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In A Lifetime by Courtney Dark
Chapter 1: I
Salazar Slytherin was dying.
As he lay on his death bed, only a fragile tent protected him from the elements. He could see the grim sky above him; great, grey clouds were rolling in from the west. A storm was coming, but he would be gone before it arrived.
He would be dead before the new day began.
Helga Hufflepuff bustled over, her long skirts swinging just above her petite feet. Salazar smiled slightly as she approached-Helga was the only one he had left-the only one of the founders four that he’d even spoken to, in many a moon now.
But she was not the only one that could bring him comfort.
Her mousy hair was pulled into a bun which sat comfortably at the nape of her neck, and in her hands was a small pile of torn rags. She set these on the table, next to where Salazar lay; unable to move, and settled herself into a roughly carved chair.
“How are you feeling?” she whispered, dipping one of the rags into a bucket of cold water, and squeezing out the excess. She then carefully laid the material onto Salazar’s warm forehead and he instantly felt a chill go up his spine.
The sickness had come two weeks ago. At first, he’d thought it was nothing but a petty Muggle disease, one that could not possibly affect him-after all; he came from a long line of great pureblood wizards. He could do magic others only dreamed of. He was powerful and he was magnificent.
But with this power, came arrogance. Salazar had not bothered to protect himself, as Helga had, when the disease swept through the forest cottage where he had lived for the last few years. He had sat idly by, a proud fool.
And now he was suffering the consequences.
The fever had not yet broken and he was always changing temperature-one moment he’d be so cold that shivers ran up and down his skin, as though one of his slippery friends was sliding up his body. The next moment he’d be sweating, as though it were the middle of summer.
Ironic that he was going to die when the wind blew fiercely and the snow fell long and hard.
Rowena had always told him he had a heart of ice. They had been best friends once, long ago…before life had gotten in the way.
Despite himself, Salazar snorted loudly at Helga’s preposterous question. “Oh, I am having the time of my life here,” he drawled, though his voice came out as a hoarse croak. It was a change from the commanding voice he always used-the one that always got what he wanted. But the one that had lost all that he held dear. “Thank you for asking, dear Helga.”
Helga sighed, removed the rag and put her hand to his forehead. “You’re burning up,” she murmured, carefully placing the rag back in the bucket and picking up a mortar and pestle. There were a number of green herbs and strange liquids inside, which she quickly began grinding up, making some sort of poultice. Salazar strained his eyes to see what she was creating, but a sharp pain went through his body so he quickly closed them, and tried to relax.
Not much was holding him together now. Helga had always been a natural born healer-she was always able to fix up the foolish Godric after he went off hunting for boar, or whatever other trouble he managed to land himself in. But was there any point in living, if there wasn’t anything left living for?
Salazar had lived a full life, though at times it was full of darkness, and the madness was always descending. His happiest moments had been during childhood-that was when he had first met her after all. They had been as tight as siblings.
But everything had changed now. He had changed everything, and in doing so, he had changed her.
And maybe, Salazar had changed too. Maybe that was what made her run away.
“You’re brooding,” Helga observed lightly, and Salazar felt something cold being rubbed onto his chest. A strange feeling began to spread in the regions of his stomach, and he suddenly felt nauseous. He kept his eyes closed tightly because if he opened them, he knew the world would be spinning.
But Salazar would not let Helga see his weakness. If he was going down, it wouldn’t be without a fight. He’d always been the strongest of the four of them, even if Godric said otherwise.
But Godric had always been a Muggle loving fool and, as dominant as he might be, this made him weak.
“How very observant of you, Helga,” Salazar sneered, and though he could not see her, he sensed Helga’s lips twitching in irritation.
“Must you always be so cold hearted, Salazar?” she asked wearily. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m even here. With you. The others had the good sense to move on.”
“Then leave me,” said Salazar harshly. “Flee this place. Never look back. Leave me to die.”
There was a pause while his words sunk in. Then finally; “You know I have no wish to do that.”
Salazar felt a flare of triumph, but it was quickly eradicated as another burst of pain opened up in his chest. He gritted his teeth, and hoped dearly that his face did not give away the pain he was in. “Why not?” he grunted. “I’m going to die, Helga, no matter what you do. I…”
“Don’t say that!” said Helga, sounding upset. “Salazar, we may not always have seen eye to eye but I’m here for you. Do you remember the pact we made, just after the school was opened?”
If Salazar was stronger, he would have rolled his eyes. “Of course.”
“We vowed we would always stick together. You and I, Godric and Row…”
“Do not speak the name,” Salazar snarled. The effort it took him to utter those five words caused beads of sweat to appear on his forehead.
“Very well,” said Helga simply. “But if you want to see her…”
“I will never lay eyes on her again, not while she is with that Muggle loving fool.”
“He was your best friend too, you know,” Helga reminded him gently. “I’m sure he would like to say…goodbye.”
Her words brought about a feeling of unease in Salazar. Why was she bringing up their fellow founders, when they had not been spoken of in years?
And then a terrible thought occurred to Salazar, one that made every nerve in his body clench with fury.
“Helga,” he growled. “What have you done?”
Another cold rag was placed on his forehead, and Salazar fought the urge to sit up and brush it away. It was odd; all of a sudden he was coming over very weary…
“Don’t be angry, Salazar,” Helga said quietly. “But I have called upon them-Godric and Rowena. They are on their way…”
“Call them off,” said Salazar. “Call them off, or I will myself.”
“Oh, you most certainly won’t,” said Helga. “You haven’t slept for days, Salazar. But soon…you will. Those herbs I gave you will allow you to sleep freely, until Rowena and Godric arrive. And then you will have no choice but to say goodbye.”
Salazar was furious. “Why are you doing this to me? I have no wish to see either of them.”
“Yes you do, Salazar,” said Helga gently. “Now sleep. Your sickness will not get better until your mind is free of woe.”
The wooden chair scraped against the dirty ground as Helga stood. Salazar immediately cursed his fragile legs, and weak bones. If only he could go after her…if only he had his wand.
But lying here on his deathbed…he was nothing. A lesser wizard than he could easily take him. He did not have the energy to cast a single spell.
Sleep was threatening to engulf him, but Salazar fought it. A gust of harsh wind suddenly blew in through the tent, and the vials and bottles of potions and elixirs, which sat carefully on the shelf, rattled dangerously. Helga had gone, but there was no way of telling where. Salazar could not even open his eyes.
And so, sleep finally came.
10th May, 40 years ago
The night was silent, and the inhabitants of the Great Manor slept without fear. Darkness surrounded them-the only light came from the dim stars that sparkled from many leagues away. The twisted trees created strange shadows on the ground; moving as if they were real people.
A strange light suddenly appeared in the near distance-the orange-gold of flickering flames. There was the faint noise of shouting, but this was common in Septimus Village-the Muggles were always fighting amongst themselves for land, food and other necessities.
But these trivial pursuits did not bother the proud Slytherin family.
As the flickering light and shouting grew closer to the manor, a slim silhouette appeared at the downstairs window, holding a candle in her hand. She peered out into the darkness, a sheet of raven coloured hair concealing most of her face. The woman wore a long, flowing nightdress, but was without her wand.
She did not notice the small boy creeping down the staircase, watching her.
“Mother?” the boy whispered, and the woman jumped, clutching a hand to her heart.
“Salazar!” she scolded. “What are you doing out of bed? If your father catches you, he will be very angry.”
Salazar looked down at his bare feet and ragged trousers. His father was a cruel hearted man, but Salazar respected him, as all good sons did. “What are you doing mother?” he asked. “Is something wrong?”
The woman shook her head and moved away from the window, placing a gentle hand on her sons shoulder. “Nothing is wrong,” she said. “Get back to bed and don’t come out, whatever you do.”
Salazar looked up at his mother-the two were very similar in both appearance and nature. Both were kind hearted and gentle, unlike Salazar’s father, Septimus.
Because he didn’t like to disobey orders, Salazar nodded, and hurried up to his bedroom. It was the smallest room in the house, containing only a straw mattress in the corner. Though his father was the wealthiest man in the village, he did not like to waste luxuries on his only son, whom he thought was a waste of space.
Salazar had only just reached his bedroom when he heard the sound of men, right outside his window. Shivering in the cold, he wrapped his small arms around his body and tiptoed to the window.
His mother stood at the door, her long hair flying in the breeze, flickering candle outstretched. She was surrounded by a large group of men, holding flaming torches and pitchforks. Salazar recognised them as non-magic folk. Wizards would not hold such unsophisticated weapons-Salazar had learnt this from his father.
One of the men began talking. Salazar could not hear what he was saying, so he pressed his face against the cool window, staring out into the night.
A bearded man suddenly lunged towards his mother and she began to cry, warm tears mixing in with her long hair. The men all began shouting loudly, and one of them grabbed her by the wrists, shouting words to the others, words Salazar could not hear.
All he knew was that he had to protect his mother.
He raced out of his room, towards his father’s chambers. The floorboards creaked under his bare feet as he called; “Father! Father!”
He approached his father’s door and began pounding on the solid wood with his little fist. He could still hear screaming from down below, and tears began to pour down his face. “Father!” he screamed. “Mother is in trouble!”
For a moment he wondered whether his father was even there. Sometimes he left the Manor for many days at a time and, when he returned, his clothes were wet with fresh blood, though he would never say where it came from. The only time Salazar dared to ask, he was locked in his room for several days, without meals.
“FATHER!” Salazar cried desperately and the wooden door swung open, knocking Salazar backwards and causing him to go stumbling against the closest wall.
A tall man loomed over him, wearing a belted tunic and fierce expression in his black eyes. His long hair was greying and his slick beard was knotted. “What is it, boy?” he snarled.
No words would come, so Salazar simply pointed.
Septimus Slytherin glared at his son. “Stay here,” he growled. “Take one step downstairs and it will be the last thing you ever do.”
Salazar watched his father go downstairs, too frightened to even move from the wall. He covered his ears as the shouting from downstairs grey louder, and began to weep.
His mother did not come back the next morning.
She never came back.
3rd January, 35 years ago
His father had left the house many hours ago now. He had told Salazar to stay put, and a dangerous glint had appeared in his eye when Salazar had asked where he was going.
Now, alone in the small, ramshackle hut in which they now lived, Salazar opened the door until it was only open a fraction, and peered outside.
Several boys his own age, all much bigger and stronger, were wrestling in the mud. Most where shirtless and covered in dirt and grime-they all had fiery expressions in their eyes.
Like Salazar, these boys were wizards. Wizards in hiding for the Muggles that were after their kind, the Muggles that feared, and despised magic. The Muggles that had killed his mother.
Salazar closed his eyes and felt a single tear drip onto his cheek as he remembered the dreaded day. At the time, he had not understood why his mother had never come back. But then his father had told him about the filthy men who had burned her at the stake. He’d told him every detail, even when he’d covered his ears and begged him to stop.
His father was a merciless man. And everyone in the hidden village they now lived in was scared of him.
“Look!” shouted one of the boys suddenly, pointing towards the spot which Salazar spied from. He felt all the air rush out of him, as he pressed himself against the compact mud wall, hoping to avoid being seen. “Old Slimy is watching us again!”
A roar of laughter went through the crowd of boys as they approached Salazar’s house and threw the door open, leering down at him as he cowered away, palms sweating. “What do you want?” he whispered, as the biggest of them all cracked his knuckles.
“Where’s your daddy?” the large boy asked. “Is he not here to protect you?”
Salazar stood up straighter. He had put up with this for too long. “I don’t need protecting,” he said firmly, but his voice shook far too much for his liking.
The boys laughed loudly and Salazar knew that they, like their parents and grand parents thought him an arrogant fool, like his father. He wondered whether they talked about him at home.
The large boy stepped forward, until he was only inches away from Salazar, whose forehead came somewhere between his broad chest and neck. “Why don’t you wrestle with us, Slimy?” he sneered. “Are you afraid?”
“It is not I who should be afraid,” said Salazar boldly. “What will my father do when he learns of how you have talked to me? He will be very angry…”
Salazar was glad when the boys looked at each other, frightened. “Your father will not always be here to protect you. What will you do then, Slimy? Run and hide, like the coward we all know you are?”
The boys all stepped backwards, startled. A tall boy had entered the hut. He looked only a few years older than Salazar, but wore a confident expression and held a sharp knife in his right hand. His blue eyes glinted and his mouth was set in a determined sort of way.
“Leave him alone!” he said, stepping forward and glaring at the others boys in the room. “He has done nothing to make you treat him this way. He is not his father, but his own person. Do you understand?”
Salazar’s eyes widened as the boys all stared at their feet, shamefaced. They acted as though this boy was their…leader.
Salazar was instantly impressed by him, whoever this stranger was.
“Good,” said the new boy loudly, in his deep, rumbling voice. “Now go. If I see you picking on Salazar again, I will see to you personally.”
Like the frightened black cat that Salazar sometimes fed crusts of bread to, the boys scattered, went back to wrestling in the mud, like the children that they were.
The new boy stepped forward, his muscled arm outstretched, a small smile playing on his handsome face. “Greetings,” he said, as Salazar slowly shook his hand. “My name is Godric.”
23rd April, 33 years ago
Salazar sat idly on the bank, staring out at the river, listening as the water rushed by.
Unlike him, the water went places. It flowed out into the sea, it was always moving. Salazar was jealous of the sea-he knew he would be stuck in this village forever, with no friends but Godric, who had always been good to him.
Though Godric was his best friend, his only companion, Salazar knew in his heart that he would always be the better man. Though he was tough and won every fight, he showed compassion, and kindness, even to those who offended him.
Sometimes Salazar wondered if those who were kind had had easy lives. But then he always reminded himself that Godric’s mother had died many years ago.
He had lost all that he loved, as well.
The night was warm and there was a full moon shining onto the water, causing it to sparkle and glimmer, reflecting strange shapes, rippling in the slight breeze.
Salazar threw his head back and breathed in the air. It was spring time and everything felt fresh, alive. There had not been an attack in many years. The village flourished.
A twig snapped from behind Salazar and he jumped to his feet immediately, drawing his wand from his pocket-it was an instinct.
The wand had once belonged to his mother. His father did not know that he had it, and would no doubt be very angry if he did. But the long piece of wood, fashioned from an elder tree, was powerful, and worked well for Salazar. He knew that with it, he could beat almost any other boy in a wizard’s duel.
Salazar’s face fell into a frown as he saw what had made the snapping sound.
A girl stood several paces away from him-Salazar vaguely recognised her from around the village. She looked to be around his own age-maybe a few years younger-and had soft, delicate features.
She wore a very plain dress-the bottom of which was caked with dirt, but it did not matter. Her beauty was undiminished.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said quietly, and Salazar thought her voice sounded like the tinkling of water droplets falling into the river when it rained.
“You didn’t startle me,” Salazar said simply. He felt oddly nervous around this girl, and wondered vaguely why. “What are you doing out here, this time of night? It’s dangerous for a lady.”
A small smile played on the edges of the girl’s face as she stepped towards him. “But I am not just a girl, Salazar,” she said, and he felt his brow crease in confusion, as he wondered how the girl knew his name. She drew a wand from her dress and pointed it towards the river. Several fallen flower petals drifted from the river and began to float around them, dripping with water, effortlessly light. “Oh yes, I know your name. I’ve been watching you. I’ve seen you come out here every night. Seen you sitting on the bank. And I have to ask: what are you doing out here?”
Salazar frowned, feeling rather as though the girl had intruded on his privacy. “What is your name?” he asked brusquely. “If you’re to follow me around like a lost puppy…”
“It is Rowena,” she said, which Salazar thought was a very pretty name. Suited her. “And because I answered your question, you must now answer one of mine.” Salazar watched as sat down gently at the edge of the water, tucking her skirts neatly underneath her. She patted the damp grass on her side, and he grudgingly sat down, and stared out into the night.
“I come here to think,” he admitted, looking over at Rowena, who stared back at him with hazel eyes. “And…to get away from my father.”
“The village’s most powerful man,” Rowena nodded, picking up a pink flower-the type that hung from the trees above, and tucking it behind her war. “But you are not like him, are you Salazar?”
Salazar frowned. “What makes you say that?” he asked. The girl didn’t even know him!
“You are different,” Rowena continued, as though she hadn’t heard him. She was now twirling a strand of dark hair between her fingertips. “You are quiet…subdued. I think there has been tragedy in your past. A tragedy that has changed you.”
Salazar jumped to his feet. “I have to go,” he said abruptly. “Goodbye, Rowena.”
As he hurried away from the river, he heard Rowena say sadly; “Goodbye, Salazar.” Before reaching the bend in the path, he turned around to see her still sitting by the river, holding the pink flower between her fingers.
20th December, 33 years ago
She was standing by the river, as she was every time they met. Her hands were clasped and her head was bowed slightly, dark ringlets falling into her face.
In that moment, Salazar was reminded of something, though he couldn’t say what.
His heart skipped a beat as he watched her, just standing there. The way she shivered slightly in the cool night ear, the way she reached up and brushed hair from her eyes as she stared around the clearing, waiting. Waiting for him.
Rowena was the most beautiful girl Salazar had ever laid eyes on. And she was all his. His father would not approve of her, and nor would hers but…what would that matter if true love was involved?
Because Salazar recognised love when he saw it, and when he looked at Rowena, that was all that he saw.
He glanced up, and saw that he was standing beneath a tree sporting the pink flowers that Rowena loved so much. He picked one carefully and then stepped forward, revealing his presence.
Rowena turned, and her face instantly lit up. She ran forward, and threw her arms around his neck, smiling. Kissing him on the cheek, she stepped backwards and said; “I had started to think you would not come.”
“Now why would you think that?” Salazar asked, tucking the flower into her hair. “Have I ever failed to meet you here?”
Rowena looked down, a faint flush appearing above her cheekbones. “What did you want to talk to me about?” she asked quietly.
His heart sped up, and his legs grew wobbly. Salazar fought to steady himself-he would not make a fool of himself, not tonight. “Is there anybody around?” he asked.
“No, of course not. Salazar, what’s wrong? You look as though you’re coming down with something. Are you ill?”
Salazar shook his head. “There is something important I must discuss with you,” he said. Words seemed to be escaping him, which he didn’t like at all. He had always had a way with words. They slipped from his tongue in ways which made others stare at each other in confusion. He liked to speak in riddles, liked to confuse the boys that had once made fun of him, for being his father’s son.
Even Godric could not speak the way he did. He may be the strongest wizard in the village, but he had a rough tongue.
“Then speak,” said Rowena, and Salazar was reminded that one of the many things he liked about her was her intellect. She always knew when something wasn’t quite right.
Salazar closed his eyes slightly. “I’d prefer to show you.”
“Show me? What on earth do you mean? I…”
Salazar didn’t give her a chance to finish her sentence. He leaned forward, encircling her with his arms and planted a light kiss on her lips. They touched for only a few seconds before he pulled away, looking down at her.
“What was that for?”
Salazar took a deep breath. “Rowena, I am in love with you,” he said. “And I need to hear you say that you love me back.”
For a moment he was worried. Worried that he would not hear the words he was looking for. But then she smiled and said; “Of course I love you, Salazar. How can you not know that?”
Fighting the urge to cry out happily into the night, Salazar wrapped his arm around her. He could not be a happier man than he was right then.
19th June, 31 years ago
“Salazar, where are you taking me?” Godric grumbled loudly, scowling at the rocky scenery, as Salazar led him down a sharp bank. “You’ve been behaving oddly for weeks-what has gotten into you?”
“That is what I am about to show you, my friend,” Salazar said patiently, and Godric muttered something inaudible under his breath; his callused hand clenching the hilt of his fantastic sword-it had been made especially for him, by the best smith in the town. The smith’s daughter, Helga, was a good friend of Godric, though Salazar got the feeling she disapproved of their friendship.
As he had grown into a man, Godric had developed the tendency to lose his temper. He was often cranky, retreating to the edge of the village where he liked to practise his sparring. Sometimes, Salazar was the only one who could calm him. They were brothers in all but blood.
The day was a warm one, and as Salazar spotted the river, twisting and bending just ahead he noticed a dragonfly hovering in the air. He took it as a sign. A sign that this year was going to be a good one.
They were safe from the Muggles-their community had grown closer, flourished after the death of his stone-hearted father and their spells prevented any Muggle from finding them. All was well.
Godric stared moodily around at the empty clearing. “Well?” he said irritably. “Is this one of your ridiculous little tricks, Salazar? There is nothing here.”
“So this is the famous best friend.”
Godric started as Rowena stepped out of the shadows. Her hair was long and overgrown now, as though she had not bothered to cut it in a long time. It hung down her back in perfect curls that Helga’s flat hair could never have mastered. “Who is this?” Godric asked rudely, his hand going straight to his sword.
“Peace, Godric,” Salazar warned. “She is a friend…and more.”
Rowena raised an eyebrow. “I must say, Salazar, I’m disappointed,” she said. “The way you talked about Godric, I had come to believe that he was a near God. To me, this man seems nothing but a fool.”
Godric stepped forward angrily. “I’d watch your mouth, if I were you, lady,” he said. “You have no idea who you are talking to.”
“Is that so?” Rowena asked. In one swift motion she had drawn her wand from her pocket, flicked it sharply and caused several tough, thick roots to grow from the ground and circle around Godric’s legs, successfully trapping him to the spot. She smiled at Godric’s horrified face. “You wouldn’t have just underestimated me now, would you?”
“Play nice, Rowena,” Salazar said, but he had to fight hard to stop a satisfied smile from creeping onto his face. He stepped forward to stand close to Rowena, and waved his wand. The roots shot back rapidly into the ground, releasing Godric, who grudgingly removed his hand from the sword.
“Who is this woman?” he demanded.
“This is Rowena,” Salazar said. “And she is to become my wife.”
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Godric Gryffindor,” said Rowena, reaching out a hand.
Godric took it in his own, and kissed her fingers lightly. “The pleasure is all mine.”
14th September, 20 years ago
Salazar was clothed entirely in black as he watched the cottage, malice in his eyes.
He had been sitting outside for hours, simply staring at the two figures which stood inside. They were both illuminated by the candles which flickered from inside the house-one was slim, one was tall and broad.
The two people who, up until recently, had been the closest he had to family.
But then they had gone and betrayed him. And now…they were together, when he was all alone.
Through the walls he heard her laugh at something he had said, and his stomach clenched unpleasantly, hate boiling inside him.
Godric was his best friend-how dare he do something like this to him? They had been brothers-did he not understand the bonds of family?
Now rage was all he knew.
The noise was almost enough to send Salazar to his death bed. Wand at the ready he turned to see that Helga was watching him. A slightly plump figure, wearing a black hooded travelling cloak and carrying a wicker basket.
“What are you doing here, Helga?” he snarled.
“Leave them be,” she said. “They are happy together.”
“They were happy when she was with me!” Salazar said loudly, and his voice was enough to send a nearby bird flying away into the night in fright.
“Hush,” Helga said. “You are making a scene…”
Salazar stood sharply and jabbed his finger at her. To his disgust, Helga didn’t even flinch. She had always been this way. “You truly believe I am the one in the wrong?” he hissed. “Then tell me Helga: what is it I have done that makes me so vile? That made Rowena-my Rowena fall in love with him.”
“He is your best friend,” Helga reminded her. “And mine, too. And sometimes, Salazar, things just aren’t meant to be. You were not meant to be with Rowena. Fate has a way of running its natural path, and if something is not destined…”
“DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT DESTINY!”
“You ask the question, but refuse to hear the answers!” said Helga, now sounding angry. “It was always that way, Salazar, maybe that is why she left you.”
“Never talk to me about her again,” said Salazar quietly. “I’m done with her. With this place.” Tightening his cloak around his body, he swept around and stalked off into the night, away from the protection of the village.
“Salazar!” Helga cried. “Salazar, I’m sorry! Come back.”
He refused to listen to her, but continued to walk. He could not say how long he continued to walk, but each step that he took, a new wave of anger threatened to overtake him, bubbling inside of him like the potions Helga was always creating. He reached a large, unfamiliar hill and stopped, breathing heavily.
From this high vantage point, he could see for miles. The village which he had spent most of his life in was a tiny speck on the horizon; the school he had helped to found was more prominent, and glittering with small yellow lights.
He would never go back there. He knew that now.
A sudden noise from nearby startled him. He looked down to see two men climbing up the hill, laughing jovially.
They had been drinking. The scent of alcohol was in the air; Salazar could smell it all over them.
Another wave of anger washed over him as he realised that these men were Muggles-non magic folk like the men who had killed his mother, all those years ago.
He drew his wand silently from his robes. Tonight, he would end the hearts of the race that had started this misery.
By the time the night was over, Salazar had blood on his hands, and two bodies lay at the bottom of the hill.
Voices, and more than one at that, rang in his ears as Salazar returned to consciousness.
He felt oddly impartial, as though he were a ghost who was only tied to this world through spirit. With effort, he opened his eyes. He was still lying flat on his back, in the tent.
Outside, just behind the flap he could see three people, hear three all too familiar voices. His heart began to pound, and Salazar idly wondered how many beats it had left.
“…see him,” Helga was saying, and there was an inaudible mutter which Salazar could not make out. Then Helga said; “Yes. Come in. He has been asking for you, in his sleep.”
The flap of the tent was pushed open and Salazar quickly closed his eyes, feigning sleep.
Footsteps echoed on the ground as they approached him, and then Helga said; “Salazar, I know you are awake. Open your eyes, you have visitors.”
He did not open his eyes. Couldn’t. Because he was scared of what he might see.
“Very well,” said Helga briskly. “I’ll give you some time alone.”
Her footsteps died away as she left the tent. And still, Salazar did not open his eyes.
Then; “It is me.”
For one painful moment, Salazar’s heart constricted. He would know that voice anywhere. He carefully opened his eyes to see the face of Rowena Ravenclaw, peering back at him.
“Rowena,” he said, and his voice was barely a whisper. He was fading…fading much too quickly.
To his surprise, a tear slid down her nose. “You didn’t tell me,” she whispered, and he didn’t have to ask to know what she was talking about.
“I’m sorry,” he said hoarsely, straining to get the words out. It was already becoming difficult to keep his eyes open, so he closed them. “We haven’t spoken…”
“That is no excuse, and you know it. Think of Godric, he’s your best friend…”
“You know perfectly well that is not true. We had…an argument.” Over you.
Rowena sighed, and Salazar imagined her running her fingers through that long, raven coloured hair. “I’ve missed you so much.”
Salazar didn’t say anything. Breathing was becoming a chore-he felt like a rock had been set down on his chest and his lungs had been filled with water. Sweat was starting to slide down his back.
Rowena didn’t say anything, either, but reached out and held his hands between her own. Salazar hoped she’d never let go.
“I love you,” he murmured, the words only just audible.
Rowena removed her hands and the fiery connection faded. Breathing was becoming strangely easier, less laboured, though Salazar felt as though her hands had been the only thing harbouring him to the world.
For a fraction of a section, Salazar thought that she’d left-gone back to Godric who was no doubt waiting outside the tent, too cowardly to come in.
And they said he valued bravery.
But then Rowena’s cold lips were on his feverish ones. He smiled slightly, and wished that he had the strength to pull her closer.
But then she was gone.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered into his ear.
His heart was slowing, but he was oddly happy-an emotion he had not felt; really felt in a very long time.
And so, when the world faded, Salazar Slytherin did not regret it. He had had a full life, with many twists and turns.
He died smiling, though not many remember it.
And then he was gone. And only the tarnished memories remained.
A/N: My first founders! Let me know what you think.