Chapter 24 : One step closer
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Memory/ Nine days till Halloween:
Godric and I were married today! It wasn’t anything like I used to imagine my wedding would be, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
We wrote our own vows and had a private ceremony in the estate chapel. When it was over, we scribed our names in the Gryffindor Bible, on thick ivory parchment edged in gold.
Hermione Gryffindor, wife of Godric Gryffindor.
Ginny came and was my Maid of honor. Drustan stood at Godric’s side as the best man and Gwen and Jenna stood as witnesses, but Dageus wasn’t feeling well and Harry had to work, so they couldn’t come.
Godric is my husband now!
We had a wedding breakfast of cake and champagne. We honeymooned a long, rainy day away in a big four poster bed before a roaring fire in a magnificent, Scottish castle.
His vows were beautiful, so much better than mine. I know the Gryffindors thought so too, because Gwen and Jenna both caught their breath and got teary eyed. Even Drustan seemed affected by them.
I wanted to say the same thing back to him, but Godric refused to let me. He got really funny about it. He placed his hand on my heart and mine on his, it was so romantic, and he said:
“If aught be lost, my love shall be the light that guides ye back
If one must be forsaken, Aye shall offer my soul for up ye
should death come, ‘twill be my life in trade for yours.
I am given.”
The words gave me chills through my whole body. God, how I love the man!
Memory/eight days till Halloween:
We went walking in the gardens. We talked about how many children we wanted to have and what we wanted to name them. He wants girls that look like me and I want boys that look like him, so we decided that we just have to have four children, two of each. To be truthful I would settle for one. So, if anyone's listening up there: I'd settle for just one child, please.
Memory/ five days till Halloween:
I am so frustrated with that man. How dare he ask me not to be there when it happens!
Hermione didn't see it coming. The conversation began innocuously enough. They were lying in bed in the Silver chamber, Godric stretched on his back, Hermione sprawled, blissfully sated, on top of him. They had been making love for hours, and had just been laughing about how they wanted to go raid the kitchen, but neither of them had the strength to move.
As their laughter died, there was one of those long moments that stretched uncomfortably. They'd been occurring more and more often of late, as there were so many things both of them were being excruciatingly careful not to say in order not to spoil any of the time they had.
"What if we broke the mirror, Godric?" she blurted into the strained silence. "What would happen?"
He cupped the back of her head, threading his fingers into her curls.
"The glass is but my window, or door, if ye will, on the world, Hermione. The actual prison I inhabit exists in another realm. I would be trapped inside that place, with no way out. Then, when the tithe was not paid, both Salazar and I would die. He in your world, and I in my windowless broch of stone."
She shuddered, hating that image. "If you knew that breaking the mirror was a sure way to keep Salazar from passing the tithe through, why didn't you do it before now?"
"Och, lass, prior to meeting ye, I had no one other than Salazar to summon me out, or I might have. I attempted to persuade the thief to release me, but he thought he was going mad and crated the mirror up. After that debacle I concluded mayhap twould be wiser to let time and distance separate me from Salazar. Then once I'd met ye I had to be able to leave the glass in order to help protect ye. Twas why I was so concerned it not be broken, so ye would nay be left without my help should ye need it."
He paused, then added softly, "There was also the small fact that I never wanted to live more greatly than I did the moment I saw you, lass. For over a thousand years, life has naught meant anything to me, but now life suddenly means everything to me.”
Hermione knew how that felt. It was as if every point of her life up until she met him had not meant anything and now she had a mere few days left to cherish him. With each precious moment that slipped by, as the twins continued to shake their heads and say that they had not found any way to save him, so did her grip on herself slip away.
Godric might have accepted his death as something he had no control over and that was necessary, but she refused to do so.
Each night she would end up in the darkened library in front of the computer with her hands clenched in her lap. The past few times she had not even turned it on. She knew in her heart that to do what she was contemplating might indeed save him, but at a cost she wasn’t sure she was ready to pay just yet.
It just didn’t make sense. She was surrounded by magic. Between her knowledge, the twin’s and their huge ancient library of tomes, all of Harry’s resources at the ministry and Hogwarts, and Godric’s own knowledge none of them could come up with even one small piece of information that could undo the indenture.
“There has to be another way, Godric!”
He sat up and grabbed her by the shoulders, his gaze fierce. “Och, lass, do you think I truly wish to die? Doona ye think if there were any other way that I would have seized it already? I am in love with ye, woman! I doona want to ever be without ye, but the simple fact is, ‘tis my very life that keeps Salazar immortal, and nothing but my death can take that away from him. He cannot be permitted to have that time to proceed in his plots. ‘Tis not merely our lives at stake, tis the lives of the very world.”
“You sound just like Harry,” Hermione said, unable to keep the note of bitterness from her voice. “You have to be the hero.”
He shook his head. “Nay lass, for I have never been a hero and I’m not trying to be one now. ‘Tis but that here are things a man can live with and things he cannae.” He took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. “I never did tell you the whole story of how I ended up being tricked.”
Hermione went very still. Was he finally going to tell her what happened to him so long ago?
“We were once friends, or so I thought. I later learned he was naught but subterfuge and deceit from the very beginning. My mother couldn’t stand him, but I arrogantly though myself more powerful that I didn’t deem him a threat. I couldn’t have been more wrong.” He paused with a sigh.
“I didn’t know that he had sought me out in order to get his hands on the Dark Glass. Or that all other wizards had shunned him and refused to teach him. What lore he had managed to acquire before we met had been gained through violence and bloodshed.”
Somehow he had learned about Godric and came to Scotland. Even though most of Wales, Ireland and much of Scotland had heard of him, Godric had not ever heard of him. Part of him blamed that on the fact that he had refused for many years to leave his own lands concentrating only on his people.
“All of that I learned of later, when it was too late. We became friends and started exchanging knowledge and lore, to push each other, to see what we could do. We had begun making plans to create our own wizard school when he approached me about the Scrying Glass.”
“The Scrying Glass?” Hermione repeated.
“Aye,” he smiled bitterly. “It was what he had called the mirror. He had said that ‘twas used to foretell the future in fine detail. That with it one could alter certain events before they ever happened. ‘Twas an enticing power to me, especially since I had begun to wonder whether I would ever have a Gryffindor mate. I was nigh score and ten and not wed.”
“That is quite old for your century to not be wed,” she mumbled softly, while her heart fluttered at the idea that he had never had his heart taken by another female.
He shrugged and resumed his tale briskly.
“I agreed to the bargain. We rode out one morning for a village in Ireland where the mirror was being guarded leaving our other two friend Helga and Rowena to continue the plans on the school. The plan was to render the guards unconscious using a spell that Salazar had given me, ride in and take the mirror, then ride out again. I saw no reason to distrust him.”
“Merlin,” Hermione breathed. “Tell me this isn’t going where I think it is.”
He nodded sadly, his gaze distant. “Though I didn’t know it, along with other ‘talents’ with which I’d been born was a horrific one that appeared so rarely in our bloodline that I’d never given it any thought. I believed ‘twas a sleep spell I’d worked right up until that final moment I knelt in the inner chamber beside the Glass and touched the holy man who lay sprawled on the floor. I think he’d tried to break the glass, but my spell had been too potent.”
“As I sat there, even then not fully comprehending that I’d been betrayed, he wove the dark binding spell over me. He had the chant, the gold, the man to ensorcel, and I’d just spilled the blood of innocents for him. Next thing I knew, I was looking out at him from inside the glass.”
“As we left the village, he gave me a view, to ensure that I saw what I’d done. With one spell, I’d killed not only those guarding the glass but the entire village.” He closed his eyes, as if trying to shut out the terrible vision he’d seen that day.
“But you didn’t mean to,” Hermione defended. She knew Godric, somewhere inside him he bore the weight of each and every life he had taken so long ago. “It’s not like you rode in there intending to kill anyone!”
He opened his eyes and smiled faintly. “I ken it, lass,” he said, “and in truth, I no longer hate myself for what transpired that day. There are things a man can change, and there are things a man just has to live with. I live with it.”
He cupped her face and gazed into her eyes. “The thing I cannot live with is letting him to continue spreading his evil to the world and only my death can prevent that.” He paused. “My dear sweet lass, you must cry peace with this as I have. We have no other choice.”
“I can’t,” she cried, shaking her head, blinking back her tears. She had lost too much in her life during the last wizard world and she just couldn’t bear the thought of losing him.
“Lass, ye must promise me something,” he said, his voice low and urgent. “I’ve been thinking much on this. I doona want ye there when the time comes.”
Hermione felt as if she had been punched in the stomach. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She’d deliberately refused to let herself think that far ahead, to let her mind linger over the details of the night it would actually happen. To the night she would stand before a mirror and watch her Highlander age more than a thousand years in a single moment.
“We’ll spend what time I can be free together that day, and then you will go elsewhere with the others. Ye must promise me this,” he pushed. “Drustan had pledged to break the mirror once it’s done, so none can ever be taken captive again.”
“That’s not fair, Godric, you can’t expect me…”
“I can, and am. ‘Tis a dying man’s last request,” he said roughly. “I want ye to remember me as a man, lass, as your man. Not as a prisoner of magic. I doona want ye to watch me die. Promise me ye won’t, promise me and meant it.”
Hermione was no longer able to hold the tears at bay. Hot and wet, they scaled her cheeks. As she stared at him through the tears, a lifetime of hopes and dreams of wishes and desires, of love and family, flashed before her eyes.
When she spoke again, her voice was low and fervent. “I promise you, Godric Gryffindor, that I will not watch you die.”
When he drew her into his arms to kiss her, she closed her eyes and counted her blessings for the fact that he could not read her mind. For, though she’d pledged him the promise he’d sought, she’d not meant what he’d meant by it at all.
Later that night, however, her circumstances had changed drastically. After the mirror had reclaimed Godric, she’d left the silver chamber and hastened to the library to open communications with Salazar. The only thought going through her mind was that she couldn’t bear to lose Godric in her life.
She’d been sitting at the computer, her inbox open, about to click on one of his emails, when Dageus had stepped from behind the drapes, catching her in the act.
“I was just,” she really didn’t know what to say to explain what she was doing, but she was sure that she could come up with something.
“I know you have been getting messages from Salazar,” he spoke up before she could come up with anything. “I was here the other night.”
As she gaped up at him, half expecting to be dragged off to her room where he would take away her wand and lock her in, he further shocked her by asking, “How bad do you want him to live, lass?”
Figuring she had nothing left to lose at that point she said, “I’d do anything. Even make him hate me.”
“He won’t hate you, lass,” he assured her. “If aught, he’ll hate me.” He paused for a moment before going on. “I believe there’s a way to get him out of there.”
“Really?” Her heart soared at those words.
It was one thing for her to believe it; she was desperate enough to cling to any hope and she knew it. However if he believed it, then it was more than just possible, it was probable.
“Email Salazar,” Dageus instructed her. “Tell him you’ll help him get in the castle to pass the tithe through, but we keep the mirror.”
Halloween 30 minutes till midnight
“That’s it, Hermione. The wards are down. You ken what that means?”
Taking a slow, deep breath, Hermione nodded. “Yes,” she replied softly. “Slytherin will be able to enter the castle now, but he will not be able to use his magic.”
“Doona make the mistake of thinking you’re safe from him, lass. He can still harm you in the way of any man.”
“Hermione are you sure you want to do this?” Harry spoke up from the other side of the room looking anxiously at the two of them.
“I have to,” she said turning to face him. “I can’t let him die.”
“Here, I want you to wear this.” Dageus fastened a sheath snugly to her forearm, and then slipped a plain handled dirk into it, tip to her elbow, handle at her wrist. “Don your sweater over it.”
She obeyed tensely.
“Do this.” He made a twisting motion with his hand. “Drop it down.”
She mimicked his movement, surprised by how well it worked, smoothly guiding the handle into her palm.
“Does she really need to wear that?” Harry asked.
“Slytherin won’t be the only one that will not be able to use magic this evening.” Dageus helped her resheathe it. “He’s desperate. ‘Tis the only reason he has agreed to this. Doona think he’s truly agreed to it. We should be prepared for deceit and last minute treachery.”
She glanced up at him sharply. There’d been a strange certainty in his voice when he’d spoken of deceit and treachery. As if he knew something she didn’t
“You said yesterday that you thought he would pass the tithe through the glass and go away,” she protested anxiously.
He stared down at her a long pensive moment not speaking.
“I am sure that he is but advising you to be on constant guard,” Harry said moving closer to the two of them. “Remember how Moony always used to tell use to use constant viligance.”
“Exactly,” Dageus interjected. “Doona let your defenses down for even a second. You’ve no way of knowing what might happen from one moment to the next. Be prepared for anything.”
“You’re starting to worry me. What do you think…”
“I must go,” he cut her off. “Time is short and we doona wish him to see me. You should also get into position, Harry. He must believe that she acts alone. He must continue to believe that. However doona fear, we shall be watching over you.”
Halfway down the corridor, he turned back. “Constant guard,” he hissed.
Harry walked over placed a hand on her shoulder, “We shall have your back,” before also leaving her.
Hermione swallowed. She tensed her wrist, feeling the weight of the blade. “Constant guard,” she echoed with an inward nod. “I promise.”
Twenty minutes until midnight
Hermione shivered as she hurried down the corridor. Five days ago, when she’d promised Godric that she wouldn’t watch him die, she’d possessed great determination but little hope.
It had been nearly impossible to conceal her change in spirits from Godric. Especially today, on what he’d thought was their last day together, but she’d managed. Dageus had been insistent she discuss their plans with no one, even going so far as to say he wouldn’t help her at all if she failed to convince Godric that she believed tonight was his last night alive.
Although acting the part had nearly killed her, thank Merlin, she’d not had to actually live it. She’d been convincing, unwilling to jeopardize her only chance to save him.
Hermione paused at the back door, inhaling sharply, he was here. She could feel him through the wood of the door, cold, dark, rotten, and much, much too close for comfort. He’d accepted her deal only when she’d pledged herself as his hostage.
She had tried to refuse, but he had refused to come onto Gryffindor land any other way, and after much bantering she had finally agreed.
It was now or never. Whatever happened from this moment forth, she would betray no fear, no weakness. She was Hermione Granger, the brightest mind of her time, the brains of the famous golden trio, wife of Godric, and she would do this.
This man had held her husband imprisoned for eleven hundred and thirty three years, and though, she’d like to think she wasn’t a particularily a violent person, she’d hex him into oblivion in an instant if she thought she had a chance of killing him.
She slid the deadbolt back and turned the doorknob.
“Salazar,” she said coolly, inclining her head.
"Good evening, Hermione," he replied with a cordial smile.
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