Chapter 5 : Epilogue
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Hamlin lies in ruins now
in piles of covered rubble.
The story lingers in the wind,
tis not quite forgotten yet.
-old wizarding folk song, author unknown.
Reader, she married him.
Of course, much had to happen first. They had to complete their educations. Marigold became a great favorite of Rowena Ravenclaw, in whom she saw her equal, a child who Ravenclaw saw as her duty to educate in the role of a witch in this day and age. Ravenclaw was a forward thinker who had forsaken her responsibility as a mother to be a great scholar and respected voice. When Marigold graduated from Hogwarts, Rowena adopted her as her handmaiden.
She urged Marigold not to imprison herself in marriage. “For when you marry,” she told Marigold once, strict and bright-eyed, “everything you once own becomes your husband’s: any fortune and possessions you may hold- though God knows you are a penniless orphan. Your body becomes his to do with as he pleases, your soul to carry forward into Heaven, joins eternally with his. Your children will belong to him, you will be expected to care for them until they are old enough to flee you. You will put your soul and your life into a house: your eyes will become its doors, blinking to let in the sun’s bright rays and shunning the nightly moon. Your hair will become entangled in the thatching of the house, and you will die from a traitor’s death, hanging from the eaves. Your body will become stone, your lips brown as wood. Your soul will haunt the rooms until it can barely scream or flail: you will be a captive, and your husband the jailor.”
Marigold had laughed to herself at this. “With respect, darling madam, I think you underestimate my own power as a woman and a witch of this world. For I am no fool to lock myself in a prison, to suffocate myself with a ring of gold. For if I marry, I will choose a good man who loves me, and we shall be as equals.”
There were many rumours about Rowena Ravenclaw and the parentage of her little daughter, Helena, a thin, sprightly thing who haunted the edges of the castle, anxiously waiting the day when she would turn eleven and be a proper student, be of interest to her mother at last. Some said the child’s father was a great southern lord who had been a patron of Ravenclaw: others claimed he was a famous adulterer from the south who scarcely recognized his illegitimate children. Others still whispered that the child’s father was an incubus who had stolen into the famous beauty’s bed one night, or a fairy king she had enchanted in the wild woods of the north. Whether Helena Ravenclaw was a child of north or south, man or spirit one never knew, for she while she was highly educated with the best of tutors, a fair hand with a wand and a quick wit when called upon, she was also temperamental, often falling into rages at the slightest infraction. She was spoiled in wealth and starved of love, a dangerous combination which made her vain and selfish and desperate for desire.
Helena had playmates in the children from Hamlin, but they were simple village children who could barely spell their own names, much less participate in the witty banter and creative play to which Helena’s fine blood was accustomed. She, who could speak French and read Latin as well as English; she, who could compose and dance and play the lute as beautifully as a little elf! She tried to teach the orphans some of these skills, but quickly lost her patience and abandoned them to the care of the hired nursemaids and tutors.
Helena had disappointed her mother by merely being born a girl: a girl who the great lady Ravenclaw could not be bothered to raise, whose value in that time was simply correlated to her beauty and the dowry she would bring a rich husband. In Marigold, Ravenclaw acknowledged a great mind she rarely saw in the fairer sex, someone who she could train to be her equal. Perhaps if the lady had given the wailing creature placed in her arms all those years ago the attention it craved, things would have turns out differently. But the truth is that the ghost of that wretched child haunts her mother’s school to the day, and will for all eternity, her miserable lover, the careless man who had been an arrogant child, dragging his chains with a melody she shall never escape in the castle which she longed to belong within.
Helga Hufflepuff, one of those gentle, good people with an iron will, lived to a grand old age of a hundred and two, and taught at her beloved school until the very end. She founded a great dynasty, and many wept upon her death, and made pilgrimages to place posies and plant flowers upon her grave, and ask for guidance and mercy in their future endeavors. Many of these were the children of Hamlin, and their children, and their children’s children, who loved and learned under the kind, grand lady.
As for the great men of Hogwarts, Slytherin and Gryffindor, it is impossible to tell whether their own brutal ends were deserved. For a score of years after the founding of the school, when the eldest of the children of Hamlin had been taught and had disappeared to make their own destinies, Slytherin, tired of being equals with the weak women and a jovial fool, enraged with conceptions of his own potential for greatness, chose to leave the school.
It was a dark night, the night of an unnatural tempest which ravaged the surrounding highlands. His familiar, the great snake, coiled around his neck, and Slytherin’s great cloak billowed around him. He was a powerful man, his eyes spitting the fire of the devil himself.
Marigold knew not exactly that over which they had quarrels. She and Stephane had kept a cordial distance over the past few years, occasionally punctuated by dark looks across a crowded room, by cordial smiles when passing in the corridors. Stephane was thin and pale and dark as ever, a creature of the night, a specter of darkness who seemed to see through the laws of invisibility and light.
In the moment of the father’s departure, Marigold looked to the son. He was standing alone, as he so often did. He was poised, nervous to whom he owed his allegiances: to the father he feared, to the girl he admired, or the school that had become his home. Will you go with him? her eyes demanded. And he bowed his head solemnly: he was his father’s missionary, his servant: there would be others to lure into following the piping of power which the Slytherins promised, many indeed.
A shame about Stephane, Marigold thought to herself often throughout the years. History would record him as a villain when the Piper was remembered, the first heir of Slytherin, the agent of his father’s greed. To the children of Hamlin, he would become all of these things, who would carry on the legend of Slytherin’s lust for greatness and ownership. He was these things to Marigold as well, but beneath the layers of tales and whispers she thought of the earnest young man who spoke with her so kindly and respectfully, with the dark, intelligent eyes and the shy, delicate smile. And they would cross one another’s paths again in those medium years: the first time in the crowded marketplace brimming with the smells of enchanted brewing herbs at a market fair.
Many of the lost children of Hamlin would make something of themselves. Trip would carry on the trade his dead father had taught him, using the magical arts he had learned to create wondrous creations: bowls with designs of mosaic glass across which images would dance, and goblets which refilled themselves promptly.
He and Marigold married. They returned to England, to the old village of Godric’s Hollow, where Marigold nursed the ill and wounded of the village with her father’s gentle spirit, and where Rowena Ravenclaw was a frequent and beloved visitor.
Young Quince Malchance, chosen by Slytherin, used his drunkard, degenerate father’s death to create a new identity for himself, make full use of the lessons his mentor, Slytherin, had taught him at Hogwarts and the new powers he had access to. He became a great sorcerer, gaining favour with the ruthless English nobles through his willingness to use any magic to suit his own ambitions. He became well-known and feared throughout wizarding and Muggle England alike, and rid himself of the curse of the Malchance family forever by changing it to mean bad faith, warning his enemies to steer clear. He invented a story of his father, a great knight under William the Conqueror, and founded a mighty estate upon which his family would rule and dwell for generations, coldly proud of their mighty ancestry, the unfortunate fate of the elder mister Malchance fading into rumour. Thus was born the line of the Malfoys.
And of the lost village of Hamlin, the burnt shells of the houses and shops and farms slowly crumbled into the earth, until a careless visitor would not know there had once been a village there. A new town sprung up in the shadow of the wondrous castle of Hogwarts, a town named for the school, and filled with magical folk from about the island. And the town would see it’s own times of strife and conflict as other creatures saw fit to rise against the wizards in a way the poor children of Hamlin could never have done.
But one structure remained, and that was the house on the hill overlooking Hamlin where the son of Slytherin, the infernal Piper had once dwelled as he sought to carry out his task. By some unworldly magic, the spells holding the house together kept it there, a monument to the past. And into the shack flowed the displaced spirits of the witches and wizards of Hamlin, whose children had been stolen, whose lives had been ended by the vengeful fear of their neighbors and one-time friends. And on an especially silent night their shrieks and cries for their children could still be heard in that shack, and so the inhabitants of Hogsmeade avoided it, and did not look too closely at the boarded windows for fear of seeing a tearful face.
But sometimes descendants of those ghosts would find their way into the shack, and they would find themselves blessed and protected against danger no matter how helplessly the situation seemed. For one day, four boys would creep from the castle to bide the night of the full moon there, and the wolf in his frenzied state would think he saw a wall of spirits, of mothers and fathers with childless arms, standing between his teeth and the other creatures assembled there. And one day a fifth boy would follow the others, and as he recoiled and screamed from the terror within he thought he saw the face of a beautiful woman in fine robes, her hair streaming and her expression the cool resting of a drowned person, of a witch who had been drowned, touching her cold lips to his cheek as he was pulled to safety. And years later, a rat who had once been a man, facing his death in the crumbled walls of the shack, thought he witnessed the form of a round, kind woman in an apron whispering fervently in the ears of the last descendant of the Peverells, begging him to spare the life of the last of her sons.
And when the last Peverell hid from the last Slytherin in that forsaken place, the spirits of Marigold’s and Trip’s parents shielded the boy, and Master Peverell, the healer, looked with pride and love upon his last descendant.
Stephane traveled for a long time with his father, serving the kings and nobles of Europe, often performing devious and undesirable acts of commissioned magic at his father’s request. He gained his own infamy: the Sword of Slytherin, the one who executes the wishes of the Elder, the one who destroys. In his travels, he encountered Camilda Prince, the daughter of the sly old merchant, who had lost her father’s fortune but none of his pride. With encouragement from his father, Slytherin married her, and built her a great manor deep in Scotland. They founded a legendary dynasty of Slytherins – legendary for those who were part of the dynasty, perhaps – children who spoke to snakes and plotted for power and glory, dark-headed generations of children whose pride was always their undoing.
For a line of descendants is made up of mighty and cruel people, and no generation’s virtues nor vices are necessarily encased in the next. Of the great ancestors of the Slytherins and the Potters, few would think to look back to Stephane or Marigold as their guides. Few would think to peel back the staunch floods of the generations to discover that once, the golden girl of Hamlin, the last of the Peverells, the protégée of Rowena Ravenclaw, had once loved the dark young heir of Slytherin.
And Trip and Marigold married, and thus the line of Ignotus Peverell, the humble man who had tricked death, became forever entwined with the common, Muggleborn line of the Potters. And the Invisibility Cloak would be passed down through the generations, through future potters and craftsmen, and statesmen and merchants, and gamblers and chimney sweeps and lawkeepers and students. And in one far away day, a descendant born of Stephane and a child born of the line of Marigold would have a great blood confrontation, indeed.
And later, reader, is when she married him.
She was too old to bear children, and her own were sent off into the world to make their own fortunes as grown adults. His father was long dead, slain by his greatest friend, so he no longer had the puissance to object to the match. Trip had died long ago, buried by weeping children and a solemn Marigold, whose heart had burned and bled for the fine young boy in the village of Hamlin who had so boldly taken her wand to repair a bowl.
So when Marigold met Stephane again, many years later, the cries of outrage of their children and the whispers of society could not pause their parting, not now, as their bodies grew faded and withered, as their eyes stayed the same.
And for a time they were happy, so gloriously, inexcusably happy.
A day came when the bile gathered in Stephane’s lungs could no longer be bled from his body, when he was but a whittled wisp of the powerful man he had once been, Marigold gave the cloak of Invisibility to her eldest son, and took the hand of the man she had loved for nearly a lifetime. In his eyes she saw the bright, inquisitive spark of the boy who had come to the village in the dawn, riding upon a horse. And in her touch he felt the comfort and trust of a girl whose trust he had once destroyed, and whose love he had longed for in the course of a lifetime.
Death was pleased to finally add to his ranks the young man who had spurred and inspired such carnage and hate in Hamlin long ago; to finally claim the life of the last Peverell, who had cheated Death and known Death with her own eyes.
Can you see them? His beard a white wisp, her silver hair flooding across his arm, her thin hand stroking the blue veins of his hand, his lips pressed against her cheek. And as Death claims them he finds them entwined so peacefully, and as Death’s shadow sweeps the room into blackness they squeeze one another’s hands and smile, a painless smile for Death. And the wind which flows from the cloak of Death brings not promises of pain and hurt, but a certain reckoning, a promise for peace.
In times of hate, remember the lost people of Hamlin, the terrible sacrifices which must be made for the greater good. Remember the spirits shrieking throughout the centuries, the last messengers of a lost way of unity. And in the storms and the rages of our day, find an inkling of hope in the story of Stephane Slytherin and Marigold Peverell, the Piper and the One who Saw, and think that perhaps our world must not be so desperately lost.
Author's Note: The line “Reader, she married him” is shamelessly adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre. All references and inspirations for the story of The Pied Piper of Hamlin are credited to the Grimm brothers, though many creative liberties have been taken. All references and inspirations from the Harry Potter books are of course credited to the incomparable JK Rowling. The song at the beginning was written by me - if you are interested in reading the rest of each song at the beginning of the chapters, send me a PM on the forums! :D
Thank you, if you have stuck with this story until the end. I have loved writing it and hope you enjoyed! Keep an eye out for a sequel one-shot in the coming months.
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