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Chapter 4: Forbidden Fruit
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On the night Salazar Slytherin was born; the Wydeville family had to pay their rent. Robert Wydeville and his wife Caris sat in their derelict little cottage with their five children, and waiting for the moment that Lord de Clare would burst through the door demanding money they just did not possess. Money was a hard thing to come buy where the Wydeville’s lived and if you had it you coveted it. It had been a bad year and the famine had savagely eaten away at their crops leaving them with nothing but a few bowls of rotten cabbage soup and their five starving children whose bellies growled with hunger every day.
The Wydeville brood was fairly big. They had three strong sons, Robert (who was known as Rob), Elfric and John, each of whom were wasting away before their parent’s eyes. Each had dirty dark brown hair and at their respective ages of fifteen, ten and eight they could do nothing accept greet their fate with open arms. Their cries of hunger and misery mattered to no one. Then there were two daughters, Mair who was a starving little girl of seven and then their youngest Bess a bonny girl of four. In her depressing mood, Caris drew Bess into an embrace; holding her as tight as she could, she could not stand to lose the house as then her family would have no hope of ever being able to feed themselves again. Without realising it the barrier that kept Caris’ tears inside her tired body burst, making her delicate face wet with moisture.
“Mama,” whispered little Bess sweetly, pulling herself up to look into her mother’s eyes, “don’t cry.” Caris leaned in and kissed her youngest daughter gently, her rough lips catching her daughter’s forehead. There were plenty of reasons for her to cry, Lord de Clare, filled with vengeful malice would return to the little cottage and demand money. Caris cried because of her own stupidity. When she was nothing but a young girl of sixteen, she had fallen madly and hopelessly in love with the handsome son of the lord of the manor. Guy de Clare had been a rakish, dark haired devil who rode the surrounding countryside astride his great black stallion.
Caris remembered the light summer days fondly in which they had been together, happy in each other’s arms, his warm embraces and tender kisses blocking the world out, casting searing memories in her mind. He had promised he loved her more than life, and that the second his father died he would make her Lady of the manor. But it was not to be. Caris remembered the awful day she had discovered she was pregnant and deep down her doubts in her heart surrounding Guy’s love bubbled to the surface and she had accepted the proposal of simple country boy, Robert Wydeville, married him within a day and passed the baby, who grew into Rob, off as her husband’s. Guy, mad with jealousy, began to persecute Caris and the husband she grew to love for their betrayal. No one broke a Lord’s heart, especially not a penniless peasant girl.
Now, Caris was not sure what Guy would do. Over the years his careful love had matured into an obsessive passion and Caris knew he would arrive at the cottage ready to declare them all guilty of a crime that they did not commit. She felt the man she once loved with all her heart and every fibre of her being now had no restraints. To get what he wanted Caris knew he would burn, torture and murder and Caris knew her innocent children would be in the firing line. The only one thing that would save her family was the fifteen year old secret that Rob’s resemblance to his Lord was due to the fact that he was the Lord’s lost son.
“Caris,” came her husband’s calming voice from out of the darkness, “you look so scared my love. Whatever happens, the good lord will save us,” he said simply in his honest country tone. But before Caris could even think about replying there was a loud, fierce knock at the door. Each of the family froze in shock and anticipation at the loud noise that had perforated through their existence. Robert, her brave husband, stirred at once and stood up to his full height, unlocking the door without so much as a tremor. When the old wood door swung open, he was instantly bowled over by three armour clad soldiers, followed by their Lord. Each of the soldiers carried a heavy sword at their belt that could easily glide through human and bone, and a nasty grin across their brutish faces.
“I do not think weapons are necessary gentleman...” Robert began cautiously but he was pulled to his feet by one of the burliest soldiers as Guy eyed each of the smaller children with malice, while Caris and Rob got hastily to their feet, terrified looks on both of their faces. Caris could not claim to be beautiful; she had curly dark hair that fell to her waist, shared by all her children bar Bess. She was short and plump, with rosy cheeks and full lips. But the innocence which she had always possessed shone out in her olive green eyes, and that was why Guy was enchanted.
“Where is my money?” said Guy gruffly but threateningly, ignoring Robert who was drawing away from each of the guards, holding his hand out in surrender, and instead Guy stared intently at Caris with all the control he could muster. His dark eyes were full of a mixture of loathing and lust as he slowly paced towards her, and almost by habit his eyes slowly explored every curve of her body that his hands had once touched. At this most intrusive of movements Rob instantly stood in front of his mother, acting as a human barrier between the predator and his delicious prey.
“Myself and my family are terribly sorry, the winter wiped out last year’s crops on all the farms, and we all could not get any work, even digging ditches,” he said bravely, trying to give his Lord a respectful look. Caris could clearly see that Rob hated Guy and his loathing shone through his dark eyes, the same one possessed by Guy. Caris had never been able to stomach telling Rob the truth about his paternity, if he was kept in the dark he may be able to live a peaceful life. Guy, who knew the full story of Rob’s birth, looked at his son, and air of arrogance crossed his face.
“So you are saying, yourself and your father, two strong men, could not get any work?” he said mockingly, pacing around the little cottage, eyeing the absolute squalor that Caris and her family lived in with utter contempt. There was nothing kind about Guy now, nothing at all. Rob did not say anything, but shook his head sadly. Unlike his biological father he was a kind and sensitive boy who was immensely loyal to his family.
“My lord,” piped up Robert, “we just need more time. There is sure to be some work sometime soon.” Guy at these words pulled himself over to stand next to Caris, his arms folded as if he was seriously thinking about Robert’s reasonable proposal. He suddenly smiled almost maliciously and then said, “well, I see no other solution to this other than to sell you assets.” The whole family watched him dumbfounded as he moved over to their candle, the only thing they owned that was worth any value. One of the soldiers had bought in a taper that was burning brightly and they lit it.
“That candle is all we have,” said Robert desperately walking up to his master with his palms pressed together and his eyes wide, “please, please my Lord, I am begging you! We need that candle!” Guy shrugged his shoulders slowly and looked at the trembling Robert, a grin of satisfaction dancing across his thin cruel lips, “Well, there is another, more preferable way that I would like to be paid.”
In one movement Guy pulled Caris close to him and explored her body with his hands, “I’ve waited so long for this,” he whispered, but it was a short lived moment. Robert had pushed his Lord away with all the force he could, and Guy almost fell back onto the wall, but he still kept a firm grip on Caris’ arm. However hard she tried to pull herself away from the man she hated with all her might he held on resolutely.
“I know that’s been your plan my Lord, all these years. To mistreat me to try and get my wife in your bed, but it won’t happen I tell you! For it is a sin to covet another man’s wife!” Robert had transformed from a trembling little peasant to an angry man who stood up to his Lord. Guy turned to Robert who did not cower away or show any sign of fear. Braver men than Robert would have cowered before the formidable Guy de Clare, but Robert was resilient. There were many ways a Lord could treat his surfs but this was definitely not one of them.
“Oh no Robert I assure you, I’ve just been trying to get your wife into my bed again,” said Guy smugly as the three soldiers laughed at the look of shock and hurt that flickered across Robert’s weathered face. Caris blushed in shame. Her guilty secret was for all the world to see and Caris could not bear to look at Robert, sweet, darling Robert who had been nothing but kind to her ever since she had married him. Robert, the son of a labourer had admired her from afar for years and bumbling proposed to her when she had been pondering her pregnancy alone in the wood. Turning to her slowly, Caris saw young tears welling in his eyes.
“Caris,” he said, his voice hoarse, “is this true?” She could not bear to look at him as he stared at her incredulously with all the hurt in the world in his innocent eyes and not God or his archangels could have convinced her to peer into his familiar face. She had betrayed him by never telling him the truth and she could never go back on all those years of lying. The years of trust and love now laid shattered at both their feet.
“Robert,” she began, the tears rolling down her cheeks, “it was so many years ago, before we were married, I was young and I was foolish. You’ve loved me all these years regardless of anything I’ve ever done and I’m so sorry for never telling you the truth.” Robert watched her for a moment and then unexpectedly he held out his hand and Caris silently walked towards him, feeling his fingers thread through hers.
“It doesn’t matter now Caris, I love you and you love me and that is all that matters.” Caris was sure they would discuss this later, but now they needed a united front and Robert was a forgiving man anyway. At these words Robert curled his arm around Caris’ shoulders and all their children surrounded them, Caris taking Bess’ hand and Rob standing firmly in front of young Mair. Guy however roared with anger and flung his arms around him in frustration.
“You will pay for this! You will love me Caris! You will love me if it’s the last thing you do!” As quick as a flash he pulled out his magnificent long sword and in his anger swung the terrifying weapon around, cutting the wooden table that stood in the centre of the room cleanly in half. This sent the candle tumbling to the floor and igniting the straw rushes that were strewn across the bare wooden floorboards, sending the orange flames bursting up around the room.
“Are you crazy?” thundered Robert standing up to his lord as the three terrified henchmen hurried from the building. Robert’s decisive action was evidently the wrong thing to do as Guy’s eyes were as bright as the enlarging fire and in his rage he thrust his gleaming sword straight through Robert’s chest. His thin frame slid along the sword blade as he eyes widened with pain and shock. Guy’s sword had become a dark red as streams of his enemies blood trickled down his large hands.
“You will no longer have Caris!” The screams that then started up were louder than the fire’s roar. Guy slid his sword out of Robert’s limp body as quickly as he had stabbed Robert in the first place. He watched unemotionally Caris’ husband’s body slumped to the floor, causing all his children to let out cries of pain and anguish. Caris’ screams and tears overcame her and she barely noticed Guy seizing her by the collar and dragging towards the door. Bess followed her, grabbing her mother’s hand and trying to pull her back. A four year old girl was no comparison to a fully grown man however and they had almost reached the door when the beam that supported the roof of the little house, engulfed by the flames, collapsed to the floor. The house’s inhabitants stood divided. On the side by the door stood Guy, Caris, Bess and Rob and on the trapped side stood Elfric, John and Mair.
“Rob quick-“ began Caris, the fear for her children suddenly coming to the surface. But before Rob could do anything, Guy grabbed Rob by the waist and threw him out of the freshly kicked open door. Caris then found the same fate follow her, but she just had time to grab Bess’ hand as she was plunged into the darkness of the night and landed sharply on her back. Dragging her by the hair, Guy pulled Caris away from the fire and then drew her up as he grabbed the screaming Bess and placed his sword at the little girl’s throat, a violent red line suddenly springing forth.
“You both stay here, or she dies.” His face was filled with the most extreme form of rage and Caris’ eyes welled with tears. She remembered the man she had once loved, now her persecutor and could not believe that he stood in front of her, his obsession for her driving him to threaten children, her children and it made her boil with a mother’s rage and protective love. But she was not mourning for him now, or even Robert, she had to save her children.
“You don’t have to do this Guy,” she said, her voice unwavering in her determination, “you can let her go, you can save them!” Caris said as the tears began to roll down her cheeks. Flicking her eyes towards her home engulfed by flames, she turned back to see that Guy had not let go of the terrified Bess, his fingers digging into her young skin as he held her up. His handsome eyes were wild and he looked furious as the words came from his mouth.
“I’m doing this for us Caris!” he groaned hoarsely, “I love you!” he moaned, tears of frustration and anger coming to his eyes. But Caris was not listening anymore. She could hear the screams of her children left trapped in the burning house. In that moment she forgot about Guy and his jealous passion and turned to look at the house, becoming obsessed with the fact that she was going to watch her children die.
“Matilda,” came her husband’s crisp voice through the darkness, “Matilda my love, can I come in?” Matilda answered her husband quickly and he came in as quietly as he could, she hushed him even though he was making no sound. Giles Slytherin sat beside his wife on their double bed and put one arm round her slender shoulders as they both gazed down at the tiny boy in her arms. Matilda sighed contentedly; her and her husband had a baby, a real baby boy with chocolate coloured hair and light skin after so many years of trying.
The baby looked like his mother, with the dark brown hair and tanned skin. He had not yet opened his eyes, so no one was sure if he would have his father’s misty grey eyes or his mother’s hazel brown. Matilda said she would like grey, Giles the brown. Giles gazed down at his son. Maybe he would one day grow up to be like his father, even if he did not have the sandy blonde hair or grey eyes he may become noble and true. Giles knew he would be surrounded by a loving family and would become a well rounded and contented young wizard, with all the powers of his forebears.
“I’m so happy Giles,” Matilda smiled in an almost relieved way, “I mean I don’t believe it! I’m a mother!” The moment for them both to appreciate the joy of being parents was short lived however as the door suddenly burst open revealing Giles’ manservant, a skinny young boy called Aart. He was usually quite a cheery boy, but tonight he looked different, his face was gaunt and hollow and there was panic in his light eyes.
“Sir,” he stammered, “I know you said you did not want to be disturbed tonight but this is urgent.” Giles gave his servant a quick nod and bid him to continue, “It’s Sir Guy, he’s gone against you wishes. He went to the Wydeville’s home. I’m afraid that Robert Wydeville has been murdered by Guy himself, and the little cottage burnt to the ground. Two of the Wydeville boys and a daughter perished in the flames, but the witch Caris was left alive. I’m afraid this is all Sir Guy’s doing.”
Giles and Matilda both flinched at the word “witch”. They both knew that Caris Wydeville was anything but a witch, but if they tried to prove her innocence they could out themselves and their wizardry, so they kept quiet. The people believed Caris had magical powers for capturing the Lord’s heart the way she did, but Giles knew that was only love. “He’s bringing the witch and her remaining son and daughter to the Hall,” continued Aart, waiting for his master to answer.
Giles lifted himself gracefully from the bed and walked deliberately towards Aart, running his fingers through his own light hair. From where he was standing, Caris had never been more than a harmless peasant and her refusal to love Sir Guy had just cost her more trouble than it was worth. Giles felt he wanted to help Caris as she was as innocent as her children in all this mess. Giles was not a man to leave innocent people in distress and he turned to Aart, his mind whirring thinking about how to help the poor unfortunate family.
“Aart, do you know the arrangements for when the family arrive at the castle?” Giles asked urgently, holding his servants shoulders and looking into his eyes. Giles was worried for the Wydeville’s. He knew Sir Guy very well as they were old comrades in arms against the Mercian’s. They had basically lived their lives by the sword together and Giles knew that Guy had never been able to fully shake off the bloodlust. He also knew full well that Guy loved vengeance almost as much as he loved punishing those he considered living in sin – drunks, prostitutes and of course witches.
“Yes,” began Aart slowly as Matilda, carrying the baby, came to stand next to her husband and looking at Aart quizzically, “Guy sent special instructions on how the survivors are to be treated. The eldest boy, Rob, is to become a squire to one of the knights, the little girl is to become a servant to your own good wife here and the witch is to be left to Sir Guy himself.” Aart’s eyes showed all that Giles needed to know. Tonight Caris would not just be punished for her defiance just by seeing her husband, two sons and a daughter murdered, but also she would lose her remaining children and her pride.
Giles knew there was nothing he could do for Caris herself. When Sir Guy wanted something, he would get it, and not even God himself coming down and threatening to smite him would stop Guy. Rob would not be out of Guy’s clutches either. Giles was one of the few people who knew of the boy’s true parentage and also knew that Guy would step up and raise his son and not let anyone interfere. Giles could only help the little girl, the one who would become a servant to Matilda.
“Go fetch this girl the instant she arrives,” ordered Giles solemnly as Aart nodded and left the room sharply. Giles felt for this persecuted little girl. At least Guy was showing a little compassion to at least one of the children. He must have known there was not a cruel bone in the motherly Matilda’s body, and if he had wanted to be vengeful he could have locked the girl away. But beside the girl’s tiny piece of luck, Giles still felt a sense of overwhelming pity for the girl that had just lost her father, two brothers and a sister. He knew what it was like to be different, ostracised by society. That was why when he met Guy he had never told him the truth about his powers as he was sure that if he did he would lose his head and Giles would have quite liked his head to stay firmly in the position it had been born into.
Matilda had almost expected her to cry. Bess Wydeville was only four, a short, earthy looking girl dressed in rags with light brown hair the colour of autumn leaves and large, doe like eyes. Matilda expected she would be very beautiful when she was fully grown. Bess had gone through a lot in the last few hours and yet she stood firmly and proudly, eyeing up her masters. Matilda had to admit she had been slightly taken aback by this determined little girl who looked as if she hadn’t just seen half her family’s murders.
“I hope you will be as happy as possible here Bess, “said Matilda, as a smile flitted across her lips while she clutched the baby to her breast. The little girl nodded, but she did not smile as Matilda had invited her to, but just stared at the baby. Her eyes seemed to engulf the little boy and it slightly disturbed Matilda. It was as if Bess knew something about the child who had barely been alive a day, more than anyone. It seemed to Matilda as if Bess was awestruck by the baby just a few hours old, the baby with no name.
“You can call me Mistress Mattie...” began Matilda cautiously but the child clearly wasn’t listening. Bess slowly walked closer, holding out her grubby little hand to stroke the baby’s dark head. At that moment, quite unexpectedly, the baby opened his eyes. Matilda stared at her son awestruck; his eyes were the most brilliant green she had ever seen. He lifted one of his chubby hands, evidently reaching for Bess. The new girl obligingly took his hand in hers and she stared at the baby too, until finally she spoke, her voice hushed.
“Does he have a name?” Matilda shook her head and gazed at her son. Now seemed the ideal moment to give the little boy a name, the moment he had revealed those brilliantly green eyes to the world. Unexpectedly, Bess decided to comment, “you should name him Salazar,” she said simply, “his eyes are the colour of a snake.”
“Salazar Slytherin?” pondered Matilda aloud, gazing down at her little boy, “has a ring to it, doesn’t it?” Unbeknownst to Matilda, Salazar and Bess, the fact that Bess had named the boy evoked a powerful ancient magic. A Muggle naming a pureblood wizard tied Salazar and Bess’ souls together forever.