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Legend by celticbard

Format: Novella
Chapters: 11
Word Count: 38,005
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, AU
Characters: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 07/16/2009
Last Chapter: 02/20/2011
Last Updated: 03/06/2011

Summary:



Winner of the 2011 Dobby Awards for "Best Founders"
Stunning banner by the wonderfully talented chocolat. @ TDA
There is legend. And then there is truth. In 9th century England, three wizards band together, not to found a school, but to concoct one of the greatest lies ever told.

And thus began the history of Hogwarts.
 


Chapter 1: Chapter One
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work.

Cast
Helga Hufflepuff, the Queen of Cornwall - Leelee Sobieski
Salazar Slytherin, a servant from the East - Joaquin Phoenix
Godric Gryffindor, high priest of the Gryffindor clan - Sean Bean 

                           
                                     Gorgeous chapter image by Esperanza @ TDA


Chapter One 

York, England 


Helga sat her horse like a man, her slender legs astride the leather saddle instead of neatly draped over the pommel. Salazar thought the position suited her well, echoing with masculinity, but touched with her subtle feminine wiles. A man could destroy himself pondering over the idiosyncrasies of a woman like Helga Hufflepuff…most of England already had.

But Salazar was not a Saxon, nor was he a blue-painted Celt. He had been in Normandy when his cavalcade met with several Frankish warriors. After separating from his fellows, he traveled with them to the shore where he found passage across the Channel in a long-boat. Originally, he hailed from Constantinople.

Helga’s horse side-stepped into his, hitting his hip. He winced.

She pulled the reins taut with a frown. “Such a delicate creature you are.”

Salazar rubbed his upper thigh. “I cannot sit my horse for two days straight like you, my lady,” he replied, forcing a drop of servility to soften his otherwise lofty tone.

Helga raised her narrow chin and appraised him, just as she had the day he was brought before her for casting spells at several of her soldiers. And since then, she hadn’t let him out of her sight.

“I dreamt of my fortune last night,” she said in her strong, heavy Cornish accent. “All of Britannia and Alba lay at my feet, but I was devoured by a lion.”

Salazar exhaled sharply. “Consult your shamans. I am no Seer.”

Helga laughed, amused by his daring, But she was a warrior first and her attention was quickly stolen by the rush of arduous activity that rendered the countryside less than peaceful that morning.

“Look how industrious they are,” she said, directing his gaze to the valley below them, where men labored in the chill of autumn, digging trenches and raising earthworks to fortify her newly captured land.

Another six months and she would have Alba as well as England. Helga had plans to besiege and win Rowena Ravenclaw’s castle before winter settled in. The Queen of Cornwall was destined to become the Queen of Britannia. So foretold the shamans Helga often consulted.

Salazar himself wasn’t sure.

He glanced at the crude fortifications, his very core rejecting and reviling the Muggle work. Why would a witch like Helga resort to using their dirty, unskilled hands for her benefit? It was most unbecoming.

“How many trees have you felled?” Salazar asked pointedly. The sky was bruised with early sunlight, unappealing in its weakness and lack of warmth.

But Helga was rosy-cheeked, not fair but fierce. He supposed her distinct features served her well, marking her at once as the conqueror she had grown into at the tender age of twenty-six.

She had the aspirations of Alexander, but possessed one thing the Macedonian did not.

Magic.

The word was an illicit thing still, sensual almost. And unlike Salazar, Helga had not sought to conceal her abilities from the world. No, she cultivated them, increased them and so began to claim all of England as her own.

He was only now by her side because of his own sorcery. Otherwise, he would be with the rest of the foreign servants, digging ditches with ungainly wooden trowels.

“There are enough firs in this part of the country to build ten dozen strongholds,” Helga remarked, her horse shifting uneasily. “Stop your fretting. I will not have my soldiers tear down the whole of the forest.”

But you could if you wished, Salazar thought bitterly. He had seen Helga do it before, ravage the land she was fighting to conquer. And therein laid another of her idiosyncrasies, which men lost themselves to and so were lain low by a woman….a woman.

“The forest is not yours entirely,” he muttered, ever so willing to pick at her pride.

Helga tolerated his antics. “That bothersome little tribe.”

“The Gryffindors.”

“Viking filth. I shall see to them.”

“There are rumors.” Salazar sank deep within the musty recesses of his cloak, a piece of finery that was only afforded to him in deference to Helga’s favoritism.

“Speak to me of them.” She turned her head, her single, long braid dangling by her hip. Loosening the reins in her gloved hands, she let her horse drop his head and graze.

“The Gryffindors follow the old religion,” Salazar said slowly, “they have a high priest named Godric, so your Celt allies say.”

“A magician?” Helga arched a golden brow.

Salazar shook his head, his hair striking his cold cheeks. “A wizard.”

“Like you?”

“Like us.”

Helga looked thoughtful, her brow creased, the eager dawn light slanting into her keen eyes. “My mind is changed,” she said, smiling as she watched the progress of her soldiers in the valley below. “We shall treat with the Gryffindors after all.”








Godric crouched in a grove of yew trees, his skillful fingers holding fast the branches of a nearby shrub. Half a league from his shelter he noticed the muddy tracks of cart wheels snaking along a narrow woodland trail. Several Cornish men lingered, stacking the boughs of sapling firs onto their shoulders like pack animals.

“They are looking for kindling,” he muttered, his breath fogging the air with a humid vapor. “Queen Helga means to stay the winter.”

Wilfred, a young, but capable warrior of the Gryffindor clan knelt in underbrush beside him.

“She wants us dead,” he rasped.

Godric felt his hand tighten over the branch. “No, we are but cubs to her. She seeks the northern bear.”

Wilfred unsheathed his hunting knife and planted it in the bole of a yew. “Alba.”

“Our land has become her army’s breeding ground.” Godric glanced at the warrior, his brows jumping together in thought. “The clan must stay hidden until she passes through.”

“Impossible!” Wilfred shook his shaggy head, the tendrils of his tawny mane damp with frost.

Godric set his jaw. Youth. Oh to be young again, when the forest was still forgiving and lush with unspent years. Now his life lay before him like shattered trunks, splintered, decaying, ready for the pyre.

If only he had time.

“I will keep the clan safe,” he intoned, hoping that his simple words would act as a spell and guard them against the danger that every day drew closer…now felling the trees, now defiling the sacred groves and glens.

He shut his eyes to the sound of Wilfred’s laughter. The pup did not believe him, could not wrap his mind around a battle joined not with swords, but with the power that Godric alone possessed.

His magic, he was certain, could at least divert Helga’s conquering armies until the spring came.

Perhaps then the Queen of Cornwall’s armies would be too entrenched in their war with Rowena of Alba and she would overlook the small Gryffindor clan.

Godric prayed to the gods nightly for such a miracle and he offered up sacrifices of doves in the sacred groves to the goddess of war, hoping that for once, she would abandon the warrioress Helga and take pity on his people instead.

But his kinsmen, men like Wilfred and his own brother Bertwulf, the chieftain, put little faith in his abilities. They were preparing for war, as their Viking forefathers had done when they first came to raid England.

Godric was utterly alone and yet the only one capable of keeping the Gryffindors truly safe.

He lowered his head, pressing his brow for a moment against the dried leaves of the bush.

“The sun is near risen,” he muttered to his companion. “We must return to the hollow.”
But Wilfred continued to vent his scornful mirth, his heavy palm testing the bark of the tree, kneading the sap beneath until it oozed out onto his hand.

A single arrow came from beyond the branches and so killed him where he stood.

Godric whirled around just in time to see five of Helga’s soldiers come lumbering into the grove. He knew them from their leather hauberks, their furred helms and broken Cornish leers.

“Viking filth!” the foremost spat, his sword arm arched and ready.

Godric saw the flash of the blade in the dawn light. Shoving aside his shock, he dove to the ground, tucked his large body into a neat ball and rolled. Thrusting his hand into his tunic, he withdrew his wand and cast the first defensive spell that came to mind.

The foremost soldier twitched madly, his sword falling from a hand now withered to the bone.

“Sorcery!” Another shrieked, but Godric cut his scream off before it entirely left his throat.

Slashing his wand fiercely, he severed the man’s throat with a single hex.

Blood dampened the ground. Unclean blood.

Godric grimaced. The gods would be vengeful. But he had no time to rue the defilement.

Two soldiers lunged at him in unison. His knees buckled under the weight of the men, forcing him onto his side. A small, but lethal-looking hatchet dangled over his skull.

In blind rage, he jammed his wand into the ribs of one of the men and screamed aloud.

Avada Kedavra!”

The curse was a foreign one that he learned from a traveling. Godric had never used it before, fearful, as he was, of its dreadful consequences.

A flash of green light illuminated the glade and the man directly on top of him went limp. Godric heard the death rattle shake his lungs.

The second man leapt to his feet with a cry at the sight, inarticulate now as he beheld his dead comrade.

He and the other soldier deserted the glade, leaving their fallen companions to rot miserably in the throes of death.

Godric gained his feet and turned, wrenching Wilfred’s hunting knife out of the tree trunk. His fellow clansman lay dead in a pool of his own stinking bile and blood.

And despite himself, Godric could conjure no pity within himself.

It was as the priests from Rome said. Those that lived by the sword often died by it.

What, then, would slay him?

Godric tucked his wand discreetly into his tunic. He was about to leave when the underbrush rustled behind him.

Godric glanced slowly over his shoulder.

There was a tall man standing on the edge of the clearing, the hood of his mantle cast back to reveal hair the color of burnt peat. His eyes were sharp and discerning and in his hand, he held a wand.

A wand!

For the first time in his life, Godric froze.

Another wizard. Another man like himself, composed of flesh, blood, bone.

And he was with Queen Helga’s army.

The stranger smiled, an expression entirely different from the one he had beheld on the faces of the Cornish soldiers.

“So it is true,” he murmured, a hint of a foreign accent touching his voice.

With a faint crack, he disappeared.

Godric lurched forward in desperation. “Wait!”

But the glade was empty








Godric returned in haste to the hollow the Gryffindor clan called home. It was an unimpressive piece of land, with a small cluster of dwellings and several farms spread out over roughly fifty acres. The village itself had not changed much since their Viking forefathers had moored their boats on England’s shore. Only now, the long houses were considerably more permanent than nomadic encampments. The Gryffindors themselves were an inconspicuous people who still clung to their old religion while the Christ-God began to gain ground in surrounding regions.

Godric himself felt as though his position as high priest was endangered, more so now that Hegla’s army had crested the foothills only ten leagues away.

Things were changing. The world was becoming smaller. And Godric knew he could not hide his clan for long.

Arriving at the hollow, he made his way to his brother Bertulf’s dwelling, the hunting knife of the slain Wilfred still clenched in has hand and sticky with sap.

The chieftain’s house was in the middle of the village. Godric stepped into Bertulf’s long house, the scent of smoke and cooking meat making his empty stomach groan. His footfalls were instantly softened by the prized furs spread on the ground and the chill from the early fall morning dissipated, leaving his flesh moist with dew.

His brother was seated by the fire, picking apart a side of cooked venison with his large hands.

Godric tossed the knife at his feet. “Wilfred is dead. Helga’s soldiers caught us unawares while we spied upon them.”

Bertulf’s face darkened as he tossed a bit of fat into his mouth. “You should not have gone into the forest. It is theirs now.”

“Hers.” Godric growled. He paced the hut frantically, sunlight seeping through the roughly hewn beams above. “She has her men felling the trees. The forest will be lain bare in a fortnight. Nothing stands between her army and us.”

Bertulf swallowed, wiping his hands on his trousers. “Brother,” he said slowly, but then fell silent.

Godric offered him a firm glance. In his mind, Bertulf was too young to be chieftain, although his father had slighted Godric as the elder son upon his death. Now the gilded torc rested on Bertulf’s neck and not his.

He looked away, fighting the envy that threatened him.

His magic had taken many things away from him and bestowed little in return. Although not openly persecuted by his kinsmen, Godric had felt their scorn and disbelief more than once. Even as chieftain, Bertulf did not concern himself with his brother’s abilities although he was quick to take advantage of the skills that sustained the clan.

Now Godric felt he would barely be able to keep his people safe from Helga’s magicians. His usefulness was stunted and had grown stale.

Bertulf rubbed his long chin with his hand, his beard smudged with grease.

“We have no choice,” Godric said desperately, moving further into the shadows of fire at his brother’s feet. “We shall have to move the clan.”

Bertulf snorted, his large nostrils dilating. “To where? Alba? Hegla will have conquered that land by next summer.”

“Ireland, maybe,” Godric offered. “She will not spare us otherwise. Larger clans have fallen to her, powerful clans, Bertulf.”

“This is not a decision to be made in haste,” his brother muttered. A log in the fire cracked, sending ashes scattering near his booted toes.

“And there is more,” Godric continued, hoping to impress the seriousness of their situation upon Bertulf. The morning haze had rendered his brother unusually lazy, but Godric, who had already cheated death once that day, was eager for action. “Her soldiers are not the least of our troubles. I met a man in the woods who was with them. He carried a wand…a wand, Bertulf! Helga has knowledge of magic and if she knows the right spells, then my enchantments are useless.” He fisted his hand in his blond hair. “Gods, our last defense…broken.”

Bertulf stood suddenly, the movement disturbing the embers and stirring the logs. He batted away the rising smoke, his eyes narrowed. “She knows of magic,” he said softly, distantly. Cupping his hands together, he pressed them against his face.

Godric stared at his brother. Was the man so terrified that he was left senseless? He fought the urge to shake him roughly from his stupor. But then Bertulf’s wife entered the long house and Godric was stayed.

“Erna, well met,” he said by way of greeting as the comely girl placed a pitcher of fresh milk by the door.

She lowered her eyes to him and dipped her shoulders respectfully.

Godric’s eyes trailed to her full breasts and round belly. Erna was heavy with child, his brother’s child and yet still fair as a maiden.

He felt desire stirring within him and looked away.

But Erna crossed over the furs and took his hands in hers, kissing them. “Dear brother Godric,” she said, tears diluting her blue eyes.

“What is this?” Godric asked.

Bertulf shook his head, his face tight with emotion. “I received envoys from Helga a short time after you left. She is willing to treat with us, to offer us peace.”

“Peace.” Godric spoke the word in wild abandon. The gods were not shunning them after all! He could have fallen to his knees and wept.

But Erna was already sobbing quietly.

“She was very particular,” Bertulf continued, his voice a mere rasp now. “I could not persuade her envoys, could not bribe them with gold or kine…She offered us peace, brother, if only I would send the wizard to her.”

Godric’s jaw slackened and he felt Erna’s hands slipping from his.

“What do you speak of?” he managed to choke out.

“Helga wants you, Godric. She will let the clan alone if go to her as an envoy.”

Godric stumbled back, away from his treacherous sibling. “Why would she ask for such a thing?”

Bertulf did not answer, but covered his face with his hands again.

Wide shadows fell through the doorway and Godric saw several of the clan’s strongest warriors awaiting him, their swords girded to their thick bodies.

He guessed their purpose at once.

Trembling, Godric reached over the fire and tore Bertulf’s hands away from his face. “Never fear, brother,” he spat. “I go to Helga in peace and willingly so! May you live long and grow fat on your guilt.”

Bertulf pulled away from him, moaning. Godric, however, turned purposefully and headed out of the long house, but not before dear Erna had caught his shoulder.

“Take this, dear brother Godric!” she begged him, pressing a golden goblet into his hand, a treasure from her dowry. “Mayhap you will find favor with the Queen.”







Author’s Note: As you may have gathered, this is indeed an AU take on the story of the Founders. Also, this fic is not meant to be historically accurate. Rather, it’s an HP take on the Dark Ages. ^_^

Thanks so much for taking the time to read! If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I would love to hear from you.

I hope you have a great week!

Chapter 2: Chapter Two
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                            
                                          
Wonderful chapter image by esperanza @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic. 

Cast List
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey


Chapter Two

Alba-Hogwarts Castle

Spinning, spinning, spinning…then falling. Fast. Through stars. Fall. Fall.

Silence.

She saw the countryside. Alba. Hills and moors. Valleys and glens. The clear, clear waters of the loch.

Hogwarts standing tall. Stone upon stone.

And then the wild wind came. Leaves fell. The apple rotted. Uneaten. The waters of the loch were diverted, trained into channels for irrigation.

Black figures threatened the hills and bonfires reached into the sky…poisoned it with smoke.

All in the name of the one from Cornwall.

Spinning, spinning, spinning…then falling.

Stop!

Rowena lay on the parapet, a freezing rain drenching her pale limbs. Another spasm took her and she retched, the last of the Sight leaving.

The stars did not lie.

Clawing at the stones, she dragged herself up onto her knees and looked over the walls to the forest below. The storm lapped at the loch. Waves sucked the fertile soil from the shore.

She wept.

Alba would fall to Helga Hufflepuff, the one who called herself the Queen of Cornwall and so sundered all of England.

Now Alba…now her home.

Rowena had not been raised in the halls of warriors. She was a sickly, harried woman, a woman who had inherited the throne of Alba from her mother.

And now her ancestors cursed her from their cairns, for mother had power the likes of which could have rivaled Helga.

But Rowena only possessed the Sight. She was the Cassandra of the North and her shrieks riding the highland winds instead of teasing Troy.

Hogwarts alone stood now, unwithered, but wan in the light of the moon.

And soon the castle that her mother had built would be in the hands of Helga.

Rowena could do nothing to stop it.

Surrendering the last of her strength, she collapsed on the parapet and welcomed the rain that assaulted her. It was sometime before her handmaiden Ailbhe came with a cloak and candle to fetch her. 

 

 









Yorkshire, England

Godric glowered in the light of the many torches. Captured he was, but not defeated.

Helga’s soldiers led him through her camp.

The place was not so impressive up close. The bleeding, setting sun disguised many of the roughly constructed tents. Weary, lean warriors lounged on the last of the summer grass, their jowls working over pieces of stale bread.

Godric himself was not a soldier. He could not guess at what made men fight or what made them particularly good at it. He did wonder, although, if Helga was pleased with herself. Would she stroll amongst her men and swell with pride at the sight of them?

No. He imagined her sitting in her pavilion like some Eastern emperor. Fat. Bloated. With minstrels to sing to her and incense wafting into the bewitched night air.

Disgust mingled with the fear curdling his gut. He did not want to visit her camp as an envoy…and yet he had spared his clan by doing so. The Gryffindors would survive her invasion, albeit as a puppet people guided by his spineless brother Bertulf.

But Godric, not a warrior, would have fought Helga to the end.

And here he was, being led to her on a leash that bound his hands.

He could have fled. Could have forsaken Bertulf and his kinsmen. His magic would allow him to hide, to live as a hermit…in shame and disgrace.

No. Let Bertulf be shamed. Let his every waking moment be poisoned by remembrance and his dreams haunted by nightmares.

Godric would surely suffer less than his brother.

But why had Helga sent for him in the first place? The mystery of it troubled him more than his captivity.

Magic was not looked upon kindly by most these days. Images of hellfire and punishment circled in his mind like scavenging crows.

Perhaps he would meet his death.

A tug on the leash told him that his captors were getting bored. They had led him through a twisted labyrinth of lanes into the heart of the camp. Godric noticed the silhouettes of several siege weapons through the falling dark. To him, they looked like slumbering dragons.

As he had guessed, he was brought to a large pavilion, although no seductive incense tickled his nose as of yet. Torches lent the air a fair shimmer and Godric found himself balking on the threshold.

Magic lay thick about this place.

His captors dragged him forward and with some difficulty, he was pulled inside.

Godric felt his footfalls softened by furs. He looked down, more willing to stare at the pelts beneath his feet than the opulent excess which must surround him.

He heard a distinctly feminine grunt and could not help but suppress a shudder.

“So this is the Gryffindor? Let me see him.”

A cold, calloused hand grabbed his chin and forced it up.

Godric tried to wrench himself from her grasp, but found he couldn’t.

Helga Hufflepuff stood before him, a creature of such delectable ferocity that his skin prickled with the thrill of seeing her. She had a small, feral face with a straight, aquiline nose. Her coloring was fair and she wore her hair tightly braided behind her head.

And to Godric’s utter shock, she was just as tall as him, her figure clad in a mail haubrek that rendered her womanly curves flat.

“Your wand.” Without warning, Helga plunged her hand inside his cloak and patted about the torso of his tunic. Her fingers found the wand he had tucked inside his belt and extracted it.

Having freed it, she then produced a wand of her own and touched it to the tip of his.

Godric felt his eyes widen in shock. Helga was a witch.

Unrestrained relief flooded his veins. Perhaps there was reason to her summons after all. He watched in mute curiosity as she murmured a spell, causing his wand to tremble in her outstretched palm.

“What are you doing?” he asked at length.

Helga ignored him, but another man stepped forward from the shadows with a crooked smile. Godric recognized his thick, dark cloak at once.

He was the man he had seen in the sacred grove just outside the hollow.

“She wants to make certain that you cannot escape,” the man said. He reveled in Godric’s shock, amusement sharpening his moody features.

“Enough, Salazar.” This was Helga. Having completed her spell, she handed back his wand. “Are you indeed the high priest of the Gryffindor clan?” she asked.

“Yes,” Godric replied guardedly.

“What do they call you?”

“Godric.”

“And you are a wizard?”

He did not answer.

Helga’s eyes crinkled slightly. “Never mind. I can sense magic on you. It is powerful indeed.” She touched his shoulder. “I hear you have a gift for me.”

Her words aroused Godric from his stupor. Clumsily, he rifled about his belt for the goblet, producing it after a few minutes of frantic fumbling.

“From my clan, my lady,” he said breathlessly, holding out the goblet for her.

Helga did not take it, but once more pointed her wand at it. “Aguamenti,” she muttered.

The goblet filled with water. Obediently, one of Godric’s captors stepped forward and took the goblet from him, draining it.

Silence reigned for a moment, then all breathed a sigh of relief.

Helga grinned at Godric. “Not poisoned, I see.” Seemingly satisfied that he was not dangerous, she used her wand to sever the ropes binding his wrists.

He captors left the tent, taking the goblet with them. Godric was left alone with Helga and the man called Salazar.

At last, he had a chance to observe his surroundings. Helga’s quarters, like her person, were neat and sleek. She possessed no obvious treasures or spoils that Godric could see, but had a great quantity of maps and other scrolls of parchment. To the side of one squat table, he noticed what appeared to be a stack of books, bound by rough leather. Cautiously, he flipped one open and was immediately bewildered by the writing.

Latin.

“It speaks of the Draught of Living Death,” Salazar said, suddenly close enough to Godric to breath down his neck. “Asphodel brewed in an infusion of wormwood, with valerian roots and sopophorous beans. Give it to a man and you can skin him while he sleeps…he shall not wake.”

Godric shut the book abruptly and scowled at the strange man. “You are a foreigner,” he grunted.

“From the East, where all magic springs,” Salazar drawled.

Godric’s frown deepened. Instinct told him not to trust this man, dripping with treachery as he was…like a serpent.

Helga had seated herself at a long table. Two servants entered carrying a platter of roast meat and bread. A third brought a bowl of blood-red apples soaked in fragrant wine. She beckoned Godric to her.

“Dine with me.”

He slid onto the creaking bench opposite her, feeling awkward in his grimy leather trousers and tunic.

“All brawn and little thought these Gryffindors are,” Salazar commented as he tried to join Helga on her bench.

She smiled coldly at him. “You dine alone, Salazar.”

Shock registered on the man’s face, but apparently, he knew Helga well enough not to tempt her. In all haste, he left the table and the pavilion, somewhat cowed now that his mistress had dismissed him.

Helga turned her full attention on Godric. “I want to know of your clan. Do all your kinsmen possess magic?”

She was straightforward. Godric found he could appreciate her brusque manner. There was no room for honeyed words. He relaxed slightly.

“Only myself,” he replied.

One of the servants began to carve the roast. Hunks of meat were placed on the crusty bread and served to Helga first, then Godric. She picked apart her meal with her fingers.

“And you are the high priest?”

Godric hesitated before tearing some of the greasy meat and popping it into his mouth. His empty stomach, however, urged him to make a glutton of himself. “We reverence the old gods, not the man called Christ.”

“We are alike then.” Helga took a knife from her boot and proceeded to cut some of the tough gristle from the bone. “Although I offer worship to no god save magic. There are many of us in this land…despite what Salazar says.”

Godric felt his jaw slacken as he chewed. “I have only rarely met another witch or wizard.”

Helga snorted in amusement. “We are at least equal in number to the powerless ones. Perhaps you have not looked hard enough.”

“I have not looked at all.”

“Then you must be lonely.”

“Indeed.” He found himself staring at her.

Helga called for wine and the drink was bought to her in the very goblet Godric had delivered.

“We shall drink to new meetings then…or perhaps reunions,” she toasted.

Godric raised the wooden cup a servant had handed him and drank deep. The wine was sharp, so deliciously sharp. He bathed in its perfume.

“Some of the Celts have told me your people came with the Norsemen,” Helga said. She dipped some of her bread in the juice of the meat.

“So our songs say, though we have lived in the hollow for many seasons,” he replied.

“You do not look much like a Viking raider.”

“Have you known any?”

“Several. Ugly creatures. They scorn their magic. You, I sense, do not.”

Godric said nothing. He was beginning to wonder what exactly Helga was planning to do with him. Would it be too dangerous to ask outright?

“Why did you send for me?” he asked at length.

Helga’s keen eyes darted up to meet his. Godric shifted on the bench. He felt very much as though he were being judged like a prized stallion, although Helga seemed to be inspecting his mind and not his flesh.

“I have not decided yet,” she said, a ripe smile splitting her lips.

Godric could taste the rich wine on her breath.


 

 







Salazar huddled angrily outside of Helga’s pavilion. Pacing. Pacing. The ground was firm with frost and his boots crunched on the stiff grass. It was happening…happening all too soon.

He was being cast aside.

Helga had long talked of finding what she desired most…the one treasure she could not plunder and hoard.

But was the Gryffindor worthy enough?

Salazar grimaced in fury as he drew deeper into his cloak. He was losing his position and so his safety.

Pacing. Pacing. The guards on duty watched him, but said nothing. They were rightfully frightened of his powers.

Salazar scorned them. Weaklings. In his frustration, he half-contemplated turning them each into worms. It would make for a fitting transmutation and he could use their blood for his potion brewing.

But just as he was reaching for his wand, the Gryffindor emerged from Helga’s pavilion and was led to his lodgings by a torch-bearing servant.

Salazar turned where he stood and stared at the wizard’s back.

Perhaps it would be much easier to turn him into a worm.

“Salazar.” That was Helga, calling for him now that she had had her fill of the Gryffindor’s stupidity.

“My lady.” He followed her inside the pavilion, allowing the warmth of the strategically placed braziers to embrace him. The remnants of a hearty meal littered the table. Helga settled herself in her chair, a throne that had been carted all the way from Cornwall and had once seated her father, the King.

She was lounging in it now, picking her teeth.

“What do you know of Alba and the Ravenclaw?” she asked deliberately.

Salazar let the hood of his cloak fall to his shoulders, damp as it was with frost. “Only so much that is useful. The Ravenclaws are a magical family, now reduced to a single daughter, Rowena. She holds forth at her castle, Hogwarts. I have heard it is a treacherous place, full of falling stone and empty parapets. Rowena’s mother had sought to build the grand fortress, but died before the great work could be finished. Rowena now stands as queen, although what power she has, I could not guess.”

“And her resources are few?”

“Excepting her magic, yes.”

“Then perhaps this matter might be settled without bloodshed.” Helga rose slightly in her seat and reached behind the chair. “I have a task for you that needs doing. You shall go to Alba and present the Ravenclaw with this gift. Assure her that I will make her my client queen if she forfeits her lands to me.”

Helga produced a small wooden box and lifted the lid. Inside, Salazar saw a most remarkable diadem.

“Fair enough for a puppet queen, I should think.” She shut the lid. “Can I trust you with this?”

But Salazar was already plotting. 
 

 








Author’s Note: Sorry this took so long! I meant to have this chapter posted much sooner but I became rather tied up with my other fics. I do sincerely apologize for the delay.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. Also, I must thank my wonderful beta Kali for all her help and inspiration.

Chapter Three should hopefully be posted no later than Monday the 7th. Take care!
 


Chapter 3: Chapter Three
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                                     

Gorgeous chapter image by Esperanza @ TDA


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

Cast List:

Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey



Chapter Three


Godric found himself confined to a very small corner of Helga’s camp. He was restricted to a series of tents belonging to the Queen’s personal guard, located behind her great pavilion. Squatting in the grass, amidst discarded saddles and broken longbows, he had a good view of her comings and goings. They were less frequent than he had first imagined.

It seemed as though Helga herself rarely left camp, but dispatched a great many underlings to do her bidding. The first of these was the Eastern foreigner, Salazar, who left early one morning with a cavalcade of five handpicked guards and a roughly hewn chest tucked discreetly in a leather satchel. Later that day, Godric heard some of Helga’s guards muttering about a man they called Slytherin.

He was unpopular, it seemed, with most natives of Britain, and they thought it unwise that he had been sent on a diplomatic mission to the Ravenclaw’s stronghold.

Godric, for his part, said nothing to entice rumor or disturb the routine of the camp. Instead, he crouched in the long grass and puffed on a pipe that had been given to him by one young soldier.

He had much time to think over what his next course of action should be. Performing magic in plain sight of the guards seemed particularly unwise, and he kept his wand tucked safely inside his cloak.

Escape was also a risky possibility, as Godric was certain that he was being carefully watched at every moment.

He was left, then, with the singular prospect of an alliance. But what had he to offer the Queen that was any worth?

Nothing, surely.

But then why had she called for him in the first place? Certainly he was no hostage.

Godric was at a complete loss then, when three days later, Helga came for him. She ordered two of her guards to saddle four horses and took Godric out of the camp to where the land still lay wild, untouched save for a single Roman road that decayed between a great stretch of moor.

Autumn had touched the land with crimson, drying the grass until it bled beneath their horse’s hooves. Helga led them along the foothills, skirting the shadows of the mounds and guiding her horse into the path of the setting sun. A hint of the horizon interrupted the line of the low mountains hugging the sky.

When they came to the edge of a dell, Helga dismissed her guards and sent them galloping back towards camp.

Godric tried to disguise his surprise. Was she not afraid of him?

No. She couldn’t be.

Carefully, he watched her sway with the perfect rhythm of her mare’s haunches, her mail haubrek ringing like a dozen silver bells as it hit the pommel of the saddle. She had a sword strapped to her side, though Godric wasn’t much cowed by the weapon.

It was her slender wand that she kept tucked within the folds of her soft leather tunic that worried him.

In all his years, he had never encountered another witch…excepting his mother, of course.

Questions bloomed within his mind and he felt foolish. How would it seem if he asked Helga to tell him all she knew of magic? Surely, she would think less of him.

But why should that matter? Godric was not beholden to her whims, or so he told himself despite his position as a prisoner of war.

Even now, he wondered if he dare try to escape her. He would only have to dig his heels into his horse’s flanks and ride fast to the safety of the foothills, where the coming night would guard him well.

And then her soldiers would come and find him. And then Helga would raze the lands of the Gryffindors just to punish him.

Godric tightened his fingers over the coarse reins, fighting his frustration.

Was he so very worthless?

Silently, he followed Helga’s progress through the dell and around a hillock. After another league, she slowed her mare’s pace and left the surety of the road for the untamed fields. When the grass brushed the bottom of her stirrups, she stopped and dismounted, gesturing for Godric to do the same.

As he leapt to the ground, he glanced around the terrain for any sign of life. A tiny, black bird fluttered over the hill and into the blushing sky, a lifeless worm clasped in its pointed beak.

The loneliness of the place pressed in upon him and he stayed by his horse, unwilling to move out into the open.

Helga herself was standing a few paces in front of him. She was inspecting a tall, narrow stone, its surface long bleached white by the sun. At once, she removed her gloves and rested the tips of fingers on several parallel crevices.

Her eyes closed.

There was something undeniably sacred about the moment. Godric was reminded of the times he made sacrifice to the gods, offering fresh sheaves of wheat and sheep’s blood to strengthen and protect his clan.

Now, the air around them thickened with a pungent odor.

Helga turned from the stone and held out one of her hands to him.

“Come,” she said. A curious smile raised her lips as she grasped his hand in hers and pressed it to the stone.

He tensed. Her palm was resting on top of his knuckles. She seemed to be willing him to feel something and then…and then.

“Magic,” he whispered hoarsely.

It was there, living in the stone.

Helga’s eyes widened with pleasure. “Yes.”

“How did you know?” Godric asked her, his skin prickling as she released his hand.

“It is a marker,” she replied and took a step backwards, inspecting the height of the stone. “An old one, but still alive. One of our ancestors must have left it. He was searching for his kin and left it here so they could find him. Muggles cannot feel it. But we can.”

“Muggles?” He had never heard the word before.

“Those without magic. That is what our kind calls them.”

“And just who are our kind?”

Helga glanced at him, studying him as closely as she had the stone. “I am so glad to have found you.”

Godric took a step back. What could she mean? He rubbed a rough hand over his face, trying to mask his confusion. “I did not know you were searching for me.”

“I have always searched for you. And my father. And my father’s father. And his father.”

Now Godric could not hide his bewilderment. He drew away from the shadow of the stone and stood directly in the sunlight, letting the last of it’s warmth glide over his skin. “What do you say?”

Helga lowered her eyes and laughed to herself. “You have misunderstood me. I apologize. I was not speaking of you only, Gryffindor. I was speaking of our people, all of us. I have spent years looking for other witches and wizards, families with magical blood like mine…like ours. And so did my father. My ancestors always possessed magic. Did yours?”

“I do not know,” Godric replied truthfully. He felt ashamed for not knowing such a simply thing.

Helga seemed to understand though. “Was your sire a wizard?”

“No. My mother though-”

“A witch?”

“Yes.”

“Then you are a half-blood.” She touched his arm lightly.

Godric stared at her, wishing to disrupt the physical contact between them, but ensnared by her nonetheless. “What is a half-blood?”

“A child with one magical parent and one Muggle parent. They are indeed rare. Salazar swears they can be found in the East, but you are the first I have encountered in Britain.”

“And your parents?”

Helga’s eyebrows arched slightly, her bearing suddenly becoming stiff and proud. “My mother was a witch and my father a wizard. Such has it been for my family for generations. And thus have we ruled Cornwall.”

Slowly, she folded her knees and sat with her back against the stone. Her fingers traced circles in the grass besides her. “Sit with me.”

He complied and lowered himself onto the ground. Through his cloak he could feel the pulsing of the stone’s magic behind him. The air was spiced with the same heady scent he had sensed when Helga had first touched the rock.

Godric felt as though he had drunk too much wine. His head was heavy and he longed to stretch out upon the earth and rest his head.

No.

His muscles stiffened and with some difficulty, he mastered himself.

Helga watched the cloudless sky for a moment, seeming to forget that he was even there. At length, she looked once more at Godric and smiled.

“I want to build a school.”

His eyes widened at this strange suggestion, his mind sluggish.

“A school for wizards,” Helga continued, her voice now low, a frantic whisper. “And then we might all dwell together…our kind. We would not be lost and there should be little need to leave primitive markers in barren places like this. If we could unite all the wizards of this isle and of Scotland and perhaps Ireland…oh, it would make all the difference.”

“Is this the cause of your war?” Godric asked her outright.

Helga arched her neck to get a better look at him.

She is judging me, Godric realized. It was plain from the crisp light in her eyes. Perhaps this was the deciding moment. Perhaps she would choose here and now if she should dispose of him or hoard him to herself like one of her many treasures.

The cold neutrality of her expression made his gut twist uneasily. She was ever so decisive and he sensed that she did not regret her decisions once made…unlike him.

Would he do things different, had he the chance? Would he have abandoned his clan to her wrath only to survive as a hunted quarry himself?

Or was he better off, sitting here now with her, his back pressed to the thrumming stone and the sun dashing the sky with gold above them?

If only he had a Seer’s mind.

Helga’s nostrils narrowed. She looked shrewd. “The war is another matter,” she said coldly. “If I can control all of this island, then perhaps the Muggles will leave us be when the time comes.”

“You cannot tell me that your conquest is solely for the benefit of our kind,” Godric replied.

His incredulity made her frown. Helga pushed herself to her feet and stood with her back to him.

“I wage the war because I have the power to,” she said at length, after he'd grown cold sitting in her shadow. “If you had the same power you would do so as well.”

“No, I do not think I would.”

“So says the slave. He is content with his position. He does not know what glories await him.”

Godric thought she was teasing him and anger rushed through his veins.

“What do you want with me?” he asked, standing at once. But even atop his legs, he could not tower over her. Helga was nearly as tall as he.

She rolled her eyes at him, her chin puckering as she smiled. “I want you for my mate.”

He said nothing, let the rising wind carry his thoughts away until he was left only with his shock.

“I will not have a king, but I will have a mate,” she said. “I wish to have one of my own kind, a wizard who can sire my child and secure my legacy. You are native to this land, Godric, despite your Norse blood. And you are powerful. I can feel your magic.”

He did not reply, but put his back to her. The hills behind the stone were flushed violet now with the encroaching dark. A hand lit upon his broad shoulder.

“Godric,” she said, speaking directly into his ear now. “Do not tell me you have not longed for the same prize.”

 

 






The woods were close about him. Smothering. Thick branches clotted the sky, obscuring the sun and casting shadows down to shelter him. The soil was powdery, covering his horse’s fetlocks with clay and fallen pine needles. Nestled between the great, ancient tree trunks were oddly shaped boulders, heralds of the old days when the druids had lived and worshipped in this place.

Salazar knew now why this forest was called forbidden. It was a place belonging to magic, untamed and wild. Even the creatures that lived in the small hollows were governed by a power that was not their own.

This place, this forest, was living. Breathing. And it watched him as he rode with five of Helga’s soldiers to the Ravenclaw's stronghold.

At the start of his journey, he had cursed Helga for sending him on such an errand. It was arduous, unpleasant and dangerous. She knew just as well as he that Rowena of Alba would renounce the offer to become a client queen. But Helga loved to taunt her opponents. She relished in flaunting herself and her power, unaware that her invincibility would soon dwindle.

Power could be restrained but not owned. Helga had kept hers for many years and now it would be sundered.

Salazar would make sure of that.

This forest, he realized, was proof to his claim. Here magic had grown feral, uncontrollable, and not even he could harness it with spells and incantations.

It was written in the old stones that appeared every now and then amidst the trembling roots.

Seasons changed. The moon waxed and waned. Helga’s time was ending.

But his was just beginning.

Salazar soothed his worries with this thought, promised himself that his plot would work and that he would emerge from the oncoming onslaught unscathed.

Loyalty meant weakness. He could not afford to be chained to any fraction.

He knew this, just as he knew that Helga had refused to take him for her mate because he came from the East. She wanted a man native to England…not him.

And she would have cause to rue her decision. He was not English, but he was a Pureblood, and better than any conjurer that lived on this isle.

Ah, well. No matter now. He would not waste himself on the likes of her, not while he had a chance, a sacred opportunity to gain control of things once more.

Slowly, the forest began to clear before him. Branches bowed away and the sky reigned supreme once more.

Coming to the edge of the woods, Salazar had his first view of an ungainly, stone structure. It was an incoherent mass of crumbling towers, fractured walls and narrow, black windows.

He sighed to himself, unable to mask his disappointment.

So this was Hogwarts Castle. 
 

 





Author’s Note: Whew! There you have it, chapter three at last. I meant to have this posted last week, but the monster that is college completely took over my life. Grrr.

Thank you all so much for your continued support! You guys are awesome! I could not have written this fic without your encouragement.

I would also like to thank my incredible beta, Kali, for inspiring me to write and keeping my evil typos in line.

Chapter Four should be posted in roughly two to three weeks. I hope you have a lovely weekend!
 


Chapter 4: Chapter Four
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                         
                                      
Fabulous chapter image by Esperanza @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

Cast List:
Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey
Ailbhe, the handmaiden - Bryce Dallas Howard



Chapter Four

Alba - Hogwarts Castle

Salazar had heard many things of the Ravenclaw queen, but he had never heard that she was beautiful It surprised him, for he had envisioned a witch whom youth had destroyed and left with the tremblings of insanity. But the woman who met him in her Great Hall had all the dignity of Delphi’s mistress.

Rowena was young, yes, but masterful. She was a dark beauty, cold as a winter morn, pale and distant.

And for a moment, Salazar believed that she could rival Helga.

But the hope passed, leaving him empty and shrewd.

He approached Rowena’s chair.

“My lady, Queen Rowena of Alba, I hail you as an emissary from Queen Helga of Cornwall, Mistress of England. Salazar Slytherin I am called and I have been granted leave to treat with you.”

Salazar took pleasure in speaking first. It was above his station, really, but as Helga’s messenger, he carried a shred of authority that was usually denied him.

Rowena observed him for a minute and then she tilted her ebony eyes upward, searching the stars in the enchanted sky above them. The moon was full and round.

“I have seen her,” the Queen replied and her voice was a ribbon of mist, airy and breathless.

Salazar knew what she spoke of. Had he not seen it in her eyes the moment he entered the Hall?

Rowena was a Seeress.

“Perhaps the stars lie,” he replied.

Rowena’s gaze snapped back to him. She appeared incensed, but a frost soon settled over her pride. “Why have you come?”

Ah, so here it was. Salazar appreciated her forthrightness. It would make things easy. He turned slightly, his booted feet sounding a heartbeat on the flagged floor. One of Helga’s guards, who had accompanied him up from the Cornish camp in Yorkshire, stepped forward.

He held the square casket in rough hands.

“Queen Helga of Cornwall, Mistress of England, has a gift for you.” Salazar drew out the words, his every breath dripping with formality.

Rowena sat up straight, her eyes gliding to a nearby handmaiden who reached to take the casket.

Salazar, however, took it from the guard himself.

“Helga of Cornwall, Mistress of England, is generous,” he said, working the latch with his deft fingers. “She hopes you will find her offer pleasing.”

The lid clicked open, revealing a flash of brilliance.

Rowena rose slowly and stretched out an arm.

Salazar shuffled closer and let her examine the treasure. He saw her eyes widen.

“This diadem,” he continued softly, letting the subtle light of worked metal reflect in Rowena’s countenance, “has been blessed by Queen Helga of Cornwall, Mistress of England.”

Rowena exhaled. “It has been bewitched.”

“Queen Helga of Cornwall, Mistress of England has worked her craft upon it. She has seen to it that whosoever might place this diadem upon their brow shall be gifted…”

“Gifted?” Rowena echoed dubiously.

“Gifted with wisdom.” And in saying so, he snapped the lid shut.

The spell, so finely wrought, was broken, but the room still reverberated with Helga’s distant power.

Rowena returned to her chair and Salazar gave the casket back to the guard.

“And what are the conditions of this gift?” the Queen of Alba asked, her brows flitting uneasily.

Salazar hesitated. He knew, yes, he knew in his heart that Rowena would not accept Helga’s offer of peace.

“It is simple,” he lied, feigning assurance. “Queen Helga of Cornwall, Mistress of England wishes to join in consort with my lady, Rowena of-”

“She means to overrun us.” A sudden ferocity darkened Rowena’s gaze. Her pearl-white knuckles clutched the carved arms of her chair. Above, the stars were obscured by a passing cloud.

They were all of them cast into darkness.

“Your mistress,” Rowena spat, “wants Alba for herself and she hopes to assuage her conquer-lust by dominating this island. She offers to turn me out as her puppet queen. Is that it? In exchange for the ravishing of my kingdom, I may be spared to survive in disgrace?”

Salazar could not help but smile wickedly. Yes, this woman was a Seer indeed.

“Queen Helga of Cornwall, Mistress of England, is merciful,” he said.

Rowena’s thin lips twitched.

And ah, what prophesies had spilled forth from her tongue? he dared to wonder. Of what lore had she whispered to deaf solitude?

With some difficulty, he straightened his face. “And along with her mercy, there comes friendship.”

“Liar!” Rowena arched forward, her nails now nested in the arms of her chair. Her cry rang throughout the hall, making Helga’s guard shift nervously.

Salazar regarded her coolly. Yes, there was passion, but did any substance lurk beneath?

“Shall I return your regards to Queen Helga of Cornwall, Mistress of England?” he asked, consciously rubbing salt into her new wounds.

He wanted to see how she would react. Would the ferocity remain? Was there any promise in this young witch?

For the first time in many years, Salazar found his hope play towards optimism.

Rowena turned her eyes from him and gazed once more at the enchanted ceiling. The gods smiled through the stars tonight and promised victory etched a path across the heavens.

But to whom would the victory fall?

Salazar wished he knew.

At length, Rowena abandoned her reverie. And on her face, he saw a hint of foreknowledge, thin and transparent as a caul.

“Alba rejects Queen Helga and all her promises,” Rowena said stonily. “You may take her witchcraft and cast it into the loch for all I care. I would rather be drowned along with it than kiss the Cornish whore’s feet. Tell you mistress that while Hogwarts stands, she may not have it.”
Salazar sighed in hearing her speak. He regretted having to bear such tidings to Helga.

Perhaps he never would.

Affecting a bow, he took the casket and left the Great Hall. Helga’s guard was at his heels.

“Are you loyal to Cornwall?” Salazar asked him once they had passed into the courtyard, where the air was free and fresh with autumn.

The guard stared at him with the eyes of a dullard. “Master?”

“I thought so,” Salazar replied. He took his wand from inside his cloak and whispered the only lullaby he knew.

Avada Kedavra.”

The guard dropped dead at his feet.








Rowena sat curled in a chair by the fire, her thoughts whispering up through the rafters along with the fragrant smoke.

“The stars of the gods alone watch us,” she muttered wearily, “and by their wisdom decide our separate fates.”

Ailbhe, her handmaiden, brought a bone comb to her mistress’s locks. “My lady must disregard that man,” she said, taking care to divide the black strands into plaits. “He is only a puppet through which a fool speaks. Take courage and the dawn will come.”

Rowena sniffed the air, slipping her cold hands inside her robe. Never before had she found the stone walls of Hogwarts so comforting, even though the Cornish host was surely rallying against them just beyond the horizon. “Helga is no fool, Ailbhe,” she replied. “Though I wish it were so. She is a powerful sorceress, more so than my mother ever was.”

“But she does not possess the gift of foresight.”

“She has no need of it. Even a blind man could predict her victory. I read it in the stars myself. We shall all perish.”

Silently, Rowena cursed her weakness. She had tried with boastful words to drive the enemy away, but her cool bluff would only last so long.

“Perhaps,” she mused out loud, “I ought to have taken the diadem from that man. It would have guaranteed us some protection, at the very least. Some safety.”

Ailbhe’s hands stilled, the comb rattling as it smashed on the floor. “There is no greater shame than surrender,” the handmaid whispered, her palms now pressed to Rowena’s shoulders.

Rowena knew she should agree with the girl, but her strength had long ago been spent.

There would be no victory over Helga and she began to consider slavery a gentler substitute for death.

“We must tell the people not to oppose the Cornish armies when they arrive,” she said darkly, each word lodging in her throat like a sharp stone, cutting her vocal cords until they bled sobs. “For we cannot hope to mount an offensive.”

Ailbhe did not reply, but she did gasp as a thunder clap sounded throughout the chamber.

Before Rowena had time to draw another breath, her handmaiden was sprawled on the deerskin rug at her feet, her body as rigid and unfeeling as deep winter ice.

A man cloaked in black emerged from the shadows. He was pointing a wand at Rowena’s breast.

“My most sincere apologies, my lady Ravenclaw,” her murmured, his voice laden with venom.

Rowena felt his words slither into her veins. Quickly, she rose from her chair, her heavy skirts fanning out across the hearth. “Ailbhe!” She dropped to her knees next to the prostrate girl.

Ailbhe did not respond to her Queen’s touch, nor did she stir at all.

“You have killed her,” Rowena muttered hopelessly.

The cloaked man smiled. “Nay, my lady. She is only stunned. Place your hand upon her breast.”

Offering her intruder a seething glare, Rowena slipped her fingers under Ailbhe’s bodice. A heartbeat leapt to life under her palm.

Wild relief made her shudder. “You spare my maid’s life, but not mine, I fear,” she said carefully, recognizing the man as Helga’s emissary. “Have you come to murder me in my chambers so that your mistress might steal what is rightly mine?”

The emissary laughed and it was a dark, creeping sound. The tongues of fire in the hearth sputtered greedily. “Has your Sight been clouded of late, my lady?” he asked, offering her a sallow-skinned hand.

Rowena took it and allowed herself to be helped to her feet. His skin was as dry as burnt wood.

“I see you do not call for your guards,” he continued, his glance briefly flitting to her chamber door, which was locked and barred. “Are they Muggles as well?”

“Indeed,” Rowena replied. “I shall not have any unnecessary blood spilled on my account. Do you bidding, wizard! Take my life and so decide the conquest.” And in saying so, she bared her breast for the dark-eyed emissary.

Another laugh from him, his breath playing coolly across her flesh.

“Do not be so immodest, my lady,” he said, but nonetheless, kept is wand trained to her heart. “I have not come to kill you, nor harm any of your household.”

Rowena covered herself once more, a rare blush staining her hollow cheeks. “I should have guessed Helga would keep the company of a sorcerer. What is it you want from me, magician?”

She was surprised when his face pinched with offense.

“I have never been cursed by one of my own kind,” he replied. “It is well known that you are a witch, otherwise Helga shouldn’t have troubled herself with granting you favors.”

“Favors indeed!” Rowena spat. She was shaking fiercely and had to clutch the back of her chair to stay upright.

Ah, what treacherous weakness! If ever she had wished to appear strong, it would be before this man.

“I ask again,” she said, struggling to keep her voice steady. “What is it you want from me?”

The emissary sniffed the air and shifted his position slightly so that he could benefit from the warmth of the fire. His every move was fluid and agile, as unpredictable as smoke being rushed away by the wind.

“I am afraid I did not have the opportunity to explain the fullness of my proffered terms,” he said.
Rowena felt her eyes widen. Surely he had not come here to bargain?

“I want nothing of Helga’s favor,” she replied bitterly.

“It is not Helga’s favor I speak of.”

He waited a beat, as if questioning his own tactics. Rowena sensed the need to encourage him.

“Go on,” she said.

His eyes flickered to life once more. “Helga cannot be matched by only one of her own kind.” He paused, taking a moment to study her features. “But with the force of a pair…perhaps.”

Rowena’s hands left the back of her chair. “I do not understand.”

For the first time, the emissary dropped his wand and left himself defenseless. “Have you not read the stars, Rowena of Ravenclaw?” he asked.

She recoiled, hearing her name upon his lips. “I trust in their wisdom.”

“Then you have seen the death of Helga’s fortune.” His voice was naught but a whisper now. “By our hands.”






Yorkshire - The Cornish Encampment

Godric stood outside Helga’s tent, his long cloak rippling in the wind. A storm was coming across the moors. Leaves spiraled listlessly from dying trees and the ground was hardening was frost. Soon, he guessed, there would be virgin snow and he could track the passages of animals through the forest.

Or perhaps it would rain and the river would rise to drown them all.

Godric did not know which he preferred.

Helga had not been in camp for several days. Rumor said that she had gone out riding, gathering allies and reminding her client kings of their duty to Cornwall. And with every passing hour, Godric was reminded of his duty to her.

She had spared is life. It was more than he could ever say for his brother, or his kinsmen from the Gryffindor tribe.

Godric began to wonder where he should let his loyalties lie: with her or with himself.

With her, at least, he would not be alone.

The wind grew sharper, teasing the first feathery snowflakes until they blew across the camp with unparallel ferocity. Godric watched Helga’s Muggle soldiers go about their duty, polishing shields and swords, shoeing their horses. The foreboding uneasiness of it all made him shiver and he could not help but wonder what it would be like to have such power, such utter control.

Never before had he been tempted by the seductive promises of supremacy, although now he had glanced a different world. A world that was sharper and more distinct, a world in which magic need not be hidden or diverted to useless tricks.

Magic could be powerful. It could kill. And Helga had shown him that.

Godric realized he wanted something from her. Indeed, needed something.

Companionship, perhaps?

He shook his head, the snow landing and melting in his tawny hair. But what could he, in turn, possibly offer Helga?

And then he knew.

She came before the storm, riding her mare like a man, her hauberk hitting the saddle with a muted ring.

“Did you think I would not return?” Helga asked him once she had dismounted.

He followed her within her tent. Outside, it had begun to sleet, a careful mixture of rain and snow.

Godric said nothing. Helga removed her hauberk and heavy outer tunic. A servant brought her meat and bread. She offered Godric a goblet of wine.

“Drink with me,” she said. It was a request, he realized and not an order.

Still, he sat with her before a brazier, the sound of crackling wood no match for the ice hitting the taut canvas above.

Helga did not ask him whether or not he had decided upon his course of action and for that, Godric was eternally grateful.

He wished to tell her himself.

Sliding from his chair, he kneeled before her and put his hands to her cheeks. And, bowing her head down to meet his, he kissed her. 








Author’s Note: Yes, this story is alive! Quite alive, in fact. I do apologize for taking forever to update, but RL got in the way and this chapter didn’t help by being positively stubborn. Here it is, at last. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I do hope you enjoy it.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read/review/favorite this story so far. You guys rock! I cannot possibly express what your feedback means to me. It is truly invaluable.

With any luck, the next chapter should be posted in three weeks or less. Enjoy your winter!

Chapter 5: Chapter Five
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                        
                                  
Absolutely perfect chapter image by chocolat. @ TDA


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

Cast List:

Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey
Ailbhe, Rowena’s handmaiden - Bryce Dallas Howard
Riol, a Cornish officer - Steven Mackintosh


Chapter Five

“There are many methods through which a man might be controlled,” Helga said. “I shall teach you three. The rest you must learn for yourself.”

Godric felt his muscles tense as she approached him. His body had of late become a slave to instinct and the feral fear that belonged to all men. His mind, however, settled on thoughts of a much softer nature, wishes he had conjured from Helga’s self-assured smiles…her kisses….

The unforgiving chill of the winter’s morn nipped impolitely at his exposed flesh and the hem of his black fur coat was dotted with fresh snow. Winding footprints paced the length of the glade, forming serpentine patterns that so perfectly mimicked the carven swirls on the nearby standing stones.

Helga was flushed in the pink light of dawn.

“The spells are named thusly,” she continued, her gloved fingers fastened over the handle of her wand. They stood shoulder to shoulder on earth made even by packed snow. “The Cruciatus Curse, which inflicts immeasurable pain. The Avada Kedavra Curse, which you already know causes death. And the last, of my own invention, the Imperius Curse, which ensnares a man’s senses and makes him the puppet of the caster. I can teach you the incantations well enough, Godric, but you must judge when to use them. You see, there is philosophy in magic after all.”

Godric listened to her, his eyes fixed steadily on the naked trees and the faint, streaming light that drew shadows from the ebony trunks. The air was breathless and close, frozen with some tremulous prospect.

And he felt the same measure of restlessness in Helga, saw it burn in her eyes whenever they lay together. It ran through her veins likes fire….

“Do you think Slytherin will return this day?” he asked, unable to stem his curiosity, which by now, was unfettered and wild.

For a moment, Helga’s face darkened.

It had been three weeks, and still, her emissary had not returned from Rowena Ravenclaw’s stronghold.

And late tidings often bore ill news. Or none at all.

“I think Salazar may be trusted to act accordingly,” Helga replied at length, though Godric noticed the concern that shadowed her keen gaze. “His judgment is above reproach.”

There was much left to interpretation, although. And Helga certainly could not deny that. Godric, however, put his faith in her instinct, as he had done with most things. It was a strange sort of home-coming, a spiritual pilgrimage now put to rest as he adapted to her company.

He had long wished for the companionship of another wizard--or witch, as it might be. His kinsman of the Gryffindor tribe had lacked both the natural imagination of magical folk and they condemned his spells as naught but the by-product of archaic gods.

Through Helga, Godric now understood more about his talents and had eagerly entered into her tutelage…just as he had become her lover.

There remained no reason to question her wisdom regarding Slytherin’s absence and as the days shortened towards the solstice, he found his faith resting in her more and more.

“I have performed the Killing Curse once,” he said, switching the discussion back to a safer, more cerebral topic. “I would not think it useful for interrogation. Perhaps it may frighten an enemy, but certainly render him useless.”

“Quite right,” Helga replied. She was smiling pleasantly now and her fingers lit upon his forearm, touching his leather vambrace. “But remember, a corpse may be controlled…if one wishes to indulge in necromancy.”

“A dark art.”

“It may be termed such. But you must know how to kill, Godric. Or am I wrong in sensing something of a warrior’s spirit about you?”

“Perhaps.” He cleared his raw throat with a grunt.

Helga looked thoughtful, raising her eyes to the winding branches. Overhead, perched on a thin, snowy limb was a young starling. The bird twittered in a high, fluting voice that was appropriately masked by the wind.

“Let us try your aim,” Helga said. She stepped away from Godric, her arms folded neatly. “If you can hit a swift little bird with a spell, I daresay you should rival the finest archer in my army. Remember the incantation I taught you…imperio.”

Godric raised a brow at her, but obeyed. Lifting his wand, he carefully pointed it at the starling and cleared his mind. “Imperio.”

The incantation slipped from his tongue in a fluid whisper. The starling, however, must have sensed his predatory intentions, for the bird spread it’s wings and leapt into the frozen air.

The spell missed.

Godric flushed and cursed. Helga only smiled.

Raising her own wand, she directed it at the soaring bird and murmured the same incantation.

At once, the starling shuddered and then plummeted wildly towards the forest floor.

Godric thought the bird would dash its brains out, but Helga deftly sent the bird spiraling upward, flying in smooth circles. At last, she had it settle right upon his shoulder and whistle a sweet, captivating little tune.

Godric stroked the bird’s head in amazement. “Quite effective your spell is,” he admitted. “You could render any wild beast tame.”

Helga scoffed, flicking her wand and releasing the starling. The bird came to its senses at once and darted off into the sky. “Man is the only creature you need worry about controlling.”

For some unknown reason, her words provoked an unexpected chill in Godric. He shivered in his heavy cloak and looked for another bird to cast the enchantment upon.

A rabbit climbed out of its burrow underneath a fallen large and Godric whirled about, shooting the spell at the creature. At once, the rabbit stiffened and under his command, hopped about the glade in a circle.

Helga applauded. “Well done, Godric. Well--”

She was interrupted by the strenuous panting of a hard-pressed horse. Frantic hoof beats sounded on the packed snow, sending ice and frigid water in every direction.

Godric threw up his arms to avoid the spray as the horse and rider streaked into the glade and in doing so, his rabbit gained its freedom and promptly dove back into its hole.

Helga stepped in front of him, unfazed by prancing horse and wild-eyed rider. She held up her hand and with difficulty, the man controlled his mount and slipped to the ground.

Faintly, it had begun to snow.

“My lady.” The rider was on his knees, sweeping his hood back with red, frost-bitten hands. “I was sent from camp to find you. I have lately come from Hogwarts.”

Godric exhaled sharply. He recognized the man now as one of the guards Helga had sent with Slytherin to Alba. But just where was Salazar?

Helga’s face tightened and she grabbed the man by the back of his hood, pulling him closer. “What news? Has Rowena rejected my terms?”

“Oh, my lady.” The man was crying…sobbing.

Helga slapped him across the face. “Speak!”

The man floundered for a wild moment, clawing at his tunic. Godric thought he had gone quite mad, but then he realized the messenger was searching for something he carried.

After a moment, the man produced a small trinket…a silver locket on a chain that Godric knew had belonged to Slytherin.

And in seeing it, his heart sank.

“Rowena the Ravenclaw as rejected my lady’s terms,” the messenger babbled. “And she has executed Salazar Slytherin in return.”








Helga glanced at each of her officers, temperance dampening her ill humor. At last, when she was assured of their attention, she removed Salazar’s locket from within her doublet and cast it upon the table.

“This,” she spat, “is an insult.”

Uncomfortable silence settled in the close confines of the tent. Godric himself was glad to be standing by the door, where crisp breezes reminded him of the virulent winter weather raging outside. Within the heavy canvas walls, the men sweated and sighed, their faces darkened by angry torchlight.

Helga seemed further irritated by the stillness of her officers. She began to pace, cutting a line between the thick bodies like ice through stone. Salazar’s locket remained gleaming on the table, a fertile reminder of the savagery Godric now felt inherent in his life. Things were no longer simple for him. It wasn’t enough to pray to his clan’s gods and cast runes and mutter simple spells to ensure a good harvest. Helga had showed him that magic was so much more than his former, plebian pastimes. It was wondrous…and a source of undeniably danger.

His fingers stiffened at the thought of his own power, which lay dormant now like a slumbering serpent.

At length, one of the Cornish officers shattered the uneasy quietude.

“This Rowena is, at the very least, bold, my lady,” he said, his confidence betraying his otherwise subdued appearance. “How long is it since we have had any resistance?”

Helga paused, her chest heaving. There was naught but wildness in her eyes and for a moment, Godric wondered if she would order the man slain for such insolence.

The Queen of Cornwall, however, was thoroughly measured in her anger.

“I do not trust bravado coupled with madness, Riol,” she told the officer pointedly. “Such a combination might spell disaster for us all. Alas for poor Slytherin! I thought his tongue was better tempered to soothe Rowena. May his phantom curse me for being so very amiss.”

What was this? Godric felt his ears prick up. Was Helga truly admitting her own weaknesses? It seemed odd to him that such a powerful woman would frankly confess to any Achilles’ Heel.

He glanced quickly at the faces of Cornish men, expecting to see the same surprise he felt.

Once more, Riol alone reacted. “Slytherin was a foreigner, my lady and not to be trusted.” In speaking, he let his eyes drift over Godric and the overt meaning of his statement was not lost. “Power should not be delegated to those who have no knowledge of our campaigns, whereas your soldiers from Cornwall have been with you from the outset.”

Helga bristled ever so slightly, though Godric suspected she had greater worries to combat than Riol’s whining.

“I will hear none of this now,” she said.

Riol lowered his eyes in deference, although his hand strayed to the locket on the table. “Slytherin failed,” he replied. “And Rowena has been alerted to our intentions. We must move quickly, my lady, lest Alba rise up against us first.”

There was a murmur of agreement amongst the officers this time. Helga, however, did not look concerned.

“Well spoken, Riol,” she said, though her voice verged on cutting. “We shall proceed as we always have. Those natives of Alba that wish to join us shall be welcome. Otherwise, we invoke total warfare upon their land. Rowena has but one stronghold and that is Hogwarts. If necessary, we will starve her out.”

“A siege it is then,” Riol muttered.

The rest of Helga’s officers appeared less convinced.

“To mount such a campaign in the heart of winter provokes the scorn of Fortune,” one bearded soldier rasped. He had a face like raw clay, red and pitted with distinct scars. “Why not remain in England, my lady, until spring. We can launch raids into Alba and lay the country open for an invasion when the weather warms.”

Several officers nodded, but Godric found himself glancing at Riol. The man was grimacing, his expression as sour as curdled milk.

Helga seemed to feed off his insistence, although Godric knew she was sincerely anxious to undertake the last league of her enterprise.

Once more, her eyes lingered on Salazar’s locket. “I should rather not be tied to our camp here in York. My men will become fat and bloated, useless by spring. Now they are hungry. Now they are eager. And I have not come so far to retire.”

Silence once more. Godric realized he had unconsciously drawn away from the tent door and was no standing under the unfavorable light of the braziers.

Riol glanced at him, then turned to Helga. “A compromise, then, my lady,” he said. “You might send out an advance guard. There is always the possibility that this Rowena will lose her nerve and capitulate before ever we darken the shadow of Hogwarts.”

“A vain hope it is, but one I should be glad to embrace,” Helga replied. “Some measure of reconnaissance will certainly dispel any lingering doubt from you cowards.” She smiled wryly at the group of nay-sayers. “I will organize an advanced guard to penetrate Alba before the week is out. I should hate to think of Rowena gloating over Salazar’s corpse in her drafty castle.” A pause, and then, “Godric, will you do this for me?”

He tried not to appear surprised, but felt the muscles of his jaw tighten and then lock. “If you are certain, my lady.”

The Cornish officers were watching him closely. Riol grinned, his face skull-like.








They were standing beneath the night sky, in the same glade where she had taught him the Imperius Curse. Shoulder to shoulder. On even ground.

And yet Godric was cowed by Helga’s majesty, her strength, her power…over him.

“Why did you ask this of me?” he questioned, his face a grim pattern of worried lines. “You ought to send Riol, or one of your more experienced commanders. Someone loyal to you.”

Helga surprised him with a laugh. She had her hood drawn up and her eyes were but two pieces of flint, sharp and dangerous. The spark was lit, the fire blazing. Nothing could deter her now.

“And are you not loyal to me, Godric?” she replied. “I know you and I know your magic. You are the only one I could have chosen.”

“Is it because I am a wizard?” he prompted. The uneasiness in him would not abate. It was a faint sort of stirring; a persistent gnawing of the mind and heart.

Helga was using him. Whatever delusions he had granted himself, whatever affection he had attributed to her and their amorous liaisons assaulted him now with unflagging ferocity.

A part of him felt ashamed for having fallen for her so easily…so very easily. Godric had wanted to belong, had thirsted for the company of another like himself and so was enthralled by Helga.

But Helga, ah, Helga, she was much more than he could ever be. And surely she must know it.

Just as she was toying with him now…using him as a pawn, an unworthy limb of tall and ever-growing tree.

Godric was nothing.

Nothing. 

“Are you frightened?” Helga said, disturbing the inky silence of the evening.

Godric glanced at her and was stunned to see that she was staring at her feet.

“I do not think so,” he responded. “This Rowena may seem ruthless, but I--”

“You are frightened.” Her voice was tight…and wavering. “Of what I am. Of the madness I have fostered.”

Suddenly, Godric felt the aching need to comfort her, she who was the stone, the unmovable mountain he so envied. Yes, envied….

“I never thought you were mad,” he said, extending an awkward hand and bracing it on her shoulder. “I envy you, Helga. Do you not see how uncouth I am? How feral and lost? Like a child…like a witless babe. And you…I do not think us an even match. Do you pity me?”

She exhaled and he saw her breath paint the air with subtle patterns. Her cheeks were moist in the clear, cold starlight. “Never. I need you, Godric. You are so much more to me than I ever could be to you.”

He took a step back, bewildered by her complete willingness to bear herself to him. His uncertainty began to ebb away…slowly.

They were quiet for some time. Helga raised her eyes now to stare at the black, black branches overhead. The hood of her mantle fell back.

Was she lying?

Godric did not exclude the possibility. Helga needed him, yes, but she could certainly be exaggerating his importance.

And yet she was standing here with him, in the cold, in the dark…

She has given me the world. And she has given me magic.

Godric glanced at the unfriendly stars and found himself smiling. What secrets they held he could not tell and in the end, it did not matter.

An air of resignation settled about him. What inner battles he had fought, on plains so pitted and remorseless, were now quelled. Life had been so complicated and he realized that it need not be.

Boldly, he reached out and grazed Helga’s chin with his fingertips. She started at his touch, then stilled, her own hand wrapping around his.

“I will not settle for a false, yet peaceful accord between us,” she said, the wild liveliness returning to her voice. “We can be happy together, Godric.”

“Indeed.” His voice was rough. Husky. His fingers trailed down the curve her neck, where he felt her throat pulse as she swallowed. Her heartbeat was distinct against his palm. Thunderous.

Slowly, he removed her mantle.








The morning of his departure, Helga gifted a goblin-made sword to Godric. The blade was silver and the hilt embellished with rubies the size of a hen’s egg.

Helga smiled as Godric slipped the sword from it’s scabbard, running the flat edge of the blade along his hand in wonderment.

“Did I not say you have something of a warrior’s spirit about you?” she asked.

Godric did not reply, but held the sword aloft between them.

The light from the rising sun reflected off the largest ruby, throwing blood-colored shadows across Helga’s face. 







Author’s Note: A new chapter at last! I am happy to report that I have finally shaken off my writer’s block for this story and am vigorously plotting the next chapters. According to my calculations, we’re about halfway through this fic with roughly five chapters to go.
As always, I must thank everyone who has taken the time to read/review this fic so far. Your patience and understanding has been greatly appreciated.

The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. Take care, all!

Chapter 6: Chapter Six
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                             
                                      
Breath-taking chapter image by chocolat. @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

Cast List:

Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey
Ailbhe, Rowena’s handmaiden - Bryce Dallas Howard
Riol - Steven Mackintosh
The Abbott - Max von Sydow
The Captain-General of Alba - Bernard Hill



Chapter Six
Near Hadrian’s Wall--between Britannia and Alba

The cold traveled in gusts, poisoning the wind until it shrieked like a demon or some mad, mad spirit from the haunted past. Even beneath his layers of leather and fur and calloused flesh, Godric could feel the unwelcome chill and his heart was frosted with spears of worry and misplaced dread.

Two days ride from Helga’s encampment in Northern Britannia, the advance guard was attacked by a force much stronger than the most potent magic; nature.

A mid-winter storm was harassing the borders of Alba and the barren moors themselves provided little protection from the driving snow, which drifted into the old Roman roads and prevented even the draft horses from passing through.

Godric was forced to call off the march until the blizzard passed and his army of nearly one hundred foot soldiers and fifty mounted cavalry hunkered down on the lee side of a stony crag. With canvases stretched against scavenged wooden poles, they were able to construct some meager shelter from the ice and snow, although Godric half-feared they would all freeze to death before the night passed.

He spent most of his time conjuring magical fires to keep the men warm, although the flames themselves were more of a threat than a necessary safeguard. Any curious native of Alba wandering along the borders might spot the dashes of crimson amongst the overwhelming white and so discover the advance guard of Cornish soldiers come to penetrate Rowena’s weak underbelly. And Godric wasn’t certain his men would be able to fight off an attack right now, huddled and frozen as they were in their mean lean-tos.

It was with an uneasy mind then that he settled down for a night’s rest in his own shelter, squatting next to none other than Riol, his second-in-command.

The slight, skinny man was hidden in the folds of his heavy fur cloak, his aquiline features protruding slightly from the hood.

Godric dropped to his knees by the fire he had built and warmed his raw hands. His joints were stiffened with the cold and his very flesh protested the heat it so sorely carved. Sluggishly, his blood began to pump through his limbs until only the very tips of his fingers were numb.

Riol was watching him closely, he sensed and Godric rubbed his flushed cheeks with a rough hand.

Suddenly, Riol laughed. It was a low, fluttering sound. Uneasy.

“Do you despise me too, Gryffindor, because I am no wizard?”

The question caught Godric completely off guard and he sank moodily against the canvas wall behind him.

“What is this?” he grunted.

“Salazar Slytherin thought I was most unworthy,” Riol continued, drawing back his hood to reveal a face that might have been noble despite his sycophantic smile. “It did not matter to him that I had been counselor to Helga’s father and that she herself trusted me more than any magician. But Slytherin did not understand his role in this game. Do you, Gryffindor?”

There was something of cold manipulation in Riol’s manner that did not suit Godric well. He stamped his feet on the cold ground, hearing the frozen grass crunch under his boots. Snow was fast encroaching on their shelter, mingling with the tongues of flame and black smoke.

“Perhaps it is not my place to understand,” he said at length. “Do you think all wizards are omnipotent?”

Riol brightened. “Oh yes, I like you much better. Much better than Slytherin. Good riddance, I should say. And Helga must agree. The man was a worm…a snake. And he thought to oust me, all because…all because I was more dear to Helga than he could ever be. But you certainly would not be so rash, Gryffindor? You understand that we all have parts to play…that I am needed, just as you are.”

“You wish us to work in tandem?” Godric asked. He didn’t fully catch Riol’s meaning, although the man clearly hated Slytherin. Did he perhaps feel entitled to Helga’s favor and was now soliciting Godric’s support?

At once, he understood how dangerous these things could become. How politics could be played even here, now, in the middle of a blinding snow-storm.

And Riol was neither a pawn nor a king.

Godric felt vaguely disturbed.

“I have confused you.” Riol sat forward, his hands now thrown about his knees. They were pale and slender--not the meaty hands of a veteran soldier.

A sudden thought occurred to Godric. “Did Helga send you along to watch me?”

Riol recoiled into the shadows. “This is most troubling,” he said, speaking swiftly. “You are questioning Helga’s trust. Not now, Gryffindor. Do not waver now!”

Godric growled, his irritation growing. Who was this weakling of a man to question his loyalty to Helga?

“I have faith in her,” he bit back.

Riol nodded. “That is good, but is it enough?”

“I am no philosopher. What is this game you play?”

The wind picked up, issuing a throaty shriek that chilled Godric to the very bone. He remembered the time he had spent with Helga several days ago, when she had charmed a wild bird to perform tame tricks…and nearly dash its brains out on the frozen ground.

After some consideration, he decided to try another tactic with Riol. Riddles, after all, were painfully frustrating.

“You speak of a long acquaintance with Helga,” he said, directing the smoke of their fire away from the shelter with a flick of his wand. “You must know her well.”

Riol did not flinch, but grinned into the flames. “I was her father’s counselor for a time and I taught Helga to read. Latin. Greek. The languages of the old empires.”

“You are learned man. Wise.”

“Perhaps.”

“Do you think it wise then, for Helga to trust me so? A strange, clannish wizard from the rotten Hollow?”

Riol showed Godric his teeth when he smiled. “I do not think you strange or clannish. Slytherin was strange. Dark. Wizards from the East often are.”

“And the wizards of Britain?”

“I cannot tell.”

They sat in uncomfortable silence for a time. Godric squinted into the blinding storm, straining to pick out the hulking forms of his soldiers through the high drifts and dunes of white. Riol, however, only watched him.

And at length, he dared to speak.

“Do you not think it strange, even for a competent tactician such as Helga, to stage a siege in the middle of winter?”

Godric was certain the question was a trick. He decided to answer it only with a shrug.
Riol laughed and the sound was dry, hopeless. “But perhaps there is a reason to this…perhaps time is against our Queen.”

Again, Godric did not answer.

This seemed to vex his companion a fair bit. Carefully, Riol drew his feet from underneath his cloak, stamping his boot heels until the ashes from the fire dirtied Godric’s trousers.

The wizard felt his own ire raise, slithering into his veins like venom. He dropped his hand over the hilt of the goblin-made sword Helga had given him and immediately felt a rush of power.

Power that he owed only to her.

Because she was as Riol had said, a great tactician. A Caesar. Someone who could turn the world on it’s head and convince the masses that it was for the best.

And Godric himself was just as willing to believe her. Had she not, in fact, acted for his good and his good alone?

Riol, however, was as keen and unfriendly as a sharpened sword.

“Take heed, Gryffindor!” he crowed. “I only wish to help you.”

Godric wrinkled his nose and stared at the man.

But Riol would not meet his gaze. Instead, he leapt to his feet, leaving the protective light of the fire for storm. His hand, thin and limp as a fishbone, dropped down on Godric’s shoulder.

“Look.”

Grudgingly, Godric squinted into the billowing snow. The wind was cold enough to drive icicles through a man’s flesh and he wasn’t eager to abandoned the little warmth his magical fire had provided. But then he saw it, what had caused Riol to turn pale and tremble and forsake the clarity of his cunning tongue.

Instead, the man stuttered helplessly. “If…if only I…I had not wished in…vain…”

And Godric too rose to his feet, the gale pulling back his hood and leaving his face exposed to the elements. Hail gnawed at his bearded cheeks, freezing in the hair of his eyebrows.

Slowly, he dropped his hand from his sword.

Through the drifts and dunes, coughing and spitting blood, came Salazar Slytherin, his feet bound in cloth and his face blackened with bruises.









Northern England 

Helga watched as flames fingered the thatched roofs of the monastery’s pitiful barn. Pigs squealed as they were dragged from their sties and into the muddy snow. A horse reared and plunged, balking at the end of its lead. Frantic hooves kicked up slush onto the hem of her grey cloak.

Helga sighed and used her wand to siphon the icy water off her boots. Her lower back was aching and the chaos from the monastery annoyed her to the point of absolute frustration.

“Do you not see,” she said to the Abbott, who was laying prostrate at her feet, one hand clamped over scythe-shaped gash that ran from his temple to his jaw, “do you not see how easy things might have been…how painless…if only you had heeded my request and forfeited your grain stores?”

The Abbot spat blood onto the snow, his broken teeth causing him to lisp whenever he spoke. “Your hubris will be your downfall, witch,” he panted. “You will make your war with our grains and our livestock and our crosses melted down for swords, but remember, as Christ said, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.[1] 

This made Helga smile despite the unworthy aches that had of late settled into her young bones. “And did Christ not also say, my pious Abbot, render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” [2]

As she was speaking, the roof of the barn collapsed in a shower of eager embers and singed straw.

The Abbot moaned and covered his face with his hands. Several of his younger monks were still trying to fight off Helga’s soldiers, but to no avail. The Cornish men made their way to and from the refectory with sacks of flour and other, less substantial provisions that would perhaps feed less than a quarter of Helga’s army for a week. In truth, the sacking of the monastery was not so much of a necessity as she had made it out to be to her soldiers, most of whom were Muggles and understandably hesitant to pilfer any house of God.

Her army’s supply train was healthy, even considering the upcoming expedition into Alba which her beloved Godric was currently spearheading. The months she had spent camped in Northern England had given her ample time to stockpile both food and arms, although of late, the harsh weather had made transporting such goods difficult.

Even so, there was little reason for her current raiding of monasteries…outside of her own immediate concern, of course. These holy men had something she wanted--desperately.

“Where do you bury your dead?” she asked, sweeping her cloak aside and away from the Abbot’s grasping fingers.

The man dropped his hand from his face, allowing the blood to pump freely for a moment. It slithered down his cheek in ugly rivulets, clotting in the crevices between his nose and upper lip.

“No, I beg of you!”

Helga rolled her eyes and crossed her hands just over her sword belt. “I have no desire to torture you, Abbott. Please, save yourself the agony and tell me…where do you keep your dead?”

But he only recoiled and spat on her feet. “I know your hellish intentions, witch! I know your dark magic! This…this necromancy!”

“Is that it?” Helga could not believe that she had been misunderstood, although she was slightly impressed at the Abbott’s knowledge of magic. “Do you think I meant to raise the dead to swell the ranks of my army? I assure you, my brave fellow, that such unreliable magic is below me. But listen now and perhaps you shall understand. Your predecessor was a man named Wulfric. He founded this house of your order, yes? A great man, a wise man. Did you know, dear Abbott, that he was also a wizard?”

The Abbott choked and scrambled to his knees. “I…I…”

Helga smiled. “Where is he buried?”

“I do not know.”

“Abbott, where he is buried?” This time, she removed her wand from her belt and pointed it at the bruised space between his eyes.

The Abbott grimaced and Helga felt truly sorry to see the man so defeated, so hopeless.

But in the end, sympathy had never come easy to her.

Groaning, the Abbott climbed to his feet, his robe hanging disheveled and dusty, splattered with soot and blood along the front. Helga opened her palm and pointed at the refectory, but the man shook his head.

“In the chapel,” he grunted, nodding towards the low, stone building that was set apart from the others, a winding, well-trod path leading up its the cross-marked door.

Helga’s smiled widened. “I ought to have known.”

She followed the limping Abbott to the chapel, stopping only once to rub her bare hand over the heavy beams on either side of the door. The wood was worn smooth and the feel of it on her flesh reminded her vaguely of something, or someone.

Godric.

Helga dropped her hand back to her side. Behind her, soldiers were lifting sacks of grain into already packed carts. The monks were giving up their battle, slinking off to tend to their wounded brothers and the now smoldering barn.

And Helga herself wished she could put into words the necessary evil of conquest, something her father had never understood, although she had spent many years trying to enlighten him.

Perhaps that was her only failure. Her father, though a wise man, could not reconcile her vision of a united, wizarding Britain. He was a clannish man, more concerned for his coastal kingdom and his scattered correspondents throughout Europe with whom he traded magical secrets.

Wulfric had been one such man and Helga remembered stealing her father’s letters, reading of a prized magical artifact the cloistered monk kept. And now, so many years later, she thought she had need of it.

The chapel itself was blessed with an unearthly quiet. Helga tried to ignore the sense of desecration she felt as she crossed the threshold. The Abbott, despite his bleeding head, genuflected before the simple altar on which a solitary cross kept vigil.

Helga gripped her wand tighter. “Where?”

But the Abbott was still on his knees, hands clasped in pray, eyes closed. After a moment, he nodded up the aisle to a patch of grey stone floor.

Helga looked once at him, then back between the rows of benches.

Several paces brought her to the spot and she looked down to see some wording carved into the stone slab.

Wulfric of York

His name was followed by an appropriate, Biblical epitaph, something in Latin that Helga did not bother to read. Instead, she pointed the tip of her wand at the seams around the stone and concentrated.

Defudio.”

Cracks appeared, thin at first and then growing until they were as wide as Helga’s wrist. The seams split. Dust shrouded Wulfric’s name.

She paused at her work and looked back at the Abbott. The man had not moved and his breathing, now slowed, only made her pulse jump. Helga jammed her wand back into her belt and gritted her teeth. The stone was loose enough to pry open with her hands and she dare not disturb the tomb with any other spell.

It seemed…profane.

Helga dug her nails under the slab, groaning as she lifted it. The smell of decay that followed was overwhelming, tempered by moss and rotten water.

She choked, dropping the heavy slab. It fell and shattered.

The noise resounded within the tiny building and Helga shut her eyes.

“My apologies, Wulfric,” she muttered. “I did not mean to disrupt your slumber. You know, my father always spoke so highly of you.”

Steeling herself, she reached blindly within the dark crypt, groping about until her hand touched bone…then sturdy leather.

At once, she withdrew a heavy, thick book from the vault, its sturdy binding no doubt preserved by crafty charm. Helga dusted off the cover with her palm and read the flowery, embellished title.

Spells of the Roman Auguries

Ah, leave it Wulfric to possess a coveted magical text! Delight made Helga’s stomach squirm pleasantly. Books such as these were rare in England and she herself was a collector, hoarding what precious manuscripts she could until the day such knowledge could be dispersed to a new generation of wizards.

The discovery of the tome was a boon indeed….though not exactly what she had been looking for. Placing the book to the side, she dipped her hand once more into the crypt.

Helga’s smiled returned once more and her fingers closed around the point of the hat.









Alba

Rowena could only think of herself as a mother. A mother of bleeding children, dying children. And she was powerless but not without power. A weakling with strength.

As she sat in the Great Hall of Hogwarts, watching the phantom wind shift the clouds on the enchanted ceiling, she realized her time had come. She must spread her ebony wings to protect Alba and, in order to find victory, she must surrender.

It was an uncomfortable paradox and quite enough to drive her mad.

But ah, she was mad already.

The man standing before her throne was the Captain-General of Alba’s army, an army that was not organized but rather summoned in times of crisis, bringing farmers in from the fields to wield rusty swords and don dented armor. And Rowena knew that Helga, who could be cruel, who had been cruel, would make a mockery of her peasant soldiers.

For once, the path the stars showed her was clear.

Rowena found a wistful smile for the Captain-General, a man who had no teeth and a matted beard and was too old to fight a single campaign and survive. But his dignity, still intact, still hanging by a tremulous thread, gave her heart.

“Do you understand what I am asking of you?” she asked him. “And do you accept your duty? This…this is no easy task.”

In his eyes, the tired light faded, ceding to pools of milky obedience. “Yes, my queen. I shall send riders in the Highlands and the Lowlands. The people must not resist Helga’s armies when they come. They should lay down their arms and join Cornwall…or flee.”

Rowena bowed her head. Yes, he understood…as much as he ever could. And perhaps some day, when the seasons had turned, she would see the light in his eyes again, a light that she had kindled.

When she had dismissed her soldier and listened to his uneven footfalls disrupt the sepulcher silence of her stronghold, Rowena turned to her ever-loyal handmaid, her dear Ailbhe who stood by her throne.

“The potion,” the Queen said. “Do you still have Salazar’s potion?”

Ailbhe, who had never been timid, seemed inclined to remain in the shadows. But her lips moved, softly, slowly.

“Yes, my lady. I have not forgotten.” 









Author’s Note: Oh my. Have I really not updated this story since March? I feel very, very ashamed and I want to extend my most sincere apologies to everyone who has reviewed/favorited/read this story so far. You all have been exceedingly supportive and I am entirely grateful for your patience. I want to assure you, however, that I do not have writer’s block. To put it frankly, I sometimes find this story just takes longer to write. I don’t know, maybe it’s the plot or the somewhat archaic dialogue or the radically A.U. characters. Whatever the reason, I tend to devote more time to chapters and therefore, updates come less frequently.

The next chapter is in the works and, with summer vacation ahead of me, I do hope to have this story updated more regularly. Again, thank you so much for your understanding and patience.

Take care and be well!

A Supplementary Disclaimer: In this chapter, Helga attacks and destroys a Roman Catholic monastery. I want to make it absolutely clear to all my readers that her actions are not influenced by ANY anti-Christian sentiment whatsoever. Historically, monasteries were centers of illumination and learning during the so-called dark ages. In a time of almost universal illiteracy, clergymen transcribed precious works of literature into manuscripts, preserving the writings of previous, supposedly enlightened generations. Helga, therefore, only raids the monastery to find such books, which will later fill the shelves of Hogwarts.


The following quotes may be found in the New Testament of the Bible under…
[1] Luke 14: 11, Matthew 23: 12

[2] Matthew 22: 21, Mark 12: 17, Luke 20: 25

Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                             

                                         Beautiful chapter image by chocolat. @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

Cast List:

Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey
Ailbhe, Rowena’s handmaiden - Bryce Dallas Howard
Riol - Steven Mackintosh
Conall, The Captain-General of Alba - Bernard Hill
Iagan, Conall’s son - Kevin McKidd


Chapter Seven

With Riol’s help, Godric fashioned a shelter for Salazar to recline in and recuperate from his wounds. Taking the largest animal skins and canvas he had, he anchored them against four spears and stretched them over the points to form a suitable roof. After building a fire within the tent, he helped Riol carry Salazar from out of the snow and laid him upon several cloaks near the flames.

“Will you have some water?” Godric asked as soon as the man was settled. Salazar could only look at him with one eye. The other was bruised and swollen shut.

“If it is hot,” he replied.

Godric poured some icy water from his flask into a bowl and stirred it with his wand until the liquid nearly boiled.

Salazar sipped the brew slowly and soon, his voice steadied, loosing its hoarse edge and becoming, once more, dangerously smooth.

“I assume our lady Helga has decided to campaign against the Ravenclaw outright,” he said, looking disgruntled as he showed Godric the great bruise on his chest.

“Your ribs are surely broken,” Godric replied. He murmured one of the healing spells his mother had taught him and the saw the painful discoloration begin to fade slowly. “How is it that you are still alive?”

“Yes,” Riol said. He was sitting across from them on the other side of the fire. “We were told you were dead.”

Salazar would not look at the man, who’s face waxen with malcontent. “I might have been,” he said. “But it seems as though Alba’s only defense against Helga’s force is spite. I took the diadem to Hogwarts as Helga bid me, but was accosted at the gates of Hogwarts and thrown into chains by Alba’s Captain-General. I never saw the Ravenclaw, though I assume she rejected my terms. While in the dungeons, I heard whispers of fear from the guards. They are weak, useless men, I will tell you. Helga might bend and break them as if they were saplings.”

“Is that how you escaped then?” Riol’s asked coldly.

Salazar ignored him. “One of the maidservants, Ailbhe, brought me food and told me that her mistress was fleeing to Ireland and that Helga might have Hogwarts for herself without a costly siege. Rowena is not loved by her people…they will not fight for her. I promised that Helga would spare Ailbhe’s life if she freed me, and, upon my turn, guided me into the castle.”

“So it took a youngling maidservant to save you?” There was deadly venom in Riol’s voice and although Godric could certainly sympathize with him, he could not afford to alienate Salazar just now.

Salazar took a deep breath and winced, but for some reason, Godric found he could not look at him. Instead, he stared at Riol, who had nearly disappeared into the deep hood of his mantle. But even the shadows cast by the fire and his own stoicism could not mask his sentiments.

He was not happy to have Salazar back.

“What fortune,” he said in a breathy tone.

Once more, Salazar ignored him. “We must inform Helga,” he continued, going so far as to press his spindly fingers against Godric’s forearm. “She will wish to change her tactics, I am sure. The natives will offer us no resistance, Gryffindor. The path to Alba is clear.”

Riol stood and left the tent.

Salazar sneered at his retreating form. “I see I am mistrusted yet. Have you been poisoned against me as well, Gryffindor? Has my absence soured your opinion of me?”

Godric was certain he was being tested by the man, poked and prodded until he might offer an opinion he did not wish to give. Feigning indifference, he stirred the logs with the tip of his sword.

“Ah, I see things have changed,” Salazar noted, his voice suddenly warm as he glanced at the blade. “A lordly gift that is indeed. Helga has made you a warrior yet. How easy loyalty is to win.”

“You make unjust insinuations,” Godric grated. He was distinctly irked by this man, and missed Riol’s company, however moody it might be.

“I will send word to Helga,” he said, rising and stooping to avoid the sagging roof, which was already heavy with the weight of freshly fallen snow. “But I will not move from this place until she bids me,” he added.

Salazar ran his tongue along his teeth, frowning before Godric could turn his back on him and leave the tent.

Riol was standing outside in the storm, his arms crossed, facing the flickering flames of the camp’s many fires. The eastern horizon, Godric noted, was a slightly lighter shade of blue.

Dawn was swiftly approaching.

“I will send word to Helga,” Godric told Riol. “Let her weigh the worth of Salazar’s tidings.”

“She is wise,” Riol said, without turning his head to look at his companion. “And yet, distance lessens vigilance.”

“Vigilance?” The sun was reaching towards the horizon and Godric hoped that, in spite of the snow clouds, its warmth would seep down into the earth. As it was, he was chilled to the bone.

“Forgive me, Gryffindor,” Riol said at length, drawing back his hood so that Godric could see the practiced hate that he held in his countenance. “But I would have that Salazar dead.” 


 

 

 









On the third day after Godric had sent his messenger back to Helga and the skies had cleared to a milky, expectant blue, with a wind that promised snow coming from the North, the owl came to him. Godric, who had lived all his life in the small Hollow and had long watched birds of prey wing from their perches in the forest throughout the night, was surprised to see the creature in flight during the day. He said as much to Riol, who was standing beside him on the edge of their camp with a face that summoned thoughts of utter hopelessness. But when Riol saw the bird, he smiled.

“Do you not know your own mistress’s herald when you see it?” he asked Godric.

The owl alighted nearby on the lip of a crag, hesitating before it glided down into a ditch and then settled by their feet.

Godric looked at Riol, unable to mask his confusion. “The beast is Helga’s?”

“Not so much Helga’s,” Riol replied. He knelt in the snow next to the bird and, with little fuss, undid a length of leather that held a scroll of parchment to its leg. “Her family has long used owls to wing messages across all of England. Her father in particular found couriers untrustworthy.” He paused and stared at Salazar, who stood off in the distance by their poorly rigged shelter. “I should say he was right.”

After a moment of fumbling with his heavy gloves, Riol unfurled the scroll, glanced at it and then handed it over to Godric.

“This is for you, Gryffindor. Helga sends her blessings.”

Godric took the scrap of parchment from him and squinted in the meager sunlight. Her writing was small and there were blotches of ink in-between the words. He guessed that Helga had written the missive on horseback, as she commonly did.

“Can you not read?” Riol asked and, for the first time, Godric heard a hint of superiority mar his normally sycophantic tone.

“Aye.” Godric did not look up at the man, could not admit that his knowledge of the written word was limited to what his mother had taught him, tracing letters in the dirt floor of their hut so that her son might one day be able to read a spell book…if he ever came across one.

Helga, of course, was aware of his deficiency and she had worded her message simply.

Godric,
I bid you take your men into Alba and go so far as you can without resistance. If that should take you to the fortress of Hogwarts, then so be it.

But if you should find the natives in opposition, then send word of such and await my arrival.

I trust your judgment, Godric. You have my love.

Helga


Godric read the note over several times and then tucked it within his haubrek.

Riol was watching him closely.

“We must proceed,” Godric told him. “Into Alba. And if Hogwarts be ours, we must take it.”

“Very well, my lord.”

They stood on the edge of the camp in silence and Godric felt the first of Riol’s prickling doubt.

The man had read the note before he and knew of Helga’s love for him. And that, in the end, made Godric worth more than all of Alba. 

 

 

 









Before the dawn of the next day, Godric did as Helga bade him and broke camp, taking his advance guard past the border and into Alba. Together with Salazar and Riol, he rode at the head of the line, watching the countryside with nervous eyes.

The land was heavy with snow and most of the time, Godric and Salazar were forced to clear the blocked roads with charms meant to melt ice and frost. Mud hindered them often, and when they reached the open moors, where Godric hoped no natives of Alba were hiding in gullies in ambush, he ordered the men to dismount and lead their horses through the muck.

They reached the great forest by the first night and despite the marked exhaustion of the men, Godric forced them to press on. The high, dark trees provided suitable cover for any archers and Godric feared that the lack of resistance they had seen thus far would soon give way to a mighty flood of vengeance. And he, despite Helga’s confidence, was not a warrior and could not command men in battle.

But then he felt the sword she had given him by his side and remembered her distinct trust. What would that trust mean now, though, in the shadowed forest, with enemies hiding behind thick boles and mossy boulders?

Discomfort and unease settled into his gut and did not lessen until the tree branches thinned.

He first caught sight of the towers at dawn and with the rays of the sun glancing off the walls, he thought of fire.

But when he blinked, the image was gone and he saw only the pale, morning light streaking across the high gate.

Salazar stopped them at the edge of the clearing, his face rendered colorless by the light reflecting off the snow.

“Let me call out to the maidservant,” he said in a whisper. “She will come to us ere the rest of the household wakes. We might slaughter them in their sleep yet.”

Godric found himself looking hard at Salazar and the perfect joy the man took in the thought of killing innocents. And yet he knew had Helga been with them she would have agreed.

With some difficulty, he closed his mind to such thoughts.

Before Salazar could call the maid, Riol stopped him.

“You have no need,” he said, pointing out across the field to where a small woman was floundering in the snow, racing across the wide clearing to meet them.

Godric marveled at how such a slight creature, a mere girl, could dash across the expanse of land in plain sight of the towers and windows and any who might be awake to see her.

And how ready she was to meet them, moving without hesitance or fear. He decided she was certainly more courageous than most men and as he watched her run, he noticed she had a scarlet veil upon her head.

But as she drew closer, he realized it was not a veil. Only her wild, unbraided tresses.

She dropped to her knees when she reached them, trembling, the hem of her gown soaked with snow and ice.

“My lords, I pray you do not slay me,” she said in a rush.

Salazar was already off his horse.

“We stay our hands for your loyalty,” he said, not helping her to her feet as Godric would have, but watching her shiver instead. “What news have you of Hogwarts? Is the Ravenclaw…?”

“Fled to Ireland, my lord Slytherin,” she said, her words riding the edge of a sigh. “There are none within, save myself and two stable boys. I can vouchsafe for their loyalty, my lord, if you will spare them.”

“Of course,” Godric replied before Salazar could.

For the first time, Ailbhe raised her eyes to meet his and he realized, despite her obvious bravery, that she was still young and pale and frightened.

But then Salazar reached down and shook her. “And the Captain-General?” He pressed. “Has he marshaled his men?”

Ailbhe emitted another shuddering sigh, her breath coursing out into the air and forming a thin pattern of vapors. “No, my lord,” she said. “Hogwarts is yours for the taking.” 

 

 

 









It was the land that Conall remembered, the same land that had birthed him and his wife, and then their sons. It was the land that he had farmed, scratching at the rocky soil until life could be brought to bloom in the heavy, summer months. It was the land on which he had helped lay the first stones of the great fortress, Hogwarts, watching as the walls grew and the sun warmed the rough layers of rock quarried from the earth. All of these things he remembered on a night when the land was frozen and one could not even bend a spade into the soil to bury a corpse.

The waited in a glen in the forest as the snow began to fall.

Conall sat between two great markers of stone and ran his hand over the runes. His eldest son, Iagan, stood watch beside him.

The snow was blinding.

And still, they made out the shapes of the men. Men who had come from distant glens and distant forests and distant moors but were all born of Alba. Men who were farmers and carpenters. Men who owned land and had full granaries and men who lived in caves, with only thin stalks of wheat and lean meat on which they fed their families. But in the cold, on the moonless night when the first of the winter storms bent the tree branches, they were all of them soldiers.

Conall stood to greet the men he knew and those he did not. The deference in their voices when they spoke to him thawed the frozen doubt in his gut.

He was still the Captain-General of Alba, even now, in this empty hour.

“Is it true?” they asked him, buried beneath their mantles and cloaks and darkened countenances.

Conall looked to his son. Iagan was a man, a broad shouldered, muscled warrior. He had hunted in the cold streams of the North and had battled barrel-chested raiders in the South. He had a wife of his own. And an infant son.

But Conall still felt the strange need to protect him, now, when he could not recognize the sky they stood beneath or the fleeting shadows that blackened the forest.

“Aye.” He could not speak without tears in his eyes. Tears which froze on his cheeks and dampened his matted beard. “Rowena Ravenclaw has fled the country. She has left her people to Helga of Cornwall and the great tide of ruin is upon us.”

He heard Iagan make a harsh noise, but the sound was carried far by the wind. Conall hoped that wherever their Queen was, she might hear it.

She had betrayed them all.

“But what would she have us do?” This from a man who was old, but had never been wise. He stood surrounded by his servants and men at arms that were paid with gold but still not loyal to him.

“Her last words to me were spoken thusly,” Conall replied. Despite his age, he could still remember all that Rowena had told him, the way her breath had come streaming out into the cold and the way she had shivered. Like a frightened child. “The people must not resist Helga’s armies when they come. They should lay down their arms and join Cornwall…or flee. So she said and so we have done. The Queen of Cornwall’s men have come to Alba this day. Now they sit in the halls of Hogwarts, feasting.”

The blow fell upon them just as the storm ended. And the sky eschewed the last of the snow clouds and opened the stars upon them. In the eyes of the men Conall saw disbelief.

And betrayal.

“Hogwarts is taken?” one farmer said. “We are lost.”

A moan rose up from the glen, a feverish, mad thing that threatened to break Conall’s heart. But he stood fast in the snow, his hand finding the hilt of his sword. It had been forged by the blacksmith at Hogwarts and gifted to him by Rowena’s mother. He had always been faithful to her and her strange, sickly daughter.

No more.

“The man who is taken Hogwarts is not a warrior,” Iagan spoke up, raising one booted foot to rest upon an old log blackened by time and the decay of the forest undergrowth. “They call him Godric and he is from a small village in the south. I have heard that he is descended from a great Norse clan, the Gryffindors, and that his people now live in trembling fear of the world and of Helga. He is no warrior, but a wizard, and he took Hogwarts because there were none to safe keep it.”

“But he is a wizard,” a small man whispered, his voice echoing in the hushed absence of the wind. “Might he not have unearthly powers?”

“No more than Rowena ever did,” Conall said bitterly, imagining his errant queen in flight.

His hand tightened over his sword.

There was silence. Thoughtful silence.

Conall waited for the men to reach the point he had in his mind long ago, when he had remembered the land and his family and the first stones he had laid for the foundation of Hogwarts, that now was in the hands of Helga’s Viking lover and her wicked, cruel soldiers. Men who were, despite his misgivings, still very dangerous.

When no one spoke, he climbed atop the log and raised his hand.

The stars were upon them all.

“My brothers,” Conall said. “At this hour, the men of Cornwall will be bloated and drunk and asleep. And remember now, at this hour, that there are several passages within the castle that are hidden and unmarked and unknown to all save the Ravenclaws…and to ourselves.”

And without having to say more, the men, the soldiers of Alba, understood their Captain-General. And one by one, they drew their swords.
 

 

 









Author’s Note: Hmm, could there be a big battle on the horizon? Perhaps. ^_^ According to my calculations, there are three chapters left in this story. I’ll try my best to have the last chapters posted quickly and lessen the gaps between updates. As always, I truly appreciate the continued patience and support of my wonderful readers. Thank you all!
 
 


Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                             
                              Wonderfully intense chapter image by justoncemorefic @ TDA


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

Cast List:

Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey
Ailbhe, Rowena’s handmaiden - Bryce Dallas Howard
Riol - Steven Mackintosh
Conall, The Captain-General of Alba - Bernard Hill
Iagan, Conall’s son - Kevin McKidd



Chapter Eight

The fortress of Hogwarts slumbered. On the cold stone floor, huddled by the scanty warmth provided by a quiet fire in the hearth and guarded by the enchanted ceiling, the men of Cornwall slept. As he paced between them, careful to step over cloaks and sword and discarded helms, Godric wondered what terror had driven Rowena from her ancestral home. But then he remembered Helga’s own power and how it was only advanced by her needful thirst for conquest. Rowena had fled from death, had bent as a gentle blade of grass does to the eager winds of the summer storm.

And Hogwarts now belonged to Godric.

He was uncomfortable within the great stone walls and eagerly awaited Helga’s arrival, upon which he would hand over the great responsibility of the stronghold. Upon his seizure of Hogwarts, he had climbed to the uppermost tower and sent an owl winging back to the Queen of Cornwall, hoping that she would be satisfied with his victory, although, now that he considered it, he could not rightfully claim triumph over a place that had already been abandoned.

And so his mind was uneasy, uneasy as the flames from the braziers that found an errant breeze to dance in. Uneasy for having come so far with no opposition. Uneasy for having Salazar seated upon the Ravenclaw’s empty throne, his eyes glittering with a malice Godric cursed himself for not recognizing earlier.

Perhaps Riol had been right.

Godric watched his companion from across the shadowed hall. Salazar seemed perfectly at ease with his place as lord of the fortress. He lounged in the great chair, his hair slightly mussed, raised on a dais above the rows of snoring men. Nearby stood Ailbhe, the servant girl who had shown them within Hogwarts in exchange for her life. Although Salazar had treated her unkindly, she seemed to have attached herself to him, which made Godric wonder just what strange powers the wizard from the East possessed.

Now, however, Salazar was bloated with victory. Content. And Godric envied him because he could find no peace in Hogwarts himself.

Pacing closer to the dais, Godric wove his way through the unsteady light, which seemed to play tricks on his eyes by suggesting that Salazar was indeed smiling. Smiling with utter triumph. The wind also began to play tricks on his hearing, convincing him that voices could be heard in the corridors outside the hall. Voices that seethed with malcontent and hopes of vengeance.

Godric felt his skin prickle.

“How is it,” he questioned Salazar, once he had drawn near enough to rest a foot on the edge of the dais, “how is it that you can find peace here?”

Salazar’s smile was ripe and taunting. He dropped his spindly fingers over the arms of Rowena’s chair and leaned forward so that Godric could smell the musty odors that had nestled in his clothing.

“That I will tell you, Gryffindor,” he began, but never finished, for into the hall rushed Alba’s belated sons. And they screamed and screeched and brandished weapons forged in their own glens with hands that were skilled from ages of hardship.

Godric realized at once that the wind had not deceived him. The wind never lied.

“To arms!” he cried, watching with horror as the attackers started to cut through his slumbering men.


 





The stones of Hogwarts never lied. Conall knew them all. He had laid them in rows, placed them one by one, by one, and watched the walls spring up, guarded by the forest and a magic that was older than the loch.

And although he had not been privy to the builder’s grand vision of towering majesty, Conall knew the castle well…knew the paths that led to secret passages and into the bowels of the fortress, where weak men slept and dreamt of the homelands they would never see again.

By the light of the anxious moon, Conall led the last of Alba’s army into Hogwarts. Faint torchlight guided them through passages that were slick with humid dew and stank of the marshy loch. Rats, and other, less daring rodents provided a chattering chorus to mark their progress. In the dark, Conall saw their eyes shining with hollow amusement and his gut clenched.

Perhaps they were the true masters of Hogwarts.

The passage climbed up from the depths of a valley, winding up a steady slope so that the men bent their frames forward and used their swords as walking sticks to keep their balance. When they reached a plateau, Conall stopped and raised his torch above his head. Embers rained down and singed his beard.

“Men of Alba!” he called, hoping almost that the sleeping Cornish soldiers in the Great Hall above heard the mighty echo of his voice. In their last moments, he wished them all the fear and regret due to men who marauded and took delight in conquest.

His son Iagan reached his side, sweat streaming down his brow despite the drifts of snow that had piled up outside the castle. “Father,” he said, a pleasant eagerness to his voice. He too wished for blood.

Conall took a slow, deep breath before he continued. “Our hour is at hand,” he said while his brothers gathered around him. “The men of Cornwell sleep. I bid you, do not be moved by pity. These men have done naught but ravish and ruin all of England…and now they come to us. Remember your children. Remember the glory of Alba. And remember what our Queen has forgotten.”

There were fitful stirrings. Blades glinted. The heat from Conall’s torch washed down his arm and into the core of his body.

In that moment, keeping company with the rats and spiders and trapped in the passage that so greatly mimicked the uneasiness of the crypt, fear struck him.

Helga’s numbers were too great. They would fail.

But then he thought of Rowena, his Queen, who had fled abroad without a thought to the well-being of her people.

He could not, he realized, afford to be a coward.

Turning, he drove his men through the final chamber of the passage, emerging at last into the ringing coldness of Hogwarts.

As expected, the soldiers of Cornwall slept. And as expected, the men of Alba showed them no mercy.


 





They came as a serpent does. Uncoiling in great, leathery bands to fill the entire space of the hall, clotting the entrances and only routes of escape with their thick bodies and keen blades, whetted for the taste of blood.

For a moment, as Godric watched his men stagger awake only to meet death, he found himself frozen with fear. Alba’s men had not so lightly quit their homeland, as had Rowena. They had been clever. They had waited. And they had struck the Cornish advance guard through it’s weak underbelly, leaving, in a matter of minutes, the great bulk of his force desolated.

Panic came and tasted more bitter than the steel used to slice flesh.

But then Godric remembered himself. He remembered the glittering sword strapped to his side and all the things Helga had taught him. Hogwarts was still his and would remain his until he could joyfully hand it over to his Queen.

Trembling with fury, he reached first for his wand.

The man closest to him has his backed turned and Godric could see the rough stitching that held together his haubrek, could see the creases in his leather tunic and smell the stale sweat that made the clean air repulsive.

He pointed his wand at the man and shouted, “Confringo!”

A stream of pale flames leapt forth and danced across his enemy’s shoulders. The man howled and dropped his blade, wheeling wildly just so that Godric could send another blast into his chest.

Across the room, he saw a young Cornish soldier on his knees, one hand gripping the hilt of a small dagger as he tried in vain to defend himself from the mighty blows of a broadsword wielded by a man of Alba.

Godric half-turned and summoning the dark strength he knew he possessed, sent a slashing spell at the lumbering brute. A flash of harsh light and the man was felled, but too late…Godric saw that the boy he had sought to defend was already dead.

He scarcely had time to register rage when another man sprang on him, a thick cudgel held in his meaty hands. The edge of the club caught his cheek and Godric reeled backwards, tasting blood. Pain shattered his awareness as the cudgel made contact with his right thigh. Crumpling to the floor, he dropped his wand. And then, in the dark recesses of agony, he heard the soldiers of Alba screaming.

“Kill the sorcerer! Kill him!”

Blindly, Godric found his sword strapped to his side and thrust upward, feeling the blade make contact with an indefinite object. A man howled and retreated.

Godric recovered just in time to spot his wand lying next to his knees. Yet another man was on him, followed by what seemed to be a dozen others.

He reeled, his back crashing into a wall. There were too many…too many for him…

But then he noticed the great stone arches that supported the vast length of the ceiling. Godric pointed his wand overhead.

Reducto!”

The spell hit the curve in the arch and the stone shattered, sending a hail of heavy rocks down upon his attackers. A pillar collapsed, crushing both men of Alba and Cornwell alike. Dust darkened the air, carrying the sounds of whimpers and groans to Godric’s ears even as he stood, pressed carefully against the wall, his body shielded from harm.

There was a moment of breathless silence. The echo of it reverberated against his ribcage. Gasping painfully, he dared to take a step forward and stumble over the ruined arch. Through the haze, he could see not a single figure stirring.

Was it over? Was it all over?

The cry of rage came at him then, reaching for him with all the ferocity of the eager winter wind.

More men of Alba were pouring into the hall and at their head was a great warrior. A man of immense height and strength and a look of perilous thirst in his hard face that made Godric himself tremble.

Fueled by instinct, he threw up his sword just in time to deflect the first blow the warrior could deliver.

But the man soon recovered and lunged forward.

Godric’s heart sank.

Hogwarts was surely lost.

 
 





 Instinct had told Helga not to linger long on the fringes of Alba. Although she had benefited from the fruits of her pillaging, providing her army with much needed supplies and morale, something deep and urgent beckoned her to battle.

She had been only a day behind Godric’s advance guard when she had received his first message by owl. The time was portentous. Alba lay without defense and she herself rode at the head of a great host, lusting for the final jewel she might add to her crown of triumph.

Alba, fair Alba.

She had not expected Godric to win the passage to Hogwarts easily. Some minor resistance along the road, she reasoned, would be a suitable test of the skills she already knew he possessed. And should the situation become dire, she herself was close enough to aid him.

Her precautions, however, proved perfectly unnecessary. In a day and a night, Godric had come to Hogwarts and found the stronghold abandoned. All of Alba was Helga’s for the taking.

The Queen of Cornwall, nay, all of Britain, sat in a forest clearing not far from the mighty fortress now. In her gloved hand, she clutched the second message Godric had sent winging to her through the night.

She must come and rightfully claim Hogwarts.

Impatience provoked her most hasty fancies. Her forces, which had massed and grown into a living creature, a great train of breathing, yearning power, nearly convinced her to plunge heedlessly through the last league of forest and see the castle for herself.

But Helga remembered prudence. And so she stopped her march and waited and watched and sent scouts to survey the roads. It was a hour since her riders had left. Night had fallen and deepened and her men, untouched by fatigue, stirred restlessly.

Looking upon those closest to her, the personal guard that clustered about her horse on fine mounts of their own, brought unexpected disappointment to her mind.

Helga almost felt sorry for not having given them a battle.

As it was, her tongue was slick with the deceptive taste of desire. Her muscles were tensed and she was unable to sit still in the saddle for long. Unknown aches pinched her bones, while the added weight of her padded tunic and chain mail hauberk brought an unnatural sweat to her flesh.

The night was unsettled, the stars burning bright then fading behind fickle clouds.

Time pressed down upon her.

At long last, the first of her scouts returned, riding hard on a horse driven wild with terror. The soldier came thundering along the path, crashing into the clearing with such a noise that the trees seemed to whisper unhappily.

Helga had only to look at the man’s face to understand.

“Queen majesty,” he gasped, his complexion a dreadful mixture of blood and pallor. “The forces of Alba have set upon Hogwarts castle. Lord Gryffindor is under siege!”

A smile took away Helga’s fretful unease. Sitting straight in her saddle, she lifted her head and mocked the sentinel stars with a laugh.

She had her battle.


 





For the first time in ages, Salazar felt panic overtake him. This was not supposed to happen. He had arranged it. Rowena had promised….

Having fled the Great Hall at the first signs of trouble, he found himself trapped in an antechamber, the ringing and clashing of swords too close to put his mind at ease.

Sweating and shaking, he rounded on Ailbhe, who had been his shadow and followed him from the Hall to cower in the tight passages of her ancestral home.

“You swore!” he screamed, spittle flying from his mouth.

The girl flinched, but stood her ground. In the light of a solitary, flickering brazier, Salazar could almost make out a different set of features.

His potion was wearing off.

“I ordered the Captain-General to abandon Hogwarts,” Ailbhe said fiercely, her lips drawing back and the pleasant blush of her cheeks succumbing to pallor. The roots of her red hair had already turned black.

Reaching within his tunic, he felt the cold form of a flask, grasped it and promptly thrust it at his companion. “Drink, Rowena,” he ordered. “Your form changes and we cannot risk one of your mongrel soldiers recognizing their queen.”

Ailbhe, who was in fact Rowena disguised, laughed bitterly. “Brave Conall,” she said, invoking the name of her loyal Captain-General, who was even now leading his men into battle against the Cornish invaders. “I dismissed him, but he would not go. This fortress is as much his as mine. You see now what a weak queen I am, Salazar. Perhaps you should have never allied yourself with me.”

But Salazar was too distracted to take heed of her mutterings. Like a trapped rat, he ran frantically along the thick walls of the chamber, feeling for a door or some portal that would guide them to safety.

“It matters not,” he said, “my plans are nearly in ruins. We must escape and avoid the swift justice of the blade. Cursed wretch, help me! Are there not passages that we might follow?”

Turning, he grasped her forearm and shook her hard.

Rowena dropped the now empty flask to the floor and the metallic ring of its descent was hidden by the screams of dying men in the Hall.

“Conall knows the passages as well,” she said evenly. “He came though I bid him not to. Ah, my people have not yet abandoned hope. Perhaps their queen should have never forsaken it as well.”

Grim determination shaped her countenance, which was now, upon the administering of the potion, fully Ailbhe’s once more.

Salazar did not hesitate. With the flat of his palm, his delivered a stinging slap to Rowena’s cheek.

She stumbled, but kept to her feet, offering him a glare as she tried to stand straight.

“No, Salazar,” she said hoarsely. “I shall not lead you to safety. We shall both die here, with my soldiers, as we ought to have in the first place. Alba is not Helga’s yet.”


 





Godric could scarcely recover fast enough as the yellow-haired warrior directed a cutting thrust at his torso. Twisting, he felt the blade ghost past his abdomen. He lost his footing and stumbled over a jagged stone. Pain punctured his focus, causing him to limp lamely to avoid yet another blow.

There was a wondrous strength in this man’s arms, he realized, and even with the aid of his magic, Godric knew that he could not defeat him.

His opponent surely knew this and he threw easy taunts at the wizard. “Fight, sorcerer!” he demanded, leaning backward slightly as Godric plunged heedlessly forward, hoping to skewer the man in the gut.

A swift kick to his shoulder sent him sprawling, rolling over onto his side even as the warrior approached him.

In an instant, his enemy let the very tip of his blade fall, leaving a bloody mark just above Godric’s collarbone. He hissed with anger and shame, feeling the hot splash of crimson decorate his heaving flank.

Gasping, he raised his wand and screamed, “Expelliar--”

But the warrior was quicker. Uttering a fierce grunt, he brought the edge of his sword down and crushed Godric’s wand. The pressure of the blow sent waves of agony shooting up Godric’s arm. His fingers curled convulsively and he released the remaining splinter of wood, hearing it clatter to the dusty floor with the sound of a death knell.

Helga’s sword, use Helga’s sword, he thought desperately. Do not lie down and die. Stand and fight to the last.

The warrior was still towering over him and Godric took advantage of the moment to dive at the man’s legs. The weight of his body drove his opponent to the floor. They both landed with a sharp jolt. Godric’s mouth came into contact with hard stone and blood bloomed behind his teeth.

Spitting and cursing, he managed to gain his feet first. Around him, he was vaguely conscious of the sounds of battle. Some of his soldiers yet survived and were struggling valiantly for their lives. But strangely enough, their prolonged shouts and cries were muted, obscured by a great noise that seemed to come from outside the fortress.

It seemed as if all of Helga’s army was at the walls of Hogwarts.

But even in such a moment of desperation, Godric ignored his own folly. He could only concentrate on his efforts to at least delay his death. Before him now the warrior was rising, crimson pouring from a gash at his temple.

Godric noticed his confusion and raised his sword. As he thrust downward, the warrior slipped to the side, causing him to only catch the man’s knee with his blade and even so, the wound was superficial. But as he stumbled about, the warrior sliced his own sword across Godric’s back.

Blackness came for a moment and then faded. Godric found himself lying face first on the stone floor once more. His blade had fallen from his grasp and lay a perilous foot away.

Forcing himself onto his back, his cast out his arm and groped for the hilt.

But the warrior stomped on his arm. An ugly crack rent the air and for all his bravery, Godric screamed.

Outside, in a realm that belonged wholly to the living, he heard the rising swell of battering rams.

Before the pain had subsided , the warrior had pressed his sword to his chest, leaning down.

Death, Godric thought in the last fleeting moment he might be granted awareness, so this is death.

And yet, death did not come. He watched with a horrified shock as the warrior faltered, the corners of his mouth sagging…now flecked with foam.

Riol had come up behind him and driven a spear clean through his torso.

“Get up, Gryffindor,” his savior demanded. “Get up! We are outnumbered yet!”

The urgency of Riol’s voice drove Godric to his feet, forcing him to ignore the pain that traveled in unrelenting waves up his broken arm. As he rose, the warrior fell, gasping once, then dying in a grotesque, convulsive fit.

Godric stooped and retrieved his sword. The tumult outside the walls had grown, now reaching the hall doors, the strong wood bulging strangely against some unknown force.

But his mind was scarred with agony and he could only hake his head dumbly.

“Thank--” Godric began, but was interrupted as Riol reeled backwards in fright.

“Iagan! My son!”

Godric wheeled around in time to hear the last of the old man’s tortured cry. With white-lipped madness, this new opponent raced towards him, broadsword gleaming and slick with gore.

He did not even have the time to raise his own sword when….

Avada Kedavra!” The spell cut through the chaos of battle, leaving Godric standing frozen.

But the old man was dead at his feet. Dead and staring. Godric saw himself reflected in lifeless eyes and shuddered.

Riol, blood leaking from a torn lip, sank weakly against the wall.

She emerged from the blasted ruins of the hall door, an old traveling cloak swept from her shoulders to reveal the full glory of her armor. Easily, and with a measure of obscene confidence, she stepped over the rubble and limp bodies, pausing by the old man she had felled just long enough to nudge him with the toe of her boot.

Helga Hufflepuff smiled, losing herself to rare emotion and flinging her arms around Godric’s neck. “Rejoice with me, Gryffindor,” she whispered fiercely, her breath hot and insistent against his sweaty cheek. “We have won Hogwarts at last.”


 





Author’s Note: What’s a Founders story without a big medieval battle, eh? I do hope this chapter wasn’t too confusing…I know that a lot happened in a rather short space of time. Please let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to clear things up. ^_^

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read! There are two chapters and an epilogue left. Chapter Nine will be written and posted as quickly as my school schedule allows. Until then, take care and be well!
 
 


Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                             
                                        Gorgeous chapter image by lazy bones @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

Cast List:

Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey
Ailbhe, Rowena’s handmaiden - Bryce Dallas Howard
Riol - Steven Mackintosh



Chapter Nine


A low, gurgling cry called Godric away from the window. He crossed the room, pausing by the hearth to examine the infant in her cradle. Traces of fair hair dusted the baby’s brow and the face was red, the toothless mouth contracted in a yawn that soon dissolved into a whimper.

He smiled, so very aware of the stirrings of paternal affection, and offered the infant his forefinger. A small hand closed over one of his calloused knuckles.

“Little Helena,” Godric murmured. “You have some docility in you yet.”

It warmed him somehow to think that his child was different from her mother, for Helga had often confessed that she had never expressed a bit of passiveness in her life. And now, to show for it, she had all of England and Alba at her feet.

The compensation for lack of temperance was sufficient, Godric decided, although he sometimes wondered if Helga could be truly happy with what she had accomplished, or would she succumb to the need for more glory, more land…more blood.

Of late, she had started sending scouts to Ireland…

But that was only because Rowena Ravenclaw was said to have taken refuge in the verdant foothills and Helga would never consider Hogwarts fully hers until she had captured its former mistress.

She may have smashed down its great doors and baptized its halls with the blood of slain warriors, but Helga still hesitated to call Hogwarts her own. Godric himself could find little peace in the stronghold and he felt that the walls around him where like the jaws of a trap, ready to be sprung upon him while he slumbered in idleness.

Although it had been many months since he had fought to deliver Hogwarts to Helga, the grey of winter passing into the green of summer, Godric could not dispel the harried worry and anticipation that had settled into his heart that night so long ago.

He remembered it even now, as his beautiful child Helena tugged at his finger, as the light from the fire swept the shadows away into the corners. The blood on his sword. The death groans of wounded men. And Salazar Slytherin, sitting on the dais, raised above all like an emperor.

Like a god.

And now, he could find no peace for it.

Indeed, most of their time at the castle was spent in restless apprehension. After the natives had been subdued and the stronghold taken by force, Helga had set out to strengthen her kingdom. She sent envoys to her client kings and when the envoys returned empty-handed (or in some cases, never returned at all), she dispatched her soldiers to remind them of the virtues of fealty.

For her treasure, she took spoils and rewarded her most loyal servants. Lands were divided amongst the noblest of warriors. To their sons she promised military training and a place in her army. To their daughters, she granted handsome dowries.

Helga’s most ambitious project, however, spawned from an idea she had shared with Godric long ago, before he had become her husband and sired her child. Before he knew what magic truly was and what he himself was capable of.

Helga wished to found a new Alexandria, a place of wisdom and learning. And at the center of her Alexandria would be Hogwarts, a school for wizard and witches.

It was a lofty goal, one that quite exceeded Godric’s imagination. He had no notion of the workings of a school and could not conceive how witches and wizards might learn together. Certainly, Helga had taught him much of magic, but he could not envision such lessons delegated to so many students. Indeed, a wizard would be better off to learn what he could from a single master, or, at the very least, seek out the knowledge himself.

Godric, however, knew he would never dissuade Helga from her purpose. As it was, she had been greatly taxed in the months following the fall of Hogwarts. Although many of her advisors had cautioned against conducting a winter time campaign in Alba, it soon became evident just why Helga had pushed onwards with so little hesitation.

After her victory, it became known, through the means of nature, that she was with child. A delay, whether by choice or fortune, would have kept her in England for the better part of a year, giving Rowena time to marshal her own forces and put up a proper fight when besieged.

It had been fate, then, and not ability that put Hogwarts into Helga’s hands.

Godric did not doubt that his wife would once more undertake her work with a strengthened and vigorous purpose now. It had been a month since she had given birth to their daughter and already, she declared that she was fit to sit her horse.

For although she had accepted a woman’s role in carrying and birthing a child, Helga was no mother.

This Godric felt with no small pain as he stood over Helena’s cradle. The task of raising the child, he knew, would fall to him alone.

The babe was sleeping now, allowing him to gently slip his finger from her grasp and stand with his face to the fire. Tonight, the summer air was balmy and sweat bloomed on his brow. In the distance, over the reaches of the great forest, he thought he heard a rumble of thunder.

A storm was coming.

And with it came Helga, striding into the chamber with her manly mien, a lump of grey cloth stuck under her arm. Godric recognized the thing she carried at once. It was a hat she had taken from the house of some holy order in England, a strange thing to belong to monks, considering it had strong magical properties.

Helga smiled when she saw him and in the glow of the firelight, her face had a look of good health, the skin faintly blushed, the cheeks full and warm. In her eyes, however, there was that singular appearance of restlessness.

Long ago, Godric had decided that Helga and he had strong differences of opinion. Perhaps it was in Godric’s nature to be more retiring, to watch and wait, to accept and not yearn. But Helga, on the other hand, seemed to condemn that which vexed her. Reality, for her, was not meant to be obeyed, but worked against in an effort to…to…

He paused in his ruminations, realizing, at last, that his image of her was not complete. There was too much of the enigma in her behavior yet and that troubled him.

Godric understood things plainly, while Helga was lofty. He thought that she might love him, but wondered at her inherent mysteries.

She could very well be keeping something from him, perhaps a strong opposition to his temperament, his appearance, his affection…and Godric was convinced he should never know it.

And alas, he had not the skill to hide his musings from her, for although Helga was careful to guard her own secrets, she did have a remarkable sense of astuteness about her.

“You are far away,” she told him, placing the hat upon a table close to the fire. “It is something miserable that turns your thoughts.”

“Not miserable,” Godric was quick to correct her. “I cannot be miserable when I think of our Helena. She is a wonder, is she not?”

“Hmm.” Helga glanced quickly at the cradle, reminding herself of the child‘s precense. “It is unnatural for a man to trouble himself so over a child. I told you to leave her to the nurse or to the maidservant, Ailbhe.”

Her words stung him and Godric recoiled. “I love her,” he said at once, recognizing the spite in his voice. “Surely you cannot blame me for that?”

But Helga had turned her attention from him, her focus now entirely on the strange hat that cast awkward, angular shadows onto the stone floor.

“Come and see what you can make of this,” she ordered, standing to the side so that Godric could easily inspect the hat. “There is nothing in Wulfric of York’s writings that suggest its purpose, although I believe he used it frequently enough. One would think it was quite inanimate, and yet, when you place it on the head.” Here she lifted the hat over Godric’s thick hair. “It has a voice of his own.”

Godric stood still beneath the wide brim, which still smelled faintly of the crypt it had been taken from. After a moment of heavy anticipation, a warm voice began to chirp in his ear, whispering things that Godric scarcely knew of himself.

“There is bravery here, Godric Gryffindor,” it said, “but loneliness as well. You long for family and yet have been cast off by your brother. And what of your wife, what of your--”

Helga plucked the hat from his head. “What did it say?”

Godric inhaled sharply. “That I was brave.” He paused, considering. “What did it say of you?”

Helga did not answer. Instead, she returned the hat to the table with a marked frown. “I have a guess as to its purpose, but I am not certain. Could it be possible that Wulfric used the hat on his postulants to determine the nature of their qualities? I have been thinking, Godric, I have been thinking…the hat might be used for the same purpose here, at Hogwarts, to examine all students, to see if we might sort--”

“Helga.” He hadn’t meant to interrupt her, but a certain insistence had settled in him, prodded by the notably accurate musings of the hat.

“Yes?” She turned to look at him, one finger resting thoughtfully beneath her chin.

Godric swallowed, feeling the tension rise within him. He had never questioned Helga before, had always believed her actions to be necessary and purposeful, but now, but now…

“Do you intend to leave Hogwarts soon?” he asked.

She rolled her shoulders in a half-shrug. “To go to Ireland, you mean?”

“I suppose, or wherever you intend to go.”

“Well, if I must be truthful.” Helga turned, placing herself in front of him. “I have not quite decided where I should go, but there is much that needs doing. Albion may be mine, but I shall not be like Alexander of old, I shall not let my empire fall to waste as soon as it has been secured.”

“I understand,” Godric said, daring to place a hand on her shoulder. And oh, why should it feel so strange to touch her? He had touched her many times before, embraced her, caressed her flesh with his rough hands…

But she was not his. She belonged to something else, something beyond…

“Am I to go with you?” he asked softly.

Much to his surprise, Helga smiled. “If you wish it so,” she said, and her hand crept up to stroke his broad chest.

“And Helena?”

“Helena? She is not but a babe! I would not risk her life on the road.”

Although Godric felt somewhat reassured to see Helga’s concern for her child, unease continued to gnaw at his gut. “But then I may not go with you.”

For the first time, her face registered shock. “What?”

“I cannot leave Helena behind without a parent to watch over her.”

“You will not, you mean. You will not leave her behind.”

“She is our child!” Long repressed frustration and worry burst out of Godric like a flood. His booming voice disturbed the very thing he sought to protect and Helena stirred in her cradle, wailing.

Helga seemed to deflate, her eyes shutting for a moment.

Godric felt ashamed of himself. He looked at Helga once and then at the cradle. “Will you not go to her?”

She seemed on the verge of protesting, but at length, crossed over to the cradle and took the child into her arms.

“Is this what you wanted from me?” Helga asked, rocking the babe uncomfortably against her breast. “Is this it, Godric?”

“Yes.”

He stood by her side then and watched as their child drifted back into sleep, her face guileless and innocent, a mark of good in a world filled with so much darkness.

After a while, Godric once more put his hand on Helga’s shoulder. And for a time, there was peace. Peace.

 

 





And where there was peace, there flowed unrest. A relentless river. A stream that cut canyons through solid rock. Salazar knew this and rejoiced in the very knowledge of it, for soon he would ford the stream, dam up the river and channel that same instability against her.

Against Helga.

And she deserved the end he would give her. She deserved every regret, every pain, every terror that her fate would bring.

She deserved to die.

Pacing along the dimly lit halls of the castle, he found purpose in his strong stride, relishing in the sound of his footsteps as they reverberated off the stone walls. All this, yes, all this would soon be his.

And as Helga would get what she deserved, so would he.

The promise of omnipotence was a heady one and despite himself, Salazar soon found his mind laid open to the airy fancies of the summer night. He had waited so long, his soul aching under uncommon repression, his spirit confined and dampened, that he half-feared his dream would not materialize. Something could go wrong yet. Helga might have begun to suspect him. She was a keen creature, after all, and had not been above turning against her own servants if she believed that they wished her evil.

Of course, Salazar would rather she direct her misplaced paranoia to that spineless wretch, Gryffindor, for surely she had no use for him now.

Pausing at the turn of the corridor, he reflected, feeling all that was ill and doubtful take hold of his treacherous heart. Perhaps he would not have come to this end had Helga not raised Godric above him. Perhaps he would have been inclined to exercise his machinations in the shadow of her greatness, never seeking to overthrow the Queen herself.

But no, his quarrel rested not entirely with Godric, although the man had unknowingly usurped his place by Helga’s side as her most trusted counselor. Salazar had long objected to her tolerance of Muggles and those deviant beings who possessed magic although their sires had none.

And living in the shadow of another, as a faceless, nameless servant could not do justice to his great powers, which had, for so long, laid dormant and repressed within his own flesh.

Helga had won herself an empire and Salazar would take it from her. He would kill the conqueror and so become glorious.

How simple, how perfect, how utterly befitting….

“You sent for me.”

The lisping, echoing voice disturbed his reveries. Salazar blanched, having been caught unawares, and wheeled around.

Rowena edged herself around the corner, her true identity still safely masked by Ailbhe’s timid form.

Salazar glared at the woman, at once spurning her weakness, and, in turn, realizing his own helplessness. He could not complete this task without her.

“Yes.” Salazar folded his arms, hiding his spindly fingers beneath his sleeves. “It is time. Tonight is the hour.”

Rowena grimaced, the expression ill befitting her uncreased, milky countenance. “Why now, Salazar?”

Because I am done with waiting, his impatience growled. Reason quickly checked his intemperance, though, and he adopted an air of indifference.

“I do not expect you to understand these things,” he said loftily.

Rowena’s frown deepened. “Have I not hidden in my own stronghold for seven months time? Have I not borne this lowly disguise and played the part of servant? And all the while you enjoyed the privilege of Helga’s esteem. I cannot comprehend why you wish to kill her.”

“I do not enjoy her esteem,” Salazar snapped, allowing anger and shame to color his voice. “She has long forsaken me in favor of Gryffindor.”

“There is Gryffindor.” Rowena pressed herself against the wall, ever the coward, living in fear of some imagined foe. “Salazar, he will kill you.”

“That brute?”

“He slew a great many of my own warriors. I dread his wrath, once awakened.”

“Have you no courage?” Salazar charged her, advancing until he had caught her in a corner, trapped his little fly with all the tenacity of a hungry spider. “Where is your love and loyalty towards your own people? Helga tramples upon them even now.”

Rowena seemed to consider his words, but then her eyes turned cloudy with tears. “Helga has treated my people fairly. She has brought them bounty where I could give them naught but famine.”

“Lies!” he spat at her. “You allow your head to be turned by all that is false. Make no mistake, Helga is a conqueror. She will take what your people can give her and then she will take more, until they are left barren and starving. Will you not spring to their defense? Will you save them?”

“If she were to leave them barren, she would have done it already.”

“You worthless whore,” Salazar muttered. His breathe came hard, dilating his nostrils and giving his face an air of wicked intent.

Rowena retired a step closer to the wall, but her hands, he noticed, were knotted into determined fists.

Let not the fool find her spine now, he thought desperately. Or else I should be ruined.

And he had come so close…so very close.

Rowena seemed to realize this, for her glace became appraising, hollowed and cold in the flickering light of the cinders glowing in the braziers. “Even you cannot delude yourself,” she said. “We have waited too long to kill Helga.”

His body was breaking now, bones straining against ever shred of resolve and restraint he possessed. Salazar wanted to take Rowena by the throat and throttle the life out of her, for she had done something no worthy man could do.

She had exposed his weakness. The one flaw in his plot.

He had waited too long. Salazar had let Helga regain her footing after her last campaign, had allowed her to settle herself into a position that would not easily be destroyed. Perhaps the delay had been born from his strange resistance to the idea. Betrayal was easy enough to accomplish, but the work of seizing power for oneself took time…and much caution. If he were not careful, he could start another war.

“And then there is Gryffindor,” Rowena remarked once more.

Salazar started, wondering if she could have possibly read his thoughts. Rowena was getting dangerous as well, despite the obvious advantage of her company. Perhaps he would have to do away with her in the near future.

But not now. Now was Helga’s hour and no one else’s.

“I need not divulge my thoughts to you,” Salazar replied guardedly, “but do you not think it suited us to wait until Helga had her empire settled and under her firm control? Imagine murdering Caesar before he had finished off the Gauls.”

Rowena shrugged. “So you say, but you neglect Gryffindor.”

Salazar waved his hand. “Easily controlled. Easily tamed. I may keep him for a while, just so things do not appear suspicious and then he may be disposed of. Our greater worry, I think, is the child, Helena.”

“The babe?” For an instant, Rowena blanched.

“Yes, that will be your task,” Salazar said, feeling a sense of delightful satisfaction as he watched her face lengthen with dread. “I will attend to Helga, but you must make certain that no heir to her throne survives. It should be easy enough. Helga still thinks you are the maidservant, Ailbhe, and she will not guard the child from you.”

Rowena stared at him, a shaking hand pressed to her breast. “You would have me murder a child?”

“Call it what you will, but before this night is over, none of the Hufflepuff line must live.”

“I--”

“You will. Let the deed be done tonight.” And he turned on his heel, certain that she would comply and certain that the day would dawn red.

Red with blood. Helga’s blood.

 

 





The loch had a fell look to it, Riol decided, standing half-sheltered in the reaches of the shadowed battlements. If he dared to draw close enough to the edge, to brace his hands on the crenels and gaze down, down past the very foot of the stronghold, he would see most of the countryside.

It was summer now and trees in the great forest were no longer skeletal, but thick with leaves and heavy moss and tiny, crawling creatures that made Riol quite uneasy. Although he would never speak poorly of the place in front of his queen, he had never been comfortable with its rather remote placement in the wilds of Alba. Here one became isolated, cut-off, trapped, in a sense, from the wider world. Here one relied on news of England from tardy messengers. Here one began to waste and rot, like a fallen log beneath a mantle of undergrowth.

In his heart of hearts, Riol wished Helga would dismantle the wretched place, tear it down brick by brick until there was nothing left. And then they would all be free to return to Cornwall…

His counsel, never spoken, rested on his tongue like a lead weight. Standing there, in the center of the parapet, watching the tiny waves of water break on the shores of the loch and hearing thunder stir in the distance, Riol began to remember some fleeting fears of his childhood. The fear of being hemmed in by the wild while civilization lay close at hand. The fear of being devoured by the darkness…

“What a lonesome creature you are. What a furtive phantom.”

The uncommon mirth in such a voice nearly caused Riol to topple off the parapet. He staggered and turned, catching sight of Salazar Slytherin coming up through the trapdoor.

Riol stepped back and felt his spine collide with the hard rock of the wall.

“I have never been furtive in my life,” he responded, aware that his tone sounded grating and worried as opposed to annoyed.

Salazar dropped the door closed behind him, his features discreetly buried in the folds of a black cloak.

For a moment, Riol wondered why he needed a hood to guard against the warm breezes of summer.

But then Salazar shook his head and the hood fell around his shoulders. He smiled. “You have never been furtive about yourself, though I suppose you have kept many of Helga’s secrets in your breast. Warmed them over with your thoughts.”

Riol’s jaw tensed. “You are her servant,” he said plainly. “I am certain she has taken you into her confidence.”

For all his apprehension, Riol would not allow himself to be misled by this serpent. He had always believed himself to be cunning, and in his day, he had plotted many a solid intrigue against other, undesirable wretches. Slytherin, a suspicious foreigner, was easily disposed of.

Or so he thought.

“You have known Helga longer than I,” Salazar said, his lips curling with a hint of salaciousness. “You were counselor to her father, were you not?”

“Some time ago.”

“Yes, some time ago.” Salazar continued to smile. “I have heard that you were a learned man, Riol. Is that true?”

“Were?” Riol coughed, driving some saliva into his dry mouth. His mood was cold and he had no wish to engage Salazar in an icy battle of wits. And yet, now that the challenge was joined, he found he could not rightly turn from it. It would seem cowardly and Riol knew he wasn’t a coward.

Never a coward.

“I like to think I am still I learned man,” he replied, pushing off from the wall to stroll about the parapet.

“You taught Helga something of the old world, yes? Something of the Roman emperors and Alexander the Great and the language of the Caesars.”

“Alexander was a Macedonian, you should not lump him together with the Romans.”

“You will forgive me.” Salazar shifted slightly, his hands dipping inside the folds of his cloak. “I find it strange that a witch should learn things from a Muggle.”

Riol paused, shutting his eyes briefly. So here it was. Salazar’s eternal thorn of regret. His venomous fanaticism. He had never tolerated those without magic, although he was content to live off the prestige and wealth Helga’s army brought…an army made up almost entirely of Muggle men.

But still, he hated to be made to feel inadequate. Anger stirred within Riol and he decided to return the favor.

Sauntering over to the trapdoor on the pretext of taking his leave, he turned and glanced once over his shoulder at Salazar. “It must have wounded you terribly, to have been put aside in favor of Godric Gryffindor.”

For an instant, Salazar’s face flushed. Riol felt a surge of triumph. There, you snake. There.

But the wizard was quick to master himself. He found another smile easily, and staring at his adversary, he said quite plainly, “It must have wounded you as well.”

Riol froze, one hand on the trapdoor.

Salazar continued to press his point, driving the thorn deeper. “I know you were her lover once.”

Something of dark sorrow cloaked Riol’s heart and he remembered why he thought the loch looked so fell. “Yes, a long time ago.”

“A long time ago,” Salazar mused, his boots sounding on the wooden planks that made up the parapet floor, “when you taught her Latin and something of the Roman emperors. Tell me, was it Brutus, a man known as Caesar’s close friend, who drove the knife through him on the Ides of March?”

Riol turned and was about to reply when Salazar drew his wand from underneath his cloak.

Imperio.”

There was light and sound and then some measure of stillness. At the last, Riol saw Salazar advance upon him from what seemed to be a dark and foggy distance.

“Yes,” the wizard said, forcing a blade into his captive’s hand, “it was Brutus who delivered the final blow. How very fitting.”

 

 






Author’s Note: Yes, I made Helena Godric and Helga’s child, just because I thought this story wasn’t AU enough. ;)

There is one chapter and an epilogue left. Now that I’m on my winter break, I promise to focus all my time and energy on finishing this fic.

As always, I’d like to thank everyone who has read/reviewed/favorited this story so far. Your continued support and encouragement means the worlds to me.

I hope to have the next chapter finished and ready to post as soon as the queue reopens. Happy Holidays all!!!
 
 
 


Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                             
                                        Lovely chapter image by laelia @ TDA



Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

Cast List:

Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey
Riol - Steven Mackintosh


 

Chapter Ten

The warmth of the night was pressing. Sticky and moist like blood. Thick enough for a man to drown in. Helga left Godric slumbering and stepped outside of her bed chamber, her heart thrilling as a fresh chorus of thunder rose from out of the inky depths of the cloudy sky. The storm, she decided, was long overdue.

Of late, she had noticed the grass surrounding the loch turning brown, shriveling and crackling like so much burnt timber under an indifferent sun. The shores of the loch itself were likewise drying, the soft clay silt cracking as the water receded. Trees bent towards the ground. Rocks lost their lichen and grew pale. The heat was unforgiving, relentless, and Helga found herself lost to it, lost to it until now, when the sky finally wept.

She stood in the middle of the narrow corridor, feeling the vengeful wind swoop down from an open casement and brush past her outstretched arms. The rain came washing in, splattering the stone walls and smelling of the moors. Helga felt cool touch of it on her brow and rejoiced.

She was born anew this night.

Solitude was indeed a worthy treasure, and Helga found that she had little of it these days. Even the few hours she used to be spend alone, locked away from the world in her chambers, were now crowded with Godric’s presence. Her husband did not know, of course, how she sometimes scorned his constant company. Although she could not deny her admiration of the man, she was beginning to grow weary of him, weary and restless in a way only Helga could.

This night she was inordinately frustrated by his nagging, unnecessary questions and while his support for her never wavered, Helga sometimes wished she could part from him….

….if only for a time.

And that time was now. Her husband and child were sleeping and she was glad not to be troubled with affairs that seemed purely domestic.

Motherhood had not been kind to her and she thought of it as a burdensome trial, something that was necessary, but only tolerated. Not embraced. No, never embraced. She had secured an heir for herself and her empire. She had secured a legacy in Hogwarts. And she had secured her immortality by making her name known from the southerly tip of England all the way to the northern reaches of Alba.

But it was not enough. Not now. Not ever.

Helga remembered all too well what had happened to Alexander, the man they had called great. He had conquered half the world and died. He had laid down and died.

She touched her wet cheeks, feeling the blush of youth still upon them. Time, she had time yet. Time to rule. Time to conquer. Time for more. More, more, more.

At this late hour, in the darkest part of her mind, she began to consider Britain a mere trifle. A foothold, surely, but nothing more. What she wanted lay beyond these shores.

What she wanted was the world.

Helga closed her eyes, welcoming the furious rush of the storm as it pounded against her body. She felt the linen of her gown stick to her flesh, felt the rain water soak into her long tresses and tangle them until they became wild.

She would have it, she would have everything….

The noise that sounded in corridor was not of the storm and Helga’s eyes flew open. For the very first time, she allowed herself to be startled. A night as portentous as this set one’s nerves on fire.

Helga turned, her eyes picking through the uneven shadows until she saw him. His face was illuminated by a bolt of lightening, thrown into sharp relief along with the rest of the corridor.

She smiled. “Riol, how good of you to come to me. I thought you were Godric.”

Helga recognized the undercurrent of distaste in her voice when she spoke Gryffindor’s name and decided it was unwarranted. Her affection for Godric, while moderated by necessity, was indeed true. Helga was not sure if she loved him, but she did trust him.

Only of late, Godric had expressed himself as surly and sour, his goodly nature dampened by unfounded worries and doubts.

Helga tried not to let the notion bother her. Not here. Not now.

Not in front of Riol.

She turned to gaze back out the window, enjoying the fiendish flailing of wind-whipped trees.

“Would you say this night is cursed?” she asked her old friend. Riol always knew such things, his mind being both keen and imaginative. Helga had never admired one so much as she admired him, no matter that he was a Muggle. Riol was exceptional.

And she had never ceased to care for him…

An unwelcome shiver traced Helga’s spine, prickling the flesh along her arms. “Are you vexed with me?” she dared, wondering at his unlikely silence.

His tongue was indeed a weapon in its own right. Sharp and keen and devastatingly honest. He had been her father’s favored counselor and her own most trusted advisor, the one who had told her she was mad to raise an army and invade Britain. Mad to besiege Hogwarts. Mad to think she could be anything other than what she was.

And in the end, she thought with a smile, Riol had been the first to admit how very wrong he was.

A surge of new affection rose up within her. She thought of times past, of youth and all its mindlessness. Riol, after all, had been her first lover…perhaps her only true lover.

Oh, but such knowledge should be kept from Godric!

Helga stretched out her hand, her fingers dripping with rainwater. “Stand with me,” she said, “and come take my hand.”

But he had a right to be silent. After all, the child of another man had graced her womb. And she did not belong to Riol, as she had never belonged to any man.

“How long has it been since we last saw Cornwall?” Helga asked. For a moment, she shut her eyes and tried to envision the coastlines and the great cliffs. And in her fancy, she wished for one of the great winds of her homeland to reach her in these foreign wilds. To stroke her hair and kiss her flesh and remind her why she had left, why she had waged war, why she had conquered.

Helga was surprised by how old she felt that night. Much older than her twenty and seven years. And yet, those days when she had been young, truly young and had stood atop the cliffs, had stood above the sea and let Riol kiss her for the first time.

“You were always beside me,” she said, her words unnaturally dark. “I thank you for that. I…”

Helga paused and considered, seeing her life stretched out before her, seeing what she had done and what she intended to do.

Found a school, create an empire, gain immortality.

But perhaps it had been better, yes, perhaps it had been sweeter to be a young girl standing atop those cliffs…to be so young…

“Riol,” she said his name, her heart leaping to life and burning with a long-suppressed ache, “Riol, forgive me!”

As Helga turned to look at him, she saw the blade in his hand, reflected in the light and fury of the storm. She cried out only once as the knife found her throat, as it took from her all that she was and all that she could have been.

And in the night, in that damp, rain-streaked corridor, Helga Hufflepuff laid down and died.

 

 





Rowena waited in the shadows, her existence, her very life that of a mere phantom. A phantom that wore the face of another. A phantom that would wished for death. A phantom that prayed for freedom.

But there was no freedom to be had for one such as her. No death. No respite. She was a traitor, cast from the most wretched mold, a fugitive in her own kingdom. An absent, uncaring queen. A living horror.

As she stood in the corridor outside Helga’s bedchamber, she counted her breaths, measuring the space between her shuddering heartbeats. This was a night for evil work. For murder. And for all that she had been, and for all that she was, Rowena was not a murderer.

Yet Salazar had insisted. He had made her promise to kill the babe.

The guiltless, sinless babe…

Rowena felt a sob work its way into her throat. With some difficulty, she managed to swallow it, choking on her own fetid sorrow as she did so.

The great work, she knew, was already begun. Salazar had bewitched Helga’s faithful advisor, a Muggle man by the name of Riol, and would soon dispatch his unwilling servant to kill the Queen. And while the act was carried out, Rowena would commit an atrocity of her own. She would steal into the Queen’s bedchamber and murder the child.

Salazar’s own hands would of course remain bloodless. Rowena hated him for that, just as she hated the power he had over her. During the past winter, when she had hidden in her own castle under the guise of her faithful servant Ailbhe, watching as Helga conquered Alba and ruled in her stead, Rowena often wondered if she should have fought the Queen of Cornwall herself.

Salazar, who had come to her with hopes of forming a necessary alliance, was even more unworthy than Helga. He had left Rowena degraded and tormented, a mere wraith of the mighty house of Ravenclaw, the likes of which had once lorded over the lofty halls of Hogwarts.

But then Rowena would remember her own weakness, would remember that she was not a good queen, but a hopeless, hapless failure.

Unlike Helga Hufflepuff…her enemy.

True rage welled up inside of Rowena as she stood waiting. How should it be that she, the rightful ruler of Alba, could not care for her own people? She had stepped aside. She had let them die. She had watched Helga win from her what she alone could call her own.

Perhaps, she thought, in that dark, miserable hour, Helga was more deserving than she ever would be.

But the notion passed. Rowena cleared her mind and waited, her patience finally rewarded as she saw Helga come forth from her bedchamber, saw Riol, lumbering under his enchantment, step forward and make himself known to his Queen.

And as Helga turned to speak to him, as she was distracted, Rowena stole into the chamber, hoping, for once, that she had the strength to do what was needed of her.

It was a wild night in Alba, one of high, tempest winds and stinging rain. A night that suited Rowena’s purpose. As she shut the chamber door behind her, she welcomed the shadows that instantly enveloped her.

Yes, she told herself. This is right. This is acceptable. You do not deserve to grace the light. You do not deserve salvation…

The chamber was wondrously dark, the fire having fallen to cold ashes in the hearth. Rowena took a moment to survey her surroundings and her eyes narrowed, searching for the cradle in the black.

There was a bed, this she knew. Stepping forward, she noticed the rumpled blankets and breathed a sigh of relief.

She was alone.

But fate was unkind, a merciless mistress that Rowena despised and, in turn, found herself hated by.

As she moved away from the bed, something caught her eye. A large form stirred and sighed. The form of a man.

Godric Gryffindor.

For a moment, fear left her frozen. Rowena stood in the center of the chamber and watched the man. He was sleeping, yes, his keen, bright eyes closed against the storm and the bloody dawn that awaited him. It seemed almost unnatural to see such a great wizard lying vulnerable and unprotected and as Rowena studied him, she felt rare emotion stir within her.

She had seen this man shower affection and love on his little child. Had seen him cradle the babe with a gentleness that seemed uncommon for one of such great, brute strength. And she had also seen the love he bore for Helga, a deep, loyal love nurtured by something more absolute than respect and admiration.

Rowena frowned, jealousy working its way into her shuttered and closed heart.

Oh, how she envied Helga.

Feeling the ache in her breast grow, Rowena forced herself away from the bed and she slipped soundlessly across the chamber, pausing as she came to the hearth. The cradle was there, as she had expected it to be, and within it lay the babe.

The child was indeed beautiful, Rowena thought. A thing of softness and goodness in a black, black world. Although she herself was not a mother, maternal instinct had never quite alluded her. And what she was about to do, here, now, seemed like a violation of the darkest kind.

The same sin she had committed when she had abandoned her people for the dubious safety of hiding….

Helga, at least, had never had cause to abandon her people. She had never fled from her native land…nor tried to harm another woman’s child.

Did that make her the better woman? Did that make her more worthy than Rowena could ever be?

Trembling now, Rowena stooped towards the cradle and gathered the babe to her. The infant slept soundly still, even in her treacherous arms. Rowena felt the child’s cheek pressed to her bosom, felt the soft, even breathing of a life so innocent, so unstained by hatred….

No, she thought, cherishing the warm weight of the child against her breast. No….

But then she heard a scream. And then world shattered.
 
 

 





The scream reached him through a dream, through black and bitter torment. Godric heard it from afar, his senses stirring from slumber, his heart quickening as the world fell down around him. Fell down and burned.

He sat up, feeling the sweat roll across his temples, his great mane of hair matted and limp about his shoulders. The chamber was dark. The chamber was silent. And Helga was gone from his side.

But she had screamed, hadn’t she? Someone had screamed.

Dread dropped into his gut, causing his stomach to roil and ache.

Where was Helga?

Here, reason told him. She must be here.

Godric touched the empty space beside him, felt the crumpled blankets and nothing more.

And the scream. He had heard a scream.

Rain was coming in through the window. Vicious, stinging rain, the droplets hissing like hundreds of serpents as they hit the stone floor. Somewhere above, in the heavens, in the realm of the stars, thunder growled.

But it was not a scream and Godric had heard a scream.

Helena.

Paternal instinct drove him to his feet and turning wildly, Godric spotted her cradle before the cold hearth, saw the figure standing above it, obscured by unfriendly shadows.

“Helga?” he asked, hoping his fears would be relieved, hoping to find his wife there, soothing their child in her arms.

And the figure was indeed clutching Helena, holding the babe close to her pale breast. Tendrils of hair, some black, some red, appeared from beneath the woman’s hood.

Godric reached for his sword. “Put the child down,” he commanded, not recognizing the creature that had stolen into his bedchamber, a creature who even now had her spindly fingers against Helena’s soft cheek.

“I shall not harm her,” the strange woman replied. And she set the babe down in the cradle, softly, gently. “I swear I shall not harm her.”

But the night was dangerous, troubled by phantoms and a violent storm. Godric kept his sword in his hand.

“Remove your hood,” he ordered.

The woman hesitated.

Taking a step forward, he showed her the blade, lifting it into the air for the lightning to reflect off its sharpened edge.

The woman dropped her hood. “Do you recognize me, Gryffindor?” she asked.

He did. Or he did not. Her features resembled those of the maid, Ailbhe, but even now the brow was widening, the cheeks hollowing out, the nose narrowing. And her hair, her hair was no longer red…but black.

For the briefest of moments, Godric felt his hand tremble on the sword hilt. “Who--” he began, but could not finish.

The scream sounded once more. Another scream. A new, vile thing. Drawn-out and tortured, but decidedly masculine.

And the first scream had been a woman’s. This Godric knew in his heart. The first scream, he realized with renewed fear, had certainly been Helga’s.

No. No!

He lunged for the door, bursting out into the corridor only to have his bare feet slip…slip on blood. Godric fell against the wall, overwhelmed by the sight before him, at the very door to his bedchamber.

Her throat had been cut and even now, the last of her life was pumping out through the wound. She had fallen at an odd angle, her knees were bent and her shoulders still raised.

Godric held her gaze, held Helga in his eyes as she died and watched the world pass before her.

The struggle did not last long and in the space of a heartbeat, she was still, one finger touching the base of her neck where the great wound began.

Helga Hufflepuff was dead.

Someone grasped his arm and Godric looked over shoulder, seeing the strange, black-haired woman who had been within his chamber. Her face was the color of bone, her wide and wild eyes filled with tears.

“This should not be,” she said in a voice that rose and fell, a voice that reminded Godric of someone lost and tormented, someone in agony. “This should not be,” the woman repeated, squeezing his arm tightly.

But Godric could no longer make sense of her words. He wrenched himself free of her grasp and fell to his knees, the hem of his tunic smeared with blood. Trembling, he tried to take Helga’s still warm hand in his, but could not bring himself to touch her.

She belonged to the dead now, and Orpheus could not retrieve his Eurydice from the underworld.

But oh, he did not want to let her go alone into the night. Helga….Helga…

And soon, the first of his tears were upon his cheeks.

“She is dead,” the black-haired woman began lowly, but then broke out into a feverish keening. “She is dead!”

Godric fell back, his shoulders colliding with the wall behind him and the movement brought another into his view, another prone figure who crouched on the floor not far away.

Riol.

The man was doubled over on all fours, vomiting and shaking as though possessed by some hellish fit. Lifting one hand aloft, as if in supplication, he showed himself to be holding a blade.

A blade stained with Helga’s blood.

“I cannot see!” he screamed, and Godric realized who the second voice had belonged to, the one that had stirred him from his apathy and brought him out into the corridor.

“There is a shadow upon me,” Riol groaned, batting the air with the knife. “There…there are shadows!”

Slowly, Godric rose to his feet.

There was more noise on the stairs now. Soldiers stirring, coming in from their posts. Servants rising from bed only to find the night drenched with crimson. Godric was faintly aware of people gathering nearby and his eyes told him that the corridor was crowded. Women shrieked. He saw a guard remove his helm and let it drop to the floor.

And Salazar Slytherin, garbed forever in black, came sweeping through the chaos, the pure embodiment of Dis Pater.

For a moment, a flicker of uncertain emotion passed across Salazar’s countenance. He paused by Helga’s body and stared, his eyes looking ominous and dark and lost to some great, inner battle of repressed sorrow and rage.

Godric saw all this, and even in his state of grief, he marveled at Salazar’s calm. At length, the sallow-skinned wizard removed his ebony cloak and laid it over Helga’s corpse.

There was silence then. Silence and nothing more.

As Godric stood there, benumbed and bewildered, he remembered all at once that he still had his sword in his hand. The sword that Helga had given him. Instinctively, his fingers tightened over the hilt, something of fury building steadily within him.

Slowly, Salazar turned to face him and across the shrouded corpse, their eyes met.

“Do not show him mercy, Gryffindor,” he said.

For a moment, Godric was stunned. “What say you?” he asked, his chest heaving, aching as the blood-scented air of the corridor entered his lungs. “What say you, Slytherin?”

And Salazar, for all his natural composure, suddenly turned vicious. With all the speed and accuracy of a striking adder, he reached beyond and snatched Riol by the scruff of his neck.

The sobbing Muggle still held his foul blade.

“The murderer,” Salazar announced, his voice loud enough to reach the soldiers and the servants who huddled on the stairwell. “This man, this filthy Muggle has murdered Helga Hufflepuff.”

Behind him, Godric heard the black-haired woman utter a cry. Her voice was thin and pitiful, a wail of protest that went unheeded.

But Godric could only watch Riol, the man whom Helga had trusted, the man who had ridden by his side on the journey to Hogwarts, the man who had saved his life.

The man who now held the guilty knife…

“No,” he said. “I do not--”

Salazar was relentless. “Look at him!” he cried, spittle flying from his mouth as his jaw extended grotesquely. “Here the coward crawls, on his belly, wet with her blood, Gryffindor. Look at him!” He shook Riol fiercely, causing the man to twitch and tremble.

“Stop,” he begged, speaking for the first time. “Leave me go, snake!” Riol was struggling against his captor now and there was something of renewed purpose in him, as if his senses, previously amiss, had returned without warning.

Salazar loosed his hold on Riol’s neck, but succeeded in pushing the man back to the floor. “Wretch! Traitorous wretch!”

Godric took a step forward, stirred by an emotion deeper than rage and greater than sorrow.

Riol looked up at him. “Help me,” he whispered, his thin lips struggling to shape the words. “I’ve been bewitched.”

“He lies!” This from Salazar. “He is a deceiver, Gryffindor! He has lied to you!”

“Helga.” Riol raised his gore-stained hands to touch the hem of Godric’s tunic. “I would not kill her. I was bewitched!”

“Be done with the fool,” Salazar spat. He lunged forward and grabbed the back of Riol’s head, making him howl. “Finish him before he spreads more of his poison.”

But Riol would only scream. “I am innocent! Innocent!”

Salazar reached for the knife and finally forced it from Riol’s hand. “Mark this,” he said, waving it beneath Godric’s nose. “The vengeance of a jealous lover.”

“No! Have mercy!” Riol wept.

Godric looked once at the knife and then at Riol, his sense and reason laboring under delayed shock.

This could not be. This could not be.

Glancing down at his feet, he saw the edge of Helga’s hand trailing out from underneath Salazar’s cloak. Her fingers were slightly curled, as if in death she still longed to grasp her wand, to wield it and so rule the world.

And in that moment, in that breath of space, he realized all that had happened…and all that was yet to come.

The weight of her mighty empire fell down around him, crashed and shattered, leaving former glory decayed and putrid. It had all be for naught. Her conquests. Her wars. Her perfect ambition to rule, to be immortal.

But mortality had come, beguiling and wicked, lulling Helga into a fatal slumber.

She was dead now. She was dead.

Godric’s heartbeat quickened, his blood thrumming in his veins with sinister promise. He felt almost as if he stood on top of a great mountain and was gazing down at the worms that crawled about the foothills.

Salazar was still screaming. Riol was still weeping. And the woman who stood behind him, the strange woman with the black hair, stayed silent.

This moment belongs to you, a voice whispered to Godric. Make of it what you will.

He had a choice now, a path that diverged. Helga could no longer guide him. He was alone…

…and would be alone forever more.

“Kill him!” Salazar was crying, waving his arms about in fiendish fury while Riol shook and cowered by his feet. “Kill him!”

Kill him. That phrase, that simple, single phrase brought life back to Godric. Once more, he remembered that he still had his sword.

Kill him. KILL HIM.

Reaching for Riol, he pulled the man’s head back, deaf to his shrieks, blind to his look of maddened fear.

And Godric’s sword fell. And Riol’s head rolled across the floor.
 

 




Author’s Note: Well, this is it. We’re nearing the end of Legend. There’s only an epilogue left and then the tale is complete. As always, I’d like to thank everyone who has read/reviewed/favorited this story so far. Your continued support and encouragement really means the world to me. I’m hoping to get the epilogue written this week, so the last installment should be posted soon. Until then, take care and be well!
 
 


Chapter 11: Epilogue
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                                        Beautiful graphic by laelia @ TDA


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.

 

Epilogue

 

Eastern Europe--50 years later

The old man sat by the fire. His hands were gnarled and crooked, resting atop a stick of weathered yew. The light from the fickle flames avoided the worn planes of his face, casting his features into questionable darkness as he rocked slowly on his stool. Back and forth. Back and forth. A faint, hummed tune teased his papery lips and he thought of the old days, those that were dimmed by an unreliable memory and those that alluded him altogether. But from somewhere, in the back of his mind, he thought of Constantinople.

There was a boy sitting hunched over on a squat chair across from him, a child with a mop of black hair and pensive eyes and hands that bore a few too many ink stains. Upon his lap he had spread a book, the pages only half-filled with careful script.

The old man watched the youngling, watched and hummed and remembered. He wondered now, in the very dusk of life, if the truth of it all was still unknown to him. The truth of what he had done and how he had failed. Failed so utterly so as to be forgotten by the men who knew him, who once spoke his name with fear and trembled when he cast his serpent’s gaze upon them.

Old age had left Salazar toothless. Powerless. A vague, benign entity. But even now, as his eyes began to cloud and his hands trembled a little more each day, he refused to let obscurity win the final victory. Refused to slip into the void of the forgotten and pass from the world unheeded, unrecognized and unknown.

Strangely enough, after all the years of hating her, the old man finally understood why Helga had wanted to be remembered.

Tapping his stick upon the hard dirt floor with a resolute air, Salazar succeeded in gaining the boy’s attention.

“Tell me what you have written last,” he said, his voice a hollow whisper of its former, potent glory.

The boy laid his pen across his knees and consulted the book. “I have copied what you told me to write, Grandfather.”

“Read it to me.”

The boy took a deep, exaggerated breath, his sallow face appearing sickly in the warm, orange glow of the fire. “And so Helga Hufflepuff, the Queen of Cornwall, Mistress of all England and Alba, was murdered by the man she thought most faithful to her. The Muggle, Riol, was repaid for his disloyalty and received death at the hands of Godric Gryffindor, who was sore grieved at the loss of the Queen. It ends there, Grandfather. You did not tell me the rest.”

“Have I not?” Salazar looked thoughtfully at the boy. In truth, he did not know why he wanted the child to record his history, which, unfortunately, had become intertwined with the history of Helga Hufflepuff. The experience was not cathartic, but rather, opened old wounds and left them festering, left him pained and angry and ashamed.

Ashamed for his defeat.

He leaned heavily on his stick, feeling an unwelcome weight descend upon his already bent shoulders. The truth was indeed a poisonous thing. Treacherous in its own right. It coiled around his heart and brought the bile of bitter memories to his mind and to his lips.

“Listen,” the old man told the boy, “I will finish my tale.”

The boy once more took up his pen, poising it eagerly over another, yet unmarked page.

Salazar closed his eyes, his blood pulsing behind them. Echoes of thunder remained. The shadow of a lighting bolt. He remembered the night when Helga Hufflepuff had died. He remembered it well.

“Riol the betrayer was cursed beyond death,” he said, nearly shuddering as he recalled how wild Gryffindor had turned at the sight of so much blood. Helga’s blood….

“That very eve, while the storm still raged, Godric took the headless body of the murderer and cast it out into the loch to rot, dishonored and abhorred by all. For years afterward, the place had a fell reputation and the waters themselves were called Black.”

The boy’s pen scratched across the parchment, leaving inky trails in its wake. “But was it never told that Riol was innocent?”

The question startled Salazar and he looked at his grandson not with the cloudy eyes of age, but with the clear, penetrating gaze of powerful fury.

“Riol was not innocent,” he replied, the words slithering out from between his broken teeth. “He held the blade and he murdered Helga.”

“But you bewitched him to do so.” The boy was guileless in his curiosity. “Did Godric never learn something of it, Grandfather?”

The old man’s rage was dangerous now. With the aid of his yew stick, he managed to pull himself to his feet and although his back was bent, he still towered over the child.

“My hands were clean,” he muttered, each word an angry jab delivered with what natural authority he had left. “I am untouched by Helga’s blood.”

And the boy cowered, his shoulders drawing up around his neck in a show of fear and submission.

Exhausted, Salazar retreated back to his stool, grumbling, kicking at the dust with his aching and chilled feet. Even now, decades later, his pride was still wounded. The boy, of course, had not failed to detect his flaw. But he could not bring himself to face it now.

“I shall finish,” he grumbled once he had settled himself again. The fire had fallen low in the hearth, gnawing at tiny embers and sending pungent smoke into the air.

Salazar felt his breathing become labored as the wisps of grey drifted by his nose. “I shall finish,” he repeated, wheezing, “and then you will understand.”

The boy reluctantly returned his pen to the parchment, his tiny hands splayed against the open book. “I am listening, Grandfather,” he whispered timidly.

Salazar closed his eyes, his chin dropping down onto his hands which were folded over the rounded nub at the top of his walking stick. It was difficult for him, even now, to recall the harried, horrendous events that occurred those few months after Helga’s death. And although he was secure in his own sense of self-righteousness, Salazar sometimes permitted himself to feel regret.

It had been necessary for Helga to die, but perhaps he might have been less rash in pursuing her downfall. And he ought to have been wise enough to foresee the complications. Even Rowena Ravenclaw, that mad wretch, that useless, base whore, had seen the future clearly.

Although Salazar had once hoped to seize Helga’s power, to use her death to become omnipotent himself, the path to such an end was obscured. Fatally so. After Riol had done his bidding and murdered the Queen, he found he could not simply step to the fore and claim the empire for himself.

Helga had, of course, left an heir. An infant babe. And Rowena’s failure to murder the child, her act of misplaced mercy and weakness, had forever denied Salazar his desire for absolute supremacy.

Thinking of Rowena’s treachery now, his fingers twisted over the yew stick. He could still picture Ravenclaw, with her long, aquiline features and pale brow that seemed forever touched with the dew of fever. She was eternally wide-eyed from stargazing, always cringing and trembling and ranting. There had been a time when Salazar thought he had control over her, a foolish, fanciful time. But now the truth was plain.

Rowena had spared Helena to spite him. And she had secured Helga’s legacy.

Godric Gryffindor, of course, became regent to his daughter after his wife died. The great, brainless brute took Helga’s place and Salazar himself was forced back into the darkness. Forced, once more, to ally himself with his enemy and endure the trial with patience until another opportunity might present itself.

Rowena did the same. After revealing herself to Godric as the deposed Queen of Alba, she fell upon him like a mad, shrieking thing, begging for mercy and shelter and whatever life might be left to her. She sought Gryffindor’s goodness, or, as Salazar saw it, his weakness. And Godric, witless man that he was, willingly took her on as an ally.

Since then, Salazar had often attempted to enlist her aid against Gryffindor, but Rowena refused. And so he had waited and watched and hoped for the chance to destroy what he had already worked so hard to undo.

That delay, he realized now, had signaled the beginning of the end.

Opening his eyes, Salazar attempted to drag himself back to the fireside and the boy and the cold, dark hours that clustered around them like so many vengeful phantoms. His tale, after all, was not finished.

“Mighty though he was, Godric Gryffindor could not uphold the overwhelming weight of his Queen’s empire,” he told the boy, his words tasting old and stale and unpleasantly nostalgic. “Although he was father to Helga’s heir, her only daughter, Helena, he faced much scrutiny from those soldiers that had followed the Queen of Cornwall. And alas, though she had struggled to found a lasting empire, one that would rival Rome and put the Greeks to shame, Helga’s final ambition was thwarted. In the year following her death, her puppet kings and subordinate chieftains revolted. England was no longer her own…no longer Godric’s. And in the chaos that followed, Gryffindor could only withdraw--”

“To where?” The boy, who was usually subservient and silent, seemed to succumb to curiosity.

The old man grunted, noting his grandson’s obvious interest in Godric Gryffindor. The young were all inevitably wooed by tales of blood and bravery. The boy, unfortunately, was no exception, and it was not the first time he had expressed some curiosity towards the crude, wild man whom Salazar counted as his greatest enemy.

He looked at the child sharply, offering him a soundless reproach. “I will tell you,” he said, “so that you may understand my tale in full, as it should be understood. Godric Gryffindor may have shown promise under Helga’s dutiful tutelage, but a war lord he was not. You must remember the difference, my child, between a mere soldier and a lauded commander. Gryffindor was the former. He could hold a sword and wield it well, but he had nothing of the tactician in him, nothing that would sustain the full glory of Helga’s empire.”

Salazar paused, whetting his lips with his grey, mottled tongue. Godric had indeed proved himself to be a notable failure when it came to securing what Helga had won through so much blood and military cunning. He remembered how desperate the man had become as he attempted to regain his footing, as he tried to tie together the loose strings that held all of Helga’s conquest together. But the threads had slipped through his fingers…

Salazar felt his frustration, dormant for so many years, begin to build within him. Helga had delivered the world to Godric and the fool had let it shatter, had let it--

“Grandfather.” The boy squirmed in his chair, clutching his mantle tightly around his scrawny shoulders. Winter had left the nights long and cold.

Salazar glanced at the child and grudgingly stirred up the fire in the hearth.

“Godric Gryffindor, along with his only remaining ally, Rowena Ravenclaw, continued their stewardship of the fortress Hogwarts,” he said, forcing himself to pick up his tale once more. “Those that remained in Helga’s great army abandoned the wilds of the North and returned to their native land of Cornwall. I have heard that a few of their number made much strife in contending for her throne, but whether they succeeded, I do not know. Gryffindor gave up his daughter’s claim to Cornwall, although he still kept Hogwarts. It was there that he, along with Rowena Ravenclaw and myself, founded the first wizarding school in all of Albion. And I say to you now, my boy, it was indeed a wonder. A rival to those schools that existed in Athens and Alexandria and Rome. My child, my dear child, I wish that you had seen it with me.”

The boy shifted in his chair again, blotting his page with ink as he did so. “But why found a school?” he asked.

Something pinched at Salazar’s heart as he looked at the child. Yes, why found a school? It had not been his idea, not his grand scheme, but Helga’s.

She had fostered the dream since her infancy, had kept it in her heart through all her years of war and conquest and on the eve of her death, she had already been making plans to see it through.

After her empire fell apart and Godric was left with nothing, he had become obsessed with the idea. It was the only thing that he still had the power to control, to fix and to shape. Although he had previously admitted his own ambivalence towards a wizarding school, he soon devoted himself blindly to the task. Rowena, of course, had been in agreement. She never opposed Godric, perhaps fearing his wrath, perhaps seeking to please him and repay his charity. And Salazar, who had watched helplessly as his thirst for power went unquenched, saw a rare opportunity to regain his standing.

In truth, there was no grand, enlightened motivation behind the founding of Hogwarts. Only desperation. Only fear. Only necessity.

“We founded the school,” Salazar said, “because it was the only thing to do.”

The boy knew better than to question him. Instead, he took careful note of his grandfather’s words, his little, chicken-bone thin fingers curled around his quill.

With another pinch to his heart, Salazar realized that Hogwarts was the only worthwhile triumph his life could boast. And how unfair it should be that he had not seen the school in nearly four decades, had been driven into hiding, into the wilds of the world and into the dark.

Into the miserable dark.

His jaw tensed, his jowls quivering. “Curse Godric and Rowena both,” he muttered.

What they had done to him, what they had….

“Listen,” he commanded, casting a quick glance at the boy to assure himself of his attention, “and mark well what I tell you. There are traitors to be found hiding in every dell and gully, under every rock and fallen log. Listen!” he cried, the word rushing passed his lips in a hiss.

The boy jumped, but kept his place on the page.

“I lived at Hogwarts for ten years,” Salazar pressed on, despite the fluttering, insistent pain in his chest. “For the first three, only a few students found their way to our doors. We taught them well, Godric, Rowena and myself, and when they were learned, we sent them out into the world to seek others. More wizards and witches. They came to us. Each year, our fold grew and it became necessary to separate them, to claim some for our own and divide the rest. Divide and conquer, ha! I am certain Helga would approve. And we not only taught, my boy, but we learned as well. Our power grew and I swear, we stood upon the precipice of greatness. But Helga’s specter was there, always there and neither Rowena nor Godric could let her rest.”

Salazar paused and tried to inhale. His throat was dry and when the cold, smoke-tinged air touched his lungs, he coughed.

Rowena, he thought bitterly. Rowena, it was your weakness that destroyed us.

“Grandfather.” The boy half rose from his chair, his eyes darting over to clay pitcher that sat on the floor nearby. “Will you have some water?”

Salazar waved his hand dismissively. “Sit still and hold your tongue. If you do not heed all of my words, listen, at least, to these. You will understand then.”

And so shall I, he hoped.

“Since the time of Helga’s death, Rowena took up the care of her child, Helena, helping Godric to raise her in the way only a woman can. It was through this act of…charity that she began to entertain delusions. She fell in love with Godric and thought that she could be a true mother to his child. Gryffindor, however, was doomed to always love Helga. He mourned for his wife and lamented her death over the years as though the memory were fresh and raw. Accordingly, he spurned Rowena’s advances and, in doing so, brought us all to ruin.”

“And because she was ever misguided, ever mad, Rowena relied upon her desperation alone to convince Godric of her worthiness. She went to him one night and told him the truth of who had murdered Helga. She willingly and openly confessed herself as having knowledge of the plot and my part in it. The end came shortly after.”

And although he sat by the fire in his own secluded home, so far from England and Hogwarts and the reach of those who knew him as a traitor and wished him harm, Salazar could only tremble as he recalled that night. That black, portentous night.

Godric had found him in his dungeon chambers. Had come to Salazar with his sword drawn. The sword that Helga had given to him. And there was Rowena, her black hair unbound and flowing wild, screaming. She screamed and screamed and screamed.

Even now, Salazar only remembered some of what was said. He remembered Godric swearing to have his life and he remembered being numb to the lion’s fury. Numb and adrift on a perilous, tempestuous sea.

Murderer! MURDERER!

I am innocent of this foul charge, Godric. Do not lay such base lies at my feet.

The same was said of Riol. The same was said of him and now he rots in the black!

Salazar had been powerless against Godric’s rage. He was backed into a corner, trapped, accused of the one crime that he had been proud to commit. And yet he denied his guilt. Again and again and again.

Look to Rowena. She has birthed this falsehood. See the disease she brings to our house!

I shall have your blood, Salazar. I shall have you dead!

There was no appeasing Godric. Rowena herself had tried to intercede, perhaps sensing the violence she had fostered with her loose tongue, the deep and relentless evil.

Godric, please, stay your sword!

But even her pleading was useless. Futile.

Salazar felt his limbs lock as he recalled the sinister light that glinted off Godric’s sword. He would have died that night, would have died if he had not fled.

Like a coward. Like an obscene, worthless coward….

“Grandfather?” the boy’s gentle voice brought him back from the brink.

Salazar started, then settled back on his stool. “I was saying,” he mumbled vaguely, “I was saying.”

“You were saying that Godric learned of your role in Helga’s murder,” the boy reminded him. “You spoke of the end of things.”

“Yes, the end.” Salazar looked into the flames and his eyes burned. Shame still marked him, still sat upon his countenance as plainly as any physical scar. This was the part of his tale that he despised, that he rightly hated.

But the boy must know of it.

“Godric’s desire, his need for revenge would not be stayed,” Salazar said, his voice bearing no noticeable inflection. “He was dangerous in his rage, murderous. I had no other choice.”

No other choice. The words rang through his mind, unsettled and uncertain. He tightened his grip on his walking stick.

Yes, he had had no other choice.

“I fled Hogwarts,” Salazar said. “I left the very night Godric denounced me as his wife’s murderer. He pursued me, of course. Gryffindor always had a rather persistent spirit and he was indeed a force to be reckoned with. I spent six months hiding in England…like an animal, tucked away in forests, sheltering in caves on the moors. But I knew I would not survive. I knew…I knew I could not live as a hermit.”

He paused and swallowed away the emotion rising within him. Oh, how low he had been brought! It was true that he had never realized how high he had flown, how close to the sun he had come, until he fell.

“I left England,” Salazar continued dully. His limited energy was spent and like the fire, he felt his tired body fall to ashes. “I spent years as a wanderer, fearful that Godric would find me. And then the blessed news came. Shortly after my departure from England, Godric fell ill. The disease started in his stomach, I am told, rotting his gut away, eating him from the inside out until he died. He left Rowena and his daughter, Helena, behind.”

“And what of Rowena?” the boy asked quietly. He looked small and stunted against the long shadows thrown up by the last of the fire. “Did she stay at Hogwarts?”

Salazar waved his hand. “She remained at the school and I have heard that the institution flourished under her care until the time of her death.”

“So she is dead then, Grandfather?”

“Yes. I heard a rumor that she once quarreled with Helena and that the child scorned her, but I know of nothing more.”

Salazar was not inclined, even now, to discuss Rowena’s triumphs, or her failings, for that matter. The woman was dead. A feast for worms. And he wanted her to remain that way. Forever more.

Forever, forever more.

Silence fell and the quiet was appropriate. A necessary shroud. It was a long time before his grandson spoke.

“Then you are the last,” the boy said. He had finished his scribblings and was watching the old man intently. “You alone survived.”

Salazar closed his eyes. Ah, those words, those precious, blessed words! He was alone, a victor in his own right, a conqueror that even Helga Hufflepuff could not best.

He was alone. He had survived. And now, the world was his.

But all Salazar could think of was revenge.

He looked down at his hands, the twisted knuckles, the protruding veins, the spots and blemishes of age. His fingers were curled by the touch of rheumatism and it had been a long time since he could hold his wand comfortably. Perhaps now, he realized, his magic was useless.

He had wielded magic against Helga. Had used it to bewitch Riol and disguise Rowena and to kill, yes, to kill. But there was no blood that needed spilling now. No conquest. No destruction.

And yet Salazar was determined to right the old wrongs that plagued him, to silence Helga Hufflepuff once and for all.

He would do it now, he decided, on this the night of starless skies and deep, penetrating cold.

Helga Hufflepuff would die again. She would die. And no one would be able to save her.

For the first time in ages, Salazar felt a triumphant smile curve across his cracked lips. “Tell me, my child, have you written everything that I spoke to you of?”

The boy glanced down at his book as if it make sure it still sat securely on his lap. “Yes, Grandfather. Everything.”

“And you remember all that I told you? Of Helga being a great warrior and wise and brave?”

“Yes.”

Salazar’s smile widened, but he said nothing. Rising to his feet, his knees weakened and shaking, he took the book from the child and tossed it into the flames.

It burned.

The boy emitted a bleat of surprise. “Grandfather!”

Salazar seized him by the collar of his mantle. “Forget all that I ever told you. Forget everything!”

The boy was near tears now, but he nodded obediently. “Why?” he asked. “Why, Grandfather?”

Revenge, Salazar thought to himself. I shall have my revenge against Helga at last.

She who wanted to be remembered, she who wanted to be immortal…

“There are none left to tell the tale,” he said, pulling a fresh roll of parchment down from a shelf over the hearth. “The truth will rest on my word alone. And neither Helga nor Godric nor Rowena shall change it. I will say of them what I will, what must be said. Here, boy, write!”

Salazar thrust the parchment at the child, feeling his decrepit body strengthen with each passing breath, with each renewed promise of final, everlasting vengeance.

And Helga would not be immortal, but his lie would be.

“Listen,” he instructed his grandson. “And remember all that I tell you now. This is the story of the founding of Hogwarts. There were four of us in those days.” Salazar paused, his mania growing, his eyes flashing and wild.

The greatest lie ever told….

“There were four of us,” he repeated. “Godric Gryffindor the warrior, Rowena Ravenclaw the scholar, myself and Helga Hufflepuff. Helga who was meek and mild. Helga who was the weakest of the four. Write that down, boy, write it all.”

And the boy wrote.

And the world remembered.

The End

 

 




Author’s Note: Well, that’s it. The end. Whew! I can’t believe I’ve finally finished this story. Although I’ll definitely miss writing it, I do feel tremendously relieved.

This final chapter is dedicated to everyone who took the time to read, review or add this story to their favorites. I’ve really been blessed to have such wonderful support and encouragement from my readers. Thank you all so much!

Farewell for now, folks. And thanks again for everything!
 
 


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