The Sugar Quill
Author: Robin (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Forget Me Not: A Story of Broken Promises  Chapter: Default
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"Together we will build and teach

Author’s Note: This is a one-shot, and can be considered part of the Unbroken Universe, although it is written within the boundaries of canon as of Book 5.  The verses at the beginning and end of the story are from the Sorting Hat’s New Song in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

 

Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Harry Potter belong to the wonderful and talented J.K. Rowling, whom I thank very much for the loan of her playground.  The plot, however, and anything you do not recognize, belongs to me.  I am not making any profit from the writing and display of this story, except for gratification of my ego and quenching my thirst to write. 

 

 

 

 

"Together we will build and teach!"
the four good friends decided
and never did they dream that they
might someday be divided,
for were there such friends anywhere
as Slytherin and Gryffindor?
Unless it was the second pair
of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?

So how could it have gone so wrong?
How could such friendships fail?

 



Forget Me Not

A Story of Broken Promises

 

 

 

28 May 995

 

There’s one thing that Muggles and wizards have in common.  In all those fairy tales and ancient stories, the hero is always victorious and wins the fair lady.

 

But that wasn’t true for us.  The good hero did not win, and neither of us won the lady.  Either of them, in fact.

 

There is no real such thing as good or evil.  There is only choice, and the gray area in between.  Though if one must talk in shades of gray, I reside, most certainly, in something black.  And green.  And silver.  Though Godric never really did like my choice in colors.

 

It’s odd, isn’t it, that I should only now acknowledge that he was once my friend?  But as the end comes, the war we fought for years has felt less and less important, and the decades before the battles come more often to mind.  The end no longer seems nearly so important as it once did, but perhaps that is only the victor talking.  The victor with his regrets.  And as for the end…

 

What an end it was.  A friendship of 75 years had been dying for over a decade, but only then, only when I drove that blade home into Godric’s heart, did everything end.  I’ll admit it.  I used to even say so with pride, flinging my head back and challenging the world to defy me.  I, Salazar Slytherin, slew the great and noble Godric Gryffindor, the hero of the Magical world.  And though I could have spared his life, I did not.  I chose to kill him, even though now there is not so much pride in my words.

 

They call me evil.  I no longer deny it.

 

But he was once my friend.

 

 

*                      *                      *

 

 

The lake wasn't a lake in those days.  Helga made it so, later, to cover the place where Godric had fallen.  She said it was fitting, and that he would like his soul to rest between the school and the outside world, defending Hogwarts—and her smile was so gentle—against all foes. 

 

Somehow, I don't even think she meant me.

 

 

24 September 989

 

            Footsteps crunched softly on the dry grass.  A spell could have silenced his movements, but there was no reason to.  Everyone knew why he was there.

            Ten years gone, and Salazar Slytherin had returned to Hogwarts.  He’d returned as he had once promised he would, to set the school to rights and defy Gryffindor’s stranglehold on Britain’s magical education.  But he had not returned alone.  Scores of others followed him, their wands ready and their eyes wide open—the witches and wizards with him knew that they came to battle.  They courted open war.  All of them understood the risks, and accepted that the price they might have to pay would be high.  Students all, they either were or had once been; seven years in the making, these witches and wizards were from the first four classes of Durmstrang Institute. 

            They came, however, because they loved him, and he came because he loved the school.  Hogwarts, no matter how much he tried to deny it, was still a part of him, just like Slytherin was a part of Hogwarts.  She was the oldest of the magical schools, and the finest; almost a decade of work had gone into forming the school before they had dared admit a single student.  He had struggled to achieve as much in only three years at Durmstrang, and had done so alone—where four had accomplished miracles together, one had failed.

            But he had not failed completely.  Salazar set his jaw.  He had trained them and shaped them, and these were good people: intelligent, strong, and uncorrupted by Muggle prejudices and fears.  Those men and women were the future of the Wizarding world, and it pained him to drag them along—but he had to.  No matter how powerful a wizard he was, even Salazar Slytherin could not take on the whole of Hogwarts.  There were seven classes and three houses to face—and they would not have let him go alone.  Even if he had wanted to try, his students would have prevented him.  And he was far too sensible to argue.  Though Salazar had no qualms with fighting for what he believed, he wasn’t enough of a fool to make himself a martyr.

            No, that would be Godric.

            Despite himself, Salazar had to smile.  No one else would dare stride across this open field to meet him, alone and hooded against the rising cold.  Spotting the cloaked figure did not make him pause, though; Slytherin knew his mission, and even a former friend would not be enough to sway him from his course.  Especially not Gryffindor.  He smiled bloodlessly.  Even though they hadn’t spoken in ten years, Godric should have been smart enough to know better—but if there was anyone with more bravery than sense, it was Godric Gryffindor.

            “My lord?”

            Salazar inclined his head slightly to the left but did not turn to face the speaker.  It was Marvolo, of course, his faithful deputy and sometime friend; no one else would have dared speak to him now.  The movement was enough to tell Marvolo that he was listening, despite the fact that Salazar refused to break stride.  He kept his eyes fastened on Gryffindor, and strode forward into the autumn morning, not at all feeling the chill on his bare face.  He had purpose, and that was enough.

            “They haven’t come out yet.”

            Fiona Marvolo’s voice was quiet; she knew better than to worry the others. She was more his apprentice than his student, after all, and knew him well.  But if there had been any one of his followers whom Salazar could have chosen to leave behind, it would have been Fiona.  That desire wasn’t a matter of power, though, and it wasn’t really a matter of practicality, either.  Salazar did like to tell himself that he wanted to save her in case he did fail (no matter how unlikely that was), so that Durmstrang could go on—but Fiona wouldn’t hear of that, and he couldn’t deny that leaving her was one of his less intelligent ideas.  Even if her tongue-lashing hadn’t been as loud as it had been scathing.

            “Do they think they can hide?” Fiona asked softly, pressing still further.  Her only fault, if there was one, was that she talked too much, and Salazar repressed the urge to sigh.  Instead, he kept his voice cold and confident.

            “They will come.”

            He expected a big battle, something epic and glorious and oh-so-typical of Godric.  There was no chance, of course, that his old friend would give the school up without a fight, and Salazar was prepared to take it from him. 

            Fiona fell silent, hearing the slight irritation in his voice.  Salazar was focused now, looking beyond Godric’s shadowy form and to Hogwarts herself.  The site of the castle could still take his breath away, even after so long—he could look at the high walls and remember crafting them, bit by bit and stone by stone.  His hands and his magic had shaped that castle, side by side with three good friends and working in unity that they would never have again.  She was the first stone castle in Britain, he knew, and once they had wondered what to name her, but finally the castle, the grounds, and the school had simply remained Hogwarts.  Salazar had been tempted towards something grander, but Helga’s common sense had won in the end.  Elegant simplicity, Rowena had termed the choice—though of course, she’d done it in Latin.

            Finally, he stopped, forcing the memories of better times out of his mind.  He needed his thoughts to be clear now, unsullied by friendship and sharpened by purpose.  There would be enough time to admire the castle later, when he again called Hogwarts home.  So he turned his gaze from Hogwarts to Gryffindor, and watched as she lowered her hood.

            She.

            It was Helga, not Godric, who had come out to meet him. Sweet and loyal Helga, who had always been the peacemaker amongst them.  She had always been so practical, and could not always understand how principle could overcome compromise, and how differences could drive them all apart.  But like Rowena, she’d sided with Godric in the end and made him an outcast.  Salazar felt his features tighten as she began to speak.

            “What are you doing, Salazar?” she asked from not thirty feet away.  Her voice was quiet, but he caught the slight condemnation in her undertone.  Behind him, his followers stirred, and he sneered.

            “I would think that even you could recognize that, Helga,” he replied acidly.

            He would not be dissuaded now.  Not even when her pretty face fell slightly, and he could see the pain his anger caused.  But she had cast him out with the others—or rather, when he was being honest, left him with no choice but to depart—so he had little concern for her feelings.  Helga’s inner strength, though, had never surprised him.

            “You mean war then,” she said flatly.

            He tried to smile coldly, but it came off as another sneer.  “Obviously.”

            “And you bring it to Hogwarts.”  The fury in her voice surprised him, and Salazar felt his eyebrows rise.  He started to reply, but Helga cut him off bitterly.  “Damn you.  You’ll destroy everything we’ve built, and for what?  Power?” she spat the word as if it was a curse.  Principle?

            “There are some things worth fighting for.”  Salazar felt his chin come up and his eyes sharpen.

            “Yes.  There are.”

            He’d rarely seen her angry, and never seen her in a fury—until now.  Salazar almost snapped back, answering with icy anger of his own, but he stopped himself in time.  If he wanted to restore Hogwarts to her former glory, he needed the others.  Godric would have to go—there was no question of that—but he couldn’t afford to make enemies of Helga and Rowena.  They loved the school, too, and that was where Helga’s wrath was born.  Not in hatred, but in love.  Salazar lowered his voice.

            “I’m not here to destroy Hogwarts, Helga,” he said earnestly.  “That’s not my intention at all—”

            “But you will.”  Her eyes flashed, and Salazar saw the shadow of a vision.  Out of them all, Rowena had been the most affected by Hogwarts’ Font of Power, but Helga had sometimes had visions, too.  A chill ran down his spine, and he wondered if that was what was happening now.  “You will.”

            “Fortunately, that is something we can prevent.”

            Salazar felt his followers stiffen as another voice spoke.  Its owner had appeared without warning, walking up from beside Helga, uncloaked and unmasked.  Instinctively, his body tensed and his eyes narrowed.  Anti-Apparation wards, Salazar thought immediately.  That’s the first thing I’ll see to.  He arched one eyebrow, though, as the other met his gaze.  Right after I deal with Godric, of course.

            “Can we now?” he challenged.  His oldest friend was deceptively calm, but Salazar knew what was going on behind those brown eyes.  Once, he’d known Godric as well as he knew himself, and knowing that meant he was well aware how this would end.  They both had too much pride to leave Hogwarts to the other as anything more than a smoking ruin.

            “Your quarrel is with me.”  There were lines on Godric’s face that he’d never seen before.  Ten years had changed them both.  “Not with Hogwarts.”

            Others were approaching from the direction of the castle, and Salazar noticed out of the corner of his eye as Rowena Apparated to Helga’s side.  The two witches stood together, between Godric and their students, yet staring at Salazar with identically bitter expressions.  But his gaze was for Godric only, and for the first time he noticed how tired the other looked.

            “You and I both know there’s only one way to end this,” his former best friend continued.  “And it won’t be with both of us living.  So let us end it without harming Hogwarts.”  An ironic smile creased Gryffindor’s face.  “Just you and me.  One last time.”

            They had faced the Dark wizard Ahriman together, just the two of them.  It felt like a lifetime ago when two brash young wizards had decided to avenge the deaths of so many friends and had faced an army together… And won.  Just the two of them.

            “Just you and I,” Salazar repeated to cover his surprise, letting sarcasm creep into his voice.  He had anticipated something more epic.  “How very…practical of you.  I had expected a full-fledged cavalry charge accompanied by the glorious Godric Gryffindor vanquishing all my evil from the earth.”

            The smile vanished from Godric’s face.  “You’re not evil, Salazar.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t stop you.”

            “Come try, then.”  With a quick motion, Salazar shook free of his cloak, forcing a smile.  Marvolo caught the cloak, as he’d expected her to, but Godric’s face showed a shadow of surprise.  Salazar arched an eyebrow.  “Unless you have reason to wait?”

            “No.  I don’t.”

            One of the students, a dark haired boy, stepped forward to retrieve Godric’s cloak in turn.  Salazar watched Godric’s lips move, and knew he was thanking the teen, but could not hear what was said.  Rowena, however, made a sharp motion to catch Godric’s eye—and Salazar saw his opponent shake his head ever so slightly. 

            Sudden anger rose in him from Ravenclaw’s display of loyalty, and Salazar snapped, “I trust this will be just you and I, Godric?  With no interference?”

            He saw Godric’s eyes widen—he was probably the first person to ever question a Gryffindor’s honor—but it was Rowena’s furious reply that snapped his head around.

            “I’ll damn you to hell, Salazar, but I won’t fight you,” she snarled.  “You’re an arrogant fool, but you’re still my friend.”

            “We are here for Hogwarts,” Helga finished for her, colder than Salazar had ever thought sweet Hufflepuff could be.  “To make sure that Hogwarts survives the both of you.”

            “Let’s get this over with, Salazar,” Godric intervened quietly.  His eyes had lost their old vitality, and held the sadness that Slytherin would have felt if he’d paused to let himself.  Today everything would end.

            “Yes.”

            In one motion, the two wizards drew their wands, assuming the identical dueling stances they had always used—the irony of the mirror image was not lost on Salazar.  As he shifted his left leg back, he felt his sword bang lightly against his left hip.  It was an archaic weapon, and used almost exclusively by Muggles now, but it was part of Wizarding heritage, too, and had always been precious to him.  The blade was a twin to the one that Godric wore, save for the emeralds that adorned its hilt.  The swords had been gifts so long ago, from Rowena and Helga, nearly identical blades for men who had been best friends.

            It was almost impossible to guess who had cast the first curse; one moment there was silence, and the next the sky had exploded into color.  Slytherin and Gryffindor had known one another for so long that each could predict what the other would do as easily as they could say their own names.  Accordingly, both opened with the other’s preferred attack; Godric had chosen the subtle Confundus Charm, while Salazar had chosen the brute force approach of a Disarming Charm.  Neither, of course, worked, but they were just the first thrust in a subtle feint-and-parry that rivaled the best of fencing duels.

            Their weapons, however, were far more fatal than swords could ever be.  After the first few blocked blows, Salazar discarded the fast approach, knowing that it would never work.  He had hoped, of course, to make this a short duel, but now knew that was impossible.  They knew one another far too well.

            Earth and fire, power and wind—they tossed the elements back and forth, working magic at its deepest and deadliest.  For years they had practiced dueling together, but this was different from the past—never before had both meant to murder.  Salazar blocked an Imperius Curse, knowing that it was meant to be no more than a distraction, but was still almost swept off his feet by the wave of power that came in its wake.  On instinct, he whipped his wand forward, casting the one spell that had never failed to disable an opponent.

            Serpensortia!”

            But Godric had helped him to develop that spell and knew full well that only a parselmouth could control the hissing cobra.  So Gryffindor sidestepped neatly, avoiding the fangs by mere inches, and very calmly blasted the snake into smithereens.  For a moment, then, their eyes met, and their ancient brotherhood reawakened.  Godric arched an innocent eyebrow, and Salazar offered an apologetic shrug in return.

            “I had to try.”

            “Of course.”

            They cast Stunners at the same moment, perhaps each hoping, however briefly, that it didn’t have to end that way—and both blocked the spells partially, staggering as identical shocks made it through depleted shields.  Salazar shook himself, watching Godric do the same, and then launched back into the duel.  The dual failure had made the truth inescapable.  He understood.  Godric understood.  It wasn’t anything personal, but one of them had to die.

            Conteriaco!” Godric flew through the air, caught by surprise, but before he’d even landed, the other had thrown a choking spell in Salazar’s direction. 

Suffocoum!”  He blocked it, but still found himself short of breath.  Anger tightened his grip on his wand as Godric rolled to his feet.

            “Imperio!”

Rumperis!”  Both failed.

            Capitiscindo!”

            Incendio!”

            The hem of his robes was on fire.  Reducto!”

            Godric staggered and almost fell.  He’d finally gotten through. 

            Alienaris!”

            Diffino!”  But Godric was too fast.  Though clearly in pain, he’d cast the Splitting Spell with inhuman speed, and Salazar didn’t even have time to block it.  He could only dodge, and hardly managed to do so at all—a huge section of his robes cut away from his body and floated harmlessly to the ground, still smoldering and smoking.  Fortunately, Godric’s spell had eliminated Salazar’s other pressing problem—his robes no longer had a hem, so the fire was certainly not an issue.

            Obliviate!”

            Oh, Godric had gotten sneaky.  Salazar actually grinned as he blocked the curse.  “Impedimenta!”

            “Conjunctivitis!”

Everbero!”  The moment he cast the spell, he knew that it would hit.  Godric was just a tad slow to block—and then it did.  A surge of triumph threatened to rise within him, but Salazar knew that Godric had killed better wizards than he simply because they grew overconfident.  But the Strike Spell had sent Godric flying backwards, and just as he hit the ground—“Expelliarmus!”

            A wand he knew very well, thirteen inches, yew, and a dragon’s heartstring core, soared through the air, aiming perfectly for his outstretched left hand.  Relief widened his once-mocking smile, and Salazar suddenly realized that it didn’t have to end in death.  He was sure that, in time, Godric could come around—

            “No!” A shadow moved to his left, and a female voice cried out even as the Godric’s wand sped towards his hand.  It was inches away when a black mass crashed into his left side, and Salazar grunted when another body landed on top of his own.  Desperately, he tried to shove her away, sure that it was Helga or Rowena in a fit of rage, but the witch was on top of his left arm, and he couldn’t get loose—

            His right arm was stuck beneath his body, as was his wand.  So much for just the two of us!  Anger fueled his magic, and Salazar forced his right arm out and around, missing the fact that his wand felt wrong.  Conteriaco!”

            The witch flew into the air with a screech, twisting like a children’s toy and crashing down to the ground with a sickening snap.  He heard Rowena howl and knew that it had to be Helga, but then he heard Hufflepuff scream his name even as his wand came up against Godric.

            “Salazar, no!”

            Wandless, Godric was rushing to the witch’s side—and Salazar realized with shock that she was just a girl.  A student.

            Rowena and Helga spirited towards Salazar’s unintentional victim even as Godric knelt by her side.  Mechanically, Salazar let his wooden legs carry him towards his former friends.  He hadn’t meant for this to happen—but what had she been doing?  Had the girl really thought that he would kill an unarmed opponent?  Did she think that

            “Her arm is broken,” Rowena said quietly.  Fortunately, the girl was unconscious, but Salazar felt the burning eyes of all the Hogwarts students upon his back.  He couldn’t afford to show weakness with all of them watching, so hid his relief behind a sneer.

            “Foolish girl,” he snarled, letting his relief bleed into anger and glaring at Godric.  “What kind of teacher encourages his students to become heroes?

            Helga’s head snapped around and her blue eyes burned furiously, though her voice was dangerously sad.  “She was a Slytherin, Salazar…one of your own.  Surprises you, doesn’t it, that we kept the four houses?  But Hogwarts is Hogwarts, and is more than just the sum of her parts.”

            “I—” Salazar blinked, but wasn’t given time to consider the implications before Godric began to rise, his voice tired and old. 

            “Take her back to the castle, Rowena.”

            Salazar arched an eyebrow as she began to comply.  “I think you might want to look at who is holding their wand, Godric.”

            “So might you.”  His old friend snorted in wry amusement, and alarms screeched in Salazar’s head as he saw Godric’s wrist twitch in a very familiar manner.  Immediately, the discarded wand leapt into its owner’s hand, and even as he hurriedly lifted his own wand, Salazar again felt the manifest wrongness in his wand.  Almost afraid to do so, he glanced down.

            His wand had snapped in two.

            Slowly, Salazar lifted his eyes.  Godric’s wand was held out, steady and strong, and trained on him unerringly.  It could end, in that moment, and both knew that it should.  Their eyes met, and Godric lowered his wand.  After a long moment, he handed it to Helga, who looked on with unsurprised resignation.  Even before his friend spoke, he knew what the words would be.

            “Draw your sword, Salazar,” Godric said gruffly.  “Let’s end this.”

Salazar shrugged and threw his useless wand aside, smiling ruefully.  “Now, this, I could have expected,” he replied.  “Much more like you…noble and stupid and brave.”

Godric grinned.  “One of the three, at least.”

“Fool,” Salazar cursed, but Godric continued to smile.

”Always.”

And they drew blades.

Godric had always been the better swordsman of the two, lightning quick and completely unafraid.  Salazar, on the other hand, was cool and deliberate; he calculated before making every move.  Godric fenced with an instinct that had been born during decades of training, but Salazar had never been able to take that risk.  He simply wasn’t the natural swordsman that his opponent always had been.  He had to think.

            Predictably, Godric came at him impossibly fast.  Recognizing the move, Salazar sidestepped and parried, riposting with a thrust towards Godric’s hands, always his weakest spot.  But the resulting parry carried his blade well clear of its target, and he had to block a high blow before resuming the attack.  They had not fenced in over a decade, but little enough had changed; the movements still flowed like water, and the challenge could have set his heart racing even if the stakes hadn’t been so high.  Moments passed, and Salazar lost himself in the steady cut and thrust of the match, watching and listening and predicting.  Almost immediately, Godric stepped forward, seeking to force him back, but Salazar refused to yield.  Godric’s face was hard and set; all joking was gone, and their blades clashed, clanging and shining in the dim autumn light.

            Out of the corner of his eye, Salazar noticed that Rowena hadn’t left after all.  She stood side by side with Helga, and the two witches watched in silence, their faces glum and eyes sad.

Parry.  Cut.  Thrust.  Sidestep.  Lunge.  He almost lost his hand, but whipped his blade away just in time.  It was a deadly dance, and Godric’s left arm was bleeding; he’d flung it in the way of a slash that would have cut his throat open from ear to ear.  Salazar twisted to the left, hurriedly interposing his blade between his body and death, but wasn’t quite fast enough.  The sharp kiss of pain exploded along his left leg as Godric got his first cut in, and Salazar jumped back before more damage could be done.  Godric followed him, leaning in and pressing the offensive—

            There.  Salazar saw the opening even as it disappeared, the single weakness in Godric’s guard.  But their blades continued flashing as the sun slipped fully behind a cloud, and even Salazar’s sharply focused mind realized how much time had passed.  Sweat poured down his face, and Godric was breathing hard and fast.  They were tiring quickly now, for neither wizard was as young as they had once been, and this wasn’t the method in which their kind usually fought.  Perhaps in youth they had fenced for sport, but now the duel depended fully upon experience and skill.  Both knew it could not last much longer; at eighty-three and eighty-four, they had to end soon.

            Parry.  Dance.  Ignore the leaden pain in the legs.  His limbs were growing impossibly heavy, and Godric was beginning to slow.  They were too old for this foolishness, but both were too stubborn to stop.  Salazar gritted his teeth and ignored the stinging pain as salty sweat poured into his wounds.  He was focused.  He was cool.  Another man, even one half his age, would never have lasted so long.

            Again.  As Godric tired, he was slowing, and the milliseconds between his attack and his reset were lengthening.  Of course, Salazar had slowed just as much, but he was certain that his defense had not weakened.  Leave it to Godric to continue to take chances and use the advanced moves—And again.  Decision crystallized before him.

            One move could end this.  Such a quick conclusion would require a foolish and risky attack that was far more fitted to heroic Gryffindor than calculating Slytherin—but he saw the possibility and recognized that for what it was.  Chance.  Salazar realized that the effort could fail, he knew, and might very well do so.  The odds of success were only around fifty percent, but somehow that was fitting.  He smiled grimly.  Let the fates decide it, then.  He knew what he had to do.  Let this end.

            For a moment, he considered Helga and Rowena, and thought of their pain.  Neither deserved to be caught in this feud, but both would forever be changed by the outcome.  Then he thought of Godric, the one friend he’d dared call brother—oh, they were different, so different, but in those differences laid their strength.  Once, they would have died to save each other.  Now only one could survive.

            He struck.

            Perhaps destiny had intervened; Godric tripped right at that moment.  Salazar’s attack combined with his opponent’s momentum to send them crashing together, and their bodies collided with a thump.  But neither made a sound.  Only the sharp snap of a breaking blade split the cool air, and a pregnant hush fell on both sides of spectators.  For Salazar, then, the world seemed to move in slow motion.  He heard Rowena cry out, and felt his numb fingers release the blood soaked hilt of his sword.  There was blood everywhere—in his eyes, on his arms, on his face.  His body was suddenly made of lead, and he couldn’t force his limbs to move.  As his sword hit the ground, they unbalanced and Godric’s body crashed down on top of him.

            Salazar landed on his knees, blinking.  He was cold, suddenly, and shivered, hardly hearing the student’s cries from behind his back.  Rowena and Helga rushed forward, but Salazar felt like he was moving underwater as he turned his head.

            Godric lay beside him, his face composed and still.  He looked so peaceful now, with none of the cares and worries of time weighing upon him.  His brown eyes were open, but they held no blame, and Salazar imagined that those were the same innocent and eager eyes of the man who had once been his friend.  Godric’s ruby hilted sword lay beside him, still gleaming, beautiful and whole, as unbreakable and unmarred as Helga had long ago charmed it to be.  But blood covered Godric’s chest, ruining the ageless memory of Salazar’s best friend.  A splintered and broken blade glittered from where it had been thrust—straight through the heart.

            The heart of a lion.

            Slowly, Salazar stood, forcing his legs to support his weight.  Helga and Rowena had stopped just an arm’s distance away, but they were as frozen as he, staring at Godric’s dead body.  The hilt of Salazar’s broken sword lay at Rowena’s feet, but she made no move to touch it.

            “Are you all right?” Helga asked in the silence, her voice choked with tears.

            “Yes.”  He felt strangely empty.  There was none of the relief that he’d expected to feel, only vague numbness.  He was covered in blood, but it was Godric’s blood.

            How did we come to this?  For a moment, he felt the raging loss of his best friend, and Salazar was tempted to term Godric’s death an involuntary suicide.  Then he shuddered.  No.  The regret faded immediately under a wave of cold reality.  We both chose our paths.  The fault, if there is any, is mine.  But he would keep his head high.  Salazar Slytherin had won.  Hogwarts was his.

            After a moment, he stepped forward and retrieved Godric’s famous sword.  It was bloodied but unbroken, and he could see the name Gryffindor gleaming on the blade.  For just a second, he was tempted to keep the sword, but instead he turned and faced his former colleagues. 

            “Take it.    He was pleased with how steady his voice sounded.  “He would want you to have it.”

            Tears streaming down her cheeks, Helga accepted the Gryffindor sword, just as Rowena would have taken his if their roles had been reversed.  But the ladies were silent, and they stared at him, awaiting his next move.  To the victor goes the spoils, he thought coldly, feeling triumph rise within him.  Hogwarts is mine!  One look at Godric’s dead body, though, killed his sense of victory, and the Hogwarts students were approaching.  Their steps were cautious and frightened, nothing like the jubilant strides of his own advancing students. 

            But they were his students, now.  Or most of were them, anyway.  Salazar cleared his throat and turned to face them.

            “Hogwarts will be entering a new age,” he told them coldly.  “Those of you who wish to stay—and are acceptable candidates—may do so.  But today ends the weakness of Godric Gryffindor.  Together we shall realize Hogwarts’ true greatness, and become a symbol of purity and power in the Wizarding world.”

           

 

*                      *                      *

 

 

They won, in the end, of course.  Fair Rowena and sweet Helga proved to be more than my match, and little by little, they whittled down my defenses until I acquiesced.  Muggleborns and Half-bloods are again allowed at Hogwarts, and the school is a shining beacon of equality and second chances.  Not, perhaps, what I intended, but all the same, there is greatness in Hogwarts.  And after all, there is always Durmstrang, to carry on my legacy.  Hogwarts, as Rowena and Helga keep reminding me, is the sum of all of us.  She is not just mine to shape, this beautiful and mystifying school that harbors all of our secrets, even from one another.

 

In these happier and bittersweet days, I have almost regretted the Chamber…but I think, perhaps, that it will be safe enough.  None of my sons have exhibited the skill, and nor has my daughter.  Best leave it, then, without telling the others what I have done.  They would never understand.  Or at least Rowena and Helga would not.  I think, though, that Godric would.  He always did.

 

Leaving Hogwarts was perhaps the second most important moment of my life.  Founding it, of course, was the first.  But if leaving the school was the second, it only claims that honor because my departure—our disagreement—forced Godric and I onto a path for which that neither of us could predict the destination.  My leaving predated his death, and possibly, quite probably, caused it. 

 

So I leave again.  Now, for the last time, and I seek a Veil that few know exists.  Just one step will bring my end, and after four years again at Hogwarts, it is time.  I go to join Godric, and perhaps, if I can scrape up enough humility, to ask his forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
the warning history shows,
for our Hogwarts is in danger
from external, deadly foes
and we must unite inside her
or we'll crumble from within.

//
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