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A Birthright Denied by Pookha
Chapter 1: A Birthright Denied
Godric Apparated just outside a palisade. That a wooden palisade stood tall and unrotted amongst the stinking swamp was a credit to Salazar’s skills. Godric pulled his wand, muttered an incantation, and began to walk through the fetid water. He paused briefly to dry out his boots and cast an Impervious charm on them. Every so often as he traversed the outside of the palisade, he would lay his wand on his hand and then walk the direction the tip pointed.
As he came around a corner, he saw a gate partially hidden behind a bramble. He consulted his wand once more; it pointed unerringly at the gate. He approached the gate, cautiously avoiding the tendrils of the venomous Tentacula hidden in the bramble. He could just make out an ugly, squat tower beyond the gate, resting behind a grove of twisted and stunted willows that shook in the slight breeze.
He examined the gate, looking for some way to open it. Finally, he shouted, “Salazar, is this how you treat weary travellers now?”
A dry, raspy voice answered in vulgar Latin from behind the gate. “My master wishes no interruptions. Flee now and you won’t be killed.”
Godric stood straight and proud, flourished his wand and commanded. “I demand you open the gate. I have news for Salazar; news that doesn’t need to be heard by a mere servant.”
The gate slowly opened inward on hidden hinges, revealing a wyrm. Its stunted, vestigial legs didn’t touch the ground as it slithered toward Godric. Godric covered his face with his free hand, trying to cover its musty, serpent smell. It came closer to Godric, its tongue flicking, testing his scent.
“Foolish man, my master keeps me hungry.” It slid closer, coiling to strike, swaying hypnotisingly. “You should have fled.” It opened its fanged mouth as if to speak again, then it lunged suddenly.
A ruby and silver flash blurred as Godric’s sword appeared in his hand. Snicker-snack went the sword as he slashed at the serpent. Godric dodged back as the wyrm’s severed head went one way, while its body continued its lunge.
He continued down the path into a small courtyard, treading carefully only where he saw the single track of the wyrm’s progress. The path wended its way between the stunted willows. Godric kept his sword in one hand and his wand in his other. He shouted again, “Salazar! I need to talk to you!” Only empty echoes from the tower’s stones answered.
He stepped forward onto the path between the willows. Willow branches slipped back in the breeze and then snapped forward in attack. Puffs of white blew through the air as the willows’ catkins burst and its seed-pods opened.
Godric leapt back, out of the range of the slamming branches. His face mottled as he shouted. “Confringo!” He pointed at each of the willows in turn, blasting each of them into small, puffy bits. After the seeds had settled, he continued down the path, one lone, bent sapling battering ineffectively at his boot as he passed.
He approached the tower. It shone white with nitre deposits as water continuously dripped down its dank exterior into a moat filled with black, bubbling mud. Occasionally a bubble would burst, filling the area with a sulphurous odour. Godric noticed a trail of bubbles in the moat and prepared to defend himself from whatever might leap from it.
The wall of the tower shimmered and a wood drawbridge appeared on it, having been hidden by enchantment. It lowered, its wood blackened with rot and slime dripping from it. Its iron fittings were pitted and orange with rust.
A tall, hooded figure appeared on the interior of the tower, backlit by torches. Godric crossed the drawbridge carefully, not wanting to slip off the slick surface. When he came within ten feet of the figure it spoke.
“So this is how you greet an old friend.” The figure dropped his hood and Godric took an involuntary step back from Salazar. Salazar’s once luxurious grey beard now hung in clumps and his sallow, sunken eyes now rested in orbits that had little more flesh on them than an empty skull.
Godric clenched his hands tighter around his sword and wand, but did not raise them.
Salazar repeated, “So this is how you greet an old friend.” He indicated the blasted trees and the headless wyrm. “You kill my willows and behead my servant.” He sighed and lowered his head, seeming no more than a tired old man.
Godric clenched his teeth to keep from shouting his angry retort. His face reddened more as he struggled with his rage. When he regained his demeanour, he stepped forward to address Salazar face-to-face.
“I could say the same of you, old friend.” He sheathed his sword, but kept his wand out. “Do you greet all travellers with hostility?”
Salazar shrugged. “I value my privacy.” He turned his head back into the tower and hissed in Parseltongue. Another wyrm slithered out, flicking its tongue derisively at Godric as it passed.
Godric crossed his arms. “Well, aren’t you going to invite me in?”
Salazar shook his head. “No,” he said simply. “Why have you disturbed my contemplations?”
“I have come to ask you to reconsider your position and rejoin Hogwarts.” He uncrossed his arms and stroked his beard as he spoke, a nervous habit that Salazar recognised of old.
Salazar’s thin lips pulled back in a sneer, making his face drawn and serpent-like. “Do you still teach Mudbloods and Half-bloods?”
“Yes. We teach all who have the power.”
“Then I shall not return.” Salazar turned to leave.
Godric shouted at him. “We hoped you’d return to teach your son!”
Salazar paused in mid-step then turned slowly to Godric. “I have no son.”
Godric reached into his pocket and pulled a charcoal drawing of a boy of about eleven. His aquiline nose, haughty expression and the shape of his jawline resembled Salazar of old. Salazar left the entryway of his tower, strode forward onto the drawbridge,and snatched the drawing from Godric’s hand.
Only a bare quiver on his voice betrayed Salazar’s emotions. “Who is this?”
Godric gripped Salazar’s arm. “This is your son, Mordaut.”
Salazar shook his head again. “I have no son.”
“When you left, Helga was with child. Did you not know?” Godric asked.
Salazar lifted his head from the drawing. “This child is not mine.” He crumpled the drawing and tossed it into the moat. He drew back from Godric.
“Accio parchment!” The mud-encrusted drawing zipped back into Godric’s hand. “I assure you that he is your son.”
Salazar’s voice rose. “I would never lie with a Half-blood like Helga! Did you know that her grandfather was a cooper? I could never be with her, and I have no son! Incendio!”
The parchment burst into flame, and crumbled into ash as Godric dropped it.
“Why do you deny your son his birthright of the Slytherin name?” Godric moved to grasp Salazar’s arm again, but Salazar pulled back out of reach. “Your name once held honour and greatness. Now, people only whisper about the Dark Arts. Please, return to Hogwarts. Return your name to honour.”
Salazar’s face grew hard. “There’s a type of honour in fear.” His eyes slitted. “These filthy half-breeds will honour me with their fear.” He shoved Godric away. “For the sake of our friendship of old; begone now before we come to blows.”
Godric hung his head. “My old friend, I’m sorry that it’s come to this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a necklace. He held it closed in his hand with only the chain dangling. “I am to return this to you.” He opened his hand to reveal to reveal a heavy locket with a serpentine ‘S” on it.
Salazar stepped forward involuntarily, reaching out to take the locket. As he did, Godric noticed that Salazar’s nails had been filed to points. Salazar stopped short of taking it from Godric’s hand, but the hesitation lasted only a brief second before he snatched the locket away.
“How did you come by this?” Salazar lifted the locket and tried to open it.
A tear fell from Godric’s eye. “Helga gave it to me. If you weren’t going to return to Hogwarts, then she wanted me to return the locket to you.” His voice cracked as he continued. “She told me that if you wouldn’t acknowledge your son, then she wanted nothing more to do with you.” He watched as Salazar struggled to open the locket. “I’m sorry to have to bear this news.”
Salazar pointed his wand at the locket. “Alohomora!” He tried a few more spells as Godric watched silently.
Godric finally spoke after watching Salazar struggle for a few moments. “She told me that you’d only be able to open it if you acknowledged your son’s birthright.” He turned to leave, his voice carrying back over his shoulder. “It’s a shame that you’re blinded by your hate. If ever you change, you can still return. There are still those of us who care about you.”
Godric walked away without a backward glance.
Salazar stood with the locket dangling from his hand, a blank expression on his face. Finally, he put the chain around his neck and tucked the locket under his robe. He lifted his hood and retreated into his tower, the door slamming shut behind him.
Mordaut laughed as his friend Ambrosius turned the thistle near Elaine the Norman’s feet into a porcupine. It bristled and rattled its quills as Elaine backed away from it.
“Just think, Ambrosius, only one more week of tormenting Elaine here, then we can start our grand tour.” Mordaut laughed. “I’d quite like to go to Holy Land and see what the hubbub’s about.”
A wheezing voice came from behind Mordaut. “You shouldn’t pick on Elaine just because she’s a Norman; we teach everyone here.”
Mordaut and Ambrosius both stood quickly and bowed to the hunched lady behind them. They both spoke simultaneously.
“Yes, Madame Hufflepuff.”
She stood, bent with age, her greying hair flying away from its bun and her hand trembling with palsy as she held out a letter for Mordaut.
“This just arrived for you, Master Slytherin.”
Mordaut looked curiously at her as she addressed him by a strange title and not by his name. He picked at the serpent-shaped wax seal on the exterior of the envelope. He shook the envelope and it rattled loudly.
Ambrosius watched Madame Hufflepuff as she watched her son Mordaut. Her hands shook even more and she closed her eyes, but that still didn’t prevent the tears from spilling.
Ambrosius turned back just in time to see Mordaut slit open the wax seal. A heavy locket with a serpentine ‘S’ on a chain fell out. As the opened locket hit the ground, a miniature painting of a tall, gaunt man fell from it, followed closely by a small painting of what was unmistakably a younger Madame Hufflepuff.
Mordaut picked up the miniature paintings and looked at them wonderingly as he read the letter.
Helga embraced her son. “You’re Master Slytherin now, by birth and by name.” She sighed, wiped her tears and said, “…and by inheritance as well.” She released him from her embrace. She reached up with both hands to cradle his face. "I loved your father, but he chose to leave us. Please, please don't follow in his footsteps."
She turned and left, leaving Mordaut to show his birthright to Ambrosius.
A/N Godric’s sword goes ‘Snicker-snack’. This of course is the sound the vorpal blade makes in the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll.