Chapter 1 : Buried Treasure
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Helga and her friends Rowena Ravenclaw, Godric Gryffindor, and Salazar Slytherin were four very different people with four very different personalities and backgrounds. Despite this fact, they had banded together in their youth, overcoming the same obstacles, reaching for the same goals, and aiding one another in various personal struggles. Individually, they had become four very accomplished witches and wizards. However, none of their individual successes would have been possible without the support and help of the other three. Their latest endeavor, and their greatest aspiration of all, was to form a school where young witches and wizards could come together to safely learn magic.
The Almighty knows we need it, Helga thought, for it was certainly a tumultuous time for those born with magical abilities. Pretty much the only wizards that lived in safety were those few that lived in villages made up of only magical families or those fortunate few to be born into a rich or noble magic household (or one who served such a family). Even then, safety only persisted within the confines of the village or home, and remaining in such a place all the time was a near impossible task.
All wizards, regardless of lineage or rank, faced persecution from Muggles. Fortunately, experienced witches and wizards could normally escape such persecution. However, the degrees of safety ranged from individual to individual. Witches married to Muggle husbands often had to hide their abilities and teach their children to control their abilities in secret. Many witches and wizards never learned how to perform magic properly, especially those born into mixed or Muggle families.
Helga herself had certainly not been born into an ideal situation. She was the daughter of a poor, farming magical family who were fortunate to never be persecuted. She didn’t know how to read or write until she met Rowena, so any magic she knew until that point had been practical. She had been very persistent in her training, however, taking what spells her parents taught her and figuring out new spells whenever she could. By the time she met her friends in her adolescence, she had become advanced in her age due to sheer hard work – a trait she certainly hoped to instill into her future students.
Helga shook her head, reprimanding herself for standing idly when she should be doing something productive, and walked towards the grand castle before her – Hogwarts castle, as they decided to call it. It took her breath away to look at it from the outside, it looking far more majestic than she ever would have dreamed.
What she really took pride in, however, was the inside of the castle. Indeed, this is where her and her friends had put forth the most effort – and had the most fun doing so. They had a ceiling that looked just as the sky outside, moving staircases, several secret passageways, a room that functioned as anything one needed it to be, and countless other useful and grand things. Thanks to Salazar, they even had an indoor pipe system – a concept that never ceased to astound Helga.
Most of the ingenuity of the school had been the result of her and her friends working together, but they were far from the only contributors. Lord Ravenclaw – Rowena’s husband – had connected them with quite a few wizards willing to help, in addition to supplying most of the needed money, for example.
Helga jumped, startled as she heard a pop next to her, and turned to see none other than her friend Salazar.
“Enjoying the ability to apparate while you still can, Salazar?” Helga asked him with a smile. They had not yet placed protections against apparition as it had been impractical to do so while still working so much, but that would change in a few days.
Salazar smiled back, “I suppose I am.”
Salazar was a tall, handsome man, with a guant face, who normally stood very erect and gave the impression of regality. He was bald on his head but had a growing beard that showed his hair to be black. The feature that most noticed about him were his cold, icy blue eyes; most people feared him partly due to these eyes, or at least felt uneasy looking into them. Salazar’s aloofness and calculating smile didn’t help to settle most people down. The only people Helga ever really saw Salazar at ease with were herself, Rowena, Godric, and a couple of Pureblood comrades. Even then, he seemed to hide his emotions beneath the ice of his eyes.
Or at least, that is what he did most of the time, except when sharing what could only be described as a brotherly moment with Godric. And, on occasion, he would give Helga a sincerely warm smile that seemed to even melt the ice away. Or she thought she saw this – sometimes she wondered if it was just a silly girlish fantasy.
“I can’t believe the castle is almost complete,” Helga said as they approached the doors.
“It does feel like a dream, having so much of it completed,” Salazar agreed. “But there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Helga nodded. The building itself was nearing completion, but they still had to make many decisions regarding school policy and set-up, not to mention how to contact potential students.
“Still,” Salazar continued, “I think we can start congratulating and rewarding ourselves.”
“And what do you mean by that, Salazar?” Helga questioned. The four friends had long ago ceased to use formalities such as titles with each other – a fact that often took observers of the four by surprise.
“I mean, my dear Helga, that we should each take a moment to indulge in ourselves,” Salazar answered. “Maybe have a feast, spend some gold on something other than the castle.”
Helga laughed. “And what exactly do you suggest we spend gold on?”
“Whatever each of us would like.” He paused, observing her mirthful face. Helga, although she did not have the obvious beauty or slimness of Rowena, was still a very pretty girl. She had ginger hair, today which she held sensibly in a braid draped over her shoulder. Her eyes were a deep blue that he liked to compare to sapphires, and a childlike smile that never ceased to get to him. It amazed him that someone who had gone through such hardship could remain so constantly light-hearted and even innocent. Helga was very, very different than he was, and that is exactly why he admired her, from a safe distance. “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about getting yourself a fine piece of jewelry, perhaps a locket?”
“Now Salazar, there are much more sensible things to spend gold on,” Helga commented.
“The point, Helga, is that we deserve to indulge ourselves,” Salazar responded. “And I know you’ve had to have a desire to own something like that.” He stopped walking, prompting her to do the same.
“To tell you the truth,” she looked at him, “I haven’t.”
He raised his eyebrows, genuinely surprised. Given Helga’s background, he had always imagined that she had a desire for greater things than she had been born with, or at the very least would like something tangible to show for her labors. But he knew her answer was an honest one.
“And why not?” He inquired, genuinely curious.
Helga shrugged. “I don’t know…I guess I’ve just never seen the point in buying something without a practical use. Besides, I’ve never had money to waste.”
“But you do now,” Salazar reminded her.
“I suppose…” Helga trailed off. It was true that she was considerably better off now than she was in her childhood. “But the school will still cost us money, and since my parents are gone I have no dowry or land to offer a future husband, just what gold I’ve earned through the years.”
“Helga, with the reputation you’ll have as a founder of this school, you’ll have no need of money to attract a husband,” Salazar informed her, unnerved by her answer, as well as the realization that his statement was true and that she would soon have many men trying to court her.
Helga said nothing, but contemplated his words in her mind. Honestly, she thought he was wrong. Men seemed to only be attracted by money and status and beauty; in her observance, an accomplished women repelled men. As supportive as Lord Ravenclaw was of the school, he obviously disliked the fact that Rowena was so intelligent and actually wanted to work as a teacher at the school. But Rowena had the three things that Helga noticed attracted men; Helga had nothing but the bit of gold.
“Just think about getting yourself something nice,” Salazar insisted. “You deserve it.”
“I’ll consider it,” she replied politely, and Salazar knew she’d never do it. Helga was far too selfless.
“We’ve done it,” Godric proclaimed proudly. “Now we just have to bring the students in.”
“I was beginning to wonder if the castle would ever be completed,” Rowena stated, running her finger along the rim of her cup.
“I think all of us have wondered that,” Salazar agreed.
The four of them spent hours recollecting stories of their past and reveling in their accomplishment, until Rowena left the table, claiming she had her husband and children to attend to. Godric followed soon after, wanting rest for the next day which was to be filled with sending out letters inviting the students and leaving Helga and Salazar to themselves.
“You’ve done a splendid job with the house elves,” Salazar commented as he took a sip of wine. “They cook your recipes almost as well as you do. Almost.”
“Thank you,” She replied, blushing a bit. “I’m really glad we found a safe place for them here.”
“Yes,” Salazar muttered in agreement. He had never given much thought toward the well-being of house-elves until Helga became determined to help them in some form. Bringing them to Hogwarts to work was an idea that proved to be beneficial to all.
“I think I’m going to go to bed,” Helga announced as she stood up and began to walk out of the room. “Good night, Salazar.”
“Wait,” he said as he also rose and glided to where she was standing. “I have something for you.”
Nervously, he took something out of his robes wrapped in green cloth and handed it to her. She took the gift in her hand, noticing that the cloth was not cheap.
“Salazar,” she murmured, taken aback by the gesture, “You shouldn’t have.”
“Well, you never would have bought anything for yourself,” he said seriously as he smiled at her. A warm smile, Helga noted. “Don’t worry, it does have a use.”
Her cheeks turned pink, “My apologies, Salazar.” She delicately unwrapped the cloth and gasped at what she uncovered.
Inside the cloth was a cup, but it was certainly the most beautiful cup she had ever seen. It was solid gold with very fine handles, something to be seen at the tables of the richest nobility. But it was not this that really caught her eye. Engraved on the cup was her device, a badger.
“Salazar…I…don’t know what to say,” she looked at him, smiling brighter than he’d ever seen before. It took his breath away. “I’ve never owned anything like this. How can I ever repay you?”
This is my chance, Salazar thought to himself as he took a step closer and lightly stroked her cheek with his finger, trying to read her eyes for a reaction. Surprise. “Helga, I –“
“You two are still up?” Godric’s voice interrupted Salazar as he re-entered the Great Hall. Salazar scowled and quickly stepped back, and Helga’s face reddened both at the thought of what the situation must look like to Godric as well as the wonderings of what the moment really had been.
“I was just going to bed,”Helga said lowly. “Good night, Salazar, Godric,” she turned to each of them as she said their respective names, giving a slight curtsy.
“What are you doing up again?” Salazar questioned Godric in a voice that made no attempt to disguise annoyance.
“I came to get my hat,” Godric replied with a smile as he walked towards the chair in which he had laid it in. He picked up the hat and tossed it in the hair, catching it on his mane of red hair. His expression sombered before he spoke again. “I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”
“What gave you the idea that you had?” Salazar asked coolly.
“I might have had a tad too much wine tonight, Sal, but I’m not blind or out of my wits,” Godric answered. “I must say, it is about time that you took action before someone else did. If I hadn’t seen what I had tonight, I would have told you so.”
Salazar scoffed. “You would have shown yourself to be the hypocrite? I don’t believe that you’re the one Rowena went to after the meal.”
Godric sighed, crediting the shot fired at him to his own interruption and the late hour rather than on Salazar. “Not the hypocrite, my friend, but a man who has learned from his mistakes.”
Godric stalked off, head cast down, leaving Salazar cursing himself because of the hurtful remark. Salazar would never know why he felt the need to take his problems out on others – particularly those he cared for most – but he never failed to do so. He could picture Helga politely reprimanding him for it as she had countless times before. It was amazing how she could correct someone in such a way that it felt like a compliment.
Salazar sighed. He always pushed so hard to get what he wanted, even when there were countless obstacles against him. Yet, when it came to this woman, it seemed to take all his effort to try. He could no longer ignore the feelings he felt toward her, neither had he worked up the courage to act on them. And when he finally did, this was how it ended up. He could only hope she interpreted his gift the right way.
Helga had gone to bed that night, barely able to sleep between admiring her cup and going over the whole exchange in her mind. The especially personalized and expensive cup, the look in Salazar’s eyes, and the feel of his hand on her face all had made her feel like the greatest woman in the world. She found herself considering all the other exchanges in their pasts, filtering through them to pick up the little signs that maybe she wasn’t alone in her feelings, that maybe those warm looks hadn’t been the product of her imagination. And she couldn’t keep her mind from contemplating what he almost said.
The next day, Helga found it impossible to be around him, she was so nervous. She wanted to talk with him, find out if she was right in her suspicions, if she had the right to hope and dream. But she couldn’t – she was a walking ball of nerves that blushed at the thought of the man. This continued over the next few weeks, until Helga decided upon a different course of action.
Over the next few months, the friends found themselves facing a wall that they could not break down.
In their excitement over the completion of the school, the four friends rushed to bring the students in. While discussing what children to teach, each of them had their own preference. Godric came up with a solution in which they all got to focus on the students with the traits they wanted, but it had essentially been like using Muggle methods to treat a magical wound.
Salazar did not want any Muggleborn children in the school, as he thought it would be dangerous given the tension between magical folk and Muggles. Rowena, Godric, and Helga had all disagreed with him, thinking that those tensions were the exact reason to admit Muggleborn children.
At first, Godric’s solution of dividing all of the students into different houses seemed to work, but as time went on it proved ineffective. Salazar was bitter about being overruled. The school had not been open long, but as the time went by, so did resentment, and Salazar began to take some of his bitterness out on the students, showing great favoritism toward those children of all-magic families.
Godric and Salazar, although great friends, were both very determined and obstinate. Because of this, they both had often clashed in the past, but never to the extent they had now. Helga wondered if some past hurts had added to the present trouble, for she had never known the two to get violent with each other until now. Rumors were floating amongst the students that either Godric or Salazar would leave the school.
It was with this worry plaguing her mind that Helga stood in her empty classroom, holding the same cloth in her hand which Salazar had once wrapped her cup in. For quite a while now, it had held another item. With all the trouble between the four of them, as well as running the school, neither Helga nor Salazar had found the right moment to continue where they had left off that joyous night.
She was on the verge of tears as she remembered that hope-filled night. She has resolved herself to thinking that she had imagined anything more than friendship from Salazar, and that she had been foolish to read so much into it. Still, she had acted on her feelings. He just didn’t know it yet.
She blinked away the tears when she heard a knock at the classroom door. “Come in,” she instructed, wondering what student would come to the room on a day with no classes. She was startled when she saw Salazar walk through the door, a cold look on his face.
She smiled at him with the same warmth she always had, her mood perking at the sight of him, despite all the present problems. “Salazar. What a pleasant surprise.”
“I’m afraid there’s nothing pleasant about my visit,” he declared as he fought to keep his expression from revealing how hard this was for him. “I’ve come to say goodbye.”
“What?” She asked, any light in her eyes leaving immediately. Despite the rumors, shock filled her. This can’t be happening, ran through her mind. “Please tell me this is a jest.”
“I’m afraid not,” he replied, closing his eyes. “It’s obvious things cannot continue like this.”
“Salazar, we can sort things out,” Helga pleaded in a low tone. “This is your home, after all.”
“If it is, then it is not a happy one,” Salazar replied. “If this was going to be resolved, it already would have. Please don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
For a long moment, she gazed into his eyes. They were icy and hardened as they often were, but for a split second she thought she saw a flicker of warmth in their depths. She looked in them for any sign of changing his mind, any sign of keeping herself from heartbreak.
She found none. She knew him well enough to know that, although he did not want to leave the school, he was far too determined in his goals to stay under circumstances that were not too his approval. She also knew that the situation, the animosity, had gotten too strong for him to stay while keeping peace at the school.
She closed her eyes. This was how it had to be, and although it tore her up inside, there was nothing she could do at this point. Salazar, though she was in love with him, was wrong in his hatred to Muggleborns. She could understand why he felt the way he did, but it did not excuse him.
“You’re right,” she said in a low tone after a long pause. She looked down at the item in her hand. “But I have something to give you before you go. I’ve had it for a while, but was waiting for the right time, but sometimes that never comes.”
Salazar frowned as the impact and truth of her words hit him. They described exactly his reasons for dreading this particular meeting with her. Leaving Hogwarts meant leaving her, as well as every hope he had ever held for what they might become. He doubted anyone would ever catch his heart like she had.
Helga handed him the cloth, peaking his curiosity when he realized exactly what cloth it was. He took it, weighing its heaviness in his hand and playing a short guessing game in his mind as he unwrapped it.
Salazar’s mouth opened in surprise when he looked upon the object – a gold locket with his serpentine S mark on it. It was exactly what he would have had made himself, if he had taken the time to do so. He chuckled a bit.
“I thought jewelry was too trivial of a thing for you to spend gold on?” He looked at her, eyes dancing at because of the gift. She smiled back, noticing that for once, there was no doubt about the warmth in his eyes.
“It would be, if I was buying it for me,” Helga answered. “But I had to pick out something that you would treasure. I’m not much for such things, but you’ve always had an eye for them.”
For a moment, their eyes locked on each other. Salazar didn’t fully realize what he was doing until he moved closer to her and gently grabbed her arms with his hands.
“I will always treasure it,” he whispered, his face so close to hers that she could feel his breath and causing her heart to race.
He closed the gap, taking her by surprise despite the fact that she had been hoping for it. His kiss was somewhat forceful, but his hands loosened on her arms, enabling her to wrap them around his neck and pull herself closer. It was easy to lose herself in the moment, in the passion, in the feelings of long-held dreams being coming to life.
The kiss ended swifter than it began as Salazar jerked away from her, inwardly cursing himself for his loss of control. Helga’s fingers touched her lips, already missing and longing for the feel of his touching them again.
“Helga, I –” he cut himself off, for once in his life at a complete and utter loss for words. Did he confess his feelings? Did he apologize for his rash actions? “Come with me,” he said seriously.
“Salazar, I-I don’t know what to say,” Helga said truthfully, head spinning at many things – her feelings, the kiss, and the circumstances. “I’d love to.”
“No,” Salazar said decidedly, coldly now that he had gained his composure. She gave him a bewildered look. “You know you can’t do that.”
That was the truth, Helga concluded in her mind. This was her home, her dream, and her school filled with her students. She had dedicated herself to it – and would continue to do so. Still, she threw her arms down . “Why must you be right about everything this day!”
Salazar smirked. “Because I am who I am,” he said cockily, laughing inwardly as she glared at him. Seeing Helga in such a state was truly a rare event that never failed to amuse him, even when he was ripping his heart into pieces.
His expression sobered. “My apologies, my lady –“
“Lady?” She questioned, surprised. It felt very unnatural to her, as one born of low rank, to be called a lady. It felt especially odd to be called that by Salazar, both because he was of high rank and because all four of their group had ceased using such formalities with each other years before. Still, she couldn’t help but be flattered.
“Yes, my lady,” he repeated. “My behavior earlier, as well as my request, was unacceptable and highly unfair to you. I pray for your forgiveness.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” Helga answered sincerely.
Salazar made no response, but allowed him another gaze into her eyes, eyes for once that seemed hardened in resolve. If she had been hurt by his actions, she made effort not to show it. Despite this, he knew that she did return his feelings, and that knowledge lifted him up only to cut him like a knife.
“Well, my lady, I must be leaving now,” he turned and began to slowly walk away.
“Salazar,” Helga began nervously, causing him to pause. “I will always…care for you.” She found it to difficult to say “love” given everything that had happened – and didn’t happen – between them. She reckoned it would make him think less of her.
“And I will always love you,” he replied without turning around before quickly strolling out the door, closing the door loudly behind him.
Helga was rooted in the same place, her mind oddly blank. Without fully being aware of what she was doing, she made her way to the case in which she displayed the cup in her classroom, running her fingers along the finely-wrought handles and grasping it in her hands.
And it is then she broke down, going down on her knees and letting her tears flow freely as she held the small cup to her chest. But so much more than just a cup! It was the only tangible thing that showed Salazar’s returned affections, as well as the only tangible thing to remind her of all the feelings she had for him (not that she needed reminding). She couldn’t help but curse herself for not giving him the locket sooner, for not making her feelings known sooner. Things could have been so different. She remained there on the floor, remembering the feel of his arms and lips and mourning the loss of a love that never was until Rowena found her and comforted her.
Helga never would shed tears over Salazar after that day, for it would be senseless for her to do so, but for a long time she would lie awake and wonder about him. As the years passed by, she would move on. She would dedicate her life to her students – many of whom were Muggleborn – and to trying to better the lives of anyone she could. Eventually, she would marry a wonderful man and have a happy family. But she would always keep the cup close, treasuring it above any other item and occasionally touching her lips as she gazed upon it.
Salazar treasured his locket in much the same manner, never taking it off. He too would get married, but not out of love. Rather, he locked his heart in his locket, never allowing anyone to affect him the same way as Helga had.
Author's Note: As stated in the summary, this was done in response to the Staff Challenge in the forums. I must admit I did not meet the requirement of the time period, but I did rather enjoy exploring Helga and Salazar. I've actually had a very different Helga/Sal story planned for years that I never got around to, so the challenge put me into action. I hope everyone enjoyed reading this. Personally, I have mixed feelings about it, but I suppose all authors do. Oh, and for the record, I do not own any part of the Harry Potter world.