The times do not make men, men make the times.
Prologue: Divergence/A Different Path
The school was magnificent, haloed by a blue sky clear of clouds, with the high towers nearing completion stabbing the sky. Below them workers put the finishing touches on the Great Hall’s roof. Tonight would be the first night the Founders and their students would dine within its infant walls. There were more additions planned for the castle; a north and south wing were having their foundations laid. Towards the west side of the grounds the dirt was being turned over for a sprawling garden. The last a personal desire of Helga’s.
Rowena had longed for the tall towers in which to stare at the night sky. Godric, a man of practical yet boisterous tastes, had wished for a hall where all could dine, sharing a meal and sharing friendship; he always was a sentimental fool. They all were clinging to a dream each held for the school. Where magic could be taught under a standardized system, heralding a new age of discovery and growth for the fragmented societies that encompassed the wizarding world.
What did Salazar Slytherin want? His ideal for this half-built school was a place below the earth that he could find comfort and spend the rest of his life showing the purer breeds of witches and wizards their birthright. At least that had been his original intent. Things had changed since the four of them had spawned this dream years gone by. His ambitions had grown beyond guiding the next generation.
Like all dreams, this one had remained sheltered within his mind for years, poked and prodded, before he brought it to light. Before he dared hope he could make it a reality. Then one day he made his decision, putting his hopes and dreams into motion. A hope that one day, his kind would not have to grovel in secrecy from their lesser cousins. A dream that his kind would be placed above the animals.
“Salazar!” Came a deep cry from the entrance of the Great Hall. There stood a man broad of shoulder with a mane of red hair cascading down his back. A large smile split his weathered face. “You’re not brooding again, are you? Not this close to my hall’s completion!”
Salazar stood from his position under the shade of a large oak tree. He smiled kindly at his friend turned pawn. They met half way across the grounds, clasping hands. “No, my friend, I am not brooding, just wistful.” He let his eyes lose focus. “Of how far our dream has come. Of how far we have come.” He refocused them and was glad to see his act had worked.
Godric placed a hand on Salazar’s shoulder, bringing his face closer. “We’ve worked hard for this, and once it’s done we’ll lay back and reap the rewards.” His tone softened. “How grand will it be to stare at dozens of students from across the isles, each yearning to know what we know?”
Salazar smiled. “Your dream caught me many years ago. Grasped my imagination and has led us here. Elsabeth would be proud.”
The name caught Godric by surprise, and it took him a moment to respond. “Yes, she would be proud.” The large man took a step back, his voice low. “It was originally hers, you know? All this,” he splayed his hands out, encompassing the school. “This was her dream.”
Salazar was genuinely surprised. “I had not known. When did she become fond of teaching?”
“When she was younger, helping raise her siblings. Nothing brought more pleasure to her than watching them learn. We talked frequently of starting a school, but things weren’t very stable.” His voice sharpened. “You know how things were back then. Raids every night along the coast, those damned Frenchmen always hunting us.” He spit on the ground.
Salazar remembered those times well. It was when he had first met the man, during a combined reprisal against Earl of Anjou. It was then he had been seen the Godric’s magical prowess.
It was a sad day when Godric put away his staff for good. “To be fair, we did conquer force the Earl from his land.”
“Don’t start that old argument!” Godric’s face burned red. “His father murdered for that stretch for land, and we fought to take it back. He had no right to it.” Again he spit on the ground. “The Earl is even worse for using muggles. They have no place among us, especially in war.”
Salazar could not agree more, but his friend’s contempt for muggles only went as far as separation from them. This would hopefully soon change. “I happen to disagree with you, but then my views on war have always been different that yours. You’re too fair minded, that’s why you hold grudges for so long. I, on the other hand, can understand both sides…”
Grodric face darkened. “You killed as much as me to get that land back. Land rightfully ours! If you understand his right to it, why did you fight by my side?”
“Calm yourself, I’m not being antagonistic. Just stating my point. You see things as right and wrong. Who deserves what. I see things as more gray. I seek the meaning behind things, it lets me understand my opponents. In this case, I can see where both sides were wrong, but since I live here and not in France; I chose to fight. Glad I did, too. I would never have met you or the others.”
The blood fled Godric’s face, and a bemused smile bloomed. “My apologies, Salazar. My pride got the better of me once more.”
“Accepted.” A gentle reminder of their friendship was enough to sway the sentimental man. “Speaking of the others, how is Helga’s garden coming along? I know she’s been desperate to start it, since she moved up here.” A chill wind blew through grounds, causing Salazar to shiver. “I swear it was a mistake to build this school so far north.”
Godric laughed. “Living in comfort has spoiled you.” He turned to walk away and Salazar fell in step with him.
“I spent years sleeping in ditches and anywhere else I could. I will stick with being spoiled thank-you very much. About the garden?” Salazar let impatience into his tone.
His companion shrugged. “Not sure when she’ll break ground for it, but I know she’s started the bigger plants at her house down in Hogsmeade.” He grinned suddenly. “Do you know she plans on growing mandrake root?”
The taller man’s eyes went wide. “Truly? Mandrake root?” Salazar shook his head. “When it comes to plants that woman has little sense.”
Godric gave a boisterous laugh that was abruptly cut short. He started coughing. Salazar paused in his gait to pound the broad man’s back. “What happened?”
Through trying to catch his breath, Godric pointed forward. Salazar followed his finger and a sheepish grin consumed his face. “Helga, what a pleasant surprise.”
The stout witch stalked up to him, her wild mane of gray hair restrained into a tight bun. She stared up at his tall figure, frowning. “Little sense, eh? Do you still wonder why I obsess with plants, when standing before me is a wonderful example of the failings of man?” Salazar’s smile become one of sick politeness. “Still walking on air Slytherin, looking down your nose at those who toil in the fields? Still think you’re better than the rest of us, those not taught the wonders of a wand so must do manual labor?”
She took a step forward, and Salazar took a step back. He found her muddied robes and soiled hands distasteful. Godric’s voice came between them. “He did not say that, Helga.”
“It’s Salazar, there is no need for him to say it, when the implication is clear behind his words.” She reached out and grabbed a fold of his robes, using it to clean her hands.
With a look of disgust, he spoke. “You go too far, hag.”
Helga smiled. “And your mother never went far enough.”
Helga was the only witch that could make him lose his temperament. Salazar went for his wand. Godric swiftly stepped between him, his mouth drawn into a scowl. “Wand away, my friend, or will you curse me to get to her?”
Salazar looked into Godric’s blazing blue eyes and took a calming breath. He cleaned the mud from his robes and pocketed his wand. A duel with Godric was the last thing he wanted. The man never was known for his skill with magic more for his strength. Without his staff, Salazar was certain he could best him.
Behind the large man, Helga sniffed. “I see you still like to throw tantrums like a child. Here I thought—“
“Enough!” Godric turned to the older woman. “You swore to a truce between the two of you when we started this. Have you forgotten so soon?”
“You are telling me this? You laughed at his little insult, and you are reminding me of the truce?” She gave a harsh laugh. “I believe the truce went something along the lines of neither of us insulting the other? Or maybe showing respect for the other’s work? Since when is disdain for my work considered respectful?”
Godric could make no rebuttal to her condemning words. He worked his mouth before finally sighing. “I am sorry for that.”
They both turned and gave Salazar a significant glance. His dark eyes glittered, but he swallowed his pride. “I am sorry I broke the truce. I will endeavor to hold it even when not in your presence.”
She sniffed and addressed Godric. “I’ve decided not to attend dinner this evening. I shall instead take it with my students at my cottage in Hogsmeade.”
“But the Great Hall will be completed today!”
Salazar imposed himself. “You walked over here to tell us that?”
She gave him a frosty stare. “No, I came over here to see if either of you would help me with my garden, but since you both think so little of my activities, I’ll enlist the students’ aid instead.” She gave each a final nod before turning and walking away.
“The truce,” Godric reminded him. Salazar’s muttering became incoherent. “This is a bad omen for us. It would have been better if we had sat united before the school at our first dinner.”
Salazar spoke dismissively. “It’s only a bad omen if you believe it to be. I for one just think your adding to much symbolism to the gesture. So forget the old hag’s words and eat.” Gryffindor frowned. “So long as we remain united in teaching, we should be fine.”
“Does that mean—“
“Yes, fine! That means I’ll hold to that truce. “Salazar spoke in exasperation. For my dreams, I must put my pride aside. “Satisfied?”
Gryffindor grunted. “I’ll be satisfied when you prove you can control that slippery tongue.” With a final glance at his friend, he walked forward, leaving Salazar to fume in his wake.
You are just a means to an end, old lion. An end that will have the world at my knees. Salazar drew a calming breath, chastising himself for getting into another argument with Helga, but it was difficult for him to ignore the grubby witch. Her attitude was enough to raise his ire.
He cast a final look to the completed the dining hall, before walking beyond to his quarters. Unlike the old hag, he had moved into the castle as soon as space was available. He walked through the sun-lit halls, making his way towards the half-built dungeons. He was aware of the odd contradiction he had with living below ground. It was damp and cool, where as he enjoyed warm. Yet, there was something about being buried, a place where secrets were best kept.
As he passed a lavatory, he made a connection with its placement and his hidden room. Who would suspect the entrance there? The idea seemed ludicrous to him, but held some merit. He would give it more thought later.
He descended into the lower parts of the school, feeling the air become thicker. He could taste the moisture in the air; a taste he enjoyed. Working his way through the chilled halls, he found his place of respite.
It was a place of solitary contemplation, sharp green hues mixed with reflective blacks. A fireplace sat cold against the far wall, while an oak desk sat before it. In the corner of the ceiling there was a square hole that lead through the castle and to the air above. Right now he could feel a dry air moving through it. In a corner a door lay shut; it lead to his bedroom. He glanced to his desk and noted three letters had been deposited there.
He glanced to a corner and saw a large gray owl slumbering. Aristotle had returned from his trip to the continent. With voracious eyes, he went to his desk, careful of the enchantments laid upon it. It would do him little good if his correspondences were read by his fellows. After satisfying the cost, a drop of blood and a spoken word, he sat down without harm.
He opened the letters quickly, his excitement scarcely contained. Much of his plans rested on these foreign nobles, though he made contingencies in case they disagreed. He doubted that would be the case. Most of the wizarding societies were separated by distance and muggles. Many held strong desires matching his own, but lacked any organization. It was a common wizarding fear that the unclean masses of muggles could wash over any settlement when discovered.
It happened on a daily basis with the church-led witch hunts. Salazar snorted. What nonsense, that an inherently perfect being would let the epitome of evil give such power over the being’s chosen people.
He scanned the three letters, his dark eyes reading both the words and the meaning behind them. His foreign cohorts were notorious for their love of words, especially in the court language of Latin. Something both magicians and muggles shared. Britain was a bastardization of that rule among wizards. What they spoke ranged from garbed welsh to archaic Germanian. Thankfully, a few artifacts made the gibberish clear.
He placed the final letter upon his desk, choosing to lean back in his leather seat. The cushions were goose feathers and cotton. He placed his hands behind his head and sighed, a contented smile playing across his lips.
An accord had been struck, signed in blood. When he gave the call, they would move parallel to him and his pawns. The plan was a rather ingenious one. If the muggles were allowed to band together and oppose them united, his kind ran the risk of being overwhelmed. This could be the case if they saw their attacks as a mark against their faith. A prime example of this was with Charlemagne uniting the nations of Europe to thwart the Islamic invasion through Spain.
But, if numerous uprisings occurred throughout the continent, the muggles would be too preoccupied with their own nations to worry about the army from England. It would be quite an army, too, one this world had yet to see. He dreamed of leading giants and ogres, with his own kind flying into battle, spells and enchantments laying waste to hundreds of gathered muggles.
No stone castle could withstand an enchantment. No knight decked in armor could block a spell. The revolution would be glorious, spreading like a wildfire across the world. With righteous fury they would cast down the low, and in the lull of power, he would be cast above his own. He and select few would be granted the right to dictate the world’s affairs, while the mundane wizards and witches followed like sheep.
To create a divide between classes, the sheep must be made powerless. He looked over to a glass display, only seen by his eyes via an enchantment. Within lay four wands; souvenirs. There was a place for two more to occupy. One was currently devoting his time to Salazar’s pet project, while the other had gone into hiding. Apparently, his innate paranoia had saved his life. In the ensuing war, he would surface, and then Salazar would banish both him and his knowledge to the grave.
Salazar leaned forward and pulled a feathered quill and role of parchment from within the desk. He would have to word his replies carefully. Much rode on timing, for he had to keep his fellows here from growing suspicious. A hoot earned his attention from the corner. Salazar stood and fed his faithful companion, pulling a motionless mouse from a box. Once removed it began to squirm, but its life was cut short by Aristotle’s hunger.
The gesture reminded him of the dinner awaiting him in the Great Hall. It would be interesting to see the student’s reaction to Helga’s selfish decision. He pulled out his wand tocast a quick spell. He had two hours before sundown, plenty of time to pen the letters.
Sometime around dusk, found Salazar in the Great Hall glancing up. Above floated a thousand candles, their small flames combining to illuminate the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Arrayed below on tables, too small for the large chamber, were four tables stretching from one, where sat Salazar and his fellow instructors.
Now taking his seat, Godric had finished an exhilarating speech, promoting the future of the school and the dream that bound them all together. The words rang hollow when one quarter of the students were currently absent, their table’s vacancy felt by all.
Salazar sat between Godric and Rowena, contemplating the plate of food before him. Cooked beans mixed spiced beef and steamed vegetables. It was a new dish, most of the food served was new, and it gave him pause.
“Helga’s absence has affected you that much?” Quipped Rowena next to him. He glanced to her, seeing a face with dark eyes and severe features, hair cascading down in elaborate braids, darker black mingling with steel gray strands.
“Hardly. I’m just wondering if any of this food is going to be satisfying.”
Rowena smirked. “It should be, Helga’s known for her cooking.” She watched him for a reaction.
His mouth soured a bit, before glancing to Godric, who appeared pensive as he ate. “That was a nice try, but I did promise to hold the truce.” He took a hesitant bite, but smiled when he found it delectable. “And I would kindly ask you not bait me.” What I need now is unity among us; if there is a divide, the coming war will only exacerbate it.
Rowema pouted before grinning. “It’s never any fun to play with you, Sal. You’re far too observant.”
He smiled around his spoon before finishing the bite. “And your mind becomes bored too easily. Can’t you run a few runic calculations instead of annoying me?”
She twirled her fingers and her eyes sought the stone ceiling. A moment later they refocused on him. “There, satisfied?”
He choked on his food. “I know you’re not that quick.”
She pouted, but decided a different approach. “What do you think of Helga’s decision? Of her taking her students with her?”
He kept his original thoughts to himself. “She took her students because she considers them her children. She uses them to fill a void nature left her.”
“That’s a bit harsh?”
“The truth is harsh.”
“And, why she left?” she prompted him.
“She’s doing it more to spite Gryffindor than me. She struggles under the illusion he should have some sway over my tongue.” Rowena hid a smile behind her hand. He noticed it. “You believe otherwise?”
“Yes, actually I do. You just said yourself you would hold to the truce. Who made the both of you agree to a truce in the first place?”
The memory that called forth, prior to the founding of the school, was a bitter one. “Gryffindor,” he admitted reluctantly.
“And whose making you hold to it now?” A twinkle sat in her eyes.
He opened his mouth, but realized she was again toying with him. Irritated, he chose to end the conversation. Deterred, she resumed her own meal in silence.
The students kept whispering among themselves, no doubt wondering who had made Helga angry, but none had asked the professors. Godric was moping, his dream for this night not going as planned. And Rowena, he glanced to her, was again just passing the time between her work.
“Godric?” the tall woman spoke, the teasing quality of her voice from earlier now pensive.
The broad man gathered his thoughts. “Yes?”
“I was pondering a conundrum. What happens when we are no longer around?”
Salazar’s interest was piqued. “You mean once we’re dead?”
She gave him a smile. “I thought you were ignoring me?”
“I was, until you stopped being an irritant.”
She laughed. It sounded like crystal, high and clear. “We should banter more often, Sal, you’re much better at it than God over there.”
Godric cleared his throat. “You were leading somewhere with your question?”
Rowena’s expression turned serious. “I was. For now we four know what qualities we wish. Salazar for ambition, you for courage, m self for intellect, and Helga for loyalty.”
No, Helga gets the refuse the rest of don’t want; we just call it loyalty. Salazar wisely kept that thought to himself.
Rowena continued. “What happens when we move on? Assuming the school lasts beyond us; by Merlin I hope it does. Do we appoint new Heads of House and hope they remain in line with our traits? I imagine a system like that would change with society. Maybe courage would one day be frowned upon.” Godric looked skeptical at that thought. “It’s a hypothetical, more there to get my point across than to predict what the future holds.”
“I had not thought that far ahead. Have you any ideas?” Godric directed the question to Salazar.
I’ve thought farther ahead than both of you, only my thoughts have not dwelt here. “No, I cannot say that I have.”
“Have you?” Godric asked of Rowena.
He moved her head idly, side to side, but shrugged in the end. “I’ve pondered it, and the only solution would be an impartial judge. One that knows the qualities we wish for each of our houses.”
“That would be ideal, but what if certain individuals don’t align all the way with what we wish? Would they be cast out of the school? I would not wish that.”
No, Helga would get them. Salazar smiled; it caught Gryffindor’s eye. “Don’t speak against her.”
His smile slipped. “I can think what I want, and I’ve been quiet thus far.” He kept most of the venom from his voice.
Rowena scoffed. “I’ll say it for him. The reason no student was turned away was Helga doesn’t have the same exacting conditions as us. Personally, I envisioned the school more for the elite, but since it was not my dream, I deferred to your wishes, God.”
Godric brought a hand to his head. Salazar knew how hard he and Rowena had tried pushing their vision onto him, but neither he nor Helga backed it. Through a tired voice, he spoke. “My wife dreamed of a school for all; we compromised on the houses. Enough said on that.” He waved his hand. “As to when we are no longer here, an impartial judge would be best, told what traits we wish.” His eyes became lidded, a sure sign of deep thought.
Rowena and Salazar gave him a moment. He was not the quickest of thinkers, but there was intelligence behind his blue eyes.
He opened them and turned to Salazar. “I believe an object that could see into a child’s mind would be best suited for it.”
“Legillimency? From an object?” He knit his brows in thought. “Interesting idea. Could work.” He went through several enchantments he knew, but came to a dead end. “No, it wouldn’t. Too advanced and too much precision is needed.”
Rowena piped in. “A child’s mind would not be so complex as to need anything drastic. They are pretty much an open book until they get older.”
Inspiration struck Salazar. “Not Legillimency, but a reflection.” His voice was low, Godric and Rowena leaned in, intent. “A child’s mind is open enough to where their thoughts could be reflected into the object. Complex mind magic, but doable. We enchant the object to read the thoughts and get a sense of the child, putting it into the house where it is most suited.” He smirked in satisfaction.
Godric beamed, though Rowena was now pensive. “Magic is organic. Would not an object exposed to so many minds not grow from them?”
Salazar scoffed. “Sentience cannot be reproduced through magic. Taliscus’ theory is still flawed, no matter how many minds the object would be exposed to. We set the limits and the object follows them. That is it.”
From there the argument went into Grecian magical theory on Rowena’s part, but she was countered by Salazar using Egyptian texts. Godric shook his head and resumed his meal.
The debate cooled when neither would give ground, but Salazar had thoroughly enjoyed citing his favorite texts from his studies abroad. On a closer note to home, Rowena brought up a subject had him initially worried.
“Did you hear about the attack on Treyar’s Way in Scotland?”
Salazar had heard, but he feigned ignorance. “No, I had not. Who was it from?”
“The Sons of Lancelot. They left their usual marks. A hung body cut open with a raging fire.” She shuddered.
Will she mention a group closer to here? Salazar calmed himself, knowing the group he had informed had been warned in advance of when to strike. “I try not to think about the animals making strikes against us. It tends to make me unreasonably angry. Personally, I don’t think we should be hiding in the first place but society disagrees with me.”
Rowena shrugged. “I’d just rather they not come anywhere near here.” She resumed her meal in silence, the conversation soured by the topic.
Salazar let out a relieved sigh and went to finish his food.
At the closing of the meal, Godric stood and thanked all present, again speaking of the unity that would bind all the students together. In closing he spoke. “I realize we were rash in opening the school before its completion, but the excitement of teaching fueled our decision. I would like to thank all of you for coming and dealing with the construction. Your input, like installing peepholes for the girl’s lavatory,” his eyes sought a gangly boy from his own table; the boy blushed while his fellows snickered, “have been taken into serious consideration.” A warm smile bloomed on his face.
“Now everyone, it’s time to return to your rooms. Good evening.”
The teachers watched the students file out, two smiling, while the third’s thoughts dwelt elsewhere. He cast a glance to the woman next to him, watching her wave to one of her older students. He followed her gaze and saw Rowena’s features reflected in the young lady; her daughter. The young lady had much to live up to.
With the students gone the teachers bid each other farewell, but as Rowena left for her tower, Salazar fell in step beside her. Their debate on magic had inspired him.
She arched a brow and smiled. “Intending to continue our debate in my quarters?”
The offer was tempting, she was an amazingly bright witch, but she was a little pedestrian in that area. Her failed marriage was a testament to that. “No, just wished to ask you a hypothetical.”
He must be careful here, lest he give himself away later. “How would you go about creating a society? One where magic ruled?”
Her gait slowed as they approached a flight of stairs. A breeze whipped between them, originating from a portion of the wall not yet completed, exposed to the outside air. “An interesting topic. What kind of society? Dictatorial? Imperial? Democratic?” She chuckled at the last.
“Mirroring the old one defined by Merlin.”
She pursed her lips. “A king with a circle of loyal knights?”
He sneered. “King sounds too muggle. But similar. How would you guarantee control? Merlin’s mistake was relying on the continued loyalty of the knights.”
They ascended the stairs, his strides easily matching her lithe ones. “Merlin put too much faith in the goodness of men, muggle and magician.” She took a breath. “Binding someone with an oath would work. Nothing so drastic as to have them obey your every command; they would become too reliant on you and thus impotent to make their own decisions, or accidently disobey you by forgetting a command. A broad oath would work better.” She fell silent and walked, her head stooped in thought.
He kept his face neutral, waiting for her thoughts. His thoughts were along what she dismissed. Absolute authority seemed paramount to him. He waited.
“I think something along the lines of, ‘Never bring harm to me and my kin. Always hold my interests and the interests of those under me foremost in your thoughts. Have your actions mirror my orders and wishes. Never incite rebellion or revolution and do not cheat me of what is mine.’ Something like that I think would work, outlining a few more specifics in case of war. Maybe, ‘Don’t disobey an order intentionally.’ In battle following orders I think is paramount and strict guidelines would need to be enforced.”
Salazar chimed in. “Would having the followers only sworn to one person, the lord or such, be ideal? That way kin would not interfere.”
“Are you going by heredity? I think that would be a mistake. Having a trial to see who would be the more competent leader would be the best route; outside of family.”
“I could see how that could work.” He dismissed that notion. When he founded his empire, he would leave it to his descendants.
She went on. “That way the person is more involved with the preservation of the state and not just the family’s interests. Also cuts down on favorites within the military. I’m assuming you’re going with laws imposed by martial forces?” He nodded. “Maybe a compulsory draft for all male citizens to serve? Would encourage national pride and make people more accepting of the military, not so fearful of them. Cut down on rebellions, too.”
He disliked that idea. A complacent populace believed their opinions mattered. One held in fear kept to themselves. Make retributions harsh enough and rebellions could be tapered. “Fear is a better tool, I believe. Though, pride in one’s nation could be valid.”
She chuckled. “You can’t have both.”
“Among two classes you can. The military and the populace. Pride in the nation means loyalty to the lord.” She conceded his point.
By now they had arrived at her quarters, a wooden frame of stairs descended from the ceiling, leading to the top of the tower. “I’ve had exhilarating debate, Sal.” Her tone turned seductive and her eyes gazed longingly at him. “Are you sure you wouldn’t want to continue it above?”
The offer was again tempting, but he would not cave. He would rather go to her in mutual attraction, not from her being lonely; it had been over a year since her husband’s departure. “The offer is nice, but I must get some rest for tomorrow. I have a personal project that I need to see to.” He bid her good night and took his exit, a part of him regretting his decision.
There would be no time anyway. I have to meet with Lord Harir tonight. He smiled. Time to plan by fellows motivation for conquering the muggles.
It was a dreary locale where the meeting had been chosen. Fog clogged the area, adding an oppressive feeling to the air. Tall trees, looming like giants, shadowed the clearing in which a large party of men gathered. A few wore robes of blue and black, the colors of Lord Harir. Most wore leather jerkins and linen trousers, their swords and staves at the ready. The few wearing robes had wands lying tense in their hands. The well-armed group was positioned in a rough circle around a man of low height and long hair, wore in a braided tail hanging down his back. He was adorned in lavish robes of practical design, made more for combat than style. His wand was tucked at his side.
In the dark he waited for the other, wary of his approach, praying this was not an elaborate ruse to draw him from France. He gained, however, far too much not to risk the meeting. Or so I hope. The letter had been vague. There were gasps from the men in front, their swords moving to block a slender man.
Lord Harir tensed, recognizing Salazar Slytherin; they had fought often enough on the battle field a decade gone. He relaxed, forcing himself not to draw his wand.
The newcomer stopped and stared contemptuously at the men barring his path. “Tell the dogs to move, or I will pin them to the trees with their swords.” His voice carried a chill that made the muggles step back.
Lord Harir had forgotten how prejudiced the man could be. “Let him pass, but keep your distance, Slytherin. I don’t trust you.”
“You would be a fool to.” The man slid between the guardsmen and paused a short span from the lord. “We’ve fought too often for this to be a meeting about trust.”
“Agreed. Now tell me what this meeting is about.”
“It is about a shared goal.” He smiled.
“In the letter you spoke of a mutual hatred, and a desire to see their end.”
Lord Harir sighed, tiring of the man’s ambiguity. “Well?” Slytherin began to pace, his hands clasped behind his back. Harir was not sure if he was purposely ignoring the dozen men around him, or if he truly did not care. “My patience is ending, Slytherin, if you don’t tell me what this is about, they’ll never find your corpse.”
One moment the man was walking, the next his body closed the gap and Harir found a wand at his throat. Several straggled cries came from his men, but they froze in indecision.
Calmly, Lord Harir looked at two bemused dark eyes, memories surfacing of Slytherin’s prowess with a wand. He was not the most powerful, but his speed and skill were legendary. “Are you done testing me, or shall we follow this to its completion? I may not get Gryffindor, but at least I’ll get you.”
“Who else do you hate more than anyone else, Harir? Who else could I have been talking about? I hate working with purposely obtuse individuals. Or were you afraid to hope?”
“Stand down.” His men hesitated a fraction before putting away their weapons. Slytherin waited another before doing the same. Harir spoke. “Now that you’ve proven this isn’t a trap for me, let us discuss details.”
“Details I will leave to you, though I have a suggestion that may help.”
“I at least need information.” Lord Harir spoke, irritation again rising in his tone. “I can’t just walk up and kill him, that hasn’t worked in the past.”
Slytherin slowly shook his head. “The details I will leave with you, but information is something I can provide. Critical information.”
“Well to start, he no longer has his precious staff.”
Harir paused, hoping for the statement’s truth but afraid to believe it. Why would he put aside something so powerful? He asked as much.
“Simple. In the last assault his wife was grievously injured, an injury you gave her.” Lord Harir had not known the why behind her death but was pleased he had delivered the fatal wound. Slytherin continued. “He was enraged, of course, but with her dying breath she bade him swear to put his staff away, to stop fighting. Since the last battle all but forced you from Britain, he agreed. Going so far as to continue her dream of opening a school.”
The last was hard to believe. That the lion, unyielding in battle and without fear, would turn away from bloodshed to teach students magic. “This is not a ruse?”
“Believe it, because he convinced myself, Rowena, and Helga to join him.”
Lord Harir narrowed his eyes, a hand rubbing his chin. “If you joined in this cause, why do you wish him dead?”
Slytherin paused in his pacing. “My reasons are my own.”
“Do you truly expect me to go on your word for this, after all the years you two have worked together?”
Slytherin rolled his eyes. “I’ve always put my own interests first. In the war, my interests lay in forcing you from Britain. Now they involve my companion’s death. The reason? He dies, I gain control of the school. If it’s you killing him, my hands are washed of the incident.”
“That’s it?” Harir shook his head, wondering why anyone would kill for such a petty reason.
Slytherin’s eyes darted to him, cold and calculating. Lord Harir smothered a shiver. “Yes, that’s it. I need no other reason. Take this as a lesson to never stand in my way.”
Several of the men tightened their grips on their weapons. Lord Harir waved away their fears. “What other information can you provide me? A location, perhaps?”
Slytherin nodded. “Yes, the location of the school.”
“Wait. Why would I attack the school when you and the others will be there? What of the defenses? Do you expect me to fight my way through them, risking my life? You hinted in the letter this would be a simple affair.”
Slytherin made a calming gesture. “It will be a simple affair. The only professor there will be Gryffindor. Myself and the others will be attending a gathering in Diaigon Alley. As to the castle’s defenses? There are none. We rely on concealment for our safety.”
“Gryffindor actually went with that? After the way he re-enforced Tartiga?”
Slytherin smiled. “It was at my suggestion. It is far easier to maintain a few wards than guardsmen, especially around a school.”
“So where is it at?” Harir could not keep the excitement from his voice.
“That back water village?” he asked, incredulous.
“As I said, we rely more on concealment. Though, the big reasoning is his wife was born there.”
“I see.” He may hate Gryffindor for what he did to his father, but he could still respect the man for his empathetic nature. “What day will you be away?”
Slytherin’s hands clasped together. “We will be away on the thirty-first of July, leaving the school vulnerable to you and your men.” He glanced to either side. “Anything else you need to know?”
“Yes, you mentioned a suggestion?”
“Ah yes, approach from the lake. If you avoid the village they won’t come to Gryffindor’s aid.”
“What in that pigsty could oppose me?”
Slytherin shrugged. “The more powerful wards are located by the village, but the choice is yours.”
Lord Harir contemplated a moment before nodding. “I’ll take your advice. If there’s nothing else, I would rather we parted ways.”
“I concur.” Slytherin offered a quick bow before taking his leave.
A man sharing his features Lord Harir’s features approached. “I feel dirty just being involved with him.” Harir agreed. His brother turned to him, putting his wand away. “I don’t trust him or this idea. It’s too convenient.”
“I concur, but we’ll not get another opportunity like this.” Anger sparked in his eyes.
His brother placed a hand on his shoulder. “I understand your hate, I as well long for Gryffindor’s death for killing father, but this doesn’t sit right with me. We can’t trust the snake.”
“We’ll won’t get another chance, we can’t afford to go to war with Britain again. As much as I would like to.”
“What about his connections with the French families, Delacour and Malfoi? Does that not worry you? How does that play into him being a lowly school master?”
“He also has connections with the Zabini’s in Italy, but they are nothing more than simple correspondences.”
“All four share hatred for muggles, beyond the pale of most wizards.”
Harir narrowed his eyes. “You’re grasping at straws.”
His brother ran a hand through his hair and began to pace. “Maybe I’m just seeing connections where hate is blinding you. What about Guilluame Lectuer’s death a few years ago? That fire killed him and destroyed his family’s notes on wand-making.”
Harir blinked, taking a moment to adjust in the change of conversation. “What does that have to do with Slytherin?”
“A few months ago,” his brother continued, “the German wandmaker, Gregorovitch died in the night with his apprentice; their notes were never recovered.”
Harir reigned in his impatience. “And?”
“Don’t you see! Ever since the war the wandmakers of Europe have been dying! There’s only one left and he’s in Britain.”
Harir paused, unaware of the other wand-maker’s fates. Placed together it was troubling. “It makes no sense to link those to Slytherin. He is just a man wishing to replace his friend as head of a school.”
“You’re being blinded by hate! There’s more to him that just that. There has to be more than just him wanting Gryffindor’s position.”
Harir scoffed. “Based on what? Your paranoid delusions?”
“Fine, you won’t see those connection, but, please, listen to reason. He was Gryffindor’s right-hand man in the war. Why would he suddenly turn on him just for control of a school?” He shook his head.
“Nothing Slytherin did in the war made much sense, either. Why would he leave the academy in Egypt just to participate in the war? No one summoned or asked him.”
“That proves my point.”
Harir growled. “No, it doesn’t. It proves no one can know his motives.”
“Then we can’t trust him.”
“I’ll not let this opportunity slip away!”
His brother threw his hands up in exasperation. “You’re blinded by your hate. Isn’t killing his wife enough for you?”
Harir whirled on his brother. “No, it’s not! And I see your true colors now. You never cared if father had lived or died, only that he was gone.” Harir tried to meet his brother’s eyes, searching for the truth, but the sibling looked away, his sight seeking the ground. “I see.”
His brother spoke in a low tone. “You were his favorite. He didn’t treat you like a dog.”
Disgusted, Harir dismissed the man with a contemptuous wave of his hand. With knowing his brother’s feelings for their late father, the sibling’s argument went up in smoke. “Men, gather yourselves, were returning to camp!”
He motioned over his master-at-arms and began detailing a plan of attack. The date was the twenty-fifth of July; they had six days to scout the area and get into position. He had brought a solid twenty wizards and one hundred men with him; small enough to slip through Britain undetected. He prayed it would enough for the attack. Prayed it would be enough to see Gryffindor’s head removed from his body.
July the thirty-first came quickly for Salazar and the other teachers. The regular morning classes were canceled, in lieu of the gathering at Diaigon Alley. The country’s families, pureblood and otherwise, were gathering for the teachers to pitch their idea. If successful, the next year’s class could double. Between them they only had roughly twenty-five students per house. A paltry number to Gryffindor, who dreamed the school becoming one where wizards from around the world would attend. Salazar thought that an exaggeration and knew it would never come to pass. His plans would see to that.
He passed a window on the way to Gryffindor’s quarters, seeing the pristine lake reflect sunlight. He smirked. The wards around the castle were strongest there and would alert the people of Hogsmeade to trouble. If his timing were right, the Sons of Lancelot would begin their assault then.
Approaching Godric’s door, he knocked. A muffled voice bid him enter. Within, Salazar saw Godric putting the final touches on his crimson and gold robes. “As usual, you are the last one to be ready.”
Godric scoffed. “If the families weren’t so doubting, this foolish gathering wouldn’t be necessary.”
Salazar chuckled. “Merlin forbid they have any doubts about the great Godric Gryffindor, warlord and warmonger, being able to teach students anything besides killing.”
Godric paused in his adjustments to glare at his friend. “Very funny.”
“Admit it, you just don’t like getting dressed up.”
“Fine, I hate wearing outlandish clothing so I can spend the day licking people’s boots.” With furious hands he fumbled with several clasps. He growled in frustration.
Salazar, taking pity, drew his wand and with a wave and a word, the clasps righted themselves.
Godric turned to glare again. Salazar ignored it. “You really should learn the charms for your dress-robes; they aren’t all that complicated.”
Godric sighed, cast one last look at himself in the mirror, and walked towards the door. “Last time I tried to learn them I almost hung myself from the rafters.”
Salazar hid a smile behind a gloved hand. “Forgive me then, I did not realize they were that difficult.”
“Bah.” Gryffindor shouldered past him, exiting his room; Salazar fell in step beside him. The chatted idly about the weather and next month’s curriculum until they entered the Great Hall, where Helga and Rowena awaited them.
Rowena always dressed better than Helga, whose tastes ran rather plain. Yellow also looked atrocious on her. The four founders greeted each other amiably, Helga’s desertion the night prior going unmentioned. Once more, they were one unit, a single cause driving them all. Hopefully, by the day’s end, that driving force would be diverted elsewhere. Salazar realized his hands were slick with sweat. He rubbed them on his robes, trying to contain his nervous energy.
“Well, shall we be off?” he asked with a disarming smile.
As one they left the Great Hall, several of the students seeing them out. Brooms were handed over and charms applied to keep their hair and robes in pristine condition. As they lifted into the air, Salazar cast a final look to the school that had been his home this past year. A part of him regretted what would become of his students, tallying in his mind which were skilled enough to survive. He also realized that the more dead, the more motivated the rest of wizarding world would be.
Into the sky they climbed, their students bidding them a fond, farewell wave.
Though the wind blew through their hair and clothes, disheveling them, they spoke using magical convenience. “I thought you said you hated licking boots?” Salazar spoke through a grin.
Godric’s smiled wide. “When the boots are offering me their galleons, I don’t mind keeping them clean.”
Rowena chuckled behind them. Helga mirrored the gesture. Salazar only shook his head, remembering his fellow’s heartfelt speech. Though, it had been his and Rowena’s breakdown of the planned curriculum that swayed the most. Either way, teaching next year would not be a financial drain. It was almost sad those promised funds would not go towards teaching children.
In the distance, he could make out the lake, with a forest dominating its west banks. The gathering had been a distraction for Salazar, keeping his anxiety at bay. Did the attack go well? Were the Sons of Lancelot able to work their usual brutality? Would it be enough to sway his fellows? His gut clenched at the possible things that could have gone wrong.
Godric gave him a worried glance. “You look sick.”
Salazar waved away his concern. “Just memories of a childhood broom accident coming to mind.” He looked forward, and the tension in his shoulders vanished as he saw a warm glow coming from Hogsmeade. He kept a giddy smile from his face.
Godric followed his gaze, his smile vanishing.
“Something’s wrong.” Helga said, her face pale.
“Don’t jump to conclusions. It could be a charm gone wrong. The Stars know I’ve made a few miscalculations.” Despite her words, Rowena’s voice shook.
They neared the castle and noticed a lack of lights from the windows. No one had been around to light them. As they descended they saw marks on the stone walls, along with bodies littering the front lawn. Helga’s breathing deepened. They landed, their eyes drawn to the spectacle in the entrance of the Great Hall.
There, dangling from ropes, absent of clothing, were a five young bodies. The heads were swollen and purple, while various red streaks marred their skin, leading Salazar to wonder what they had died from; lack of blood or lack of oxygen.
Due to the grotesque faces, they could not identify the bodies. Gryffindor was the first to turn away, a bright light from his wand bathing the lawn. He went to the first body, bending down to check it for life. Salazar saw an arrow jutting from its chest. Salazar clapped his hands, pulling the ladies from a daze. “Come on, we must check for survivors!”
As one they went from body to body, whether it were muggle, grown wizard, or child, checking for life. Three survivors were found, one they knew would die by dawn. The wound on his neck was from a nasty curse. The tattoo on his right palm, a cross over a pentagram, marked him as a Son of Lancelot. None took pity on him.
Once the lawn had been scoured, they moved into the castle, praying some had found refuge within. To their delight, a knot of children emerged into the Great Hall; Godric’s light drew them out of hiding. Through tears and pale faces, they tried to recount the massacre, but Godric bid them to silence. “I can already guess what happened.” He cast a look to the muggle body found earlier.
What the students did tell the teachers were that some students fled into the forest, hoping to find refuge among the centaurs. Rowena shook her head sadly, knowing all they would find would be trodden-upon corpses. There had been an enmity between the centaur and magical populace for centuries.
Falling into old habits, established in the last war, Godric issued orders for the others to follow. Helga was bid to see to the wounded, that slowly increased as more survivors were found. Rowena and Salazar were sent to Hogsmeade to assess the situation. On arrival they were met with dozens of fires, while wizards struggled to put out the flames. Salazar and Rowena joined in the effort, asking why the fire was still raging.
“Why? Those damned muggles used enchanted-rods! This shit is worse than fiendfyre!”
Into the night they struggled. With Rowena’s knowledge, they identified it as Hades’ Wrath, a fire that had to be divided then smothered. Close to dawn all that remained were embers spewing smoke into the air.
The survivors met with Salazar and Rowena, giving a tale of defense and surprise. Of how an armed force attacked Hogwarts, and the town gathered to help repel them; informed by the wards surrounding the castle. In the ensuing conflict, none were ready for a force of muggles sweeping in armed with magical instruments. The Sons of Lancelot slaughtered whole sections of the town, while the bulk went to the school. They took the battling groups by surprise, overwhelming both.
In the chaos the castle was invaded, the foreign wizards repulsed, and the town set ablaze. Afterwards they left their signature upon the castle and several homes. As Rowena and Salazar gathered to leave, one man asked a single question. “How did they come to have magical instruments? What traitor would give them to those fanatics?”
Rowena had no answer, but Salazar schooled his voice. “A spiteful one is who.” With that enigmatic response, they left.
On the fly back, Rowena spoke. “I can’t put into words my anger, Sal.” She shook her head, her grip tightening on the broom. “How does one cope with a nightmare like this?” He head the restrained rage in her voice.
Salazar school his voice. “With anger and vengeance. After a strike like this, those animals do not deserve to live.”
Salazar’s breath hitched; he prayed she would follow his lead. “No, all muggles. They fear us and attack us. We fear them and we cower. Now our students have suffered for our cowardice.”
Rowena’s eyes burned with tears, her voice cracking. “When animals attack us, we put them down.”
Salazar was elated. Now I must sway two others. He thought Helga would be the hardest, but he had a feeling Gryffindor would stubbornly hold on to his oath.
Their arrival back at the school, was one filled with joy. Several groups of students had returned from hiding in the surround lands, avoiding the centaurs as best they could. One group, led by an older Ravenclaw, had hid in the depths of the lake. The five bodies decorating the doorway had been taken down and identified. Among them was Rowena’s daughter.
She collapsed immediately into a fit of tears. The only one comforting her were her students. Salazar left her to her grief, seeking out Gryffindor at the back of the hall.
As he wound through the corpses he saw Helga wiping tears from her eyes, he noted a lack of living students around her. He went to her, a kind look on his face. She was kneeling over a body. As he loomed, she looked up and he saw a fierce determination within her. He placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry. They deserved better than to be butchered.”
She was silent a moment. “Death is too good a punishment for the animals that did this.”
“Reprisal for them will not stop the problem. Vengence on the group alone won’t stop the problem.” He left her on that note, hoping his words would get her mind working.
He found Gryffindor, and they exchanged news. Salazar trading the circumstances at the village with the tale of the school. The older students had put up a defense against the foreign invaders, but had been taken by surprise by the Sons of Lancelot. In the ensuing madness most fled, but they had been hunted down. Of the hundred students, thirty had survived.
Salazar felt nothing but glee his plan had gone so well. Yet, he was nervous suddenly, realizing the next few minutes would determine the fate of the world.
“What will our reprisal be?” His voice was tense.
Godric looked to his hands, seeing the blood upon them. His eyes closed and his hands clenched. “We will rebuild. We will start anew. We will protect the school to prevent this from happening again.”
I must appear genuine. “That’s it!” Salazar roared, his composure lost. “That’s your response to them slaughtering us like animals!”
Godric opened his eyes, and Salazar saw restrained anger blazing in them. He’s struggling with his oath. “I’m no longer a warrior.” His hands were shaking. “I am a teacher now.”
“Then enjoy teaching corpses.”
“I am a teacher, Salazar, nothing more!” His voice cracked with emotion, and he turned away to face the wall. Head bowed, armed braced against the stone wall, he whispered, “I am a teacher.”
Salazar scoffed and drew closer, his voice low. “Years ago I returned from Egypt where ancient wizards had been worshipped like Gods. The populace still clung to old traditions set down by those same men. I came here to find the opposite. To find a muggle culture bereft of our influence. Of a wizarding culture acting like cowards, hiding their heads in the dirt, pretending if they remained quiet enough, the muggles would not notice them.”
Salazar heard a growl from his friend’s throat. He pressed on. “We’ve tried that method for decades, and still the animals pick us off one by one. Funded by their lords who act mighty. Funded by their faith who say they are doing God’s work. We’ve let the animals walk over us, and now this generation’s greatest warrior will let the largest massacre in our history go without reprisal. Until now, I was proud to call you friend.”
A shudder went through Godric’s body. Salazar noted Helga approaching them, curiosity and vengeance burning in her eyes. Salazar spoke louder. “Do you know who lead the attack before the Sons swept in? Lord Harir, I recognized the colors his men wore. I imagine he was seeking vengeance for what you did to his father. Will you let his actions go unpunished? Will you let him go unscathed? Will you let Elsabeth’s death go without reprisal?”
This man is incredibly stubborn. “I’m tired of hiding, Godric, tired of wondering if they’ll come for me in the night. I’m tired of this world being led by sheep that will kill children.”
A hoarse voice escape Godric. “Not all muggles are like that.”
Livid, Salazar responded. “Go ask them if they care! Go ask if they would weep for our young! If they would punish those that did this? Face it, you fool, Merlin was wrong! We can’t live with them, because fear rules them as much as it rules us. The difference? They turn to violence, where as we turn to cowardice. I’m tired of being a coward living in fear. I think it’s time we took the fight to the muggles. Showed them why they should fear us.”
“Merlin showed us wisdom in restraint. Showed us the good side of everyone,” Gryffindor said in a low voice.
Rowena, through bloodshot eyes, responded. “Lancelot proved him and Camelot wrong by bedding Guinevere. He did it out of spite for what Merlin was, but the past should not hold sway over our vengeance, at least that is what I believe this conversation is about?” She directed the question to Salazar, who nodded. “I take it you are remembering your oath to your wife?”
Godric, still facing the wall, nodded.
“I see.” She drew a breath. “My husband left me a beautiful daughter, who, though not as brilliant as I, deserved better than to be strung up and mutilated. Tell me I should walk away. Tell me I should continue my work, turning a blind eye to what the muggles did this day.”
“Not all muggles are responsible for this. Only the Sons of Lancelot.”
Salazar tried not to smile. He had swayed Rowena, and Godric was caving.
Rowena went on. “Who were funded by other muggles. To stop a disease you don’t just treat the infected area, you have to cure the body.”
Godric shook his head.
Helga, small and stout, inserted herself between the wall and Godric. She forced him back, forced him to look into her eyes. “My babies are dead. All of them. Do you know why? Because they fought to the death, allowing others to escape.”
Godric’s voice choked. “I’m sorry.”
“I am, too. If we destroy the Sons of Lancelot, another group will replace them.” She looked to the ground. “Godric, I refuse to go through this again. I can’t—I won’t teach anymore, unless you can promise this won’t happen again.” She looked up, tears welling at the corner of her eyes. “Can you promise me that?”
Salazar had swayed her, only Gryffindor’s resolve remained.
“No, I can’t.”
“Then your dream dies today.” She turned away and Godric saw his other fellows staring at him, waiting. He released a heavy sigh.
In a quiet voice, he uttered, “Elsabeth, I’m sorry.”
Here, at this moment, is when history took different path; where wizards rose up across Europe and Britain, righteous fury fueling their anger. Here is when wizards began their ascent, promising to never let muggles hold sway over them again. Here was the first Revolution’s Eve.