Disclaimer: JKR owns the everything. Arabella created the relationships
between the Founders in her fabulous 'Before the Beginning' and I am
eternally grateful to her for such a wonderful story.
Notes: See the bottom.
Dedication: To the Sugar Quill for being that sort of place and to
Arabella for doing me a favor and for the wonderful comments.
He'd journeyed for long, long days; a tiring thing for an old body
no matter how young the spirit. Godric Gryffindor leaned heavily
against the fence stile and willed himself to move the last, meager
yards to the door of the towering stone manor.
"Can I help you, sir?" a thick Slavic accent broke his concentration
and Godric looked up into a broad, pale face with a distinctive Roman
nose. Slimmer, older, and more handsome and it would have been
Salazar's; this would be the son Rowena had mentioned.
Godric nodded, "You can, I think. I'm looking for Salazar Slytherin."
If this surprised the young man, he didn't show it. "You
are in luck," he said, "my grandfather is home today."
Grandfather? Godric chuckled to himself. Yes, he rather should
have thought so; his own daughter had children of her own so why would
Salazar's son be any different?
"Luck," he sighed softly, following, "would be a welcomed
change of pace."
Salazar's grandson had manners, Godric noted; the young man slung his
pack to his other shoulder and offered him a guiding arm, which he refused.
He'd come all this way on his own two feet, had always stood on his
own, and he would not lean now, even though he had come to beg a favor.
"Grandfather, there is a man who has come to see you," the
young man eyed him speculatively and finally held out a hand for his
cloak. Godric kept it; Spring in this country was cold and damp and
the castle felt of it. "Father has stayed in the village
to speak with Boleslaw regarding the new Congress of Gniezno."
The young man continued to speak, bowing Godric into a chair near the
"Chrobry may do as he wishes," Salazar's voice was closer
now and Godric strained his failing eyes, peering down the dim corridor.
"It won't matter once this place is made Unplottable. Omar
should not waste his time trying to speak sense to him."
The passage of one hundred and fifty years had been as unkind to Salazar
Slytherin as they had been to him, Godric mused. Cane in hand,
Salazar looked every minute of his nearly two hundred years. "Godric."
He all but spat the name and Godric could understand the impulse.
"Salazar," he returned coolly.
The young man said something in sudden Polish that Godric couldn't
understand and gestured curtly at the door behind them. Salazar
shook his head slowly, holding Godric's eyes. "No, Bardo,
I'll attend to this. As I said, it will not matter in a year's
time." He turned and Godric bit back a sharp comment about
being 'attended to' and followed him through a cavernous room of wood
and stone and beyond to a smaller room that still managed to feel large
and imposing. Here, Salazar motioned for him to sit.
Silence stretched between them, heavy and taut as Salazar watched him.
It had been one thing to plan this journey and know that he would have
to not only speak to Salazar again but to make a request; it was another
thing entirely to be faced with the moment of truth. "I thought
that the language here in the Vistula would be different," Godric
heard himself say at length. "But it reminds me of Helga's
accent when she's spitting mad." He winced internally as
soon as the words were out. They were true, certainly, but there
was no reason at all to have said anything so personal...not to this
"Do not start down that path, Godric Gryffindor. Not with
me." Salazar's voice carried a warning and the power of nearly
two centuries of magic. "You are here because you have arrived
with no warning and my grandson found you collapsed against our fence.
If you want a word with me, make it civil."
"You haven't changed, Salazar."
"Nor have you. If that is all..." Godric glowered as
Salazar gestured to the door. The man had a knack for taking the
upper hand, he always had.
Godric consciously relaxed his clenched fists and spoke. "I've
come in regards to the school," he said and had the pleasure of
watching Salazar's eyes widen.
"My school has nothing to do with yours, Headmaster Gryffindor,"
Salazar's eyes narrowed. "Nor have I anything to do with
your school; you have made a long trip for nothing."
Not for nothing; Godric had made a vow to himself. He would honor
the pact that had founded Hogwarts. He wouldn't leave here empty
handed. "Don't pretend, Salazar," he leaned forward
across the massive desk. "Hogwarts is a part of you--you
built it with your magic, with your own two hands. You woke the
storms in her ceilings. Don't pretend you don't care."
Salazar leaned back and steepled his fingers together. "Do
not, Godric, attempt to use my involvement at Hogwarts as an emotional
stick-and-carrot. So now, since you have tried, I must wonder
what it is you need from me. You wanted to never see my face again
nor ever to hear my name and the name of the school within the same
sentence and yet...here you are, trying to lead me by the nose."
Godric gritted his teeth as one pale hand swept to indicate the room,
the castle, the country. "What has brought you to
"Hogwarts." And only Hogwarts, he thought fiercely.
He hadn't been wrong all those years ago. Salazar's values had
no place in their school. Godric owed him no apology; Rowena and
Helga had stood by his decision to challenge Salazar despite their disapproval
of his method.
"I see," Salazar pressed his fingers together and eyed him.
Godric had once withstood that stare daily and this was no different.
"You are aware, are you not, that I have little of my family's
money left? What little there is belongs to Durmstrang."
For the first time in years, the memory of Salazar's money didn't rankle
him. "Did you need..." Godric trailed off, mildly appalled
with himself. Salazar looked shocked and Godric's lips twitched
into a small smile; it had never been a common look for the other man.
"It would only be fair, to reimburse you for some of your expense."
And once, long ago, they had been friends of a sort.
"There is no need. Durmstrang is mine and I have provided
for it." It could have been mere imagination, but Salazar's eyes
had softened. "Regarding Hogwarts?" he asked and Godric felt
the ease of the past moment falter.
He swept his hat from his head, fingers crushing the brim. "Regarding
Hogwarts..." he sighed. "I'm dying."
Magic flared from the wand Salazar produced. "Exputescere,"
he murmured. "I'm sorry for you."
Godric shrugged. "The rot will have to race old-age to get
me," he grinned suddenly and quickly.
"Of course," Salazar pocketed his wand with a slight tilt
of his head that had always meant he was amused. "I assume
you are not seeking a new Headmaster."
The very idea made Godric laugh and because he knew it would get under
Salazar skin, he did it. "No, most certainly not."
He wiped at his eyes with the tip of his cap and sighed. "But
you're not far wrong, either; I'm seeking your mind, Salazar Slytherin."
He laid his cap on the desk between them, keeping one hand on it.
"It'll be a Thinking Cap."
"A Thinking Cap?"
"I've been realizing, as of late, that we won't live forever,"
an idea that had seemed ludicrous in his youth. "What happens
to Hogwarts when we're gone? How are the students to be sorted
into the correct Houses?" he sighed and ran his hand over the cap.
"I suppose that I used to believe my children would be the ones
to decide but that plan seems...farfetched."
Salazar raised one curious eyebrow. "You admit that your
own offspring are not suited to take your place? I'm surprised."
Obviously, Godric thought and shook his head with a wry smile.
"My daughter," he muttered, "has gone into business
with goblins. Banking, to be exact."
"You have my sympathies regarding your child's wise choice,"
Salazar said dryly.
Godric slanted him a narrow look. "I suppose you should
have mine, as your child is talking to a Muggle politician."
He waved his hand as Salazar's face took on a pinched look. "No,
no, that's...never mind the children or their choices. The important
thing is the Thinking Cap."
"You already have permission from...the others?" Salazar's
question forced Godric to blink rapidly to hold off the emotions that
threatened to overwhelm him.
"Rowena," he swallowed hard, "she agreed to put aspects
of herself into the cap when she was...for our son. He didn't
live many days past her, but I couldn't, couldn't undo the spell.
I...it was kept in my office until just this past autumn when Helga
It was only as the other man sat suddenly forward, one hand coming
to rest on the cap, that Godric realized he hadn't known. "Helga..."
"Gave me the idea. I...she was in her seat by the windows
with this in her lap. She'd left me a note about wanting to leave
more of a legacy for her House, since she was leaving no children.
That was when I thought of the Thinking Cap." He looked up
at the only other living being who knew what it was to found Hogwarts.
"I'm not ready to leave Hogwarts, Salazar. I don't think
you ever left. Put your ideals into the hat. Keep Slytherin
House as you envisioned it."
"Eighty-six years ago you couldn't have said those words if your
life had depended upon them," Salazar's voice was a grating glide
of sound to Godric's ears. "Now you're eager to owe up to
Godric reached for the control of his temper with shaking hands.
"No, Salazar, I wasn't wrong. But Slytherin is yours and
ambition is not a sin." When there was no reply he sighed
in defeat. "I have made the trip for nothing. I'll
leave instructions for the Sorting of the students." He stood
and reached for the hat that contained the essence of the woman he had
loved and the woman who had been a dear friend. "Niceties
dictate that I thank you for your time, but I believe we're beyond that,"
he said gruffly.
Salazar's hand on the hat stopped him. "You've still a quick
temper, I see." He picked up the cap and Godric watched him
examine it. "I don't have your skill with Charms; I'm not
certain of the process. I've heard it appears simple?"
the last was a question and Godric nodded.
"The initial spell is already in place; put it on and it does
the rest. You'll need something to represent you, something the
hat can keep."
He nodded slightly, focused on what Godric was already calling the
Sorting Hat. "May I ask...?" Salazar murmured, turning
the hat in his hands.
"Rowena had been keeping a journal about the beginnings of Hogwarts;
she'd meant to have it published and make it a text book but she was...there
wasn't time to find something else." He paused, the loss of his
first wife and child at what should have been such a happy time still
took his breath away. Salazar was silent and Godric was grateful
to him for it. "Helga," he continued quietly, "according
to her note, chose a sugar quill."
Salazar laughed, a rough, harsh sound. "Of course she would
have chosen something like that."
A sharp retort rose up on Godric's tongue and was checked only by the
haunted look in the other man's eyes. What had Rowena once told
him about Helga and Salazar...something about gated fortresses...He
opened his mouth to say something comforting, or perhaps to apologize
for the manner in which he'd told of Helga's death, only to have it
"The time when 'I'm sorry' would have changed things is long past,
Godric," Salazar said. "Long past. What are you
Godric could deal with the cool, polite tones. "This,"
he patted the gleaming silver sword at his waist. "You'll
never know when you might need a weapon aside from goodwill and cleverness."
The look Salazar gave him was so familiar that Godric felt another laugh
well up. Hadn't they gone through this before? Hadn't Hogwarts
been built amidst such as this? "And you; what will you add?"
he asked as Salazar slipped the cap onto his head.
"A secret," Salazar murmured, eyes glazing as the spell began
"The Chamber is real, then?" Godric heard the sharpness
in his voice and wondered at the absence of fury. "And the
Salazar's eyes focused briefly, annoyed. "A secret,"
he said ominously, "is not meant to be told." Godric's
shock almost prevented him from hearing the next words, so quiet they
were. "A secret to be righted..."
It didn't ease the constriction in his chest, but it was something.
He'd have to do his best to erase the legend that spread among the students
and hope that Salazar's secret remained safe within the Sorting Hat.
"Now, for me." He said, taking the cap from Salazar's
hands. He placed one hand on his sword and began the spell that
would close the Thinking Cap from all others who might wish to add themselves;
the slice of pain that raced up his arms and into his chest brought
him to his knees and he knew that closing the spell would take all he
had. He fought to hold on to the world, to finish. It would
take everything, but it was all right. Salazar bent over him,
wand in hand, calling for his children and grandchildren. "It's
all right, it's for Hogwarts." Godric heard himself speak,
but his voice was muffled and indistinct. "The Sorting Hat...for
Hogwarts." He had to make him understand, he had to hold
on until he knew that Sorting Hat was finished, ready.
"My eldest grandson is to take a job in England," Salazar
said softly, and Godric saw that he had the Sorting Hat in his hands
now. "Hogwarts will be ready for the next term, I assure
you. The new students shall be Sorted by us, have no fear."
Godric sighed, smiled, and let go of the world.
* * *
Author's Note: This story wrote itself after a very peculiar
dream in which the Sorting Hat was crying. Durmstrang's exact
location is never given and while it could, indeed, be located in Bulgaria
I have placed it near the mountains in the south of Poland. There
are several bits of history in this story and if you are at all interested
I can provide you with a link that deals with the place my Grandfather
left, missed, returned to, and was forced from due to poor economic
conditions. He always, my father has said, longed to return; so
you'll have to forgive my sentimentality.
czynić to, o co mnie prosisz
w sposób, który wskażesz
tak długo, jak zechcesz
dlatego, że o to prosisz
I want to do what you ask of me;
in the way you ask,
for as long as you ask,
because you ask it.