Chapter 43 : For Eternity
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The final beautiful banner by azimuth @ tda
It was Bess, as beautiful and iridescent as the day she had been torn from him. To him, she was a shooting star, brilliant and spectacular while burning, but gone far too quickly. He lifted his hands to her face, which glowed with ethereal light, stroking her cheeks and running his fingers through her long chestnut hair. Faith in humanity was restored to him as he stared at her; she was here, to be his forever. There was a lilting smile on her pretty face, and her eyes were filled with warmth, a heat he had not felt for so many years.
“Bess,” he whispered his voice husky, “is it really you?” He consumed her image, drinking in every detail. Rowena was nothing but a plain housewife compared to Bess, the woman who had been the embodiment of all his dreams from the day he was born. From beyond the grave, it had been her who had whispered to him, hers was the voice of his conscience. And here she was again, as bright as the first spring flower.
“Yes, it is me Salazar. It is me my poor, poor husband. Don’t be sad anymore, for I am here and all the pain will go away.” He wanted to kiss her, but he was withered and old while she was young and beautiful. It had been too long, and he was resigned to the fact their relationship was dead and gone. Bess was unblemished and pure, where as he had committed so many sins over his life that she was a distant paradise.
“But Bess, I am old,” he complained, hot tears springing to his eyes, “And I ruined my own life. I married a woman who only ever wanted power, she never cared for me. I neglected my son, and left him to be manipulated by his mother, I abandoned my friends. Please, for your own soul, leave me! Leave me to my fate!”
She grasped his hands, and lifted them towards his face, “look at them Salazar and you shall see for yourself what you really are.” Gazing down at them, he gasped. Gone were the lines of age, the translucent skin and the thin blue veins. His hands were young once more, as if the years of torment had been washed away.
“Where are we Bess?” he asked suddenly, gazing above him. Where was this wonderful place that turned back the clock? There was a glorious golden ceiling and pillars reaching up through the mist. Bess did not let go of his hands, but looked up with him, a sweet smile on her face, evaluating this divine place for the first time.
“Limbo, it is where we all come in the end. Once we close our eyes at the end of life, we come here to decide where it is we go next.” Bess had died so very long ago, how was it possible that she was still in limbo, still unable to make the final step and go forward? It seemed as if she could read his mind, and she answered readily.
“I waited for you. I am only half of the whole; I could not step one foot to the next place without your hand in mine. Since the day you were born, we have been one.” Salazar looked at her quizzically; he did not understand why she was being so cryptic. Letting go of her hand, he stroked her cheek.
“I don’t understand Bess, what do you mean, we are two halves of a whole?”
Bess sighed, and for the first time since he had seen her again she looked sad. “On the day my father and siblings died, I was taken to your parent’s home. I was four years old, and did not believe in magic, let alone see its consequences. I was taken to see your mother, and she was there, holding you in her arms. You were not yet a day old.”
Salazar still did not understand as she brushed tears off her eyelashes. “I did not know of the ancient magic. The day you were born, I was sent to be a servant to your mother. And there you were; I touched your head and you opened your eyes, I thought they were the colour of snakes. So I told your mother to name you Salazar. I, a simple Muggle girl, named a Pureblood, and with that simple deed, we were tied together forever.”
Salazar stared at her. “That magic, Bess it goes back to the dawn of time. What you did tied our very souls together!” Looking thoroughly ashamed of herself, she looked down at the ground, but Salazar kissed her hands, “please Bess, continue, I need to know everything.” Bess looked like it was the utmost betrayal to say what she had to say, to confess what she had done. But she continued, knowing that Salazar had to know.
“Normally, this simple tie would create friendship, or trust. But I was nothing but a child, and we grew up together. We fell in love, and then we married. With every step we tightened our bond more and more tightly, and we became closer. The link between us was so strong, but we never realised.”
Salazar gazed at her, imploring her to continue, “and then, when I died, I was taken out of the world so suddenly. It was like a candle blowing out, and the ink was barely dry on our marriage certificate. We were ripped from each other, but not without the link shattering spectacularly. As I was torn from the world, the force of my departure took a tiny bit of you with me. Your soul was irrevocably damaged.”
Then Salazar remembered the otherworldly pain inside him as Bess died. It had been more than despair, anger and hate. His soul had been torn at the sight of her, his other half, being taken from him forever. It had been his destruction. “But what does that mean Bess? How can I have half a soul?”
“Before I died you were loving, generous and kind. After I was gone, you retreated into yourself. Your emotions shut down. When I died, I took every good human emotion from you. If it had not been for Godric, you would have lost everything forever.” Salazar looked up at her confusedly at the mention of Godric.
“He was your best friend, the brother you had never had. He showed you the adventures, the tears, the laughter and the absolute joy of being human, of being alive once more, and he pulled you out of the mire. You could have been free and happy if it had not been for the link between us, for the fact that I had damaged your soul.”
Bess looked heartbroken, so Salazar pulled her into his arms, “never say that. I love you Bess, and we are together now, that’s all that matters. Loving and losing you was better than never having you at all. I don’t regret loving you.” Bess cried into his arms and he held her, only thinking of relieving her pain, and nothing else.
“You went to Black Castle, where unbeknownst to everyone, dark magic was at work,” she mumbled, her head pressed against his shoulder. Salazar scoffed at this statement. Dark Magic at Black Castle? It was absurd. “There is a story, a reason that people fell in love with Rowena Ravenclaw in such a dramatic way, spread back to before you were born.”
“What is it Bess?” asked Salazar worriedly. Everyone had loved Rowena, from Cadmus to Godric all had fallen down before her. Her people had worshipped her. It was as if Bess was allowing him to see again; by taking away the burning rage she let him examine the world with knowledge and calmness.
“Rowena’s mother began it all. When she was nothing more than Princess Emma, the only heir of King Henry, her father bargained and bartered for her hand. She was never consulted, never asked, and she was pushed around like cattle at a market. And every day she used to look out of her tower window when her father came home from hunting, and see one of his knight’s bannermen, Bevan Black, a lowly provincial knight who had ascended to great heights. Every day she waited for him, and she fell in love with him on sight. He was noble, proud and handsome, but totally off limits. Then one day, when she gazed out of her window to see him, she saw him with his betrothed, the beautiful Lady Diane, and her heart broke. But instead of weeping, Emma grew angry.”
Bess paused for a moment, a concerned look on her face, “Her mother had died when she was very young, and all she had left of her was a diadem. Taking it, Emma cast a spell on it which forced Bevan to fall madly in love with her. The spell worked, and they were married not long after. But Princess Emma was not a talented witch, and she did not possess the ability to harness such powerful emotions as human love and obsession. It was not just Bevan who fell in love with her when she put that diadem on; every man close to her fell at her feet, while every man, woman and child in Alba was endeared to her. The diadem’s power worked beyond the walls of Black Castle.”
The news was like a lightning bolt. “How? What? Did…did Rowena ever know? Did she know what the diadem did?” Fear clamoured through his body; and it felt like someone was strangling him. Had he been even more manipulated than he thought? Had his own feelings ever really been his own? Or the fabrication of some evil magic? Was anything he ever felt real?
Bess answered him with furious passion, reading his mind, “our love was real! Don’t you ever deny that! And Rowena never knew, her mother was a spiteful and vindictive woman, and the only hint of love that Queen Emma ever showed her daughter was giving her the diadem. So Rowena treasured it, and never took it off. It showed the world that she was her mother’s daughter, the rightful Queen of Alba. The truth of the curse placed upon it died with Queen Emma and King Bevan.”
“It can’t be true!” stammered Salazar, “I loved her because she was beautiful, because she was talented, because…”
“You thought her dazzling, shining as brightly as the jewels on her diadem. Cadmus Peverell suffered the same fate; they had a youthful dalliance you know. He was meant to move on, to find happiness and love with Rachel, but years of exposure to the allure of the diadem, he confused friendship with Rowena for passionate entanglement, and it cost him his family and ultimately his life.”
“But Godric,” rebuffed Salazar, “you cannot claim that that was fake. The way they looked at each other, it burned those who witnessed it. Rowena never truly loved anyone else; Godric was such an ascendant star and sparkled so brightly, she could not resist. They loved each other so much that they could not live together or without each other!” It was only then that he realised what he was doing; he was defending Rowena and Godric’s relationship, that hideous thing that had been the bane of his life for so long.
“They loved each other without the pressure of magic, as they both shone with the same glow,” smiled Bess, “just like Helga and Adrian did. Just like you and I do.” Speaking about their love in the present tense made Salazar want to burst with joy, but the old guilt wracked over him. The mention of Adrian plunged him into darker depths; he had been the one to rip Adrian and Helga apart. It was him who had cast that spell.
Bess pulled him into an embrace, and she felt so warm that he clung tight to her, fearful of letting go, “Salazar, the time has now come. We must move on from here, you must see them again and say what needs to be said. They are your friends, and once you have forgiven each other, we can work out where we go from here.”
Drawing away from her, he took her hand and whispered, “let’s go while my nerve still holds.” Bess gave him one heartbroken smile, before leading him through the mist and out into what Salazar thought looked like an open meadow. The sky was pure white, and there was a gentle breeze. Salazar had only had a moment to take it all in when he saw them.
There was a group of people standing the other side of the grass, and they all looked young and vibrant. There stood Godric, Rowena, Helga, Adrian, Rachel and Cadmus each looking beautiful and happy as they were when he first met them. Turning round together, they faced him, so he stood stock still, suddenly overcome with fear.
There was no movement as they stared at each other. There were so many sins, so many unforgotten heartbreaks and unsaid apologies. Standing boldly before them, Salazar tried to be unashamed of what he had done, but he couldn’t. The long suppressed guilt over his treatment of his friends, the people who had saved his life when he was full of anger and revenge.
Then Helga made her move. Letting go of Adrian’s hand, she ran like the wind across the tranquil meadow, and he found himself running towards her. She embraced him, her face dancing with joy as she kissed both his cheeks like an overexcited child. “I’m so sorry Salazar, why did you never tell us? About Bess? About your parents? I would have understood, I lost both my parents too.” But she was not angry with him, she was just relieved that she could finally see the broken little boy he had never been in life to her, sobbing into her shoulder and begging to be forgiven.
“I’m sorry Helga! I’m so sorry for being such a terrible friend to you, for what I thought and believed!” She shushed him, whispering to him, asking him to forgive her for being such a blind friend. Bess watched silently, a smile overcoming her tearstained face as she saw the forgiveness pour out of Salazar. Helga turned to her, and embraced her.
“The woman we never knew,” she beamed, “and the woman we should have known.” Bess released herself and turned to Salazar. Her look said it all; now was the time to face the others and make amends for the past. With Bess by his side and Helga’s support, the knot that had been in Salazar’s chest for so long began to undo, and he began to feel hope that he was not be thrown down from this paradise.
Rachel kissed him on both cheeks when he came close, and held him with tears rolling down her cheeks, while Cadmus shook his hand under her arm. “I thought we may have lost you forever,” sobbed Rachel, her chest heaving with emotion, “I thought I would never see you again. You have no idea how thankful I am that the fates have been kind to you, Salazar, our very own poor lost soul.”
He knew what she meant. She had been scared that he would go wherever the evildoers did, but thankfully, he was here with the rest. And then he turned to Adrian, who embraced him as a father does a lost child. He felt like the prodigal son. “I forgive you,” he whispered, “I know that my death was an accident and I never blamed you for it.”
These words made Salazar want to cry again, but he kept his composure. “Thank you Adrian,” he mumbled, “you will never know how much those words mean to me.” Adrian left one hand on Salazar’s shoulder and squeezed it supportively as Salazar turned to Rowena and Godric who stood hand in hand, waiting their turn.
This was what he had feared his whole life, standing in front of Godric and Rowena, unsaid apologies crisp in the air. He looked from one to the other, not sure which would make their move first, which would knock him down. Without the glistening diadem to distract him, it was so easy to see them properly for the first time, without being blinded. Rowena was a good and trusted friend with whom he had an attraction, and Godric was untarnished by the stain of jealousy and hatred.
Rowena took a tiny step forward before being overcome by emotion and bursting into tears. “I am so sorry Salazar!” she bawled, hiccupping wildly, “I did not know about the diadem, I never knew what it did! And I toyed with you; I dreamt I could have both you and Godric at my beck and call. There always was and always will be a place in my heart for you Salazar, but I know that it is Godric who I truly, truly love.” She was babbling incoherently, so Salazar put his hands on her shoulders to console her, and she fell into his arms.
“It is me that should be sorry,” he whispered, stroking her hair as he had longed to do so many times before, but now it seemed so mundane, “for everything I did and didn’t do. You were right, you were all right about the school and I allowed myself to be manipulated by Bonne.” Rowena pulled herself away from him, but grabbed his hand and held it tightly. He could see from the light shining from her that she was overjoyed at the reconciliation.
“I’m so glad you are here Salazar,” she grinned, tears catching in the creases of her smile, her whole body shaking with emotion, “I am so glad we are friends again.” Her exuberant warmth filled him with joy, and the years of jealousy and longing were washed away. It was as if they were new people. Without the diadem, it was as if they had had a brief dalliance years ago that was being lost in the mist of time, and now friendship was all that remained of passion.
It was with Rowena’s support and love that he was able to turn to the man who had for years been his arch rival. To Salazar, Godric had symbolised all that was evil and hateful in the world. He was an ignorant Muggle, a tyrant and a thief. But now when Salazar looked at him, he only saw the young man sleeping under the tree about to be destroyed by a snake. It was as if the years had been washed away, and all that remained was the feeling of excitement and adventure that had characterised their early relationship.
“I did many things,” began Godric stiffly, his brilliantly green eyes refusing to meet Salazar’s, “that wronged you. In many counts you were right; I was a tyrant and a fool. But I will never give up on what is right for what is easy. I can forgive you for the mistake of firing that curse,” he said, looking pointedly at Adrian, “but I can never forgive you if you still believe where someone comes from predestines what they are to be. Blood can never been important in making you what you are.”
He looked at the people around him; Rowena, Helga, Adrian, Rachel and Cadmus. All of them were great and powerful, the best of their age. They were purebloods. Then he looked at Godric, with his sword at his belt. Sometimes, when Godric had been in his rages, Salazar thought he saw Lord Guy staring at him, fresh from killing everyone Salazar had ever loved. That dirty Muggle had always feared what he didn’t understand and sought to destroy it; the magic the Slytherin’s possessed, and even the love that Caris Wydeville had for another man. He had been the emblem of his creed and driven the hate of Muggles into Salazar’s soul.
But then he looked at Bess, his dear, sweet Bess. She had always been gentle, kind and understanding. Although a scared little orphan, she had always kept the Slytherin’s secret and had been excited by the possibilities of magic. Bess had opened Salazar’s eyes to the world, and when she had been murdered, he had closed them for fear of being reminded of her. Emotion had been Bess’ domain, and without her, he had not wanted to feel. Then he realised; Muggles were vulnerable to the same changes of personality as wizards. Godric was a man, just as he was, and in the field of battle, it was Godric who had won, in spite of his blood.
“I was wrong, Godric, I was so wrong. I was focussed too closely on what had taken away my life to what I had once had. I loved Bess, a Muggle, I love her with all my heart, and I forgot that. I tarnished all Muggles with the same ignorant brush as Lord Guy, and I was wrong. I am always wrong. I just hope it is not too late, from the bottom of my heart I hope it is not too late for redemption in your eyes.”
Without a moment’s hesitation Godric’s young face crinkled into a warm smile, his eyes meeting Salazar and in a second forgetting everything. Godric had always been too good. He enveloped Salazar in a brotherly hug, “I’m sorry,” whispered Godric, “and I forgive you.” When they broke apart, Salazar felt like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Here was Godric Gryffindor, the man he had first met in the forest, the slate wiped clean and the past forgotten.
The glow that surrounded him, the joy of being back with his friends, reunited at last, was only punctured by Bess’ tense hand on his shoulder. He turned around to gaze at her, and for the first time since he had seen her again she looked scared. “We are all here now,” she hushed, her apprehension transparent on her face, “together again, and you know what that means.”
He did know. But it didn’t mean it was any less terrifying.
“Do we have to go?” asked Rowena nervously, gazing across the meadow, “I mean, it’s so nice here. Couldn’t we just stay here? We have each other, we have everything we need!” For a moment, Bess looked like she was going to crumble, like she was going to advocate staying here in this sweet place, like they would never be curious about what lay the other side of the meadow for the rest of eternity.
“No, we can’t,” said Bess resolutely, “our time has come.” She had no more to say, so Salazar squeezed her hand, as if to say, “we will be alright in this, we are together again.” Godric looked very scared, a terror on his face that Salazar had never seen before. But now they were ready, now they were prepared to move on.
Walking across the meadow, they did not speak as they had nothing more to say to each other. Now, they would have the whole of eternity to talk. The meadow seemed to fade from their sight, as the mist began to swirl towards them; but they kept walking, never daring to turn back. Salazar could feel the warmth swell around him, and he felt that if he kept walking, he would finally understand everything, and what it truly meant.
Soon, he could barely see Bess’ hand, which he was holding so tightly through fear and trepidation. There was only one thing that kept him putting one foot in front of the other, and that was Bess’ voice, soothing and lilting as it had always been. “Your names will always be remembered”, said Bess quietly as the light enveloped them, “Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.”
And then they were gone.
This chapter has been nearly complete for about a week, but I didn't want to put it up unless it was exactly how I wanted it. The first bit of this whole story I wrote was the last sentence and my whole story has been based on that concept, that they would be remembered. I really hope you enjoyed this story, and please leave me a lovely review. 100 reviews for this story would be an absolute dream, I never thought I would get so many, and not it is within sight!
I am quite sad that this has ended, but I have other stories. I am half way through The Chained Lady and Then I Defy You, Stars so I hope you read and review them to. Thank you very much for staying with me through all this, and I hope you read my future stories!