Chapter 2 : ...and Estmond the shadowed moon.
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Moonlit Silhouettes – Part Two
At first, Salazar thought himself to be looking upon a ghost. There was a boy, sitting in the middle of a massive bed, with skin a sickly white and eyes so pale they were near translucent. His golden blonde hair shimmered under the candlelight above his bed. His features were delicate and seemed a mirror of Eadie's. He was thin, but not frail. His face turned eagerly to the door at the intrusion but his eyes looked panicked at the sight of Salazar.
And Salazar could not move. He could not tear his eyes from the boy. His mind raced with confusion, curiosity, even fear, but his mouth dried and his throat closed, leaving him unable to speak. The tiny light on the end of his wand began twitching and Salazar realized he was shaking. To protect his pride, the boy pulled his wand to his chest and took a single step into the bedroom. With the reawakening of his muscles, the young Slytherin took his chance to look away from the stranger.
He busied his grey gaze with the room. The bed was a dark wood, with thick posters bearing an intricate design that he could not make out from his distance. It was draped in several heavy purple blankets, most of them threatening to fall off the side from carelessness. The room, itself, was not large, but it was grand. The walls were covered in shining golden paper and there was a fireplace positioned just in front of the bed. The flames inside were dying, barely licking at the last of the wood with a desperate attempt at sustaining life. To one corner of the room sat a round table; there was a scattering of charcoals and paints and loose sheets of darkened paper all over the top of it. Salazar longed to see what was etched upon the papers, but he did not dare take another step.
“Who are you?” The young ghost-like boy clutched his blankets to his chest and rose to his knees. He pulled a single candle from its home above his bed and held it out towards Salazar. “Come closer.”
The young Slytherin caught his breath and did just as the boy requested. His steps were slow and tentative, his body screamed for him to go back but he would not allow it. “I am Salazar.” He started to raise his wand in order to bring more light to the room, but as he did, the other boy recoiled and Salazar instantly put it away. “Who are you?”
Looking rather ashamed of his reaction to Salazar's wand, the boy lowered his eyes to the bed. “I am...I am Estmond,” he whispered. “You are the boy set to marry my s-sister?” He placed the candle on the table beside his bed and pushed his blankets back from his legs. “Why have you come here?”
“Your sister....” Salazar licked over his cracked lips and let the information sink into his mind before daring to speak again. “I was...I allowed my curiosity to get the best of me. This room, the servant girl, Lady Vauville: it puzzled me. I felt...drawn here.”
“Were you not warned?” The young boy darted his eyes towards the doorway then back to his companion. “Did they not tell you that you were not to come this way? Down this hallway? To this door? To this room? Were you not told of the danger?”
“Danger?” Salazar's heart beat a little harder. “Eadie...she told me that no one dared to cross into the hallway, but she did not say why. And the servant g-”
“The servant girl is not a magical being. She is in no danger from me.” Estmond pushed a lock of fallen hair from his eyes and turned his face from Salazar. “You put your gift on the line by coming this far. You should return before it is too late.”
The gray-eyed boy would not deny that Estmond's words sent a trickle of fear through his entire body. He could feel his blood begin to tingle at the threat of having his magic stripped from it. Suddenly, the room was far warmer than it had been when he entered. But his logical mind beat down his urge to flee. “I do not understand. How? How do I risk my magic just by being here?”
“I am ill.” The words were barely audible. “My parents, both powerful. My sister...born a mere moment before I, but she...her powers are like nothing you could conjure in your wildest of daydreams. And I am not the same. My blood...it bears no gift; no magic. I am cursed to live as a lesser and such a thing should not be free to infect others.”
Salazar closed his eyes and repeated the boy's words in his mind over and over. “Are you...” he took a moment to carefully consider his question “...saying that you don't have magic?” When the boy nodded he continued. “And you and Eadie are twins?” Another nod left Salazar even more confused. “But that is not...that makes no sense. Father says that magic runs in the blood. That the parents pass it to the child and...and....”
“As I said, I am ill.” Estmond put his bare feet to the cold hardwood beneath him. His dressing gown fluttered around his knees as he took deliberate, heavy steps towards Salazar. His clear blue eyes passed over the other boy's face with a flicker of wonder. “You will have to forgive me. It has been years since I have been in the company of anyone with the exception of my mother and the servants. Someone my age...they do not risk it.”
At the word risk Salazar shook his head and took a step back from the strange boy. “Why do you keep speaking of risk and loss?”
Estmond pulled into himself and sat back down on the edge of his bed. “You should leave.”
“No. Not until you explain yourself.”
“My illness. It does not simply forbid me to have magic. It...it can take the magic of others.”
Salazar frowned heavily and folded his arms over his chest. “That is absurd.”
The other boy looked wounded. “It is true!” His voice rose and his face hardened. “With me beside her, Eadie was never able to realize her magic. Father said that when they trained in private, she could conjure and transfigure and brew better than even he. But...but when I was with her, even merely in the same room, she could do nothing. Her magic was dwindled, like my presence kept it at bay.”
The young Slytherin did not know what to make of the boy's words. “But your mother....”
“She risks herself each time she visits. She does not stay long.” He raised his hand to the bed post and began to trace the serpent etchings carved into the dark wood with his fingertips. “Sometimes she cries,” he whispered. “She wants to be with her son, but she is...afraid. And father does not want her here.” A tiny flicker of a smile flashed on the boy's face. “He betrays his own word on occasion. He brings me gifts. He does not stay long, either.”
“I do not believe any of this.” Salazar shook his head and turned his back on the boy. “If this were possible, I would know. My father would have told me. He would never keep something so important from me.”
“The boy is being deceived....”
The voice was soft and made the hairs on Salazar's neck stand on end. He knew that it was not Estmond's, but there seemed no other option. The boy rounded back on the other and stared at him in confusion. “What did you just say?”
“I said nothing.”
“I heard you. Or...someone.”
Estmond's face fell in distress and he began looking around. “No. It is just us in here.” He looked to the door fearfully.
“I heard so-” The boy's words caught in his throat when something began to move on the bed behind Estmond's body. It was the tiniest indent in the blanket that snagged his attention. And slowly, a snake began to creep onto the bed; his body stretched into the floor, his movement was fluid. He was long and pale orange with tiny, jagged, white stripes running across him. Suddenly, Salazar understood. The strange pull that he felt towards the room, the reason he couldn't put it from his mind, the longing he had to see what lay within: it was the snake calling to him. The young Slytherin extended his hand towards the creature and bit his bottom lip. “He is beautiful.”
Estmond spun around, unsure of what Salazar meant, and his face lit up at the sight of the snake. “He stays below the bed when mother is here. She is frightened of him.” He scooped up the snake and draped it across his lap. “But you would never hurt anyone, would you, Baudry?” He stroked the snake down the length of his body and the creature seemed to melt under his touch.
“He is fond of you.” Salazar let his fingers pass over the snakes head and met its eyes.
“The boy is being deceived....” the creature hissed again. “That girl....”
Salazar swallowed a lump in his throat and focused on the creature. “What do you mean that he is being deceived? By what girl?”
Estmond pushed himself back on the bed and pulled Baudry against his chest, his eyes wide and angry. “What is wrong with you? The sounds you make are not human. Do not touch him!” He cradled his pet protectively and held his hand out towards Salazar, putting up a facsimile of a shield against him.
“I am sorry. I should have warned you.” Salazar held up his hands, open palmed, a small sign of faith. “It is a gift, one that runs in my family. We can speak to snakes.”
“Sp-speak to them? And they do speak back?!”
Salazar nodded and put his hands out towards the bed. “Show him you are not afraid,” he begged of the creature. Baudry slipped from his master's hands and slithered across the bed. He wound himself around Salazar's arm and crawled up the boy's body, resting around his neck. Their eyes met and Salazar gave him a nod of thanks. “Do you see?” He looked back to Estmond.
The boy dragged a shaky hand back through his hair, pulling it from his eyes. “Yes,” he whispered.
“He says that you are being deceived.” Salazar unwound the creature from his body and placed him back into Estmond's lap, hoping to put the boy at ease.
“I want you to leave.” Estmond turned his back on Salazar and gathered up his blankets.
“Now,” the boy snapped. “Or I will scream and bring about the servants. They will pull you from here.”
“Alright.” Salazar hurried to the door, the threat of being called out and caught was enough to break his stubbornness. “I will be back.” He tightened his jaw and threw one fleeting glance at Baudry before slipping out of the room and closing the door behind him. The moment the door clicked into place, Salazar doubled over in a gasping breath. It had been too much. Too much strange new information, too much to accept, too much challenge on his mind. His body quivered the entire way to his bedchambers and the snake's words still rang in his mind as he lay his head down to sleep.
The following morning, Salazar rushed to his father's bedchambers before the sun even peeked over the horizon. He knew that his father would already be awake. His whole life, the man had woken early to tend to their animals and ready himself for work; it was not a habit that was easily broken, despite his new life of ease. The elder Slytherin was perched at his window, watching the sky with a look of deep thought upon his features.
“Father?” Salazar laid his hand on his father's shoulder and dropped his gaze to the floor. “There is something I need to ask you.” And the boy did. Without giving him reasons or details, Salazar questioned his father about the possibility of magic-less offspring coming from pure parents. The elder Slytherin had never heard of a thing directly, but he conceded that it was possible considering the opposite was as well. But the idea of a person's magic being affected by the presence of such a person...that brought a frown to the man's face. Preposterous. Ridiculous. Highly fantastical. He could not imagine such a thing being reality.
The man could clearly see that something was troubling his son, but he did not press for details. Salazar was grateful. His father had always shown him respect enough to manage himself without intrusion, less the boy ask for his assistance. And as much as Salazar wanted to be open with his father at the moment, he felt he was not ready. The snake's words would not leave his mind. Was it true? Was Estmond being deceived by his own sister? By the girl? He did not want to think of his future bride as a liar or manipulator, but the alternative was something he simply could not believe.
That night, Salazar returned to Estmond's room and he kept returning, every night, for over two weeks. Each time Salazar attempted to tell the boy that his sister was being dishonest, Estmond tossed him from the room. The boy could hardly blame him, he tried to see things from Estmond's point of view. If someone had tried to tell him that his father, the one person he loved, trusted, and respected above all others, was a liar, he'd do far more than tell them to leave the room.
Estmond was able to get used to Salazar's peculiar gift rather easily, and they began forming games that Baudry could join in on. The snake was far more affectionate and cool tempered than any Salazar had ever seen before. To be fair...he'd never been around a pet snake before. He soon learned that Baudry and Estmond had come together by a miracle. When the boy was twelve years old, he had come across Baudry when the creature was under attack. Outnumbered by his opponents, the snake stood no chance. But Estmond rescued the creature, nursed him back to full health, and intended to set him free once more. Baudry had no desire to leave his savior's side. The two were inseparable ever since.
The nightly visits were something that both boys came to look forward to. Sundown was the moment that Salazar longed for each day. It was three weeks since the two's meeting when he decided that something had to be done. The boy went to his father, just before sunset. He confessed everything about Estmond: the boy's whereabouts, his powerless form, the assumption he held that he was a danger to others. The elder Slytherin was appalled at the discovery.
“Something must be done about this. The Vauvilles are not fools, they must see that they are being deceived. I will speak to Lord Vauville about this, I will explain -”
“It is of no use....” Both Slytherins spun around to face the doorway. The pale orange snake held their gaze as he slithered into the room and wound himself up one of the posters on the man's bed. “Fools, they are not.... She is a wicked girl.... The things she can do....”
“Explain yourself, serpent.” The elder Slytherin put his arm out, blocking his son from the creature.
Salazar slapped the man's hand away and stepped around him. “He is no danger, father. This is Baudry.” The boy allowed the snake to crawl onto his shoulders and nestle himself against his neck. “He is Estmond's friend.” It would not have felt proper to call him a pet. He stopped thinking of the snake that way long ago, he was a far too intelligent creature to be reduced to property.
“He does not have much time.... He must flee....” Baudry hissed directly into Salazar's ear, sending a shiver down the boy's spine. “Tonight.... She knows....”
Salazar's eyes widened. “She knows? About me and...that I have been visiting him?” When the snake gave a lazy nod, his blood ran cold. “What is she going to do?”
“It must be tonight....” the creature repeated. He slithered down the boy's body and weaved his way back to the doorway without another word.
Salazar's eyes lingered on the space that Baudry had vanished from. “What do I do, father?”
“You...you must make this decision for yourself.” The man placed a hand on his son's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “I have faith in you, my son.”
The boy took a deep breath, gave his father a thankful nod, and took his leave from the room. It was a quick trip to the kitchen, just enough time to stuff some staples into a rucksack; some fruit, a few rolls, strips of salted pork, and wrapped pastries from that night's dinner. The boy cast a lightening charm upon the bag so it would not be too much of a burden to Estmond's small frame. Carefully, Salazar crept back into the forbidden hallway and slipped inside of the boy's room.
Estmond was sitting on the edge of his bed, eagerly awaiting Salazar's arrival. His face lit up into a bright smile upon seeing the boy, but his expression soon fell grave when he spotted the other boy's distress. “What is wrong?” He jumped to his feet and looked fearfully to the door.
Salazar did not answer. He darted around the room, stuffing some of Estmond's clothing into the rucksack atop the food. He plucked a pair of shoes from the very back of the boy's wardrobe and thrust them into Estmond's hands. The look on his face was clear, he did not need to give instructions. Estmond took a seat and pulled on the shoes, his eyes half fixed on Salazar. His fingers were sloppy in fastening the ties, it had been years since he had bothered with the things.
“Salazar?” the boy whispered, panic beginning to seep into him. “What is happening?”
“You are leaving. Now.” Salazar grabbed the protesting boy by the hand and shoved the sack onto his shoulders. “Do not argue with me!” He wound his hands into the other boy's shirt and pulled him close. He stared hard into the boy's fearful eyes and pleaded for him to understand. “You must leave.”
Estmond released a shaky breath and held his hand out towards the other boy. Salazar swallowed back a lump in his throat and clutched the boy's hand. He pulled him from the bedroom and they moved silently through the hallways of the manor. The dark-haired boy kept his hand closed tightly around Estmond's, fearing that if he let go, the boy might run back to his room. He peeked around corners and safely led them to the back door.
“Oh!” Estmond let out a sharp cry and dove to the floor. Salazar was puzzled at first, but his confusion was quickly erased. When the blonde raised to his feet once more, Baudry was wrapped around his shoulders. “I cannot leave him.”
“Of course you cannot.” Salazar waited for the snake's nod of approval before pulling open the back door and dragging Estmond into the night.
The two boys did not stop running until their breath failed them. Salazar dropped to his knees and held his hands over the back of his neck. He strained to regain his sense of balance and took long, steady breaths. Estmond let the bag fall from his shoulders and lowered himself onto the ground beside the other boy. He curled against Salazar's form and ducked his head. White hot tears streamed down the boy's face; they were barely visible under the light of the full moon, but Salazar put his hand to the boy's face and pulled the wet from his cheeks.
“I am afraid,” Estmond confessed.
“I know. But you have Baudry to look after you. And you are still young enough to have villagers take pity upon you. But not here. You must keep going as far as you can. There is food in the bag, enough to take you days from this place without needing another soul's help. Do not stop until you have no other choice.” Salazar turned to face the other boy and continued to wipe the tears from his face. He pushed the boy's golden blonde locks from his eyes and tried to offer up a comforting smile.
Estmond sniffled loudly and closed his thin fingers around Salazar's wrists. “I....” He looked away, his pale blue eyes full of fear. “Will I ever see you again?”
Salazar wanted to say yes. But if he gave the boy even one trace of hope, he would risk giving Estmond reason to return one day. It was not a gamble he was willing to take. “No. You need to forget me. You need to forget them. You need to forget this place. When you walk away from here, you are a new person. Take a new name.” He laid his hands on the boy's face and forced Estmond to look into his eyes. “Give Estmond to the moon and let it hold your secret forever. Never call upon it.”
“But I....” The blonde's lips trembled with fresh tears and he threw his arms around Salazar's neck. He hugged his savior close and wept into his embrace until his eyes ran dry and red. “Goodbye, Salazar.” The boy's words were a mere whisper as he pulled away from the other.
Salazar felt heat sting at the back of his eyes but he forced it away. “You will be alright,” he assured him. “I promise.” Quickly, he captured Estmond's lips in a soft kiss. It was over in an instant, but the smile it brought to the other boy's face would live in his memory long after that night faded away.
Estmond rose to his feet, gathered up the bag, lifted Baudry back onto his shoulders, and turned his back on Salazar. His steps were shaky and hesitant at first; he had to force himself to take each and every one. The young Slytherin remained on his knees, watching the blonde's form move away from him. His eyes never left Estmond.
Salazar wrapped his arms around his body and finally allowed his tears to break free when Estmond's body was no more than a moonlit silhouette in the distance.
Notes: Thank you for reading! I hope that you enjoyed this little tale and don't be shy to leave a few words in that little grey box down there. --Jenna
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