The Sugar Quill
Author: Ciircee (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Last Thing  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

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 door.

"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 man.

"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 my door?"

"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 died."

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 your wrongs?"

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 waved away. 

"The time when 'I'm sorry' would have changed things is long past, Godric," Salazar said.  "Long past.  What are you to use?" 

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 to work.

"The Chamber is real, then?"  Godric heard the sharpness in his voice and wondered at the absence of fury.  "And the monster?"

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. 

Chcę 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.

 

//
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