Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. The title of this story is inspired by "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac.
Edited as of 3-2-2013.
Stunning chapter image by Carnal Spiral @ TDA
When Godric, Rowena, Salazar and I first began the preparations for Hogwarts, an unspoken rule was established between us: we respected one another’s secrets. I complied with this willingly enough, though I myself had very few things I wished to hide. I counted myself lucky; my childhood had been simple and filled with light, and I looked upon my past with nothing but fond memories.
Godric was well aware of this, for we already knew most everything there was to know about each other. The two of us had grown up together, more or less. He was the eldest son of a lord, and the heir to his father’s noble position. My family was part of a band of traveling folk; bards, craftsmen, and the like. Every summer we came to Lord Gryffindor’s holding in the west and stayed on for the season; it was the closest thing I had to a home. I had an aunt that worked in the kitchens, and we made camp near the servant’s quarters when we came. His lordship allowed us to stay as long as we were willing to work, so everyone busied themselves doing odd jobs and selling their wares. I spent most of my summer days alongside my aunt, chopping vegetables and baking bread and learning all I could from her. Even as a little girl, work was a concept I was no stranger to. The kind of life we lived left no room for idleness.
Those were good, happy years for me, but my childhood was somewhat marred by the secret I kept. My magic sometimes burst out of me quite without permission, and I had to take great pains to hide it from my family. Since we spent much of our time at close quarters with each other, this was no easy task. But I had no choice, for sorcery was an act punishable by death. If I were caught, I would surely be cast out and left behind by the traveling folk; in fact, that would be the best situation I could hope for. My family and I loved each other, and it hurt to know that I was part of the very breed they feared most. I was a witch.
It didn’t take long for Godric and me to find each other, and discover that we both had something similar to hide. One afternoon I caught him levitating a loaf of bread in the kitchen, and I felt a dizzying rush of shock and relief. Immediately I went to him, and my secret tumbled incoherently out of my seven-year-old mouth. From then on, we became fast friends. During those childhood summers we spent every free moment together, confiding and unburdening. One year I taught him how to break a wild horse; in return, he taught me how to read. With Godric there was no need to keep secrets; for those glorious summer months, I was entirely myself.
“I have a lot of brothers,” I said to him one day, “but you’re better than any of them.”
We were playing by the river at the outskirts of the Gryffindor holding, where the villagers fished. Godric grinned at me from the bank, having opted not to wade into the river with me. He was eleven years old, and evidently he’d decided it was his duty to set an example of maturity for me.
“That’s because your brothers let you run wild,” he said with a swell of his chest. “They don’t watch over you like I do.”
I could have mentioned that only a year ago, he had gladly gone into the river and played with me. He wasn’t so grown-up yet, after all. But as I looked up at him, I saw how straight he stood and how proud he looked, like a little man. Perhaps even then I glimpsed the extraordinary figure he would become. And I felt lucky to have one such as Godric watching my steps, protecting me. He really was the best of brothers.
One year, when I was about ten and he’d just turned thirteen, he surprised me with a gift. It was the sort of thing I had only heard about in stories; a wand. He handed it to me with a triumphant smile, saying he had gotten them from a hermit who lived at the edge of the Gryffindor holding. At first I was uneasy, for I recognized the danger in possessing such an object. But in the end, the pull of curiosity was too strong for me to deny. And so we learned to control the magic that ran rampant within us, experimenting with our wands whenever we could steal a bit of privacy. There was no one to teach us. We knew no incantations, so we invented our own; it wasn’t until years later that we learned what an impressive feat this actually was. It took countless hours of rigorous practice, but eventually Godric and I developed considerable skill with our wands.
When we were older, Godric purposely held his wedding in the summer so I could attend. He married at eighteen years old, and was extremely fortunate in the wife he was given. Elaine was the daughter of a neighboring baron to the south, and her marriage to Godric had been arranged since they were both small children. Their union served to solidify the alliance between the two holdings, but it was plain to see that there was love on both sides of the match. He showed her his wizard gifts and she accepted them, seeing her husband for the man he was rather than the strange skills he possessed. Elaine was indeed a rare find, and I had immense respect for her. About a year after their marriage she gave birth to a son, and Godric was the happiest I had ever seen him. I thought that if life continued like this forever, I would be perfectly content.
Our lives were forever altered two years later, however, when Godric became acquainted with Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin; he introduced me to them when summer came. Through the two of them, we learned of a wizarding community that we hadn’t known of before. The magical folk had their own peasants and nobles, and although the two societies did merge at times, it was clear that the wizards had become adept at hiding themselves from distrustful ordinary folk. There were even entire families who had passed their magical gifts down generation by generation. Salazar came from one of these families; it was from him that we first heard the term “Muggle,” and he spoke it with venom. Godric and I decided it would be best to keep our parentage a secret, for the time being. Our aptitude for wand work, while not as impressive as Rowena’s or Salazar’s, made our false pureblood identities somewhat more believable.
We came up with a revolutionary idea. Young witches and wizards needed a school, some place where they could develop their skills in peace. Between the four of us, we were sure that we could provide such a place. I loved the idea immediately, remembering the long, tedious hours of learning magic with no guidance whatsoever.
“We will be hailed as visionaries,” Godric had said, eyes glimmering at the prospect of such a legacy. “Think of it! The world will know us. It will remember
“Ah, but before we can be remembered, we must become worthy of remembrance,” Rowena would reply. She was always quick to remind us of the many questions we had to answer, and the fact that our undertaking would not simply materialize on a whim. “That will take work, and much study.”
“And not to mention the necessary evil of dealing with children on a daily basis,” Salazar had commented dryly. Godric and Rowena had simply laughed him off, but I could not find it in me to be amused.
“If you have so little patience with the students,” I had asked once, when the others were not listening, “why do you wish to teach?”
“Because these little pests happen to be the future of magic,” he replied, glancing in my direction before lifting his eyes high above me. “I will train my students to be the greatest of witches and wizards, and in turn they will bring greatness to my name.”
I thought this a deeply misguided motive for teaching school. I did not say so, but I was sure he read it in my eyes.
The plans began shortly thereafter, and the four of us quickly settled into distinct roles. Godric and Salazar were the visionaries; they both imagined a grand castle where we would teach the greatest witches and wizards of the future. We would be respected for miles and miles as the finest institution of magical training. I had to laugh at their boundless imaginations, but they didn’t pay me any mind. Their shared ambition brought the two men closer, and a friendship was quickly forged between them.
Rowena was much more practical, and it was she who took charge of the curriculum. I was surprised to meet a woman with such a thorough education; she was more highly learned than most men I knew, even Godric and his father. But Rowena came from wizarding nobility, and since her two elder sisters had already married well, she herself was free of the obligation to wed. This had given her the option to live a life devoted to learning. She was expert in areas like charms, potions, and astronomy, which were just a few of the subjects we would teach our future students.
As for me, I was more of a mediator than a contributor. Whenever a disagreement arose or someone got discouraged, I took it upon myself to settle the dispute and get everyone moving forward again. Most of the time I was successful, but sometimes it took more than my gentle prodding to steer the others on a productive course.
One such issue was the matter of those mysterious children, the ones whose magic seemed to come from nowhere at all. The ones like Godric and me.
Salazar was distrustful of these children from the start.
“It is too dangerous to allow them in,” he said vehemently. It was the first time I had heard anything resembling passion in his tone. If there was anything about our undertaking that was truly important to him, it was this. “If we house Muggle-born students, their hostile parents will undoubtedly follow, thirsting for the blood of witches and wizards. I will not have magical blood shed at the hands of vermin.”
“But we will conceal the place, of course,” Godric argued. “I see no reason why we should not be perfectly safe. And if we are ever threatened, surely it will not be our blood shed. There is nothing for us to fear from Muggles.”
Perhaps it was only I who heard the effort it took for Godric to make the word sound natural. Go on, brother,
I encouraged him silently. You are doing well.
It was just as well that I remained quiet, though, for Godric needed no reassurance from anyone. And this was his time to speak, not mine.
“I cannot deny the practicality of your position, Salazar,” he continued. “But you are ignoring the most crucial point in this discussion. How can we fault innocent children for being what they are? Justice is not cautious, it is bold! And if we are to be examples to children, justice must
be upheld at our school.”
The deliberation was long. Salazar remained resolute in his stance, and Godric argued hard in opposition. I made my own feelings clear as well, not willing to imagine a school that did not admit children of my own kind. Rowena was the only one without a strong opinion on the matter; as long as she got the opportunity to teach, she did not much care about what blood ran in her students’ veins. Eventually she came to side with Godric and me, though I suspected she did so only to avoid a deadlock between the four of us. The majority had spoken; the decision was final. Should any Muggle-born students find us, they would not be turned away. Salazar accepted this with no great protest, though perhaps his deep silence was a sign of discontent.
With this long battle behind us, there was one last crucial element to our planning. We could not have a school without a location, and I was proud to be able to provide it for us. Vacant castles were certainly a rarity, but the traveling folk had come across one in our many voyages, and I thought it would be the perfect place to house our institution. The castle itself was perfectly suitable, but the lake outside supposedly contained a fearsome creature. The story was that the previous occupants had lost two sons to the “lake monster,” and so they’d declared the place cursed and left it behind. The castle had lain abandoned for as long as I could remember, and if we concealed it with magic, it could be ours for the taking. And as for the lake monster, surely four accomplished witches and wizards could keep it under control. Rowena named the school Hogwarts in a burst of creativity, and with this final piece settling into place, the plans were completed.
Almost before I knew it, we were making preparations to leave home and move into Hogwarts castle. I invented a sweetheart, and sent word to my parents that we had run away together. The lie prickled at my conscience, but I preferred for them to imagine me settled, married, and happy. Godric’s sacrifice was much bigger; leaving home meant giving up his entire birthright, and leaving his younger brother as heir to the Gryffindor estate. I knew this caused him a great deal of pain, but he preferred not to speak of it. Elaine, for her part, was supportive of her husband’s endeavor, but still did not relish the idea of being alone among magical folk. But she was Godric’s wife, and obligated to follow him wherever he chose to go. And so we left our old lives behind, for better or worse, to follow a completely different path.
Although my heart was heavy after leaving my family, I couldn’t suppress the excitement of starting a new adventure. The four of us took great pride in our school, and we were optimistic going into our very first term. I loved my students as if they were my own children, and tried to give them the very best education I could. Rowena and I became as good as sisters, and the bond between Godric and Salazar continued to strengthen.
Salazar’s hostile attitude toward Muggles continued to persist, and extended to any witch or wizard whose blood was less than pure. The subject did not come up very frequently; Salazar Slytherin was nothing if not subtle. But it was there in the narrowing of his eyes and the swell of his chest when he looked at students of Muggle parentage. If he had guessed that Godric and I were part of the race he so despised, he gave no sign of it. It made me a bit uneasy, and I could see that it caused Godric greater distress; Salazar would barely touch little Gareth, and had scarcely spoken two words to Elaine in all the years of their acquaintance. Still, I thought his prejudice was theoretical. Surely, I thought, he would eventually let go of such irrational hatred.
In hindsight, I suppose that was my first mistake.
Salazar carried himself like a highborn man, though I did not think that was so; there was too much defensiveness in his stance and distrust in his eyes. He had a cold, penetrating gaze, and the full force of it could make grown men cower before him. He made no secret of his Parseltongue ability, along with an array of other unusual skills. And he always wore a strange talisman about his neck, on a silver chain.
He infuriated me, at first. He always seemed to be looking down his nose at me, as though I was unworthy of his attention. Rowena never seemed to get those looks from him; clearly, she was the type of person Salazar took seriously. On the surface, the two of us were almost nothing alike. Rowena was intellectual, I was emotional. She kept an air of mystery about her that encouraged respect; I had a wide smile and a quick laugh, and I never gave much thought to the image I might present. With the traveling folk I had never needed to, but it seemed that Hogwarts would be another matter. I was a proud creature, and Salazar’s scorn incensed me time after time. Normally I preferred not to flaunt my magical abilities, but I was constantly searching for a chance to prove myself to him.
He surprised me one afternoon by coming into the kitchen through the portrait hole. I spent a great deal of my time there, having naturally fallen into a cook’s role when we’d moved into the castle. But of all people, Salazar Slytherin seemed the least likely to set foot in this room. I was stirring a soup for that evening’s meal, and I watched him curiously as I worked. He rummaged through my stores of spices, not once acknowledging my presence.
“Is there something you need, Salazar?” I asked politely.
“Rosemary,” was his curt reply. “Some half-witted child dumped my entire stock into his cauldron.”
I chuckled under my breath, imagining the scene. “An accident, surely.”
“Accident or not, it was careless. My students should know better.”
“You’re overly hard on them, I think. They are only children.” There was a gentle challenge in my tone. I had never liked confrontation, but where the students were concerned I would not stifle my opinions. Rowena called me a mother hen, and I took the name with pride.
He gave me a hard look. “I am not here to coddle my students,” he said firmly. “I am here to teach them magical skills. Skills which, if I may say it, you barely possess.” He tossed the insult out like it was nothing, showing no inclination to soften his statement.
I stilled my spoon, willing myself to be strong. Though I had known his opinion of me was less than favorable, the words still stung. “You think me stupid, then?” I asked coolly.
“You have given me little evidence to the contrary,” he said with a shrug. “You and your students seem to have no more than a rudimentary grasp of—“
His speech was cut off by a gasp of surprise, and an expression of brief panic came over his features as he looked down at himself. For his tall, lean form was steadily shrinking, black fur was growing all over his body, his pupils were narrowing to slits inside rapidly yellowing irises. He had time for one last glance at me; I smiled wickedly, twirling my wand between my fingers. Then the transformation was complete, and a black cat stood on the table before me.
It was the work of a master magician, and Salazar knew it. Transfiguring one living being into another was a formidable task, involving extensive study of anatomy and many hours of practice. I’d made good use of Rowena’s library since moving into Hogwarts, and had learned to take the shape of almost any animal I chose. It wasn’t necessarily a practical ability, but no witch or wizard could deny the level of expertise required to accomplish it.
“I have plenty of skill, Salazar,” I said after a pause, scratching him behind the ears. “But unlike you, I choose not to reveal it to everyone in sight. There’s something to be said for the element of surprise, wouldn’t you say?” I resumed my stirring, giving him a demure smile.
He yowled at me, flicking his tail in irritation. A laugh escaped me at the sight of him; the dignity he so prized was quite gone now. Victory was just as sweet as I’d imagined it; hopefully, Salazar would never look at me the same way again. I was considering returning him to normal when the portrait hole opened again, and Godric entered.
“Keeping your strays in the kitchens now, are we?” he asked, leaping without preamble onto the table next to me. I smiled, picturing a little boy and girl in another kitchen, far away. “Hardly seems sanitary.”
Salazar’s eyes narrowed, and he glared directly at Godric. Perhaps he was affronted at being called a stray, or unsanitary. Godric watched him with interest.
“Look at his eyes, Helga! He looks…intelligent, almost,” he said, wondering. I just laughed.
“Almost,” I said pointedly, unable to resist. Salazar hissed. In cat form, he was much more vocal about things. Godric chuckled, and snatched a honey roll before I could slap his hand away.
“Those are for tonight, you brute!” I exclaimed, laughing, but he had already crammed the entire roll into his mouth.
“Helga, you are an artist,” he said reverently, around his mouthful of bread. “What’s your secret?”
“I’ll take it to the grave,” I replied with a smile. “Now get out, else I won’t be able to finish supper for tonight. I’ve got a whole castle to feed, you know.”
Godric took his leave with a friendly parting wave. As soon as he was gone, I took mercy on Salazar. With a wave of my wand, he transformed back into a man. He glanced around, straightening his clothing and trying to get his bearings back. I retrieved a small bottle from my stores and placed it in his hand.
“Rosemary,” I said amiably, returning to my work. “You would do well not to underestimate me again, Salazar. You’ll find I’m full of surprises.”
Salazar gave me a long, appraising look. It was unsettling to bear the full focus of his steely gaze, but now he was regarding me thoughtfully, without his usual contempt.
“I am finding you increasingly difficult to read, Hufflepuff,” he admitted.
“Good,” I said, beaming up at him. “It’s likely you could use a challenge.”
A/N: Hi, and thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy this first chapter, but please note that this story may not be completely true to Founders canon, nor is it completely historically accurate. I'm basically winging it on the details of the Middle Ages :) Also, I'd like to thank the awesome apocalypse for inspiring me to rework this story. Thanks Cal, you're the best! Anyway, please be sure to leave a review...I'd love to know what you think!