Chapter 1 : I
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Thanks to Cecyllia and choufleur on the forums for help with the Latin title!
In her darkened chamber, Rowena watched the moon climb higher into the night sky. She had always found herself entranced by the full moon, by the bloated orb that cast her light across the world, the counterpoint to the sun.
The school was newly completed and they were a step closer to realising their dream. Within weeks the first of their students would arrive. Godric was, at this moment, out on the road, spreading words of encouragement and sanctuary. For that was what they offered – sanctuary, freedom from persecution and freedom to practice their craft away from the prying eyes of muggles, for there had been a growing threat looming above their heads in recent years.
The hour was late but Rowena did not wish to turn in just yet. She wanted to watch the moon as it arced gracefully across the sky. Salazar would call her romantic and scoff, but she knew a little romanticism lurked with him too, for if it didn’t, he would never have consented to the building of Hogwarts.
For a moment, Rowena thought about calling on Helga in her chambers, but at this hour, she knew her friend would be fast asleep. If Godric were here, she would more than likely find him on the North Tower, where she knew he liked to wait out the darkness. Like her, he did not deign to sleep much, especially in these troubled times but now, with the building complete, Rowena prayed that slumber would come.
She did not know why it was she dreamed, or what her dreams meant, if they meant anything. She was not a Seer but she also knew that did not matter. Magic was at times unpredictable and did not discriminate in choosing those to bear its touch. She knew she could not avoid sleep any longer so she doused the candles and closed the windows, shutting out the gentle chill of the night.
Rowena pulled back the bedclothes and slipped between the sheets, drawing them up around her neck. Nestled on the pillows she sighed contentedly, pleased with how the day had gone. Before he left, Godric suggested that each of them design a new crest for themselves, something that represented who they were and what mattered to them. They each had family crests, carried through the generations, but Rowena knew it was the future he was focused on, and what would be born within that future. A new crest was only one step in a new direction.
Smiling, Rowena closed her eyes, her mind swirling over the possibilities, and soon, she had been pulled into sleep, and her dreams...
...Rowena stood tall and proud, her hair flowing loose around her shoulders, lifted by the breeze. The sky was bright and clear, the sun shining down on her face. She closed her eyes, savouring the feeling of the day, along with the feeling of promise that rested smooth and strong in her chest. A sense of elation filled her as a great cry went up around her ears, her own voice chiming in loud and fierce. She opened her eyes, breathing deeply. Her body, tense as the string of a bow, was poised for action. The weight of the long sword in her hand reminded her why she stood surrounded by hundreds of others, a face, and a name on the field. She shifted her stance as excitement grew among the crowd. The man beside her, a tall bushy haired giant, grasped her arm suddenly in his strong grip, his gnarled fingers wrapping around her skin.
“Victory,” he whispered in a harsh voice. She nodded, quietly admiring the intricate swirl of blue that littered one side of his face. She slowly twisted her neck to look behind her. A great swell of people stood at her back, all holding long swords, spears and shields, and more before her. Some of the men were without armour, mail or shirt, their muscular bodies adorned with strokes and twists of woad. Their resounding cries shook the earth as they banged their swords together, and their voices rose in angry yells of “victory, victory”. All wore a proud and expectant look, their eyes glazed with eagerness and anticipation. The wind rose, whipping her long cloak around her body and Rowena shivered with premonition. The neighing of horses cut through the sound of the crowd, the high-pitched whinny floating to her ears. Her eyes were pulled forward by a force not her own.
A man sat astride a great horse, his face like thunder, the blue of his eyes piercing into every person who stood before him. The cries of the crowd grew louder as he raised his hand, the silver of his sword catching glints of the sun, throwing light and contrasting shadow over the faces of the army. Rowena felt her gaze move away from him even as he began to speak words filled with promise and drenched with the future. Those words sparked a flame in her head, and Rowena took up the cry of the crowd, her fist clenched tightly around the weapon she held in her hand, the heaviness of the metal not seeming to bother her anymore. Rowena felt like she could swing that sword all day and not tire of it.
Beside the man on the horse, a little way back, was another. Smaller and darker in colouring, this man sat wrapped in a long cloak the colour of the earth. His face was closed, his expression patient and knowing, and as Rowena looked at him something stirred deep in her stomach. His green eyes searched the crowd, swung across faces until they paused on hers.
He smiled in recognition and Rowena felt the earth shift beneath her feet...
She woke suddenly, her body flying upright. She was drenched in sweat, her head spinning and her heart pounding furiously in her ears. She felt dizzy and sick and she concentrated on her breathing, pulling breath after breath of fresh, clean air into her lungs. Slowly, she pulled her knees up to her chest, cradling her head in her hands. The same dream had plagued her for weeks. At first, it had arrived sporadically, but now, Rowena felt she was dreaming of battle every night and the green eyed man haunted her. She woke most mornings with the screams of the dying in her ears and the smell of smoke and blood in her nostrils.
Sighing, she lay back, blinking. The windows were open and a chilly breeze kissed her cheeks. Frowning, Rowena climbed from her bed and padded barefoot across the stones, flipping the panels closed. Lightning flashed, startling her, and she wondered when the weather had shifted. She resisted lighting the candles, telling herself firmly it was a dream and nothing more.
Back in bed, she burrowed under the covers and tried to figure out how long she’d been asleep, and whether it was too early to get up and dress. Helga was an early riser, but even she would not be awake in the dark that ruled before dawn. Perhaps Godric were returned, but he would need his rest. Sighing, Rowena rolled over and froze. Her heart started hammering; her breath was wild and her fingers clutched at the sheets in utter panic. She wanted to move but couldn’t; sheer terror gripped her, freezing her muscles as she realised she was not alone.
Someone was leaning over her bed, a figure made of shadow and nothing more. Lightning flashed and thunder released its hold on the sky, the deep rumble reverberating through the castle’s foundations, rattling the glass in the window.
Rain pelted the walls, the roof, the glass and Rowena held her breath. “Who are you?” she whispered. “What do you want?”
The figure stirred and Rowena gasped as the body shimmered into mist, briefly vanishing before it reappeared. The height and slenderness denoted a woman. Lightning streaked outside, illuminating the chamber and Rowena saw the flash of green eyes and the delicate curl of female lips. The figure leant closer and her voice when she spoke was distant and watery but the power in her tone made Rowena shrink back against her pillows.
“Sister, a storm is coming.”
“A storm…” Rowena’s eyes darted to the world outside as rain lashed the window.
“Beware of what?”
“Beware the serpent.”
Rowena shook her head, her senses scrambled. “What do you mean?” she whispered, but the next strike of lightning revealed the woman had vanished.
Godric was seated at the table in the Great Hall when Rowena came down from her chambers. Helga was with him and she smiled warmly, coming to grip Rowena’s hands in hers. She pressed a kiss to Rowena’s cheek.
“Dear Rowena, how was your sleep?”
“In truth it was disturbed,” Rowena answered.
“The storm was wild,” Godric said. “I only just returned before the sky broke in earnest.”
Rowena let Helga lead her to a seat and press bread and fruit on her. “It was not the storm,” she said softly, picking at the bread with her fingers. “My dreams were troubled. But, it is nothing to worry about. Godric, how was your journey?”
“When Salazar joins us I will regale you with stories of my adventure,” he answered, grinning through his beard. “Eat, Rowena. You are pale.”
By the time Salazar had arrived, Rowena had filled her stomach. “Helga, you must tell me your secrets. Even the simplest food is divine under your magic.”
“The bread is too sweet for my liking,” Salazar said crisply, shaking back the sleeves of his silver robes. “I much prefer the ale you make, Helga my dear.”
“Aye, no doubt you do,” Helga responded cheerfully. Godric chuckled when Salazar scowled into his juice.
“What did you find, Gryffindor?” Salazar asked, washing down his fruit with a long gulp of juice. “What news from your journey?”
Godric pushed his empty plate aside, watching as it vanished. He licked his lips, sitting back in his chair and resting his hands on his belly. “I visited all the villages in the district, and told everyone I spoke with to pass the word that Hogwarts was completed and all magical children were invited to attend.”
“But did you find anyone with obvious magical talent?” Salazar pressed, leaning forward, his fingers steepled beneath his chin. Godric frowned.
“I was not searching for power, my friend, only interested parties, and as it turns out, a great many families are eager to send their children to us for education and mentoring.”
Salazar waved his hand through the air indifferently. “Well of course they would be, wouldn’t they? A roof over their children’s heads, warm meals and a free education,” he added bitterly. Rowena sighed. It had been a sticking point in all their previous discussion – the offering of free tuition. They all knew that most people could not afford to send their children, magical or not, away for schooling, and so the decision had been made to charge no money for a child entering Hogwarts. Salazar had said, in one of their more heated discussions that they were not running a charity, but a school, and Rowena had reminded him sternly that education was not just for those who had wealth.
Godric shook his head. “I will not debate this matter any further. I informed the interested parents that they should bring their children to us in fourteen days. We will be more than ready to begin lessons by then. Helga, have you found us any teachers?”
“Why do we not teach them ourselves?” Salazar cut in.
“We will,” Rowena answered quickly, “but it is best that they receive as wide an education as possible, and it will not hurt us to perhaps learn something from what others have to offer.”
“A fair point,” Salazar agreed, reaching for a hunk of bread. He broke it with his fingers and shoved it between his lips. “Who has...”
Rowena felt dizzy as Salazar’s voice drained from her ears and her eyes blurred and suddenly she was watching as ...
... a girl with wild dark hair ran up a hill. The wind caught her skirts and lifted them; she shrieked and tugged them down again. Rowena breathed deep as a warm gust of breeze touched her face. The scent of flowers and sun-warmed grass assaulted her and she blinked, startled. Storm clouds were gathering on the horizon and the air held moisture. A young boy raced into view – his hair was golden, twisted away from his forehead in tight braids. The girl, Rowena noticed, wore identical braids in her hair. The boy was laughing. Rowena watched as the girl reached out her hand, smiling. The boy placed his grubby fingers in her palm.
A woman suddenly appeared, with bright green eyes and hair like a raven’s wing. She stared at Rowena, her expression fierce.
“You should not be here, not yet,” she whispered, and Rowena stumbled back, afraid. The woman clapped her hands and ...
Rowena was trembling as she came back to herself, her senses slamming into reality. The air was still perfumed with flowers and heat. Her tongue was thick and her ears deaf to all around me. Scared, she looked sideways at Godric, shaking with fright. His gaze was focused forward, and slowly, Salazar’s voice gained volume, and she was fully returned to the hall.
Helga touched her arm. “Are you ill, Rowena?”
“No, just tired I think.”
“Perhaps you should rest,” Godric suggested, but she shook her head. He nodded. “How have you all progressed with your crest designs? We should have them ready by the time our pupils arrive. I shall make great banners to hang in the hall, here, above our heads, and we shall each take a number of students, to teach and mentor in our own way.”
Helga smiled. “I have chosen my symbol,” she said. “It will be a badger, and will represent loyalty and justice as well as gentleness and patience.”
“My crest will feature a lion,” Godric said, “and those that enter Hogwarts under the lion of Gryffindor will be known for their courage.”
“Forgive me, but I have not chosen my symbol yet,” Rowena said softly.
Salazar cleared his throat. “I have chosen my symbol. The crest of Slytherin shall feature a snake, and my students will be known for their cunning, resourcefulness and their determination.”
Rowena stared, a shiver creeping up her spine to rest at the base of her brain as she heard again the words from the woman made of mist.
Beware the serpent.
Main Sources used for this fic:
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain) and Vita Merlini, by Geoffrey of Monmouth
Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
Idylls of the King by Lord Alfred Tennyson