did by teaching me to cook.”
The two spoke into the wee hours, remembering mothers who’d been as close as sisters and a childhood spent traveling on old roads with them to meet and spend seasons together. Things had begun that day that were bigger than they knew, and as neither could sleep, they would rise the next morning and sleepily carry out the work of changing the world as they knew it.
Chapter 5: chapter 4
I've had formatting issues so please note that most of this chapter is in the "present" but starting with a section near the end that starts with "and so with a whisper our work is done" and has Rowena and Helga on the lake, it alternates between past and present. when i can i'll set it up as it is in previous chapters.
I hope that you're enjoying the fic and thanks for reading it! feedback is needed as i'm still a bit iffy about parts of it. i'm open to edits that improve the work.
Helga Hufflepuff sat by the lake and imagined the merpeople living out lives in its depths. Did their grandchildren betray them? How might they? They could not leave the lake. They could never runaway if the lake were threatened. How fortunate for them, to have no option but courage and loyalty.
The four founders had chosen to separate in order to deal with their affairs and to know their own minds truly, before coming together to formally declare that they would be one again. Salazar had gone off in search of Helena. Godric and Rowena had gone to seek the places where the magic of their lines lingered. Helga was left to contemplate the actions of her sole remaining heir, Zacharias Smith.
The boy had run, knocking over first years in his haste to the leave the school and find safety. Over his time at Hogwarts he’d acted and spoken unfairly a great many times. He’d been chosen for her house, she knew, largely as a function of his not being particularly well suited for the others.
There was very little doubt that Zacharias Smith was undeserving of the Hufflepuff family talents, skill with herbology and food related magic as well as a natural talent for interacting with magical beings, such as werewolves, vampires, and house elves. The problem lay in that in removing those powers from an active line, she would be taking those talents away from any who followed him.
Helga had loved her children. They’d been so beautiful and perfect with their lovely golden hair that shined in light. They’d been clever and strong. To picture taking the Hufflepuff talents from her line was to see those talents stolen from those little golden children. It was to imagine breaking charity with her own blood.
If she was going to do it, she would need to see for herself if there was hope for her line. Zacharias’s father had been wholly unremarkable, and never made much use of the gifts. Could Zacharias grow into a man who could raise his children to be better than he’d been when the castle was threatened? Could he make her line into more than the long string of somewhat harmless individuals that it had become? She went off in search of answers.
Up in the castle, on the seventh floor, Rowena Ravenclaw stood before a burned old tapestry. Her diadem lay broken into pieces on the floor around her. Mournfully she picked up the pieces which seemed to mold themselves into wholeness in her hand. She hadn’t held the diadem since Helena was alive. It was a bittersweet task to reassemble it now but she knew what she must do, the way to gift her power the castle. She would use the diadem, put it in its place on the statue and spell it to be irremovable. In this way she might give it and its power to the school.
She was bent over a bit of rubble when footsteps sounded in the corridor. She looked up to see a head of luminous blond hair and old eyes set into a young face. Luna Lovegood, she recalled.
The girl stopped and peered at her for a long moment.
“Your daughter takes after you,” Luna told her softly.
“She does,” Rowena agreed. “ What brings you here?”
Luna looked at the uncompleted diadem in Rowena’s hand before answering, “ I didn’t think it should be lost forever, even if it was broken. Harry told me where it was.”
“Will you help me, child? There are so many pieces, and I agree, non should be lost.”
“I would be honored Lady Ravenclaw. You can call me Luna, if you like, most everyone does,” Luna replied dreamily as she bent and picked up a small bit of silver.
“Then to you, I shall be Rowena.” Rowena directed before asking, “You were sorted into my house, correct? And I know you to have sharper eyes than many. You must have, to know my daughter for who she is when she has never spoken of it. What sight has caught your interest of late? Is there one you seek?”
“The thestrals have been restless lately.”
“Have they?” Rowena encouraged nonchalantly as she found another piece and added it to the whole.
Luna looked up from her search to nod, adding, “So many more people can see them now, and they scream or grieve when they realize what they’ve seen. So much pain and fear would plague any creature, but the thestrals here seem particularly affected. I’ve been meaning to see if anyone has ever tried to comfort them, but the library has an invasion of wrackspurts.”
Rowena nodded her head and reached out a hand for the bits of diadem that Luna held, replying, “So you’ve an interest in magical creatures then?”
The two continued to talk as they worked and, when the diadem had been reassembled, Rowena turned to her and said, “I’ve another errand of great importance. If you aide me, I’ll see what can be done about the wrackspurts in the library.”
“How can I help?” Luna asked, tilting hear head slightly.
Rowena handed her the diadem, and gave her careful instructions, before turning and floating towards the library. Luna, alone in the hall gazed down upon the treasure in her hand before heading off to do as Rowena had asked.
On the other side of the door that was not there, in the room of requirement, Helena was floating over the ashes and between the shelves of burned things that had been hidden and forgotten with time. She didn’t know what made her angrier, her mother having hidden the best part of her life as though Helena might taint the memories somehow by knowing about it, or her mother’s assumption that in a thousand years give or take a quarter century she’d never realized how rare a gift parseltoungue was.
She floated around another crumbling shelf and started as she realized that she’d very nearly run into someone.
“Might I have a word with my daughter?” the man asked and Helena knew for certain that she stood in the presence of Salazar Slytherin.
“I’m sorry good sir, but your daughters both are long dead,” Helena replied, looking on her father for the first time without the aid of a portrait.
“All the same, I’d like a word.”
Salazar watched as she sighed and moved to hover in a seated position over one of the sturdier looking shelves.
“Of what shall we speak then, Lord Slytherin. All that we might have shared is ash, and Mother lit the kindling, requiring neither wand nor word.”
Salazar moved to stand before her, replying, “Some things are not so easily burned. We both know how something of life lingers on. Surely a father’s care still has worth?”
Helena turned, twisting inhumanly around the shelf and whirling away as she replied, sadly “ You have me at a disadvantage. You have both had and been a father. What can I know of such things as fathers? My mother denied me that.”
“And me the sight of my first born. Take back what you can, now that it is denied you no longer,” Salazar suggested.
“What is it that you offer me, Lord Slytherin? Your home is mine,” Helena challenged.
“The chance to know and be known by a father. To hear something of your brother and sister.”
“Do they linger as I have?” She asked suddenly.
“Only in my thoughts,” he replied, “but those thoughts are yours if you would have them. Anything you desire I should seek to help you find, if only I might come to know my first born daughter in time.”
“I want for nothing, save for the healing of this school and the return of the students. All else, “ she paused and stood, beginning to sink through the floor, allowing him the shadow of a smile, “perhaps in time”.
When she had gone, Salazar walked to the door and exited through it, going off towards his once secret chamber, to think.
Up in the founder’s tower, Helena sat over a bowl of still water. She was usually rubbish at all manners of divination but within the castle walls and as one of its founders, her power paid the debts in skill and allowed her to scry with some competence.
“Come down for dinner,” a voice beyond the bowls edge sounded, likely the boy’s mother. Zacharias himself sat on his bed. He wore a pair of black pants that seemed a bit short for him. There was a shirt beside him on the bed but he didn’t move to put it on. He was staring down at his arms and chest. His right hand traced out odd almost parallel lines on his left wrist. It was an old welt that was slow in healing. It circled his wrist in a way that took Helga a long moment to place. Then she recalled something she’d seen beyond life months before.
Zacharias had come upon a third year from her house who was, somewhat foolishly, ranting in the middle of a corridor near the common room over what he’d been told about muggle-born students.
“It’s tripe is what it is. They are our friends, our family here. Why should we accuse ’em of stealing wands and the like? An’ if they stole it, wouldn’t they bloody well give it back and go one about their lives in peace rather than deal with this great lot of wankers?”
Zacharias had moved to tell the third year to save it for once he was actually inside the commons, but The Carrows swept in and assumed he’d been agreeing with the boy. He was sentenced to a week’s detention; condemned to be tortured for another boy’s foolishness.
The mark on his wrist was from a manacle they’d used to bind him to a wall and cast the cruciatus curse at him on the final day of his detention, in order to reinforce what the beatings the other four days had tried to teach him.
Helga returned her attention to scrying bowl and watched as Zacharias donned his shirt and went downstairs for dinner with his family.
“Oh dear,” His mother said upon seeing him, “ we shall have to go Hogwarts and retrieve your things soon. It’s been an age since those last fit well. Come here and I’ll see what I can do for those clothes.”
Helga watched as his mother pulled out her wand but then paused checking the cuffs on his shirt in a way that must have let her feel the raised scaring from the manacle. A shadow of concern flashed on her face but she fixed the length of his pants and shirt with a couple of whispered phrases. She hid loving touches in her appraisal of him afterwards and smiled more warmly than perhaps was called for when he thanked her.
Zacharias would be fine, Helga knew suddenly, and he would owe that in part to this woman who loved him enough to balance concern with normalcy in spite of the way her arms twitched when she looked at him, as though they wished to hold him like a child again, to confirm at each moment that he was safe at home.
His father was seated at the table when they arrived his parents had silent conversation in the space over his head before sitting down to eat. No one spoke aloud for a time. What could be said? Change was sweeping their world as the absence of Voldemort’s puppet administration left odd vacuums in the ministries power structure, but non of them were really a part of that. With the exception of Zacharias’s punishment, they’d made it through unscathed and unremarkable.
Growing agitated by the extended silence, Zacharias’s father said, “ Those who defended Hogwarts in the
battle have been working on fixing the damage. Zach, what say you and I head out tomorrow and see if they could use our help? Our family does, after all, trace itself back to Helga Hufflepuff.”
“I’d rather stay here, sir.” Zacharias replied shortly.
“Why?” his father countered, “The death eaters have been cleared out.”
“I’m not going back,” Zacharias spoke firmly. “leave the school to Potter and his army.”
“But Zach, the school is in your blood,” his mother pressed.
“No, “Zacharias argued, “ my blood is in the school, and I don‘t owe it anything else. What’s it done for me?”
As Zacharias left the room, Helga tapped the side of the bowl and sent ripples through the water, ridding it of the image. Then, with a thought and a push of her power, she appeared in the room in the dungeons where Zacharias had been beaten, all those months ago. It was the place where his loyalty had faltered, never again to find firm footing.
She found it there, that small bit of the Hufflepuff blood, and through it, across the miles she drew her former gifts to the school tying them to the magic of the school so that it could grant them as it wished, if only it did one thing.
She asked that the school protect her line from harm. No child born to Zacharias, or his children, or theirs, would ever suffer at Hogwarts as he had. The school would protect its own.
Away from the castle, in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire, Godric Gryffindor sat in a graveyard. He knew the habits of his only remaining heir well. It was early evening and she would be coming at any moment, shyly peaking around the corner of the church before coming to tell her parents about the day that she’d had. She’d been as pale as a lily before she‘d died. When she’d returned as a ghost, Godric had found himself appreciating the colors that she’d shed with her body; the flush of her cheeks when she smiled, the hint of blue in the grey of her eyes.
“Are you here to see me, Sir?”
The ghost of Molly Kirk stood several yards away from where Godric sat, in the empty space between her grave and her brother’s. She was hesitant, but didn’t seem altogether put off by the notion of having a visitor.
“I am, child. My name is Godric Gryffindor,” he said, standing and bowing low.
Molly giggled in response. She was seven years old, had been for over three hundred years and would be for many more, and here was a man who bowed before her as if she were a lady or a queen.
“I’m Molly, but you knew that,” she shrugged, still giggling a bit. She seemed to think for an instant before her face lit up and she added, “ You’re the man from the stories! You’ve got a school for people who make miracles!”
“I do,” Godric smiled, “ I and my loved ones built it many a year ago.”
“Always hoped I could go,” She told him moving to sit on the air a foot or so above her grave. “ Ma said it’d be lucky if my children’s children’s children managed to get there but Harrison and I waited and hoped for some little miracle to happen because of us. We just knew that someday if it happened we’d be found and taken to the school at eleven, just like the stories.”
A darkness swept over her face as she continued.
“I lived for longer than a week after they realized I had the plague. Harrison was dead in three days when he got it, after I died, but I lived longer than anyone. Ma said that was my miracle, my magic. She said I’d broken the curse, but I was so scared I didn’t care that I might see the school someday. Just wanted to be better. Just wanted to be with my family. I‘m sorry sir, you wanted to see me. What about?”
Godric looked at her brother’s tombstone then beyond it, where her parents were buried. They had d all died in the fall of 1665, soon after the plague had been found in their village. Her father had been among the first to call for the quarantine of the village to stop its spread. Godric had delighted in the courage of his heir even as he knew the likely consequence of his selflessness. Molly had been ill already by then.
“Can’t an old man visit his family?” Godric teased, then shaking his head , added, “ I came to take something you’ll never miss, and offer you something you’ve always had.”
“Sir?” she asked confused.
“Your mother was right, Molly; more right than she knew. You were a witch. Miracles happened‘ because of you‘, as you said. Little things, but big things too.”
“They did? What kinds? Why don’t I remember?” she cried, excited and sad all at once.
“Did you never wonder how none of your family got sick after you did? The plague swept through other families inside of a week, but not yours. Not one of them fell ill until after you died.”
Molly stared at him unseeingly as she considered that, then she shook her head and pressed for more information, “ but what do you mean, you came to take something I’ll never miss and offer me what’s mine?”
“There are certain magical powers, certain gifts that people with magic from our family have. You were too young, too inexperienced, to show signs of them. I’ve come to take them from where they linger, in your remains and give them to the school, so others can have them, can make the world better with them,” Godric explained. “They were bound up by the curse of a dark wizard that bound the magic of our line just a few generations before yours, but they finally broke free when your magic broke the curse to protect your family.”
“Wow,” Molly said, impressed and proud of the magic that had given her family some time, even if it couldn‘t save them, “ just something from my bones then? Take it. You’re right, I won’t miss it. What’s the other thing? What’s mine?”
Her eyes scanned his form in the greedy way of a child searching out a present, but what Godric offered was nothing material, and was more wonderful for it.
“What is yours, is a place at Hogwarts, “ Godric told her. “ It was always yours, from the moment you were born, and particularly since the moment you broke the curse and freed your magic. There are other ghosts there, and often living students. You could learn something of our world, and make some friends.”
Molly’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped in a perfect expression of shock.
“Leave here? Really?” She asked, after a beat. “I’ve never been anywhere else before, not even to the next village.”
“It would be an adventure,” Godric nudged.
Molly floated around the graveyard then, pausing briefly at several of the stone markers, and lingering over the graves of her mother and father. At last she stood before Harrison’s grave and whispered, “I’m going to Hogwarts. Keep watching and you’ll see it. Finally you’ll see it. Just like we said, Harry, just so.”
She turned to Godric and asked, “How do we get there? On horses?”
Godric laughed warmly before replying, “ Close your eyes and think about the castle. I’ll do all the rest.”
Luna Lovegood was tired as she finally made her way up to the headmaster’s office. Xenophilius lovegood had arrived while she had been helping Rowena find the broken pieces of the diadem, and he’d found Luna as she’d been making her way to the office to do as Rowena had asked.
It was the first time that they’d spoken since before she’d left on the train in the previous fall. Xenophilius had wept at the sight of her, and Luna had helped him to the stairs to sit down, placing the diadem behind her on one of the steps.
They’d talked about how Luna had been rescued, about Dobby, the castle under the rule of the death eaters, the resistance, and the battle for Hogwarts. Luna had relived it all for her father, who made plans to write about it for the Quibbler. People should know how the war had been won.
For a time they’d simply held each other, glad that their small family was safe after all of those months of uncertainty. Eventually though, Luna had pulled away, needing to finish the task that had been set before her. She’d told her father that she would meet him in the great hall for dinner and, picking up the diadem, had continued on her way.
When she reached the gargoyle she spoke the words, “Rowena Ravenclaw bids you let me enter.”
The gargoyle stepped aside and Luna rode up the moving stairs and walked through the doors into the office. Once inside she walked over to shelf where the sorting hat rested.
“Rowena Ravenclaw wanted me to bring you this,” Luna told the hat. She smiled serenely as it came to life and she saw that it had been fixed after the fire had damaged it during the battle. “ She asked that you accept her gift and consider her choice. She told me to tell you that she still puts her trust in your judgment.”
The hat tilted forward in a nod. Then he opened his ‘mouth’ and spoke.
“Luna Lovegood, place the diadem upon your head and then place me over it, that I might do as Lady Ravenclaw requests.”
Luna did, but then asked, “What’s happening? Am I being sorted again, because I really am quite happy in Ravenclaw.”
“Lady Ravenclaw has gifted to the castle the magical gifts of her line, that a new heir might be chosen to protect her legacy and to shape the wizarding world for the better. The castle accepts that gift. As to her second point, I have been asked to consider you as a possible heir of the Ravenclaw talents; skill in charms, enhanced wisdom, and particular facility with magic used to create.”
The sorting hat paused and Luna felt the odd sensation of something searching inside of her mind. The heir of the Ravenclaw talents? The possibility was amazing, but so was the responsibility. She could barely begin to grasp the idea that she had been chosen by the founder herself, a woman whom she’d respected nearly all of her life.
“Luna,” The sorting had spoke again, more kindly, less formal than before, “ I have searched your heart twice now. I have known from the first time I sorted you, nearly six years ago, that you would be a credit to your house. Now I see that you have been more. You have been a credit to the school and to the wizarding world, using your wisdom and curiosity, alongside courage, loyalty, and determination, to do what you have known to be right. Should you choose to take up the legacy I offer you, know that I would ask only that you continue to do that, and in return I would offer you the gifts to aid you in your future work and a home here to be shared with those other chosen heirs of the founders. Has the task and the reward been made clear to you?”
“Yes, sir,” Luna replied her face flushing at the hat’s praise.
“Will you fulfill this task as the chosen heir of Rowena Ravenclaw?”
The castle itself listened for her answer, but Luna took her time and considered the thing being asked of her. Rowena had spoken to her. She knew her interests. If she wanted an heir to be minister of magic, or some other thing more clearly suited to changing their world, Luna reasoned, she would not have chosen her. Rowena Ravenclaw had been the wisest witch of her age. If she believed Luna capable, then clearly she was.
Beyond all logic, Luna knew that this felt like something that was meant for her to do, as much as riding off to the ministry had been, as much as fighting in the battle. She opened her eyes, gazing into the shadows of the hat and whispered, “I will.”
“And so, with a whisper our work is done,” Rowena said, smiling as the air shimmered with the remnants of magic cast.
She and Helga were seated in a row boat out on the lake. Moments before they’d woven the last bit of magic into the permanent wards that would protect the school from enemies and intruders.
“No, my friend,” Helga said reaching out to take her hands. “ With a whisper it begins! Look at it!”
Both of them turned their heads toward the castle, seeing the great hall with its windows shining gold in the light of the setting sun. It’s towers stood proudly over miles of corridors and classrooms. It had been a year since that night so long ago when they’d lain in the unfinished hall and the place had grown exponentially.
As it had grown and come together, so had its founders. They’d forged a friendship that seemed without match. Rowena turned her eyes from the castle, feeling warm and happy as the gentle waves from the enormous lake rocked their little vessel. For a moment, it was as though the two women were all that was left in the world. Her eyes took in the sight of their hands, fingers entwined. She felt the flush of her face and her heart, already dancing in her chest for the completion of the essential work on the school, danced faster.
“Rowena,” Helga called to her distracted friend.
Rowena didn’t hear her, too busy attempting to understand a sudden wild urge that came now, more strongly than it had before. It was not the first time that she’d felt it, but they were alone in the world now, so why shouldn’t she act on this? There were Godric and Salazar somewhere to consider, sure but they were so far away, and would they give up this chance if they could see her now? Would Helga even wan-
“Rowena!” Helga said sharply, and this time she was heard.
Rowena looked up only to close her eyes as Helga kissed her, a soft press of lips that made her mind race with joyous possibilities, that stopped her heart for a moment and stole her breath. Then reality set in.
Rowena pulled away, “ I can’t. Godric and Salazar, they love you. They both love you so much. How can I stand in their way when either of them could offer you more?”
“ The choice was always mine.“ Helga kissed her again, another soft lovely thing landing this time on Rowena’s cheek, “I love you, Rowena, and though you with all your cleverness seem to lack this insight, they love you too, and you them. Any other self sacrificing lover would have worried about standing in my way and not theirs.”
Rowena turned away, looking out to the water.
“This is not a conversation to have without them, but please old friend, don’t fret, “ Helga comforted. “ Let us carry on as planned and we shall talk when all the others have gone.”
Rowena nodded then with a wave of her hand the boat moved taking them back to the docks at the edge of the lake
Rowena stood before the door to Helga’s room and whispered the password , smiling as the door opened and she found herself standing face to face with Helga.
“I have an heir!” she told her, “ She helped me repair the diadem, and she is everything a member of my house should be.”
“That’s wonderful Rowena!” Helga said in reply stepping aside to allow her into the room.
Rowena paused and took in the look on her face before wrapping her arms around Helga, “Oh love, forgive my thoughtlessness. You made a choice about the Smith child.”
“I did,” Helga replied, “ I am certain of my choice but that does not ease my heart for making it.”
“As long as you are certain, I trust that whatever choice you make will lead to good things in time.”
“Of course you think that,” Helga laughed sadly. “ You love me.”
“And because you love me too, you’ll let me think the best of you,” Rowena whispered back.
“Indeed. Now tell me about this heir you’ve found.”
Godric and Salazar were waiting in the great hall surrounded by the witches and wizards who’d helped to build the castle. Not long before, Godric had been out amongst them listening to plans for the night’s celebrations, but he’d seen Salazar standing alone by the fireplace and had made excuses to join him. Godric leaned closer, brushing his shoulder against Salazar’s and letting the hands touch.
“They’ll be gone soon. They only want for a sight of Rowena and Helga, and for the surprise we’ve promised them before they head off for their merriment,” He murmured.
Salazar pulled away, his eyes not meeting Godric as he replied , “ I know, Godric, and it is not the crowd that troubles me. Though I hardly think it prudent to show off before them like trained animals.”
“Your objection has been noted and duly ignored,” Godric replied, softening it with a laugh, “ Then what is it?”
“Nothing that should concern you.”
Before Godric could respond , the voices in the hall rose in volume as Rowena and Helga entered , and made their way for the center of the room. Godric and Salazar walked over to meet them and the crowd backed away to give them space.
“Then the work is done?” Salazar asked.
Rowena and Helga shared a brief glance and a smile before Rowena confirmed, “The wards are in place, though the work is just beginning.”
Godric nodded and then addressed the crowd, who went silent at the sound of his voice.
“Tonight we have laid the last stone in place, and completed the essential work of warding the castle on a more permanent scale. In the next years we will enchant this castle and make it a monument to work that educated witches and wizards can do, given loyalty, courage, wisdom, and ambition. As a gift to you all and to future generations, as a special reminder of the first night that we spent in this castle, we cast the first of many enchantments that will grace this structure tonight. Please, look to the rafters above you.”
The four founders clasped hands and raised them to the sky, beginning as one to chant four different streams of Greek and Latin words which in time coalesced into a single English strand..
“…as the sky above which stands as limitless as those things that we wish for all generations. As limitless as wisdom, as courage, as perseverance, as loyalty. As boundless as compassion, as generosity, as love. So let it be. So let it stand, as sure as the place where we now stand bears the name that we give it here; a word that in time might ring with power and light. As one, we name it and set this spell and make this promise forever. Hogwarts!”
And the crowd in return cried, “Hogwarts!
Down through the years for many generations young witches and wizards would, floating on a lake reflecting a starlit sky, look up at that wonder and they would whisper, “Hogwarts.”
They each unknowingly strengthened the spell that had poured in a river of golden light from the founders’ joined hands that day, making the ceiling reflect the sky above. So too did they strengthen other enchantments and wards which had been sealed by the founders with that name. And to this day any who name that place Hogwarts make it stronger, and renew the promise of those four witches and wizards who came together to see it formed.
Salazar and Godric met in front of the gargoyle, with Salazar approaching just in time to see Godric advising young Molly Kirk to be polite to anyone she came across while wandering the castle.
“ …and perhaps you should look for Nick, as they call him. Sir Nicholas de Mimsy- Porpington is my house ghost. If you ask nicely, he might give you a tour.”
“Alright sir, I’ll go look for him,” Molly replied, wide-eyed in her eagerness to explore and make a new friend. She sped off soon after calling, “Sir Nicholas!”
“Who is that?” Salazar asked, startling Godric who’d failed to notice him.
“That’s Molly,” Godric explained, “when she was alive, she and her brother were the newest additions to my line. She was the first witch born in a few generations, but she died of the plague.”
“I can see the family resemblance. She has your recklessness,” Salazar teased.
“And you’ll delight in her all the more for it,” Godric chuckled in response. “Come on, we mustn’t keep our ladies waiting.”
With that, they greeted the gargoyle and made there way down to their common room. They were greeted with the sound of laughter as Rowena and Helga had moved to sit in front of the fire as they talked.
“She sounds wonderful! Just like Tessrina. Do you remember her?” Helga said grinning, “nearly drove you crazy with her fascination with house elf magic. She was sure that it was different from ours, even with just heresay as proof.”
Rowena laughed at the memory, “ She was right, and she was a joy to teach once I realized that her interest in house-elves didn’t get in the way of her learning about other things. She taught me to encourage their obsessions, and now Luna may show her housemates how to celebrate them.”
Rowena was the first to notice Godric and Salazar, and she stood and walked over to them.
“Then the work is done?” She asked.
“She’s lovely Rowena, and angry,” Salazar answered, “ the start is made, but the work is just beginning. All the same, I think I’ve another new start left in me tonight.”
“How wonderful that is,” Helga beamed, coming up to stand with them, “I think, I have one as well.”
Godric did not speak. He took Salazar and Helga’s hands in his own, and the others clasped their hands as they had all those years ago.
Around the castle, a mist began to form, a gold and silver shimmer in the air.
The words came from somewhere in Rowena that was deeper than the place where love dwelled.
“I have wronged and been hurt, but in time I shall be forgiven and I will forgive wrongs done to me. I do this in love, and shall do this forever, I pin that promise to the name we gave this school.”
The words echoed as Salazar, Helga, and Godric spoke them as well. They traveled on the mist and through the magic of Hogwarts that lingers in each of its students, and all those loyal to Hogwarts from the ghosts and portraits to the former heir of Hufflepuff, found themselves saying the words, and believing them. And the world was not healed overnight, and neither was the castle, but as the founders stood together and proclaimed once again the name “Hogwarts” a start was made and a great many things were better than they had been before the founders had reconciled.
Alone at last in the castle after all the masses had gone down to the encampment to celebrate, the founders stared. They did not look to sky this time but to each other.
Moments before Godric, in an act so impulsive that it should likely have been expected from him had kissed Salazar as though the world might end if he held back.
“I love you,” Godric blurted awkwardly, “ all of you. I don’t understand how but -”
And Rowena saw at last why Helga had wanted to have this conversation with everyone together.
“but you do, “ she interrupted, “ and I love you too, all of you. Godric, I don’t think we’ll have to choose.”
“If I may be allowed to declare my own intentions, “ Salazar added, “ I find myself in possession of similar affections. Are you proposing that-?
Helga interrupted him with a kiss before replying, “ that we all get what we know we need? That we four remain together for all of our lives, as we have in the last year, but knowing that share in love and without the influence of unresolved tensions of all sorts? It seems that that is what my old friend is implying.”
Salazar shifted so that he could reach Rowena for a kiss, and to take her hand in his. In the space between breaths they made a choice, a start. The next day would bring conversations and promises, the next months, the little conflicts that show that a relationship is real, but for that night, the four were together and blissfully happy, and for the first time, Hogwarts knew peace.
Chapter 6: Epilogue
Many years have passed and in a slightly altered version of the canon future, it's time for a sorting.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The great hall grew quiet as the deputy headmaster lead the new group of first years into the hall to stand anxiously before the sorting hat. It was a scene that the professors knew well, though with some changes from years before. Luna Lovegood, the chosen heir of Ravenclaw sat in a place of honor at the head of the Ravenclaw table, glancing over to send warm looks at her sons, both second year Hufflepuffs, before looking to the other chosen heirs, a kind hearted young fourth year student named Ian Blaise for Hufflepuff , and one of Neville’s sons, Ainsley, for Gryffindor.
The sorting hat was brought out soon after and without delay, he began his song.
“Diadems are fine for them
Who seek to rule the masses,
Pointy hats are just the cap,
For students with their classes.
Some people will go without,
For fear of mussing hair,
But even they
cherish the day
I took them in my care.
I sort through what’s between your ears,
To find where you belong,
Within our four great houses dear,
Each making Hogwarts strong.
For who can go sans bravery, defending what is true,
If you’re the type, none can deny, it’s Gryffindor for you!
And courage without loyalty? We’d never have it here.
Our steadfast, constant Hufflepuffs will see us through the years.
We want not for ambition if there’s Slytherins in sight,
Their cunning wiles best any trials, persistence is their might!
And last in order, not in need, a brilliant studious lot,
Our Ravenclaws clever as they are quick should never be forgot!
And still more news, I say to you on this night, cool and fair,
The time has come for me to point out Slytherin’s new Heir.
To change the world I’ve charged to her,
With those gifts she’ll possess
and long I’ve known her,
So I see that she can pass this test.
The man himself proclaims the name and then I shall confirm,
all you now waiting anxiously will then come take your turn.”
Salazar was resplendent as he floated down from the ceiling as though he’d come down from the stars.
“The Sorting hat chooses. We gave it that task and I do not usurp it now. Still, let it be known that the witch I call forth now has been a credit to my house and is everything that I would have sought in choosing a student to lead the rest. Would the sixth year Slytherin, Bryony Cassandra Dursley please come forward to be measured by the hat, with the knowledge that if judged worthy and if she would take on the task set before her, she shall be my heir until she chooses to pass on my gifts to the next chosen, or until the day that she dies.”
An overly thin girl with blond hair and bright eyes stood up, amazed, glancing over to her best friend and cousin, Albus-Severus Potter. He tilted his head towards the hat, mouthing, “Go!”. She walked up to the stool and the hat was placed upon her head. It considered for a long moment before announcing proudly, “ Bryony has taken up the task! The heir of Slytherin has been named!”
A brilliant light enveloped her and those seated towards the front saw a tension enter her body as the power was moved from the school into the substance of her. They watched as still glowing she stood and removed the hat whispering “Hogwarts” lovingly in the breathless tone of one overcome by a great emotion. She took a deep breath and as the glow faded, she spoke again.
“Thank you, and I will strive to be a credit to the house and name of Slytherin.”
The hall burst into applause and the students at the Slytherin table stood as Bryony moved to sit at the unclaimed chair at its head with Salazar taking an empty seat at the end if the head table.
The sorting went as planned after that, the students walking proudly, or tentatively, towards tables where they were greeted with warmth. The Headmistress spoke to the crowd about start of term business, including the addition of yet another of George Weasley’s inventions to the banned items list. Following the banquet all of the students were dismissed but Bryony stayed behind, as the sorting hat had requested.
Al and Lily Luna Potter ran over to her as the room began to clear. Al proclaimed, “so you couldn’t just be a Slytherin, no, you had to be the best Slytherin ever!” Lily hugged her, smiling.
Bryony laughed, “ Sorry. Think uncle Harry will still let me visit sometimes?”
“Are you kidding?” Lily replied. “ Bet he’ll finally get rid of James and adopt you.”
“I’ve got a home of my own, thanks. Mum’s all for it and Da’s getting less freaked out by everything all the time. He might come with me for a visit someday or at least we’ll be able to talk about quidditch without him interrupting with football scores. He even told Grandma Tuney that she had to leave when he caught her saying foul things about magic, and Harry, and Aunt Lily, during her visit last month.”
The other founders’ heirs moved towards her.
“Now run off, both of you, or I’ll tell the best Gryffindor ever how you freaked out at that horror movie yesterday.”
The Potter children ran off, waving to Luna and Ainsley as they went.
“Welcome to the club, Bryony,” Ainsley Longbottom declared. He’d been Gryffindor’s heir for around three years by then, had finished school the year before, and was already making a name for himself fighting for fairness in the Ministry.
“We’re glad to have you with us,” Ian Blaise added. “We’ve heard great things.”
Ian had been chosen the year before, shocking everyone, as no one could have expected a third year student. Nevertheless he was among the top performers in his house and was well known for his kindness and for the work he’d begun shortly after starting at Hogwarts to increase communication and interaction between the world’s magical schools.
Luna walked up and took Bryony’s hand.
“If you’ll come with us, there’s something we want to show you,” Luna told her. Bryony nodded her consent and the four of them walked down to the dungeons. As they walked, Luna began to explain, “ When I was in school, in the time before and during the second rise of Voldemort’s power, the Chamber of Secrets was opened and a Gryffindor girl of my year was taken in and nearly died. Many people were petrified, though no one came to permanent harm thanks to the work of one Ron Weasley and his friend Harry Potter.”
Ainsley sputtered, “ Wait! You’re telling it wrong! Harry-”
“Ainsley, I know that you’ve a particular sensitivity to wrackspurts but that mustn’t be allowed to affect your manners,” Luna said lightly, smiling at him till he laughed an apology. “In any case, following the battle that ended Voldemort’s rise the castle called the founders back, as more than ghosts but less than living, to reconcile and aid in the healing of the castle. It was then that the practice of chosing heirs began, and it was then that the chamber was restored to Slytherin’s original purpose. That purpose is the one that we now share with you.”
They came to a stop before the wall of one of the older, unused rooms in the dungeons.
“There’s another entrance upstairs,” Ian informed, “though we think you’re the only one who can use that one. You’ll open it just like you’ll open this one.”
“How?” Bryony asked, “Are there bricks to tap?”
“Each of us has our own way,” Ainsley, said unhelpfully. “I just run at it, but I don’t recommend trying that one yourself.”
Ian’s face flushed as he added, “ It’s rather solid for the rest of us, I’m afraid.”
Bryony smiled at that as she examined the wall, soon finding a brick with a small snake carved into it at eye level near the middle. She pulled out her wand and tapped it but nothing happened. She tapped it again for good measure and this time she heard a small voice say, “stop it.”
She turned to the others, “Did you hear that?”
None of them had.
Suddenly she realized. Uncle Harry had told her the story that Luna had told her, but he’d mentioned something that she’d left out.
Bryony focused on the snake and whispered, “ open.”
The others clapped as the wall began to shift and hallway was revealed. Ainsley took the lead, and she followed him up to the door, a giant stone image of the seal of Hogwarts.
“A founder seeks entrance to his home,” He said authoritatively. The seal split in four and revealed a wide, circular space. As Bryony stepped inside, she saw that the room was dominated by four statues set into the walls; their heads touching the high ceilings. They were of the founders and their feet rested on top of large square pedestals with doors set into them. Their clasped hands made pointed arches above bookshelves set into the walls that curved over so much that there must have been a spell holding in the books at the top. At the center of the room was a fire pit with several squashy looking couches and armchairs around it. Beyond it, where once had been a giant bust of Salazar was a ladder up to a place that Bryony could not see from the ground.
Bryony stared open mouthed at her surroundings. Surely this had not been the home of a giant serpent! It was too wonderful. In awe, she moved further into the room going first to room whose door was beneath Slytherin’s feet. As she approached it, she noticed a ladder propped up against the side.
She glanced back towards the others and Ian walked over and told her, “ As you’ve worked out, this is your room. The ladder leads to an area warded so that you’ll be able to apparate in. The password for the door is a little complicated, but until you set it, you should be able to open it the same way that you revealed the entrance. You still have a place in your dorm for now, but when you leave Hogwarts you will have this place to return to for as long as you are Slytherin’s heir.”
Bryony walked forward and rested her hand on the door before pulling back and turning to the taller ladder propped up against the side of the room . Pointing, she asked, “What’s up there?”
Ian smiled, “ The room is like a room of requirements, but it becomes a room that you require, rather than just supplying things. If we need a dining room the first person going up the ladder focuses on the need. There’s a surprise up there now, because there’s something of a tradition that we must carry out. Please, stop by your room first. There’s something you’ll want.”
“What is it?” Bryony asked, buy he was already walking towards his own door.
With a hiss of “open”, Bryony opened her door and stepped in to see a room far larger on the inside than she’d expected. The bed was draped in beautiful green hangings with a sumptuous looking spread. What looked to be a fully stocked desk was set against the wall. An object on the desk caught her eye. She walked over and picked it up.
It was a gold locket, an old lovely one, with an ‘s’ of green stones on the front. It sat beside a book that bore the title, Slytherin’s Locket: A self updating history of the locket and those who’ve carried it. Bryony picked it up and, after a moments struggle with the odd old clasp put it on. Closing her eyes and holding the locket in her hand, she felt something inside of her settle. It was something concrete and it grounded her in the awesome truth of what had happened. The first chosen heir of Slytherin was a muggle-born witch. It was Bryony and soon she would have to find a way to use her new gifts to change the world.
Stepping outside of her room again, she saw the other heirs waiting at the base of the ladder. Luna was wearing the diadem. Ainsley had Gryffindor’s sword in a scabbard at his side. Ian wore Hufflepuff’s cup, lashed to his belt with a soft looking strip of fabric. Luna led the way up the ladder, and the others followed till Bryony, at last climbed up the ladder and into the chamber at the top.
It was, she would later recall, like stepping into the sky. The ceiling was enchanted in the same way that the great hall was, and the floor was the same stone. It was warmed by a fire off to the side. Four cots lay in a row with low tables at their heads.
Salazar appeared by the fireplace and spoke to them.
“On the night when Hogwarts got it’s start all those years ago, we lay side by side beneath the stars and talked. We came together, in awe of what we’d begun to form,” he told them. “ Tomorrow and onwards a pair of ghosts may come and linger here at times, Helena Ravenclaw, and Molly, of Godric‘s line, but for tonight, be but four and one. Together you will shape our world. We entrust it to you.”
Turning to Bryony he said, “To you, in particular, I entrust my legacy. In life, I was a man of ambition. I saw in myself and others the ability to shape our world, to have power, to get what we wanted. I did not understand the power that is love. I couldn’t see how love might bind students to a school, or lovers to each other and to a place. The last of my line fell because that misunderstanding traveled down to him, through circumstances as out of his hands as the woman who gave him life and the place where he was raised. I think it is time that my line learned its lesson. Don’t you?”
“Tonight you spoke your first words in the snake’s language as fearlessly and as determined as the youngest of my two daughters, my Acantha, did; if later in life. I heard what your cousin called you; ‘the best Slytherin ever’. Indeed, I know that you may be. Please, in all of your doings remember those of my line who came before you. You are the first chosen, but I am the first of this school, and all of those between us go with you and will offer you wisdom and power if you seek it. We will speak again in time.”
Salazar strode back into the fire after that and there was a moment when all of the heirs just sat and tried to think of how to begin the conversation.
“Well he’s a rather intense fellow,” Ian said awkwardly and they all laughed even as Ainsley added, “ that’s nothing. You should see Godric in a mood.”
The conversation continued. The heirs began to form relationships that would, as the founders’ before them, flower into plans and adventures that would be the making of their world.
Far above them in the castle, the founders thrilled at the connections being formed and all things were forgiven and there was love between them. The castle had always known it’s best times in the midst of its becoming. Love was present in every instance of its growth and would continue to be moving forward. The castle seemed to glow in the moonlight that night, content that with the acceptance of a Slytherin heir the true work of acting out the promises made by the founders all those years ago. It was beginning.
The stones knew, the ghosts knew, the heirs knew, and the founders knew as they lay side by side together in the tower. Hogwarts was beginning and would be, over and over again, as those who loved it most would hope, forever.
Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks to the guest who gave me Kudos.