In a flash of brilliant red, the pillar splits with a resonating crack, sending bits of marble every which way. Forced to duck or else be struck, Rowena narrowly escapes the projected path of a jagged piece of shrapnel, hands flying to cover her head.
“Stop it!” cries Helga, her voice breaking with her desperation. Dust clings to the tracks left by her salty tears, brown and ruddy, thick like mud. Despite the danger, she rushes forwards, to stop the madness, the fighting. “Please, I beg you – both of you, please!”
Her words are lost by the ballooning shield, the surprising force of which propels her backwards, taking her feet out from underneath her. She stumbles, only just able to catch her footing, though her dress rips. More tears fall as she fights against the invisible wall.
“This concerns you not, Helga!” shouts Salazar.
“Nor you, Rowena,” says Godric, catching sight of the willowy witch just over Salazar’s shoulder. Her eyes are wide, her face is drawn, and there’s a trickle of blood trailing slowly down her cheek. “This is not your battle to fight.”
“Mine or not, there should be no battle at all!” Rowena proclaims as she waves her wand in a fruitless attempt to break Salazar’s shield. It might as well be hewn from stone, it does not budge; it is as stubborn and resolute as the wizard who cast it – the complete stranger in front of her.
“Stop this madness,” pleads Helga. She sniffles, soft gaze darting from Gryffindor to Slytherin and back again. “You are brothers, half of our family. Not by blood, but a source much stronger than! Please, see reason –”
“Reason?” repeats Salazar, his dark eyes wide as his incredulity bleeds through. A coarse laugh claws its way out of his mouth, reverberating through the night, black as pitch, and sending a chill down each of their spines. “I expected a call for reason from Rowena, but you? Helga, I know you are naïve, but I did not think you stupid. The time for your precious reason has past.” His gaze cuts to his opponent, his enemy, and he sneers.
Godric raises his sword, pointing the tip at Salazar. “You saw to that, brother,” he spits like the word is acid upon his tongue, eating its way through the flesh, “the moment you thought yourself superior to us.”
His eyes flashing at the accusation, Salazar lets loose a scream of outrage. “I did not think myself superior to you! You have always been my equals. It’s them!” He throws his arm out, pointing at the inky blackness surrounding them. “They are dirty. Tainted! They are the ones who are not worthy!”
“Enough!” shouts Gryffindor at the top of his voice. The roar catches the three by surprise, startling Helga so thoroughly she erupts in a new fit of tears. This was not the way of it; things were not supposed to happen this way. “When we first began to build our school, we agreed –”
“We agreed upon nothing, Godric! Nothing but far flung hopes and broken promises, word spoken and bonds forged, but not meant.” There is a tragic hitch to his words, but his angry eyes and the violent set of his mouth diminish any empathy. “And I am only just beginning to see how woefully ignorant I have been.”
The moment it becomes clear that Godric is beyond words, perhaps even incapable of them, Rowena speaks. “Agreement might not have been made on all points, but compromise was, for the greater good – for the survival of magic!”
“If the survival of magic relies upon the fate of tainted blood, I will it to perish.”
The words rip at her stomach like a dagger, pointed and vicious. Tears, hot and salty, prickle at her eyes as she regards the wizard standing before her. He might have the same face of sharp, handsome features, dark hair and dark eyes, and a wry smile, but he is not the same. The next time she speaks, her voice cracks:
“How can you say such things?”
He looks upon her with condescension, vibrant in his brown eyes. “I can say these things because I believe them, Rowena. I do not wish magic to thrive in a world where it is not pure.”
“The Gift chose us, Salazar!”
“Precisely my point, Godric!” He looks at each of them for a turn, his gaze burning into each of them, searing the air from their lungs and leaving them breathless. “The Gift only comes to those who are truly worthy, to those pure of blood and high of status. We are proof of that!”
“What of the children?” asks Helga. Her words are muted, subdued from her tears.
“What of them?” he snaps. “They stole the magic from its rightful –”
“Magic cannot be stolen nor can it be given by anyone by the gods!” Godric interrupts fiercely. Even in the dark of the night, his blue eyes shine with his conviction; his entire being glows with it. “We have no right to deny any of them.”
Salazar laughs mirthlessly, his broad shoulders shaking. “That is where you are wrong. We have every right to deny them. We are the ones with the Gift, with the knowledge of how to properly wield our power. We hold the keys; we are the gate keepers and we must control the flood!”
“How can we control the flood when we do not yet understand the water?” demands Rowena. “You speak grandly and think cruelly, but you do not understand! That is your weakness and it will forever be your blindness.”
“It is you who is blind, Rowena,” Salazar says, a cutting edge to his voice. They lock eyes, dark brown on light green. “Blinded by Godric and his optimism, by Helga and her impossible hopes. It was not so long ago that you thought as I do. We both know it to be true.”
Rowena bites down hard, her teeth cutting like daggers into the inside of her cheek. “But I saw reason,” she replies, glancing away from his hard gaze. “Please, Salazar.” The feeling of desperation creeps up her throat, its slick fingers scrambling for purchase. “Come to your senses. See that there is more to this than the black and the white!”
“You speak impossibilities.”
“And you ignorance.”
“You see dark where there is light,” adds Godric, his jaw set and eyes narrowed, “a prison where there is freedom.”
“You know naught of what I see or nor will you ever, Godric Gryffindor,” Salazar sneers, his words a promise. His mouth twists into an unsightly grimace the longer he regards him. “Too long have you had your back to me; too long have you cast aside our friendship for the sake of another. I will not stand for it any longer.”
“Then leave,” says Helga. There is no quivering in her voice; no soft words or warmth. There is only hardness, from the set of her mouth to the glimmer in her eye to the weight of her words.
“You would turn me out from my own home?”
“Hogwarts ceased to be your home the moment you turned against its very foundations,” she continues unwavering under the intensity of his stare. “You seek to crumble the stone upon which all of our hopes and dreams have been established; there is no room for you here, Salazar. No hope or promise or purpose.” She lifts a dainty hand and points into the night. “Leave.”
“I will not!”
“Go!” screams Helga, the force behind her words shattering the Shield Charm as though it is a flute of glass. Her chest heaves as she pulls in deep breath after deep breath, her eyes alight with a fire unseen for many a year.
Out of all of them, he expects Helga to be the one who begs him to stay just a little longer to work out their differences, even though they all know they are far beyond that point: the point of no return.
So when he looks at her and sees her formidable glare, he lets out a gasp. “Helga…”
“It would do you well to heed her words, Salazar,” Godric warns, all squared shoulders and impressive height as he readjusting his grip on the hilt of his broadsword. “Go.”
“This is my home –”
“It is your home no longer,” says Rowena. She lifts her chin, defiant in the face of her old friend. The tears have receded, but the threat of a downpour looms over her head. “Leave it; leave us.”
His lips curl into an ugly scowl as his gaze flits from one to another to another. Each face is an impassive mask, unyielding to his pleas. “At least let me collect my things.”
“Your things will find you,” Godric assures him, not unkindly. “I will see to it myself.”
“There is no need. I do not want my belongings if they are to be tainted with such filth.” He flicks his gaze away from his oldest friend and turns to Rowena, who stares at him without a trace of remorse or sympathy in her light eyes. “Do you care not?”
Her mouth forms a tight line and softly, Rowena shakes her head, lowering her eyes as she does so. She can't bear to look in him in the eye, not after everything...
Salazar swallows thickly, eyes blazing as he stares at each of them in turn. Fair Rowena, with her bent head and broken crown, Good Godric, with his soured nobility, and Dear Helga, with her kind eyes turned cruel. These are his friends now; these are their true colors. His stomach tightens, ice turned to fire turned back to ice. He is sickened by them, even as Rowena's brow quivers with the force of her restraint.
“Goodbye,” he says to none and all of them at once. His heavy gaze settles upon Rowena, dagger sharp and unrelenting. She does not flinch under the weight of his stare, but returns it, all fire and brimstone. If this is the way things must end, he is satisfied, at the very least, with Rowena's resolution; she was always much braver than Godric.
“This shan’t be the last we will see of each other," he continues, cutting his eyes over to Godric. They lock eyes and Salazar sees the despair in Godric's blue depths, feeling none himself. He is stone and iron, and they have no one to blame but themselves. "I will see to that myself.” He throws a smirk in Helga's direction before stowing his wand in the front pocket of his robes and spinning on spot, disappearing with a loud crack.
The taut string of tension snaps, the remnants crackling in the air. As the remaining three stare at the now-vacant spot, Helga remarks absently, her voice quaking, “We have got to remedy that.”
A/N: This is my first foray into Founders territory, if that wasn’t already glaringly obvious with all of the historical inaccuracies and whatnot. Believe it or not I wrote this last fall but never got around to posting it and you know what they say – there’s no time like the present! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my take on what happened the night Salazar left, brief though it may have been.