A throb ran up his entire form. Salazar groaned into his pillow and ignored the rough tongue slicking back his wild head of hair. It took him another minute to wake up enough to realize he had Omorose lounging on his back, grooming him.
He should probably get up. Sleeping through the aches and pains of training with Godric sounded better. It felt like his entire body was one giant bruise. The still settling ritual tattoos didn’t help the situation either.
At least he’d have the advantage of stabbing someone, one day. Pulling a sword on someone would be more shocking than actually stabbing the person in this day and age. A knife would probably be more practical.
Omorose stuck her nose against an ear. Eyes snapped open and a hand shot up to push her away before he realized what he was doing.
He was awake.
The kneazle climbed off his back and nudged him again. Salazar forced himself up with a loud groan. His arms trembled; his sides throbbed.
His cat chirruped at him.
“Gods,” Salazar groaned out as he tugged at his hair, “You want bacon, don’t you?”
She responded with a flick of her lion tail and stalked over to the dorm door.
Salazar groaned again but forced himself up and dressed. His fellow first years were gone, meaning it was late. He needed to check in on Godric before classes started. Hopefully Gryffindor had found his schedule.
Godric was slumped on a bench at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. His fellow first years sat near him but he was slightly separated from them. And distracted. Salazar sank down besides Godric and spied the uneaten porridge. Omorose jumped up between them and Salazar offered her a tiny piece of bacon.
A schedule was pushed to Salazar without any preamble. Salazar glanced from the parchment to Godric. His brother was emulsifying his porridge, gaze a thousand years away.
He hesitated but no words came to mind. Instead, Salazar pulled out his pen and turned to the schedule. He noted down the professor and room each class was in, not just where to find it. (DADA was in the “Garlic room”, Transfiguration was in Rowena’s classroom, and, most importantly, Charms was in Godric’s old room.) The founder then marked out times they could meet so Godric could beat him up.—Today, Salazar realized with a sigh, after their herbology class would work.—He stared at the parchment for a moment before he added the book titles and the latest homework he had for each class. It was probably the same homework for Godric.
His brother accepted the parchment back to frown over the scribblings.
Dull, hazel eyes finally looked up at him. “See you in herbology.”
“Go-Neville…” Salazar hesitated, uncertain what to say beyond what he had already said.
Godric’s expression cleared up for a moment. “Training after…” He frowned at something but finished his words slowly, “the midday meal?”
Salazar nodded. “Yes, after lunch.”
“Right,” Godric muttered as he rose with his fellow Gryffindors, thoughts clearly turning internally once more, “lunch.”
Omorose meowed at Godric, indignant. Godric startled, gaze dropped to the feline.
Salazar raised a brow. “Yes...her?”
Gryffindor looked back up at him with a frown. “Gods...she’s yours, isn’t she?”
“I wouldn’t say she’s mine so much as I’m hers at this point.” Salazar admitted.
Godric offered a faint grin, shoulders relaxing from a tension Salazar hadn’t noticed until it was gone. “Only you….please tell me you finally have a snake around here somewhere?”
A bark pulled his attention from Godric. Hedwig sat in front of him with Mr. Fortescue’s latest history discussion. Salazar offered her a piece of bacon before he frowned at her and Omorose. He had the distinct feeling he was just their vehicle to food.
Godric snorted in amusement as Salazar narrowed his gaze at the two creatures.
“Neville, come on!” called Dean.
Godric flinched slightly at the name, his expression closed up once more but he stalked after his fellow classmates.
The Slytherin founder watched his brother walk away, feeling lost. Now that he knew what to look for in this new form, he could see the tension in his brother. He had a whole list of things to investigate and fix. His brother superseded them all. But he had no idea what he could do to help.
“The groves,” Salazar muttered to himself, deciding to deal with what he could instead of spoiled animals and adjusting brothers. He had three more groves to visit and the hearthstone. He made a face down at Omorose. “After training .”
Exhaustion hung off Godric like a cloak. History had dragged along until he had questioned even rising from bed for it and now this. He struggled to control his emotions as he stared at the third floor classroom—His classroom. Once. A long time ago. (Two days ago, to his memory.)
The torchlight flickered in warning and he mentally yanked his rising ire down. The burning sensation coursing through his chest settled along with the firelight.
It was changed. Protective magic was gone around the main aisle, the dueling ramp missing. All the furniture had been replaced. Images of charmwork covered the wall behind some odd book stacked chair. Windows looked out the third story, facing the wrong direction.
Godric hadn’t thought such a change could hurt. Losing Salazar hurt . This should not. But it did.
“Neville,” hissed the bushy haired girl—Hermione—as she nodded her head towards an empty chair, “Get to your seat!”
He forced himself to comply. A Hufflepuff boy sat beside him. Godric had no idea who he was. Neville probably knew but the knowledge didn’t rise to mind.
A tiny, elderly man entered with a chirpy, “Good morning!”
Salazar had written Professor Flitwick in the margins of his schedule. (His brother had written a warning that it was in his classroom, too. He should have read the notes in more detail.) Godric paused at a note about homework for color changing charmwork. He couldn’t recall any parchment with such details. The reincarnate flipped open one of the books for the class and scanned the various pieces of parchment he had re-stuffed it with. Most were empty, waiting for notes though he still had the notebook from Salazar. Nothing looked like this homework.
“Please pass up your eight inches on color changing charms!” called the professor as he settled into a seat at the top of a tall stack of books.
Godric flipped through his things again before giving up. The Hufflepuff glanced at him in concern but didn’t say anything. He would just have to deal with the consequences in not turning anything in.
Flitwick flicked his wand about, causing multiple stacks of parchment to float to his desk and into one neat pile. Another flick, followed by a swosh saw plain gray scarves rise from a box and float to each student.
The Gryffindor founder regarded the small professor with renewed interest. Professor Flitwick was skilled at silently chaining multiple charms together. It was a sign of a skilled fighter.
A scarf settled on the table before him. It was a thick, undyed weaved wool perfect to fight the Scottish winters.
“Wands out!” called Flitwick before he glanced at them all. At the sight of all the various wands he nodded to himself and raised his own. “Now, first repeat the motion with me, children. Flick up, flick down, and tap.”
Godric huffed to himself as he followed the instructions. He moved Neville’s silvery wand in tandem with the rest of the children. Neville’s peers all seemed to thrum with excitement. It made Godric wonder if this was their first spell casting.
“Very good, very good!” cried the dimitive professor. “Now imagine your house colors...Have them in mind?”
“Yes!” announced Hermione and a few other children while most nodded. Many had their eyes squeezed shut as they imagined the colors. A few even had their brows and nose wrinkled from concentrating so hard. (Godric’s emotions settled as he watched children be adorable. Too bad the lot would be in the awkward teenage stage soon.)
“Move your wands and pronounce the spell. Keep the colors in mind!”
Godric looked down at his scarf before he imagined it the red and gold stripe pattern he had seen worn by various children. He flicked his wand up and down, the tip tapping onto the wool as he pronounced the latin color changing spell.
“Very good Miss Granger! Five points to Gryffindor.” called Professor Flitwick. “Everyone take a moment to look at her scarf. This is what you should be aiming for!”
His gaze lifted from the dull gray scarf before him and found a rainbow of scarves throughout the room. The Hufflepuff before him had a scarf that was vibrant yellow on one end and a soft cream on the other. Seamus’s had one covered in a splatter of red and brown. Dean’s had only some yarn colored gold.
Hermione’s was the proper red and gold, though it was worn looking as she hadn’t been able to entirely forget the original gray tone. The girl sat straight, preening under the attention. Another redheaded boy, this time marked as one of Helga’s and that once more reminded Godric of his son, sat with a scowl at her side.
Godric narrowed his eyes and tried to spy any hint of future issues. Such a sharp response to another’s success was an unpleasant indicator of future turmoil. If the two had been boys, he’d let them fight it out.—Godric frowned….Should he let them fight it out now? He had no idea how things were handled this day and age. Were girls as vicious and vindictive as they had been a thousand years ago? Or would this settle with a simple pummeling between the two?
He turned to his deskmate, deciding to not worry about it. (He wasn’t a teacher now. It shouldn’t be his problem to worry about.)
The Hufflepuff looked at him in concern. “You alright?”
“Yes?” Godric answered, his tone making it more of a question.
The brunet frowned as he said, “You got this, you know? Just try again.”
Godric stared blankly for a moment before he recalled the scarf. “Right,” he said as he turned back to the object.
This time he took a moment to sink into his core and pull a tiny string of magic out from the chaos of residue trapping his magic away. This should be instinctual. What wasn’t should still happen with some effort and aid from the wand. That it didn’t, indicated more issues than just the residue.
Upon opening his eyes, he flicked Neville’s wand about and said the required latin as he imagined the gold and red stripes. He could feel the string of his core magic unfurl up his arm, into his fingers, and press into the wand. This time, he refused to let the wand refuse his magic. He kept pushing.
Smoke sizzled out of the wand tip as the wand flat out refused to take in the magic. His magic twisted in agitation across his fingertips as the wand refused it. Frustration stabbed through him before he could control himself. His magic bypassed the smoking wand and met wool. Flames burst up towards the ceiling, consuming the gray scarf in seconds.
Children sprang back with cries of horror and freight. Godric jerked back with a grimace. Chairs scratched across the floor. The fire roared high before Godric yanked his magic from the flame. It faded towards nothing.
A stream of water arced through the air and killed the fire before it became obvious it was going to die on its own. Professor Flitwick was before him a moment later, banishing the water and remains of the ruined wool.
Godric sank back in his chair and stared down at the silvery wand with a deep set frown. Was Neville’s wand refusing him because it could sense Godric was not Neville? (Was this the proof he needed to convince Salazar?—It wasn’t, Sally already knew there was an issue with the thing.)
The professor pulled the class’s attention back to their own scarves before he walked over to Godric. The Hufflepuff had been moved to a different section and the dimitive professor claimed the recently vacated seat.
“Mr. Longbottom,” Flitwick said quietly, “I know you must be excited to make your house scarf but...it may be advantageous for you to return to the theory and practice more with the wood block...does that sound like a plan?”
Godric stared blankly, feeling despondent. Only the knowledge that Neville had such issues kept him from blaming himself. He nodded in agreement all the while thinking of how he had never had such issues. This was all the proof he needed that he wasn’t Neville Longbottom. (The fire pointed to otherwise.)
For the rest of the class the professor had him reading one of the books. Reading was a strange experience. If he thought too hard the words became foreign and strange—and strangely familiar with his knowledge of latin.—If he didn’t think too hard, the reading came naturally for all that it was an ability he had stolen from the boy he was possessing.
By the end of the class he was ready for classes to be over for the day. All he wanted to do was vent his frustrations. He needed to move . A sword, a wood post, and a few hours was all he needed. Hell, digging in dirt would help. The plants might not survive but it was doing something.
He couldn’t vanish, though. Neville already had issues in class, Godric skipping them would not help the child. Godric pulled his schedule out as he trailed after Seamus and Dean. The next class was defense against the dark arts.
He frowned as he debated on what could be considered dark arts. Demon summoning, human sacrifice, and certain mass area-wide or blood targeting war spells were all that came to mind. None of those were things he’d teach children to combat. That was magic children were taught to flee from, not defend against.
The class was on the second floor. His eyebrows shot up as he read Sally’s warning about garlic. Why would the defense class have garlic in it?
“Stairs always seem to come when we need it during class but never outside of class,” grumbled Seamus, pulling Godric’s attention to the grand staircase. A set of stairs was slowly shifting to their floor so they could travel down to the next.
“Rowena Ravenclaw came up with the ever changing layout of Hogwarts,” Hermione stated excitedly, “It was a way to optimize the building materials and castle layout for generations after her time. The staircases move on a schedule unless an emergency occurs or the Headmaster forces them to move for him.”
“Where’d you read that?” asked Godric, feeling mildly bewildered.
It had been a group decision to tie the castle to the leyline crossing for various reasons but that hadn’t included the stairs constantly moving. They had originally planned to make the stairs vanish if needed. The stairs moved because Sally and Rowena got drunk with the rest of them for once and decided it was a great time to enchant something. There hadn’t been any logic behind the decision.
They hadn’t been able to untangle the magic no matter what they tried. It has been as if the castle had liked the ever-moving stairs.—Godric’s eyebrows shot up at the realization that she very well might have. And he could just ask her to finally get an answer.
Sally and Wena had eventually come up with a few additions to the enchantments. Those additions were what made the staircases shift away from intruders and move at a reasonable timeline. The months of dealing with staircases randomingly moving whichever way and at whatever time magic wanted had been bloody ridiculous. It was the reason they created so many hidden passageways. Though, the passages hadn’t become hidden until after the staircases started working on a schedule.
“ Hogwarts: A History !” Hermione said with a wide, toothy smile that dropped as two of the other Gryffindor girls said the same at the same time but with a taunting quality to their voices.
Godric frowned at the two girls.
The brunette of the pair of taunting children tilted her chin up defiantly at him and said to Hermione, “You’ve read that, what, t en times ?”
“ This month ,” added the darker colored girl.
Hermione flushed. Embarrassment and annoyance warred across her face.
The railing shifted out of the way, allowing them access to the staircase down to the second floor. The pack of children headed down, most fleeing the brewing fight. Hermione pressed her lips together, eyes shining a little too brightly as she stared at her roommates but she didn’t say anything. Instead she jutted her nose in the air and stomped down the stairs.
Godric watched as the rest slowly followed. The drama of children had not changed over the thousand years. It wasn’t particularly surprising, just another thing he didn’t want to deal with right now.
He crossed Salazar’s path on the grand staircase as he reluctantly followed his supposed peers. His brother’s expression was pinched as if he was in pain. Godric’s frustration was swallowed by worry. He mentally latched onto the bonds but felt nothing worrying.
Godric caught his brother’s arm as Sally followed his fellow Slytherins, seemingly not noticing Godric.
Emerald eyes snapped up. A guarded expression faded at recognizing Godric. Then Slytherin’s gaze swept over him and he stated, “After lunch,” as a reminder of their future exercise.
The knowledge that he would be able to beat something up soon helped his own issues but did not explain Salazar’s problem. He had never worried about pain that didn’t spike through their bonds before but this wasn’t back then. (Blood and too pale skin, and glazed, pained eyes that dulled to a lifelessness he never wanted to see again flashed across his mind.)
Godric tugged Salazar to the right side of the stairs so others could pass them. “What’s wrong?”
Sally frowned. “Wha–”
“You are hurt.” Godric snapped, his grip tightened on Salazar’s arm. Torchlights flared throughout the stairwell.
His brother’s expression flickered with surprise, eyes snapped to the closest torch and back. His voice was barely above a whisper as he spoke, “Godric, I’m fine.” Emerald eyes searched Godric’s face. “I’m here. I’m not leaving.”
“You’re still in pain.”
Sally frowned at him before he leaned against the railing and heaved a sigh. “It’s just a migraine...Professor Quirrell stutters and I cannot…” Salazar rubbed at his forehead as he closed his eyes with another sigh. Fingers pressed in a circle over the runic scar on his brow. “...it keeps giving me a headache.”
Godric stared at the scar, really looking at it for the first time. It was a vibrant red as if new and irritated. Sally had said he had gotten it years ago from surviving a killing spell.
Salazar pulled away from him. “Not now.—We’ve class.”
He blinked, startled at the abrupt response. His brother quickly stalked up the stairs away from him, almost like he was fleeing. There was something—possibly many things—Salazar wasn’t telling him.
The founder reluctantly headed down to class. It was obvious now that he thought about it. A thousand years was a long time for things to deteriorate. He could imagine a score of possible issues Salazar had found, some involving the school and some because of the mass removal of the tertiary triad members—the druids had a hundred different duties neglected at their extinction.
He would not learn of any of it until he settled in, regained his supposed lost memories, and accepted his new life as Neville Longbottom. Godric wondered how he could change Salazar’s mind. Could he convince his brother to give the body back to the child, Harry, if there were so many things Salazar had deemed needed fixing?
No, not likely.
Godric grimaced at a painting as he came to the conclusion. The only way to give the bodies back to the children was to take care of the issues Sally had found. To do that he was supposed to accept being Neville.
The boy stopped.—He could pretend to accept the outrageous idea that he was Neville.
A grim smile stretched across his too young face.—One of the portraits squeaked before fleeing it’s frame.—The sooner this was handled the sooner the children would regain their lives.
His smile dropped. The sooner it was done, the sooner Sally would be dead once more. He would be dead too but he had had a long life. (Cut short by a vindictive bitch.)
Decision made, the boy headed to class.
It really did stink of overly ripe garlic, Godric realized as he entered the defense classroom. Salazar’s note about the room had seemed like an odd description but now he wondered if it hadn’t been a warning instead. He paused and watched the children claim seats, waiting for the free ones to become apparent.
There was an empty seat at Hermoine’s side. Like in astronomy, it was upfront and center. Godric reluctantly walked through the center aisle to reach it. Neville had made a terrible mistake in seats. Godric would have prefered a spot in the back.
The professor was seated at his desk at the front. He was a tall, thin man, almost gaunt looking. A large, purple turban sat on the top of his head. Godric frowned at the man. There was no obvious reason for the turban. The man was pale enough to be using it to protect a bald head but Scotland wasn’t a desert that would promote such attire. Nor did he have the look of any of the religious orders that prefered head coverings. Shadows under his eyes and a faint twitch to one of them hinted at paranoia. Or a medical problem. Over all, the man didn’t come across as a skilled warrior or defender against whatever the dark arts were.
“Settle d-d-down!” called the man as he rose. He walked around his desk and stopped before the class, just a few feet from Godric.
Godric’s nose wrinkled as a stench hit him in the face. While the room smelled of garlic, Professor Quirrell stank of rot on top of the overripe garlic. He clearly needed to change out the bulbs and wash the turban more often.
“Settle d-d-d-down class!” Quirrell called out again, looking slightly flustered.
Godric stared. The rest of the children continued to chatter and giggle and snicker away behind him. Professor Quirrell had no respect from the children. His stutter made it difficult. Godric imagined the garlic didn’t help things.
The Professor wrung his hands as he looked over the disobedient class. “Tod-day we’ll be coverin–”
“Professor!” cried out Seamus from the very back, a hitch to his voice hinted at a stifled laugh, “Professor, behind you!”
“Vampire!” called the red headed Hufflepuff.
Quirrell squeaked and twirled about, his loose robes and the end of his ruban flew about, tangling around his arms and legs. His wand had been pulled out but the turban’s end wrapped around it and yanked it from the flimsy grip. A stuttered, half stifled gasp escaped the man as a strange, transparent being shot out of the wall with a wail.
Paint splattered across the defense professor as the non-ghost flew by with a cackle. Quirrell stumbled backwards, tripped over his loose clothing, and fell across the ground.
The non-ghost settled onto the teacher’s desk and grinned viciously at them all. Vibrant red-yellow eyes seemed to almost glow from under a colorful hat with multiple points all ending with bells. Obnoxiously bright clothing covered the small figure.
Godric’s eyebrows shot up towards his hairline in surprise even as the rest of the class, excluding Hermione and a few of the kinder children, broke down into fits of laughter. Hogwarts had a poltergeist. This was something Salazar had failed to tell him about. And something that could explain certain odd occurrences the children had been complaining about for the last few years...back in the day, 900 years or so ago.
More importantly, their defense professor was playing the fool as the overly dramatic acting was believable only to the children present. And Godric had no idea why. This was entirely inappropriate during any class but particular during one to train children how to defend themselves.
“Ickle firsties!” cackled the small, rotund male-looking poltergeist before his gaze fell onto Godric, “Ohhh a mighty lion!” The poltergeist lifted up into the air and folded his legs so he sat floating. “Snakes and lions have come home. Peeves wonders if badgers and eagles will join them? Hogsie will be so pleased if they do.”
Another cackle escaped the brightly dressed figure and a smile stretched wide—too wide for a human face. Sharp teeth flashed down at Godric. “A proper welcome for the golden griffin!”
Godric had the sudden sense that he needed to retreat, fast.
The little poltergeist flipped upside down and little gray balls fell out of his sleeve before he vanished. A clatter of various chairs behind him and the shout of “Stink bombs!” was all the warning Godric got before one hit the ground right beside his chair.
Godric stumbled from his seat and staggered through the cloud of eye watering spray. It mingled with the overripe garlic. Bile rose up as he fled one cloud only to stumble into another. He couldn’t see through the tears as they forcefully streamed down his cheeks in an attempt to remove the residue of fine mist clinging to lashes and covering his eyes. His sinuses burned.
He ran into another child. Godric pulled the child up and stumble-guided them to the edge of the room. There multiple children couched in the corners, away from the clouds.
Hermione, the child he had pulled along, quietly said, “Thanks Neville.”
Godric offered a curt nod but focused more on trying to wipe the smelly mist off his face so he could see. It took awhile for the clouds to dissipate, by then class was over and there was no time to return to the dorms. It was a very smelly group of Gryffindors that made it to herbology.
Salazar turned a faint green tone as Godric collapsed in the chair beside him.
“It was the bloody fucking poltergiest.” Godric snapped out, startling wide eyed looks from two Slytherin girls.
His brother stared wide eyed too, hand aborting in covering his nose. “Poltergeist?”
The two stared at each other for a long moment. Salazar not knowing about the poltergeist meant he hadn’t run into the bloody thing. That meant his brother hadn’t been attacked by it yet even though it had claimed its attack as a welcome home to Godric. There was a reason Salazar hadn’t been attacked yet. Whatever that reason was, he knew one thing at that moment.
“I hate you.” Godric grumbled out.
“You could take a bath before we do this.” Salazar offered once more.
Godric flashed a glare at his brother. Double doors appeared across from the tapestry of dancing trolls. He yanked it open and stalked over to the practice swords. The click of the doors closing confirmed Sally had followed.
He didn’t bother stretching, he tossed his things to the side, pulled off his robe and picked a sword. The Gryffindor needed to hit something. Now. Salazar had volunteered, he wasn’t getting out of it.
His wooden sword sliced through the air as he twisted around and swung. Salazar ducked under it and grabbed his own practice sword. Godric followed his brother’s movements and jabbed out with the wooden tip. Sally dodged again, eyes slightly wide.
Godric didn’t pause, unconcerned over hurting his brother. He wasn’t physically fit enough to last for long nor was his movements particularly fast or elegant. Sally was perfectly capable of dodging and countering. Slytherin was in better physical condition than Godric.
But Sally was also clearly out of practice. He should have known better and continued practice during the eight years he had been possessing the Potter boy.
Clack. Clack. Clack.
Air burned down his throat. His chest ached. Godric ignored it as he blocked a strike from Salazar.
The metal contraption on his brother’s nose slid down it. Godric stabbed the sword at his brother before Sally could push them back into place.
Salazar staggered back from the force Godric had put into that smack. The metal contraption clattered to the ground. A hissed curse escaped his brother. Godric lunged forward and his sword smacked against Salazar’s arm.
A sharp snarled hiss cut through the air and a force slammed into Godric’s chest, pushing him back multiple feet. It wasn’t harsh enough to force him off his feet but it did knock out what little air Godric could suck in through the burning ache of a constricting chest. The magic had also sent the metal contraception across the room.
Godric coughed as he struggled to suck in air.
Salazar scowled over at him before dropping to the floor. Godric frowned as his brother set the wooden sword down and slowly moved his hands about the floor, searching out the metal things that were half across the room. It took him a moment to realize that Salazar could not see. He blamed the lack of air.
“You’re blind as a bat!” gasped out Godric as he continued to catch his breath.
“ss:_Sod off_:ss,” hissed Salazar clearly too furious to fight his natural inclination towards parseltongue.
Godric frowned down at his brother. “Get up.”
The Slytherin snapped, “ss:_I require the metal-glass-eyes to see more than blurs_:ss”
“Get. Up.” Godric stalked forward. “If you cannot keep them on, you have to learn to fight without them.”
Salazar scowled up at him before emerald eyes widened at his approach. Godric swung his practice sword down. Salazar rolled out of the way and towards his own sword.
His blade slammed into the stone floor.
Slytherin rose, wooden blade up in the proper position. Godric stalked forward, not going too fast both because of the ache spreading through the body he was possessing and so he could feel out how blind Salazar was.
He relaxed as Sally met his swing with his own sword. Salazar now squinted at him, a deep frown stretched across his face but his focus was solely on Godric.
Salazar hissed as Godric’s sword hit his side. The Slytherin backed away instead of retailitate. Godric frowned but, after taking two steading breaths, lunged—Sally needed to fight back.
His brother stumbled back in a panic, blade too high to catch Godric’s own. His blade stabbed Salazar's other side.
Magic exploded out and air whipped about with a roar.
It slammed into Godric. This time, he was flung off his feet and backwards. His head cracked against the floor and the world spun.
Panicked breathing reached Godric’s ears as he slowly checked his skull with a hand. Nothing felt broken. He slowly sat up. The world didn’t spin but a headache slowly spread across his head from the back to the front. He should probably have a healer take a look.
Godric spotted Salazar a good ten yards away. His brother was on the ground where Godric had hit him. Salazar had his hands pressed to his side. Emerald eyes were wide and wild. His chest was moving rapidly as if he was panicking but it was clear his brother was trying to calm himself.
He frowned at the sight, trying to understand why Sally would have such a reaction. Memory of his brother dying swam before his eyes once more. The worst wound had been on Salazar’s side, right where he had stabbed Salazar with the wooden sword.
The Gryffindor scrambled up, ignored the throbbing in his head and grabbed the metal contraptions. He stumbled over to Salazar and dropped to his knees before him.
Salazar flinched but aborted in shifting backwards. Uncertainty colored Sally’s voice as he called out, “Godric?”
“Aye,” Godric said softly, “I’ve your metal-glass-eye things.”
“Glasses,” Salazar said with his voice cracking, “Parsel doesn’t have a direct word for it.”
He held out a hand. Godric handed it over and watched as some of the panic faded from his brother as he slid the thing on. They stared at each other for a few minutes. Harsh breathing the only sound in the room.
Reluctantly, Godric stated, “We’re going to have to work on that.”
Salazar grimaced. “Which?”
His brother scoffed and rose on shaky legs. Before Godric could think of anything else to say, the parselmouth was gone. He didn’t rush after him. There was no point in pushing now.
Godric reclaimed his things before huffing as he spied the pile of things Sally had left behind. He picked up the satchel and swung it over his head before picking up the school robe. Something hard in a pocket had him dig around. He pulled out a familiar yew wand.
The founder sighed, went to stuff it back in the pocket but paused. This wand had, eventually, worked for him. Maybe it could work for him still. A basic, stone golem materialized at the other end of the dueling hall. Godric pulled out his own wand and stalked toward it as he mentally pulled at his core through all the gunk.
He flicked his wand. It grew hot. Smoke danced up from it. Nothing happened.
Irritation and fear and panic stabbed through him. Godric took a sharp breath to try and keep the emotions from overwhelming him and jabbed Salazar’s wand out: A bombarda slammed into the golem.
The blond slowly smiled. With a slight shift, the jab twisted into a swish. That swish turned into a flick which was then flicked down and back up in a slight circular motion. Three spells rapidly shot from the yew wand in a simple spell chain. The duro spell turned most of the golem into stone. Defodio gouged out portions of that stone. The golem’s stone chunks began to shudder as its magic worked to put it back together but the last spell, deletrus, disintegrated those pieces entirely.
Godric lowered the wand as a strange sort of peace fell over him. His chest ached in a weird way, as if pulling his magic through all the residue strained his core but he would worry about that later. The ache was already fading compared to the headache.
The peace was for more than him finally getting to destroy something. It was as if something had finally been proven. Some part of him was settled, some anxiety had dissipated.—He had magic. He was a wizard. The damage was not permanent.
Trees towered overhead. Mother’s magic thrummed underfoot. His headache from DADA had faded to a dull throb but he still felt like he had been dragged across sharp rocks by a troll. Panic stabbed through him every few minutes, fading a little more after each new spike. Getting away from the training room, from Godric and the children, and everything had been a good idea.
He clenched trembling hands and moved to stuff them into his robe pockets. There were no pockets. The reincarnate stopped and glanced down. No robe. No satchel. No wand.
Salazar folded his arms across his chest and tucked his hands against his body before he continued through the forest, ignoring the autumn air. He wasn’t trembling from the cool weather.
He hadn’t realized he had issues surrounding his death. The panic he had felt when running into the giant spiders should have been his first hint. He had just assumed his panic stemmed from the logical horror of giant spiders combined with his young form.
Maybe it had been those reasons but he also recalled panicking most when a spider had jabbed him in the side. It made sense that he’d have issues with anything attacking him on that side. But how did one get over the panicked instinct tied to their own death?
Salazar stopped and looked up into the canopy of the oak trees he stood under. Sunlight streamed through browning leaves.
He could barely recall his death. It was fuzzy at best. Godric had found him. He remembered his brother calling out to him to stay alive. He remembered Godric’s fiery magic fighting to become healing magic. Then there was the pain and numbness.
A tremor rocked through him. The reincarnate closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He let go of that moment, let the horrible experience fade back to the recesses of memory.
Learning to fight blind would be easier than overcoming his panicked induced reactions tied to the painful wounds that had killed him. They would need to avoid attacking in a certain manner until he learned to push through the panic but it was possible to learn to fight blind. Not that he would be the only one learning. If Godric made him do it, he could join in the pain.
Salazar opened his eyes. Filtered sunlight danced off dust in the air. Muffled sounds of wildlife sang around him. A breeze danced across his head, played with his wild hair.
He should bring Godric out here. His brother could use the calm and peace of the forest.
Green eyes slid across the leaves and branches, estimating the time. A glance at his watch confirmed his estimation of early afternoon. He could reach two of the last three groves today.
Salazar enjoyed the simple pleasure of being surrounded by forest as he strolled through the large stretch of land. He hadn’t entered with investigating the last groves in mind so he had a way to travel. At one point he spied centaurs standing sentry but they kept their distance. There were no signs of the giant spiders or unicorns but he found a herd of red deer picking at plants in a small pasture.
Eventually Salazar stepped into a large clearing—except it wasn’t a clearing at all. It was the edge of Hogsmeade.
A ramshackle of a house stooped ahead with a shabby fence surrounding it. The rooftops of Hogsmeade buildings peeked through the scattered trees. A worn, dirt path traveled from part of the fence, covered in signs he couldn’t read at his angle, to the village.
There was no grove but one should be nearby.
He could not spy a single aspen or other potential gatekeeper tree. Salazar mentally followed the ward anchored in his core. Magic pulled him forward even though he saw nothing to indicate a grove. He picked up his pace as he followed the invisible line. Emerald eyes widened as he finally found what he was looking for.
Or what was left of it, anyway.
The cornerstone of the missing grove was half pulled out of the earth and stood covered in graffiti. Whole pieces were missing. Deep cracks made ravines through the stone.
Salazar stopped a few feet from the broken cornerstone and stared. This might be the cause for the wards inability to react as ordered. He slowly walked to it, reaching mentally outward as he searched from any magic within the cornerstone.
He wasn’t certain if he should be pleased or not when he felt the cornerstone’s weak response. Anything and anyone could have messed with the wards with this exposed. But that it still had magic meant the wards shouldn’t be as weak as they might have been without it.
They still stood, Salazar reminded himself as he pressed a hand to the stone. Anyone with a little knowledge of wards could have shattered them with access to this cornerstone.
No magic reacted to his touch. He felt nothing of the wards. What magic remained was hidden deep within the stone. It was likely just the frayed remains of anchoring that remained. Break that magic and the entire ward scheme could collapse.
Of course, access to a cornerstone would allow more than the shattering of the wards, he admitted to himself a second later. Anyone with the right skill set could have twisted the wards to do whatever they wished.
He could not assume any of the wards were actually working under the circumstances or doing what they were originally meant to do.
Godric would have to be informed—eventually, once his brother had figured out his own situation. Until then, Salazar would continue his investigation so he knew what he had to work with. At this point he was going to have to recreate the wards. This wasn’t a simple tweak to fix a minor issue anymore.
By the Mother, he hoped the adults in this age were competent enough to have good quality protections in place. His ability to transverse to and from Hogwarts Proper implied otherwise but he did not have the Trace. That might be an important part of the adults’ protections.
Salazar’s gaze moved from the cornerstone and toward—past—Hogsmeade. He shifted his mental connection from the frayed anchor connected to the mostly destroyed cornerstone before him to the next closest. With one so badly damaged, he needed to up his timeline and get everything figured out as quickly as possible.
It had taken fourteen years to build these wards. Rebuilding them might not take as long but it wasn’t going to take a single afternoon either. He also needed to add to them, and strengthen them to work against newer magics and threats.
If nothing else, they needed to exist to protect against the muggles. The existing wards, even if they had been whole, would have been incapable of combating an atomic bomb. And there were more dangerous weapons than that.
He ruffled his hair, making it more of a ridiculous mess than usual, slouched slightly and darted into Hogsmeade. At a glance he came across as a child fleeing from trouble. Hopefully no one paid him more mind than that glance.
Godric wasn’t dumb. He had hit his head pretty hard when Salazar had flung him back. So, after an hour or three testing out Salazar wand, he had done the appropriate thing and gone to the hospital wing.—He had enough problems without adding brain damage to the list.
Madam Pomfrey let Godric go after a short dose of some vile potion and a long hour’s wait. His head no longer hurt. The potion had even helped with the aches and pains from the still settling runic ritual marks and his strained muscles.
The old lady seemed nice enough. Strict but matronly. She didn’t seem particularly competent. Though, maybe it was the modern day diagnostic spell at fault. Madam Pomfrey didn’t notice his runic tattoos. It was a very good thing but they were irritated. He had expected more.
Godric shook his head and wandered towards the grand staircase. Now was not the time to worry over the competence of the one healer in the school. It was for the best that she hadn’t done a scan that might have revealed his tattoos. (He may have forgotten that his tattoos weren’t something an adult expected him to have on this body until she cast the spell at him.)
There were far more concerning issues, like Sally.
A thought pulled the brother bonds forward. Nothing stuck out as off. The bonds’ stretch indicated his brother was outside somewhere but not particularly far away. He’d leave Slytherin alone. For now.
He didn’t know what to say or do about Salazar’s reaction. Godric remembered being on his deathbed. The last face he had seen was his wife’s as she bragged about killing him. But it hadn’t been a violent end. Whatever she had used had killed him slowly.
His brother’s death had been far more violent. Sally’s reaction should have been expected. People who survived horrible wounds often had that type of reaction. Why would it be different for a dead person brought back to the living, if only temporarily?
Godric looked up to the speaker with a frown. His expression hardened. Eustace floated uncertainty before him.
“May we speak?” the ghost asked hesitantly.
“About what?” Godric bit out as he took in the man who had killed Helena. The only reason Eustace had not been exorcised from Hogwarts, besides it requiring hiring someone to do it since Salazar and Rowena had been dead, was because Helena had insisted he stay.
The ghost grimaced but did not flee as he usually did. “Sir…” Eustace waved a hand over to a side door.
Godric grudgingly stepped into the empty, dark classroom and closed the door in the ghost’s face. Dust covered the stacked desks and chairs. Unlit torches sat in wall sconces. Light streamed in through tall windows, though dust clung to the glass panels.
Eustace floated through the door with clear uncertainty.
“Well?” Godric snapped.
“I wish to apologize,” Eustace said in a rush, his chains clinking as he shuffled from floating foot to floating foot, “I had not had the opportunity to warn Peeves away from you. He will not bother you again.”
He stared, his mind went blank for a long moment as he processed what the fool boy was apologizing for. Peeves was the name of the poltergeist. “A thousand years have nearly passed and this ... this is what you would apologize for?!”
Eustace flinched as the dead torches exploded to life. “Sir–”
“How about apologizing for killing my niece! Or pursuing her long after you were warned away from her! What about apologizing for staying here when you should never go near her again!” snarled Godric.
The flames rose higher and the ghost visibly sank into the floor, his shoulders curled in defensively, as Godric’s voice rose an octave. Eustace said nothing in defense of his actions and presence. Godric knew the boy had no defense to give. The boy had only stayed because Helena allowed it.
Godric clenched his teeth together, turned and slammed a hand against a desk. Burn marks were left behind, in the shape of his palm. He needed to calm down but he didn’t want to.
“She still defends you,” he growled out as he realized why the boy still existed in this plane when Salazar was back. Godric looked back to the ghost. “She would defend you to Salazar even?!”
Eustace stared down at the floor as he mumbled a response.
“Speak up boy ,” Godric snapped, “If you answer me, you will speak so I hear you.”
The boy flinched but glanced up through his transparent lashes and said louder, though it was barely above a whisper, “It was a terrible accident.”
Godric’s teeth ground together. Through clenched teeth he snarled, “Is that the excuse you’ve given Salazar?”
Eustace visibly gulped before he muttered, “I have not spoken to Master Salazar since…” The boy trailed off, suddenly looking a little ill.
Wide eyes stared at him. The ghost’s mouth opened and closed multiple times before he finally choked out, “I escorted Helena to him.”
The torches exploded as the fire consumed them entirely, ripping the preservation enchantments apart. Eustace vanished through the flooring, leaving Godric standing, brimming with the need to burn something down.
How dare that boy. This would no longer stand. Salazar would remove him.
Helena would not excuse her killer any longer.
A sign of a hog’s head swung in the autumn breeze. This side of the main street was less maintained than further down. The color of the buildings were more worn and tired from the wear and tear of time and weather. It was filled with junk and used goods shops.
Down the street, signs of all shapes and sizes announced restaurants and inns and sweets. Elderly couples and a small scattering of young children wandered the shopping area. The forest crawled across the village. Trees with their runic covered bark rose beside buildings and the cobblestone street wound about it all.
He dragged himself away from the street of shops and into the depths of the village. As interesting as the shops had to be, he did not have time to browse. And for as short as he was, he doubted he would be lucky enough to avoid any adult that knew his face or spotted his scar.
The residential area started out as apartments and townhomes, small but trendy. A few streets past brought him to neighborhoods filled with stone houses that took him back to his original time. While they were larger and taller than the homes a thousand years ago, and the insides were likely more modern, it felt quaint and rural and peaceful. There were autumn flowers amongst the fallen golden and brown leaves. This was the type of neighborhood he would prefer living in. Others could have London or the cramped suburbs.
Give him the countryside.
It was within a type of village green that he found his grove. Past a well maintained quidditch pitch and a children's playground with animated swings and a singing roundabout, was a thicket of trees that reminded him of his hidden grove in Surrey. A short walk within it revealed the aspen gate keepers.
Salazar slowly stepped in between the two ancient trees. Breath expelled from between his lips as heavy, old nature magic settled onto his shoulders. A whole, safe and very, very old grove stretched out before him.
He didn’t let the peaceful feeling distract him. Salazar searched the grove for any intruders but there were no obvious nests of pests or spiders. Neither were there a herd of dangerous creatures grazing or defensive centaurs claiming land not their own.
The grove was complete, like the very first one he had visited. Relief rushed through him at the realization as he stood under the oldest of the grove’s oak trees.
That relief was dulled as he walked through the grove to the center where the cornerstone rested, staked into the ground. It was shattered into three large chunks. Salazar knelt and pressed his hand to the center of the cracked stone. Magic pulsed up against his hand and he relaxed as he felt the strained but whole magic. The stone was cracked into pieces but the pieces were still pressed together, allowing the ward grounding and powerloops to continue to process, if a little slowly.
It would have to be replaced but it was working—felt like it was working, at least.
Salazar spent a good hour looking over each of the primary trees, and many of their offspring. A few could use some careful trimming. Overall, this was a pleasant find after the last. His gaze moved back to the cracked stone. It wasn’t perfect but he would take what he could get at this point.
The founder of Hogwarts passed multiple young families and elderly couples as he cut through the neighborhoods and back towards Hogwarts. He passed the empty train station and headed down a vaguely familiar cobblestone path. A sign announced a commuter schedule to London and other magical stops. It also warned in bold of the upcoming Holiday where the express would be used for Hogwarts once more.
Winged boar statues stood high on either side of the main gates into Hogwart Proper. Salazar walked past them and headed Northwest. His hand traced over the old stone wall as he traveled beside it. The taste of lightning danced on his tongue from the little curse set against intruders. Moss and ivy covered the walls until the stone crumbled into ruin once more.
Salazar looked through the gape and stared at Hogwarts stretched over the closer loch. The sun was low in the sky. It would not be long before sunset.
He mentally grasped the last anchor of the wards and turned to the forest, following the invisible trail. Most of this side of the forest was downhill. Pine spread out, making a needle covered ground patchworked with junipers and baby trees shaded from the sun.
The last grove was easy to find, not because it was no longer protected or because spiders had claimed it also but because there were very few aspens or oaks in the area. For all that the grove had such trees, they had not spread out here. It left the grove conspicuous if one knew the signs.
Salazar glared at the ground as if it was the culprit—and it could very well be since some flowers thrived better depending on the consistency of the dirt. The same was entirely possible for trees, even magically enhanced ones. (He had never thought he’d actually have reasons to thank Aunt Petunia for the long lectures on dirt for her flowerbeds. Thank the Mother she would never know.)
Leaves crunched. Salazar snapped his gaze from the ground to the sound.—He hadn’t moved.
Godric stood slightly back, expression hard. His eyes burned with fury. Salazar’s satchel hung from Godric’s shoulder.
“Exorcise Eustace.” Godric demanded, “That boy should have never been allowed a place within Hogwarts.”
Salazar stared. “Eustace...Are you talking about when we brought him on as an apprentice or when he and Helena–”
“He always had too much interest in her.” Godric growled, hands clenching at his sides, “We should have sent him back to his parents and told them to ship him off to some master on the contin–”
“He was eleven,” Salazar countered sharpily, “and he pulled her braid as little boys do sometimes. There was no way to know he’d become interesting in her to such a–”
Godric snarled and the air shimmered with heat, “I told him to stay away from her! He didn’t and she died because of his disobedience! And he won’t even stay away now that they are both dead!”
Heat slammed into Salazar as the autumn air warmed from Godric’s uncontrolled magic. Sweat prickled across his brow. The cool bite of evening air vanished.
Salazar frowned at his brother’s lack of control. Godric had rarely lost control of his elemental magic in the past. Extreme emotion made it more difficult but the man had always had a tight control.
Had, was perhaps a key factor now. Godric wasn’t in a good place mentally and it showed. Eustace should have adapted his avoidance of Salazar to Godric. At least until the man had accepted their new lot in life as reincarnates.
“Helena does not wish him gone,” Salazar said tiredly as he rubbed at his brow. It had been a long day. (It always felt like a long day when it came to the Defense against the Dark Arts class but everything else on top only made it worse.)
Godric deflated and the air stopped shimmering from waves of heat. A deep exhaustion that didn’t look quite right on Neville’s face caused Salazar to grimace.
They were the same person but there had been multiple moments Salazar had separated the two. Godric was so world weary while Neville had been...not naive, not even hopeful...anxious and fighting himself for better things, perhaps.—And there he did it again, thinking as if Neville was dead. Though, in a way the child was, wasn’t he? Memories made up so much of a person’s existence. Without those memories Godric was no more Neville than Neville had been Godric.
It was only the second day his brother had remembered himself, there was time to get used to the idea. And there was time for Godric to settle, remember himself, and find his footing. Once the memories mingled together, more that made Neville himself would shine through. It wasn’t like there hadn’t been moments Neville had reminded him of Godric. They were the same person.
“The girl is willfully blind.” Godric stated softly, pulling Salazar from his circling thoughts. (Stopping them before Salazar was forced to consider his own position as Salazar and as Harry.)
“She is not a fool,” Salazar countered before he turned back to the entrance to the last grove, “Let me look over my grove and then we can go speak with her together.”
A huff came from behind, where Godric stood. “Fine.”
As Salazar rested a hand onto one of the aspen gatekeepers, Godric brushed past and into the grove.
“Godric!” snapped Salazar. He rushed after the idiot and stumbled into his brother’s back as the world shifted to reveal the large, old grove. The feel of heavy magic and a deep peace indicated the grove was at least mostly whole.
The giggle that cut through the air indicated that it wasn’t entirely protected from the outside, though.
Salazar leaned around Godric and blinked a few times. Dryads lounged around a pond in one of the sunny sections of the grove. They were all smiling and grinning and posing at Godric and him. They were also entirely naked, which really wasn’t that surprising. Dryads were naturally inclined to stay bare, they were part tree after all. Clothing was also not particularly easy to procure without seducing a man or three.
He couldn’t help his gaze settle on certain parts for a moment as he processed their presence. Then something soft and warm pressed against the back of Salazar's head. Green eyes widen as aspen-bark colored arms wrapped around his shoulders. The general weight and position—Salazar could not stop the wounded sound as he realized he had breasts pressing against the back of his head.
“I’ve caught a druid,” purred a voice above him. The pale aspen-bark colored arms shimmered into a human caucasian pale tone as the lilt of musical power filtered into Salazar’s ear when the dryad spoke. The illusion faded with her voice but returned as she spoke once more, “too bad he’s a little young yet.”
Godric took quick steps forward and twisted about, pulling a wand from his robes and pointing it at the dryad wrapped around Salazar. (Salazar couldn’t help but notice that it was his wand being pointed just over his head.) Godric’s eyes widened. Then a grin spread and the wand was tucked away as his brother betrayed him to the dryad.
Salazar could feel heat radiating off his face. He had to be tomato red. (He blamed the ability to turn so bloody pink on his redheaded mother. Salazar missed the bygone days where he didn’t blush so horribly.)
The dryad guaffed at his first words. Her breasts rubbed against his head and her arms tightened. An involuntary shiver ran down his spine which he firmly ignored. Salazar could imagine the ridiculous state of his hair (forced himself to imagine it instead of what was making it more of a mess).
A snort escaped Godric. Other dryads strolled over from their bathing and drew his brother’s attention. An entirely inappropriate smirk twisted Gryffindor’s grin as he blatantly looked over the various dryads.
They weren’t human; their bark colored skin, wide set eyes, and leafy hair denoted that fact very clearly. That their abdomens were wrapped in hard bark like skin that lifted the soft breasts in emphasis only reminded Salazar that they were born from trees. The dryad’s physical form was similar enough to human women many men didn’t particularly care. That they possessed similar lyrical powers as sirens and could illusion themselves into beautiful human women to the weak minded—or the willing that needed a little visual help—was often considered a bonus to most.
“Really Godric,” Salazar snapped, his face turning redder as one dryad caught his gaze with a little skip that caused a rather interesting bounce to her step...and other things. “We’re here to look over the grove–”
“You can look all you want,” purred the dryad draped over Salazar, her skin once more shifting to the soft peachy pale.
“Looking isn’t bad,” agreed Godric cheerfully. “And it’s not like we can do anything more than that. Our voices haven’t even started cracking yet. And none of you ladies would want to try anything with us being so young.”
“We could keep you, though,” countered one dryad as she stepped before Godric to tangle her fingers through his hair. Her own dark leafy head became black dreadlocks, her pine bark colored skin softened into a deep brown. Dark eyes shined down at Godric in fond amusement as her features softened into an African beauty with curves for miles. “You’ll be rather dashing in a few years. And quiet horny.”
Another dryad giggled out, “humans are all horny by then.” Her head of autumn tinted leaves became a mane of fire. Freckles danced across her pale skin and tattoos reminiscent of the vikings settled across her shoulder blades. Soft human looking lips pouted as she added, “Then they grow old and boring.”
Salazar huffed in annoyance. Dryads didn’t kidnap children. They stole—or borrowed as they often described it—the local men. The creatures only cared about what was between a man’s legs, often keeping the poor sod until they were very pregnant. The tree spirits, if you could really call them that (Salazar considered it a huge misnomer), didn’t even keep their sons once they were weaned. Of course, a son was always the race of the father while the daughters were always new dryads. And a dryad’s interest in a man was solely for procreation of more daughters.
He turned his head towards the dryad holding on to him and snapped, “Would you let go.”
“Oh, a grouchy druid-child.” The dryad draped over Salazar pressed closer as she leaned down. The soft mounds shifted from his head to his shoulder blades. Her nose rubbed against Salazar’s ear making him twitch. “You must promise to visit in a few years...when you’ve developed enough to entertain us. And bring your friend along too.”
“Oh yes,” squealed the sometimes redhead, “Come visit in Spring!”
“During the Spring equinox!”
“No, they must visit for the Summer Solstice!”
More dryads spotted off ideas. All of them surrounding the months they had heightened fertility—Spring and early Summer.
Salazar huffed in annoyance while Godric watched the debate, and the variety of female illusions, with a grin and laughing eyes. His brother opened his mouth and, as Salazar should have known, didn’t help things at all. “How’d you figure he was a druid anyhow?”
The dryad playing with Godric’s hair laughed warmly and announced, “He is not just a druid, as you are not just a child. We are of this forest, of these trees but so is he. We know he is a druid for he is the Druid of these lands, tied the magic that propagated the forest. Our mothers may have migrated here with the centaurs but our roots have dug deep and we knew of his return the moment he entered the wards.”
She tugged at Godric’s hair, tilting Godric’s head up to look Godric in the eyes. “And we know you are the Druid’s brother for as he is tied to the land and the trees, you and he are tied together.”
“We felt you awaken within one of the opposite groves,” she added as she traced Godric’s brow in an oddly loving touch, “It pleases us to know such ardent wizards have returned to this place.”
Silence fell at her words but only for a moment.
One of the dryads, one that became illusioned into an almost rod thin Asian woman, announced, “I call dibs on the fiery one.”
The rest of the ladies jumped in on claiming their turn with one or both of the founders of Hogwarts. It became clear that the dryads wrapped around Salazar and playing with Godric’s hair were some of the more mature dryads. Most of the others returned to their bathing and lounging by the pond once their place in the “lists” was finalized, clearly content in the, however long, wait for Salazar and Godric to return.
Salazar glanced at his brother. Godric’s smirk and amusement had vanished at the dryads words. Uncomfortable thoughts furrowed his brother’s brow even though the dryad was softly messaging them to vanish—she was also adding leaves to Godric’s hair. Salazar had no plans to say anything about that.
“Are we in agreement, druid?” asked the dryad holding Salazar in place.
A sigh escaped and he stated firmly, “I agree to discuss your proposition when we are older.”
She tutted at him. “Stubborn.”
“I do not need to ask you to remove yourself,” Salazar countered sharpily.
The dryad said nothing for a long moment before she stepped away from him and said softly, “I look forward to this discussion .” The way she said discussion was full of implication Salazar chose not to think about.
None of the rest of the dryads waylaid him to the cornerstone, nor did any stop him from looking over the various trees. There was nothing wrong with the grove besides its invasion of naked females. That they were even in the grove had him itching to investigate because there was no gap in the protective barrier. But the ladies would likely take his questions as interest and he’d never get out.
Salazar chose to jump to conclusions in this case and assume their ties to trees allowed them to bypass barriers held up by trees. It just meant he’d have to create multiple layers of protections when he rebuilt it all, not just rely on the magical barriers and wards tied to the forest.
The dryads had felt him wake up. He could recite a book worth of knowledge on plants. Hints and pieces of repressed memories rose to the forefront of his thoughts when needed. But he couldn’t be this blond, overweight little boy. He could not be Neville. (Could he?)
He. Was. Not. Neville.
Anxiety stabbed through him. His chest shuddered, heart rate rose, and throat tightened. He tried to steady his breathing. Slow breath, countdown and exhaul. (He was not panicking.)
“Mayhaps there’s a hint of Longbottom in there after all.”
Godric stilled at the voice. A flash of a wrinkled old man staring down at him accompanied the words. The rest of the memory flirted at the edge of his consciousness but he could not grasp it. (He didn’t want to grasp it.)
The memory was gone. (It wasn’t his memory anyhow.)
Godric Gryffindor turned to the speaker and realized he had followed Salazar without thought or awareness of his surroundings.—It all was familiar. He had walked these halls for half his life.—Helena floated before him, hands twisting the transparent sleeve of her gown in worry. Salazar stood at her side with his own worried frown directed at him. (Sally’s hair was an absolute mess. Part of him wanted to let Helena know how exactly it had gotten so bad. The distraction would keep them from asking about how he felt .)
The bookshelves surrounding them kept him from speaking up. They were in the library, which was considerably more full than last he had seen it. Helena had avoided the library after her death. He would not be the reason she fled it now.
Godric turned back to her with his own frown.
Her worry faded and a soft, sad little smile appeared. The ghost looked to Salazar as if asking permission for something.
Sally stepped up to Godric and slapped a hand to Godric’s chest. Familiar—but not—magic pressed to his chest. A complicated runic array glowed where the hand had been as Salazar stepped to the side.
Transparent arms wrapped around him. Godric’s eyes widened as he realized Helena was not passing through him. She felt solid against his chest. He hesitantly wrapped his arms around her.
They stood like that until the runic array faded away. Their arms slowly sinking through each other warned them and the two separated. Silver tears glistened on Helena’s cheeks but a soft smile kept any worry at bay.—She had been such a sorrowful ghost when she first returned to Hogwarts. Rowena dying had not helped her guilt and pain.—The smile gave him hope that she would not haunt these halls another thousand years. That Sally knew the entirety of what had happened meant they should be able to find what kept her here and right it so she could finally rest.
Godric was only slightly regretful as he spoke, “Eustace must go now that we can exorcise him.”
Her smile vanished. “He is a Hogwarts ghost uncle!”
“He killed you–”
“It was an accid–”
“I trained him!” roared Godric, tired of her excuses for her killer and entirely ignoring how long it had been for her since they had last argued, “He knew those rocks were there Helena! Eustace never had an issue with his combat training. His issue had always been his emotions—He knew what he was doing when he pushed you!”
Helena shrank back, eyes wide. She became more transparent in her horror at his words. Words he should have said years ago.
Now that he had started to explain, he forced himself to finish, “That boy was always skilled at using the environment to his advantage. You’ve heard me say that about him before this mess. What do you think that meant? That he wouldn’t know what was around you both when you argued? That he had no idea he was pushing you toward rocks that would at least harm you?!”
Helena deflated entirely and became almost invisible. He could just make out her head as she bowed it. Her hair curtained about her face, hiding her from the world.
A pang of regret stabbed through him but she needed to finally understand. Eustace had killed her. The boy’s lack of emotional control was no excuse. And the boy had killed himself for more reasons than regret.
His expression darkened as he added, “He knew what I would do to him when I found out. He stole my chance at killing him in revenge for all his actions. And understand, I left nothing to the imagination on how I would slowly kill the bastard for going near you without permission again .”
“He killed her in a fit of passion?” Salazar interrupted from where he sat forgotten at a desk absolutely buried in parchment and wood pieces half covered in runic marks. “He killed himself in a moment of terror over what would be done to him?”
Godric nodded grimly. “Yes.”
“He killed himself because he regretted my death!” snapped Helena. Cold wind snapped out around them and she grew more solid once more. “He said so–”
“Oh yes, a fitting description.” scoffed Godric, “He killed himself for the love he accidentally killed when she wouldn't listen to him or give him the time of day? Listen to yourself, Helena!”
Her jaw jutted out stubbornly but the shine to her eyes indicated that she was considering his words. At least a thousand years had gotten the girl to start listening to some things. Though, she may have always suspected. She was an intelligent girl even if she was prone to purposeful ignorance.
It was even possible that he had it wrong. Maybe it really had been an accident. Perhaps Eustace had truly loved Helena enough to kill himself over said accident. But it wasn’t a healthy love and the boy should have moved on when told. If he had, this would have never happened.
Salazar frowned. His gaze moved from Godric to Helena and then out the window the desk faced. It was dark outside, the sun having vanished behind the horizon. “Why…” He turned back to Godric. “Why not exorcise him when he returned and you realized all this? You didn’t need me to do so.”
Helena’s gaze snapped to him. Her intent stare indicated her interest in the answer.
“Clearly, stupidity on my part,” Godric answered with a slump of his shoulders, “He admitted to their verbal fight and the push that killed Helena. He even tried to convince me that killing himself was proof of his regret and love...I never learned the rest.” Godric glanced over at Helena. She looked away from him. With a sigh Godric added, “I warned him away from her again and he obeyed...until I died, he obeyed...and...Helena did not appear willing to move on...”
“Uncle?” Helena said quietly.
Godric looked back at her, the ghost of his fierce, stubborn niece. No one really knew how much a ghost was the person before death. What was known was that a ghost was a stuck soul, one foot in the afterlife and one foot in the physical realm. Each ghost was stuck in different ways. Certain parts were emphasised in their ghostly visage because of it.
For Helena, she became melancholy. She had always been introspective and quiet. Helena became more so, first after Salazar’s death and then her father’s. Helga had tried to help her for years to no avail.—Rowena had been too focused on her research to be much help. He had been as good as gone for years after Sally had died.—Death had not helped Helena with her introspective nature.
“He wasn’t to go near you but at least you had someone you knew if you needed another person.” His voice cracked as he spoke. “Helga agreed to exorcise him if he went near you without cause...I had hoped to help you pass on long before my death.”
Helena looked away, eyes distant as she answered quietly. “He waited until all of you and Moria, Oswen, and Elowen were gone...but he was not as fervent as he had been in life. Before...there were times I had feared…” She fell silent but the implications burned into Godric, pulling at old anger. Salazar’s expression hardened as he listened behind her.
“I do not think he would do anything untoward to me.” Helena announced at last. She straightened and became a little more solid in appearance as she looked from Godric to Salazar. “He cannot now as it is. But his presence is important. Each house has a ghost and each ghost was originally from that house.”
“What if I do not want a killer as the ghost mascot of Slytherin?” Salazar asked.
Their niece startled at that. Her eyes grew wide and uncertainty caused her to visibly fade once more. “I…” Her expression darkened and she came into sharp visibility. “You both have killed before! You cannot judge him on tha–”
“Oh, we most definitely can,” snapped Godric even as Salazar rose and spoke also.
“The difference is whom we’ve killed and why we killed them, Helena.”
She jutted her chin out, tilted her head up, and spat out with little proper thought, “Oh and all those non-magicals deserved to die?”
Godric flinched at her words. He could see Salazar’s express go blank, his back stiffen defensively. Helena shrank, horror flooding her expression as her own words caught up to her.
“I judged their actionss. I assked for no one elsse’ss opinion. I found them wanting. And I killed them.” Salazar stated over her rushed apology. His jaw was clenched tight as he spoke. Emerald eyes seemed to burn with fury.
“ They desserved to die. ”
Helena stared wide eyed at Salazar and Godric was reminded then that she had been eleven when Salazar had died. It was unlikely she had ever seen Salazar this furious before. She might not even know anything about why Sally killed so many of those non-magicals.
“Helena,” Godric spoke up at that realization, “You do realize Salazar killed only the ones guilty, right? The children and adults that hadn’t been involved were left alone. He didn’t wipe out the whole village.”
“But what could they have been guilty of to demand their deaths!? Aunt Acadia said there was no excus–”
“That spiteful bitch said what?!” Godric snapped. Torchlight spiked to new heights for a moment as surprise and fury sliced through him. How dare she say anything about Salazar!
Godric and Helena snapped their gazes’s about to stare at Salazar. Then they shared wide eyed looks with each other. Helena jerked her chin at Salazar and Godric knew he should be the one to explain. It just wasn’t something he wanted to explain.
He heaved a sigh and asked, “You know that we were all made into Houses?”
Salazar gave a short, controlled nod. He was not happy. Godric couldn’t blame his brother under the circumstances but it didn’t make this any simpler. Short and simple would probably be best.
“Part of the treaty with the Normandys were marriages.”
His brother frowned. “You had a political marriage?”
Godric grimace and stuffed his hands into his rob pockets. He wanted to pull a book out but holding something gave a higher possibility of it catching fire. Two wands pressed against his hands. He stalked forward, pulled them out and set them on Sally’s desk before he answered, “Yes.”
“And the woman you married, this Acadia, was telling stories about me?”
Helena shifted about as Godric and Salazar turned back to her. She said while making a slight face, “Not stories. Just...just comments. Thinking about it, she never said any of them when any of you were around. She said...some things about how you killed multiple of those poor, ignorant non-magicals. And made comments about non-magicals needing guidance not death...and..and such of the like.”
Godric looked at his brother, uncertain how to proceed. Had they never explained the entire issue to Helena? They should have explained it once she was old enough but by then Salazar had been long dead and few spoke of the event. Or few had dared speak of it in front of Godric.
His brother had come to a similar realization.
“I,” Salazar finally spoke, voice flat, “had a sister.”
Discomfort flickered across Helena. “I never met her,” she whispered as she began to catch on.
Salazar offered a bitter smile. “She and mother were burned at the stake by all those lovely muggles I killed…” His expression broke and tears filled vibrant green eyes. “She was three . She was too small for the smoke to reach her, unlike mother. She didn’t die until she was cooked .” He visibly swallowed back his emotions and pivoted away from them. Hands clenched into fists at his sides as he tried to regain control of his emotions.
Godric finished the explanation quietly. “Those same...muggles chased Salazar, hunted him, so they might do the same to him...Sally was six when that happened, Helena.”
Tears slid down her face. “I’m sorry,” she choked out, “I didn’t mean–I did not know, uncle.”
“I-We would do anything for our loved ones, Helena.” Salazar turned back, eyes shining with repressed tears. “Anything to keep them safe or to avenge them...Though, I wonder if my actions in this are one of the few things people remember.” He fell silent, gaze turning introspective. “I should not have done it but...I traveled through looking for children to bring here...I hadn’t realized it was the same village at first, it had been so long since I had fled…” Salazar focused back at them, “They were burning another set of children, had burned...I had been too late. Again .”
Godric spoke up with a faint frown, having no interest in dealing with both Helena and Salazar in a morse mood any longer than he had to. “You avenged your sister and mother, Sally. Everyone’s opinion on that doesn’t matter. They don’t know shit about it, they don’t have a right to judge it.”
A weary smile was directed at him. “I fear it’s not that simple now…” Salazar turned thoughtful. “But it is a point to Helena’s argument. How can we judge when we do not have all the facts?”
Helena slumped in relief.
Godric scowled. “You want the boy’s excuses?”
Salazar shook his head as he explained, “Eustace may speak to me if he has the guts to come forward on his own...No, Samhain is at the end of the month. I would have Evander’s thoughts; he may have been watching over Helena during the event itself. Rowena will be able to say if she had sent Eustace or not, also. And Helga’s thoughts on the matter would be invaluable.”
A helpless noise escaped Helena. Then she fled. The two founders watched her rush off, through multiple bookshelves. Godric shared a frown with his brother, wondering what they did not know.
“I’d like my things back,” Salazar said after a thoughtful, worried pause.
“Right,” Godric stated as he pulled the bag off and handed it over, “I’d like to borrow your wand for some classes.”
Sally gave him a look, one of those looks that demanded answers. “Why?”
“Your wand works.” Godric answered.
“Yours still doesn’t?!”